Understanding the Answer in Genesis 3:16

Pain and Pain-Relief in Childbirth

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Modern obstetrical practices fell under condemnation recently in a Christian blogspot interpretation of Genesis 3:16. The writer states he shares our conviction that the Creation account of Genesis chapters 1 and 2 is literal history. However, his comments attacking the obstetrical choices of countless women and their doctors haven’t just “stepped on toes” as he suggests but instead lead to an illogical and inconsistent interpretation of the Genesis Curse.

God told Eve He would greatly multiply her sorrow and her conception and in sorrow she would bring forth children (Genesis 3:16). The blog writer rightly acknowledges that to the other “fallen conditions of the world,” would be added “multiplied pains in childbearing” as a consequence of the sin of Adam and Eve. However, the writer considers the “easy-out of pain killers” to be a choice made by “women dodging what is Biblically [sic] described as part of the consequence of sin.” Remarkably, in addition to referring to “quack doctors” and wrongfully insulting the integrity of medical professionals, this writer actually suggests women avoid the pain they are mandated to endure by “simply scheduling a C-section”!

The blog writer says believers who accept the truth of Genesis 1 and 2 but opt for obstetrical means of diminishing pain “pick-n-choose what they want to believe out of the Bible.”

The blog writer says believers who accept the truth of Genesis 1 and 2 but opt for obstetrical means of diminishing pain “pick-n-choose what they want to believe out of the Bible.” As a representative of a ministry that seeks to rightly interpret and defend God’s Word, as a retired board-certified obstetrician who was privileged to care for women and their unborn children, and as a Christian mother who has not only performed a number of Cesarean sections but experienced them, I felt the need to challenge the blog writer’s position.

It is incredibly difficult to take seriously anyone who suggests a Cesarean section is a way to avoid pain. Oversimplification of the vicissitudes of labor and delivery coupled with needless attacks on the judgment and practices of obstetrical professionals suggest the writer has a jaundiced attitude or is at least ignorant of the process. Furthermore, the writer seems to have a mythically futuristic view of obstetrics, for as any person involved in the process can honestly attest, there is presently no way to avoid all the pain associated with childbirth. That said, I’ll confine the remainder of this discussion to the blog writer’s misapplication of Scripture.

In the verse detailing God’s description of the consequences of human rebellion applicable to childbirth, the Hebrew words translated “sorrow” and “pain” convey toil which is worrisome, grievous, and mentally or physically painful. Many fears and anxieties accompany childbirth—worry about a healthy outcome, concern the child will grow up to be a person of good character, anxiety about the sort of world the child is being born into, and so on. But certainly fear of pain and the unknown do weigh on the mind of many women.

The extreme pain of childbirth is part of the Curse, but so are sickness and death. Even the difficulties associated with agricultural labor—“Cursed is the ground for your sake . . . Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you” (Genesis 3:17–18)—are a consequence of man’s rebellion. Yet the writer doesn’t suggest people sin when they use fertilizer, pull weeds, or use labor-saving farm equipment. If the responsible use of analgesics in childbirth is unbiblical, then so are those practices.

We live in a cursed world as a result of sin, and that Curse affects all areas of our lives, not just childbirth. The groaning and travailing in pain by the whole creation as described in Romans 8:18–23 constantly reminds us we need our Savior who alone can fix our world and our hearts. Nevertheless, in compassion for one another and in imitation of the compassion of our Lord, we try to relieve suffering of the sick and dying. To suggest there is anything unbiblical about relieving pain in childbirth as far as is safely possible makes about as much sense as refusing to ease the suffering of the sick and dying.

We agree evolutionary thinking keeps many people ignorant of the true origin of suffering and death. But death and suffering are the enemy. Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead before He endured the cross and defeated death Himself. Why should we then embrace unnecessary suffering?

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