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Quiverfull is a Christian view on contraception and relatively recent movement among conservative evangelical Protestant Christian couples, chiefly in the United States but also in Australia, New Zealand, England, and elsewhere, who believe children should be eagerly accepted as blessings from God. The movement eschews all forms of contraception, including natural family planning and sterilization. Someone of this persuasion might call themselves a "quiver full", "full quiver", "quiverfull-minded", or simply "QF" Christian. Roman Catholics and some others might refer to the Quiverfull position as Providentialism,[1] while the popular press has recently referred to the movement simply as "natalism".[2][3] The movement and its corpus of literature have grown steadily since its inception. It began to receive significant attention in the U.S. national press in 2004.

Historical backdrop

Also see: History of Birth Control

Some of the beliefs held among Quiverfull adherents have been held among various Christians during prior eras of history. Initially, all Christian movements opposed the use of birth control. As birth control methods advanced during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, most Christian movements issued official statements against their use.

Then in 1930 the Anglican Church issued a statement permitting birth control "when there is a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence." Coinciding, a feminist movement which began about a decade earlier under American Birth Control League (which eventually became Planned Parenthood) founder Margaret Sanger emerged to advocate for modern birth control.[4][5] In the decades that followed, birth control became gradually accepted among Protestants, even among the most conservative evangelicals.[6][7][8][9]

Role of Mary Pride

Mary Pride's first book, The Way Home: Beyond Feminism Back to Reality (1985), is credited as largely spearheading the Quiverfull movement.
Main article: Mary Pride
Also see: Feminism, Anti-feminism, and Birth control

Within that context, Quiverfull as a modern Christian movement began to emerge.[10] The movement was sparked most fully after the 1985 publication of Mary Pride’s book The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality.

In her book, Pride chronicled her journey away from what she perceived to be feminist and anti-natal ideas of happiness, within which she had lived as an activist before her conversion to conservative evangelical Christianity in 1977, toward her discovery of happiness surrounding what she felt was the Biblically mandated role of wives and mothers as bearers of children and workers in the home under the authority of a husband. Pride argued that such a lifestyle was generally Biblically required of all married Christian women but that most Christian women had been unknowingly duped by feminism, importantly in their their acceptance of birth control.[11][9]

As the basis for her arguments, Pride selected numerous Bible verses to lay out what she felt was the Biblical role of women. These included verses she saw as containing her ideas of childbearing and non-usage of birth control, which she argued were opposed to what she called "the feminist agenda" by which she had formerly lived. Pride's explanations largely became the spearheading basis of Quiverfull.

The name of the Quiverfull movement comes from the Old Testament Bible verses in Psalm 127:3-5 that Pride cited in The Way Home.[11]

Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD,
And the fruit of the womb is his reward.
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man;
So are children of the youth.
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them:
They shall not be ashamed,
But they shall speak with the enemies in the gate (emphasis added). KJV

Consolidation, growth, and controversy

After the publication of Pride’s The Way Home, various church women and others took up her book and ideas and spread them through informal social networks. Around this time, numerous church pastors issued sermons in accord with Pride's ideas and various small publications and a few Quiverfull-oriented books emerged.

As the Internet blossomed onto the scene several years later, the informal networks gradually took on more organized forms as Quiverfull adherents developed numerous Quiverfull-oriented organizations, books, listserves, websites, and digests, most notably The Quiverfull Digest. The largely decentralized "Quiverfull" movement resulted.

From their onset, Quiverfull ideas have sometimes had a rather polarizing affect between Christians who hold to the position and those who are skeptical of or disagree with it.[9][12]


Charles D. Provan's 1989 The Bible and Birth Control is credited as strengthening the theological justification for the Quiverfull movement.

Majority views

Also see: Creationism vs. Traducianism, and Vitalism vs. Materialism

Rejection of birth control by some Quiverfull adherents is based upon a view that the Genesis creation and post-Noahic flood Bible passages to "be fruitful and multiply" (see Genesis 1:22; 9:7) are un-rescinded Biblical commandments. For example, Charles D. Provan argues,

"Be fruitful and multiply" ... is a command of God, indeed the first command to a married couple. Birth control obviously involves disobedience to this command, for birth control attempts to prevent being fruitful and multiplying. Therefore birth control is wrong, because it involves disobedience to the Word of God. Nowhere is this command done away with in the entire Bible; therefore it still remains valid for us today.[13]

The cover of the 1990 Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ by Rick and Jan Hess.

Other Quiverfull adherents consider only that children are unqualified blessings, gifts which should be received happily from God. Quiverfull authors Rick and Jan Hess argued for this belief in their 1990 book.

"Behold, children are a gift of the Lord." (Psa. 127:3) Do we really believe that? If children are a gift from God, let’s for the sake of argument ask ourselves what other gift or blessing from God we would reject. Money? Would we reject great wealth if God gave it? Not likely! How about good health? Many would say that a man’s health is his most treasured possession. But children? Even children given by God? "That’s different!" some will plead! All right, is it different? God states right here in no-nonsense language that children are gifts. Do we believe His Word to be true?[14]

Quiverfull authors such as Pride, Provan, and Hess and Hess extend this idea to mean that if one child is a blessing, then each additional child is likewise a blessing and not something to be viewed as economically burdensome or unaffordable. When a couple seeks to control family size via birth control they are thus "rejecting God's blessings" he might otherwise give, and possibly breaking his commandment to "be fruitful and multiply".[11][13][14][15]

Accordingly, Quiverfull theology opposes the general acceptance among Protestant Christians of deliberately limiting family size or spacing children through birth control. For example, Mary Pride argued, "God commanded that sex be at least potentially fruitful (that is, not deliberately unfruitful).... All forms of sex that shy away from maritial fruitfulness are perverted."[11] Adherents believe that God himself controls via Providence how many and how often children are conceived and born, pointing to Bible verses that describe God acting to "open and close the womb" (see Genesis 20:18, 29:31, 30:22; 1 Samuel 1:5-6; Isaiah 66:9).[14][16] Hess and Hess state that couples "just need to trust God to provide them with the perfect number of children for their situation."[14]

Quiverfull advocates such as Hess and Hess, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, and Rachel Giove Scott, believe that the Devil deceives Christian couples into using birth control so that children God otherwise willed to create are prevented from being born.[14][17][16]

Minority views

Also see: Pragmatism

Not all Quiverfull families and authors would agree with each statement made by the movement's principal authors.

Samuel Owens considers that there may be aspects of a fallen universe that sometimes justify an option to use a non-potentially abortive birth control method. Example situations include serious illnesses, inevitable Caesarian sections, and other problematic situations such as disabling mental instability and serious marital disharmony. Owen additionally argues that birth control may be permissable for married couples called to a "higher moral purpose" than having children, such as caring long-term for many orphans or serving as career missionaries in a dangerous location.[18]

Despite some variances, all Quiverfull families and authors agree that God's normative ideal for happy, healthy and prosperous married couples is to take no voluntary actions to prevent having children.


Non-use of contraception

Also see: Fertility and Infertility, and Protestant views on contraception

The key practice of a Quiverfull married couple is to not use any form of birth control and to maintain continual "openness to children", to the possibility of conception, during routine sexual intercourse irrespective of timing of the month during the ovulation cycle. This is considered by Quiverfull adherents to be a principle if not the primary aspect of their Christian calling in submission to the lordship of Christ.

A healthy young Quiverfull couple might thereby have a baby every two years, meaning that as many as 10 children or more might be born during a couple's fertile years. In reality, however, most Quiverfull families do not become that large because general health problems or infertility may intervene, or the couple may have married later in life, or the decision to stop using birth control may have come later in the marriage. Quiverfull adherents advocate for child spacing through breastfeeding, so return of fertility after childbirth could be delayed by lactational amenorrhea, although the method is not certain.

Family organization

Also see: Family and Patriarchy

Quiverfull authors and adherents advocate for and seek to model a return to Biblical Patriarchy. Families are typically arranged with the mother as a homemaker under the authority of her husband with the children under the authority of both. Parents seek to largely shelter their children from aspects of culture they as parents deem adversarial to their view of conservative Christianity.

Additionally, Quiverfull families are strongly inclined toward homeschooling and homesteading in a rural area. However, exceptions exist in substantial enough portion to where these latter two items are general and often idealized correlates to Quiverfull practices and not integral parts of them.[19]

Quiverfull and Roman Catholicism

Also see: Roman Catholic views on contraception

Although there are a few similarities between the two, Roman Catholics sometimes adopt the Quiverfull label without understanding the quite substantial distinctions.


Both Quiverfull adherents and Roman Catholics consider childbearing a duty and blessing of marriage that should normally not be avoided, and extol the blessedness and beneficial results of having children.


However, Roman Catholics but not all Quiverfull adherents interpret the Genesis creation and post-Noahic flood passages to "be fruitful and multiply" (see Genesis 1:22; 9:7) as commandments rather than only actions that result in blessings.

Moreover, Roman Catholic theology emphasizes the relationship between sexual intercourse and fertility, rather than children per se, as part of the natural law of God, and considers artificial interference with fertility such as barriers or hormones to be a grave sin. While frivolous or materialistic reasons for avoiding children are seen as immoral, the Roman Catholic Church permits natural family planning (NFP) for grave reasons, although the translation of the Latin word "grave" is sometimes debated.[20] Use of NFP to avoid pregnancy may be actively promoted in extreme circumstances such as serious health problems, dire poverty, and active persecution.[21]

Dissimilarly, Quiverfull emphasizes the continual role of Providence in controlling whether or not and when a woman conceives due to God having exclusive prerogative in "opening and closing the womb". Quiverfull views all contraceptive methods alike in so far as they further such avoidance, while Catholicism permits natural family planning.

Quiverfull in the U.S. national press

While Quiverfull had prior garnered some attention in the Christian press[2] [22] and in various scholarly pieces, it began to receive significant attention in the U.S. national press in 2004.


In an article on December 7, 2004, New York Times journalist David Brooks described the Quiverfull movement as "natalism" and sought to show how in the future it could shift the U.S. political landscape from a philosophy of liberalism to conservatism. Brooks concluded, "Natalists are associated with red America, but they're not launching a jihad".[3]

Journalist Kathryn Joyce disagreed with Brooks in her November 9, 2006, 5-page exposé on Quiverfull in The Nation. Joyce emphasized that the movement uses what she described as "military-industrial terminology" to articulate the view that "only a determination among Christian women to take up their submissive, motherly roles with a 'military air'" and within a milieu of becoming "maternal missionaries" will lead to what Joyce described as Quiverfull's "Christian army" achieving cultural "victory."[23]

Four days later, on November 13, 2006, Newsweek provided a 2-page piece on Quiverfull, characterizing the movement as conservatives who are "reacting to revolutionary changes in women's social roles and seeking to re-impose a more traditional order". The piece ended by quoting a Quiverfull family as stating they were "exponentially happier" after relinquishing control of their womb to God.[24]

Quiverfull responses

In the proximate aftermath of the U.S. national articles, responses to the articles from Quiverfull adherents in The Quiverfull Digest ranged from "feeling betrayed" to assertions that the articles were "fair".[25] Additionally, a few disagreeing Quiverfull adherents undertook apologetic responses on the Internet discussion forums provided by the latter national publishers in immediate on-site connection with their articles.[23] [24]

Notable Quiverfull families

  • The Bortel family - David and Suzanne moderate The Quiverfull Digest and were featured in a November 13, 2006, article about Quiverfull in Newsweek magazine. They have 10 children.
  • The Duggar family - Jim Bob Duggar is a former Arkansas state legislator and former Republican candidate for the District 35 Arkansas state Senate seat. He and his wife Michelle have 16 children.[26][27][28]
  • The Farris family - Michael Farris is a conservative United States constitutional lawyer and founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and Patrick Henry College. He and his wife Vickie, author of A Mom Just Like You (2002), have 10 children.
  • The Frazier family - Dr. J. Curtis Frazier was the vice-presidential candidate of the Constitution Party (United States) in the U.S. presidential election, 2000, as the running-mate of Howard Phillips. He has served as the chair of the Constitution Party of Missouri. He and his wife Jana have 7 children.
  • The Provan family - Charles D. Provan is an author of books and articles on Christian topics and holocaust revisionism who was quoted in a November 27, 2006, article about Quiverfull in The Nation Magazine. His book The Bible and Birth Control is credited as providing important theological justification for Quiverfull. He and his wife have 10 children.
  • The Yates family - Andrea Yates committed the filicide of her 5 young children, ages 6-months, 2, 3, 5, and 7, on June 20, 2001, by drowning them in their family bathtub. She was found "not guilty by reason of insanity" and is currently institutionalized. Her former husband, Rusty Yates, remarried in 2006.[29]

Books dedicated to advocating a Quiverfull position

  • Campbell, Nancy. Be Fruitful and Multiply. Vision Forum, San Antonio, TX: 2003. ISBN 0-9724173-5-4
  • Hess, Rick and Jan. A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ. Wolgemuth & Hyatt Publishers, Brentwood, TN: 1990. ISBN 0-943497-83-3
  • Owen, Jr., Samuel A. Letting God Plan Your Family. Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL: 1990. ISBN 0-89107-585-2
  • Pride, Mary. The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality. Good News Pub, Wheaton, IL: 1985. ISBN 0-89107-345-0
  • Provan, Charles D. The Bible and Birth Control. Zimmer Printing, Monongahela, PA: 1989. ISBN 99917-998-3-4
Chapter of Provan's book available here. Free audio files of Provan's complete book available here.
  • Scott, Rachel. Birthing God's Mighty Warriors. Xulon Press, Longwood, FL: 2004. ISBN 1-59467-465-5

Books advocating Quiverfull as a secondary focus

  • DeMoss, Nancy Leigh. Lies Women Believe: And the Truth that Sets Them Free. Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL: 2002. ISBN 0-8024-7296-6
  • Farris, Vickie. A Mom Just Like You. B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN: 2002. ISBN 0-8054-2586-1


  1. Torode, Sam and Bethany; et al (2002). Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 0-8028-3973-8. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Strand, Paul (2006). ""Back to the Future: The Growing Movement of Natalism"" (html). CBN News. Retrieved 2006-10-07. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Brooks, David (2004). ""The New Red-Diaper Babies"" (html). New York Times. Retrieved 2006-10-07. 
  4. Benjamin, Hazel C. (1938). "Lobbying for Birth Control". The Public Opinion Quarterly 2 (1): 48-60. 
  5. Kennedy, David M. (1970 (2001)). Birth Control in America: The Career of Margaret Sanger. Yale University Press (ACLS History E-Book Project). ISBN 1-59740-178-1. 
  6. Campbell, Flann (Nov., 1960). "Birth Control and the Christian Churches". Population Studies Vol. 14 (No. 2): 131-147. 
  7. Allen, James E. (1976). "Family Planning Attitudes of Seminary Students". Review of Religious Research 9 (1): 52-55. 
  8. Goldschneider, Calvin, and William D. Mosher (1988). "Religious Affiliation and Contraceptive Usage". Studies in Family Planning 19 (1): 48-57. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Ellison, Christopher G., and Patricia Goodson (1997). "Conservative Protestantism and Attitudes toward Family Planning in a Sample of Seminarians". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 36 (4): 512-529.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "consvprots" defined multiple times with different content
  10. Marcum, John P. (1981). "Explaining Fertility Differences among U.S. Protestants". Social Forces 60 (2): 532-543. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Pride, Mary (1985). The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality. Wheaton, IL: Good News Publishers. ISBN 0-89107-345-0. 
  12. Goodman, Patricia (1997). "Protestants and Family Planning". Journal of Religion and Health 36 (No. 4): 353-366. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Provan, Charles D. (1989). The Bible and Birth Control. Monongahela, PA: Zimmer Printing. ISBN 99917-998-3-4. . Quote and its chapter available at
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 Hess, Rick and Jan (1990). A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ. Brentwood, TN: Hyatt Publishers. ISBN 0-943497-83-3. 
  15. Robben, Donetta (2006). "Blessings by the Dozen"". American Life League Magazine Sept.-Oct.. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 Scott, Rachel (2004). Birthing God's Mighty Warriors. Longwood, FL: Xulon Press. ISBN 1-59467-465-5. 
  17. DeMoss, Nancy Leigh (2002). Lies Women Believe: And the Truth that Sets Them Free. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers. ISBN 0-8024-7296-6. 
  18. Owen, Jr., Samuel A. (1990). Letting God Plan Your Family. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. ISBN 0-89107-585-2. 
  19. Biggar, R.J., and M. Melbye (1997). "Debating the Merits of Patriarchy: Discursive Disputes over Spousal Authority among Evangelicial Family Commentators". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (36): 393-410. 
  20. Smith, Janet (1993). "Reasons for limiting family size". Introduction to Sexual Ethics, Lecture VI: Natural Family Planning. International Catholic University. Retrieved 2006-09-12. 
  21. Kippley, John; Sheila Kippley (1996). The Art of Natural Family Planning (4th Edition ed.). Cincinnati, OH: The Couple to Couple League. pp. 225,235-236,285-286. ISBN 0-926412-13-2. 
  22. Leslie Leyland Fields (1 Aug 2006). "The Case for Kids" (HTML). Christianity Today. Retrieved 2006-12-21. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 Kathryn Joyce (09 Nov. 2006). "Arrows for the War" (HTML). The Nation. Retrieved 2006-12-20. 
  24. 24.0 24.1 Eileen Finan (13 Nov. 2006). "Making Babies the Quiverfull Way" (HTML). Newsweek Magazine. Retrieved 2006-12-21. 
  25. "The Quiverfull Digest" (HTML). The Quiverfull Digest. 2006. Retrieved Fall-Winter 2006. 
  26. Carrie Rengers (2001). "13 Children Add Up To Asset For Challenger" (html). Articles. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Retrieved 2006-10-09. 
  27. Michelle Duggar. "The Duggar Family FAQ" (html). Retrieved 2006-10-09. 
  28. Doug Thompson (2006). "Duggar runs for Springdale state Senate seat" (html). Arkansas News Bureau. Retrieved 2006-10-09. 
  29. ""Quiver-full Convicted: The Andrea Yates case throws a spotlight on a controversial Christian movement"" (html). The New Homemaker. Retrieved 2006-11-12. 

External links

See also


Voluntary Human Extinction Movement