Should a Christian subscribe to antinatalism?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

Question: Antinatalism is the position that non-existence is preferred over existence. So, in regards to hell, it would seem better for “the lost” to have never been born than to die in their sins… and end up in hell for eternity. Did Jesus leave room for this when he said, "For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born.” (Matthew 26:24). 

Now, if people would stop having children, then those children who would have ended up dying in their sins would not exist to go to hell. In view of this, what is your position on antinatalism? I wouldn't want my children to go to hell… even if they rejected Christ. I don't know how I could live in heaven for all eternity knowing my children died in their sins and are in hell for all eternity.

I asked my pastor how a person can conceive children knowing that they might be among the non-elect, and as a result, end up in hell for all eternity. He wouldn't answer me except to say in essence that hell is real, but people should still have kids. But why should people have kids, if their kids might end up in hell?

Answer: Hello friend. Thank you for touching down with us at Mainsail Ministries. I’ll be happy to answer your questions on antinatalism… although this ministry hasn’t yet directly addressed this topic. But since Reasonable Faith Ministries (a large and trustworthy ministry that deals more directly with philosophy) has not yet addressed it either, we’re in good company! But what this tells me is that people are not losing much sleep over it… and perhaps this is because none of us asked to be born.

By the time we are aware of anything, the phenomena of our “being” is such a brute fact that we just go on living without thinking too much about it. But since antinatalism militates against God’s clear instructions to fill the earth (Genesis 1:28), I am against it philosophically… but like your pastor, I would answer its challenge by reaffirming the basic truths under which antinatalism cannot take root: hell is real and God cannot fulfill his purposes in creation unless we propagate. Therefore, antinatalism should not be practiced by Christians.

Now, this is kind of a specialized (and marginalized) topic, so please cut your pastor some slack. In my opinion, he did his job — and now you are doing yours! But why should you have children? Because there is a difference between people having no (or fewer) children for social or economic reasons and not having any because of an antinatalism philosophy. The former is a practical life decision… so, if you want them, have them. But the latter is an attack on the philosophical underpinnings of God’s justice and holiness — which is an attack on his person. Not having children as a protest against the risks involved with free will is rebellion against God. As such it would be an overt sin.

As to your scriptural case, you’ve made an interesting connection to the Bible… with Jesus himself saying that it would be better if Judas were never born (Matthew 26:24)… but that was just a manner of speaking. Jesus was not creating doctrine here. As a rule, we should not render doctrine out of a single statement… and especially when the statement is hyperbole. Since it was prophesied and necessary that Jesus go to the cross, Judas had to play his role. So, it is not at all true that it would be “better” if Judas were never born… because that’s clearly contrary to God’s purposes (Mark 8:31-33). It would be better for him… but that’s moot. He cannot not be… nor can anyone who is reading these words… and I think that’s the point.

Furthermore, when used as a comparison in a figure of speech, the condition of one “not being born” does not have to be theoretically true, universally true — or even desirable — for the reader to understand what was being said. Judas’ rejection of Christ would cost him even beyond this life… but Jesus is not countermanding one of God’s prime directives here… or anywhere else, for that matter. Jesus is never in conflict with the Father! (John 6:38). This is another of the plain and basic truths that choke antinatalism.

It is a sad fact of life that some people will die in their sins and go to hell. And since that is true, if people have no children, then there is no risk of condemnation for those “would be” persons. But since non-existent beings do not add to the pool of volitional beings, and since God cannot redeem non-existent beings, antinatalism goes against the very purpose of creation. God created the universe so that volitional people might give him glory and have a relationship with him… and this is why we should have children in spite of the risk. It’s the only way through to true glory for God… and it’s the only way through for those children to have a true relationship with him.

Believing parents are on the hook for training up children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). But those children ultimately stand alone before God. That part’s not “on” the parent… although part of parental love is that we continue to “worry” about their well-being — both temporal and eternal… and that type of worry is appropriate for parents. In fact, if that’s missing, then there’s something broken in the parent.

The problem is that volitional creatures need redemption, and to redeem the optimal number of people, we must follow God’s instruction to fill the earth (Genesis 1:28) … and we can only do that through propagation. About 108 billion people have ever lived on the earth… so we’re doing a pretty good job! But since the price of legitimate free will is that many will choose not to follow God, then some large number will necessarily be lost.

This is Christianity’s toughest “sell.” … and although I subscribe to its truth, I have trouble absorbing the emotionally-charged fact that some people will be lost for eternity. Like you, I am not really comfortable with how I will manage that knowledge in heaven. But my working assumption is that Christ will be even more apparently sufficient there than he is here — and that our fuller knowledge, clearer eyes and absence of sin will combine with him to mitigate that problem. But here on earth, I still worry about that… and this is the type of emotional crack that allows false doctrines to creep in.

By and large, people who have sundry problems with God and the Bible don’t go to the extreme of throwing God away. In this case, since they can’t deal with the losses that true free will necessitates, they postulate relief-valve ideas — like universal salvation or annihilation — neither of which have biblical warrant. Not having children to prevent their condemnation has the same far-future effect as would annihilation: there would be no sentient beings experiencing punishment that lasts forever. So, I see the attractiveness of antinatalism.

But we are called to follow after that which is true… not that which is attractive. And we are called to follow God, not human ideas… and that’s what we have with this strange philosophy. Antinatalism used as a weapon against God’s program makes no sense unless the subscriber first believes in God, believes that Scripture is true and believes in eternal punishment… yet it is anti-God, anti-scriptural and anti-human! As such, I see it as self-refuting. It’s simply not worth your time.

Dr. WIlliam Lane Craig discusses antinatlism in an interview at Reasonable Faith Ministries. Find it at the following link:

You mentioned election in your question (“non-elect”) … and time and scope will not allow me to address your question through that unique window. But I have done so in another answer. So I’ll include a link to it because that question is very like yours (… although I take a different track through it). I’ll also include a link to a question that explains how taking a middle-knowledge view on election can relieve the emotional stresses involved with supporting God’s justice and sovereignty without negating human free will.

I pray that all this has helped. God bless you.

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