Childbirth: A Genesis Memorial

The Genesis 3 account of the curse and blessing upon women and how naturalists respond

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Each mother’s experience varies in intensity and duration, but the process of childbirth is universal: Great suffering followed by great joy.

The phenomenon of childbirth attests to the truth of Genesis and reveals that only the Christian faith makes sense of the experience had by an estimated 380,000 mothers each day. The French apologist, Chateaubriand, remarked:

“To be convinced of the fatal truth whence springs the mystery of redemption, we need no other proof than the malediction pronounced against Eve,--a malediction which is daily accomplished before our eyes. How significant are the pangs, and at the same time the joys, of a mother! What mysterious intimation of man and his twofold destiny, predicted at once by the pains and pleasures of child-birth! We cannot mistake the views of the Most High, when we behold the two great ends of man in the labor of his mother . . .”

The History

God created the world and placed the first man and woman in a beautiful garden paradise and commanded them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). God’s intention from the beginning was for humanity to populate the wonderful world he had made and enjoy its blessings. God also ordained a period of testing for Adam and Eve to see if they would be obedient to their Creator. God issued a solitary prohibition (Genesis 2:17):

“[B]ut of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

In time, the devil visited the garden disguised as a serpent and persuaded Eve to disobey God's command and eat from the tree. Her husband, Adam, also ate from it. Their failure to obey God brought a curse upon the entire world. In theological terms, this is called the Fall of Man, and it’s one of the most important events in human history because it explains why we see pain, suffering, and death in the world, including the pain mothers endure when giving birth.

After the fall, God issued specific punishments (Genesis 3:16):

To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.

Today, modern medicine provides ways to avoid the full extent of the pain, such as epidural anesthesia, but the need for such relief is itself a confirmation of Genesis; every occurrence of childbirth is a flashback to the fall.

Objections/Responses

Atheists attempt to explain the pain of childbirth by naturalistic explanations. In a recent discussion with an atheist on this topic, she argued:

Discussion With An Atheist
Apart from smuggling in naturalistic assumptions, this explanation fails to give us a reason for the facts we observe today.

Apart from smuggling in naturalistic assumptions, this explanation fails to give us a reason for the facts we observe today. The cranial size of an infant’s head tells us something about human anatomy, but it doesn’t explain why the cervix is so slow to widen or why the uterus contracts during labor with repetitive, increasingly sharp pains. Why would this process be painful if natural processes created it over vast ages of time? We don’t see equal agony among most animals, though it would be impossible to quantify the pain of childbirth in the animal kingdom.1 Human childbirth is uniquely painful, and as Chateaubriand aptly noted, it corroborates the "malediction against Eve".

Equally important, the Bible makes sense of the joy on the other side of the pain (John 16:21). Beyond mere relief, the birth of a child produces deep, overwhelming happiness. Our eyes overflow with tears and our hearts burst with love and affection for the new life that has come into the world. The atheist may counter that the joy is nothing more than chemicals in the brain. In the aforementioned discussion, the atheist continued:

Discussion With An Atheist

Christian philosopher, J.P. Moreland, explains how the indiscernibility of identicals refutes such a defective response:

“Identity is not cause and effect, it’s not correlation and it’s not functional dependency,” Moreland explained. “Just because a mental state functionally depends for its obtaining on a brain state, that is not sufficient to show that the mental state is identical to the brain state.”
In other words, that certain chemicals act upon the brain and cause feelings does not mean the chemicals are the feelings. Causation is not identity.

In other words, that certain chemicals act upon the brain and cause feelings does not mean the chemicals are the feelings. Causation is not identity. It’s for this reason a doctor can look at brain scans of a mother who's just delivered a baby, but he will not see the joy. He can’t locate it, test it, or analyze it. Joy is not a chemical.

There is also an eschatological aspect to childbirth which further supports the truth of the Bible. Right before the curse upon the woman in Genesis 3, God issued a curse upon the serpent; It’s the first prophecy of the good news of Jesus Christ (Genesis 3:15):

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

The “seed” of the women refers to the future birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ and his ultimate defeat of the devil through his resurrection. What’s striking about this is that through the bearing of children, women not only brought about the coming of the Savior into the world, but the bearing of children continues to move us toward his second coming, when all his enemies will be put under his feet (Matthew 24:44; 2 Peter 3:10; Hebrews 9:28; Revelation 1:7). This is what Chateaubriand meant when he referred to “man and his twofold destiny.” We are destined for suffering in this life because of the fall, but we also have the hope of an eternal life beyond the grave through Christ's sacrifice for our sins. Childbirth points to both: the pain reminds us of the fall, and the joy reminds us of the gospel.

Conclusion

Is it any surprise that the enemy continues to deceive women today, convincing them that abortion is preferable to birth? He doesn’t want women to feel the pain or the joy of childbirth because both point her to her Creator.

Is it any surprise that the enemy continues to deceive women today, convincing them that abortion is preferable to birth? He doesn’t want women to feel the pain or the joy of childbirth because both point her to her Creator. Abortion is not only the unjust taking of life, but also the theft of the rich memorials of Genesis that God has stationed at childbirth. God made us in his image and gave us rational minds that are not satisfied with “the universe just is”; we seek to understand the world, and all of human history documents humanity's quest for purpose and meaning. Only the history God has revealed in the book of Genesis makes sense of childbirth: Great pain followed by indescribable joy. Both are perfectly explained by the inspired words of the Bible.

This article adapted and reprinted with permission from the author.

Footnotes

  1. Some animals likely would experience pain, at least when something went wrong, which again points to a broken world and how man’s sin affects all of creation. See for example, https://slate.com/technology/2012/09/animals-giving-birth-dolphins-bear-newborns-easily-but-hyenas-risk-death.html and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tk2Hy7UGRk0.

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