When my wife and I found out that we were expecting our first child, I had anticipated life to change drastically. Doctor’s visits, diapers, wipes, and even moving were all the expected adjustments. However, as soon as we announced that the Lord had graciously added to our small family, we were met with an unexpected onslaught of joy and exultation. The collective response of our family, friends, and even strangers, was overwhelmingly congratulatory in nature. Of course, we expected excitement, but its magnitude was quite unimagined.
Moreover, I did not anticipate the transformative aspect that a baby could have on different people (myself included). Tough men softened at the touch of our little image-bearer, elderly faces brightened at seeing her, and friends long forgotten gave gifts. It struck me that our new child was bringing joy and wonder out of people, who otherwise concealed these emotions. I sought to understand why this was.
As I began to think about this in biblical and theological terms, I started to meditate on the Protevangelium in Genesis 3:15. In Genesis 1, God prepares a special land for mankind to dwell in. At the creation of mankind, God blesses his crown of creation with the blessing of life and dominion in the land of promise. (1) Fast forward to chapter three and Adam and Eve lose this blessing through disobedience to God’s word (Gen 3:1–6). In the aftermath, the Lord deals out curses to the serpent, Eve, and Adam (Gen 3:14-17). The blessing of Eden was lost. However, in the midst of the Lord’s speech to the serpent, the Lord announces good news––namely, the defeat of the serpent at the heel of the offspring of Eve. The remainder of Genesis and the Hebrew Bible, focuses a great deal of concern and careful attention to tracing the lineage of this promised seed. The Biblical authors trace the offspring of Eve through the line of Seth, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Judah, and David (2). The Hebrew Bible ends peering through the rubble of exile, looking for the Son of David, who will bless all nations with the blessing of Eden (cf., Ps. 2:12, 72:17). By the time we come to the opening pages of the New Testament, Matthew boldly announces Jesus of Nazareth to be the long–awaited seed of Eve (Matt. 1:1; cf., Acts 3:17–26).
What does this have to do with the response of joy to the Lord’s addition to our family, and more broadly, a theology of children? It struck me as I was meditating on Genesis 3:15, that a baby is a seed; that is, a seed of Eve. Each child born to Eve and to her descendants until Christ was hoped to be the promised seed. “Maybe this one is the one to restore the lost blessing of Eden” those many generations must have wondered (cf., Gen. 4:25, 5:29, Luke 24:21).
Although Jesus, the promised seed of Eve has come, the fullness of his salvation has not yet been realized. We still await the enjoyment of “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). Thus, children act as a reminder of God’s promise to Eve. The entrance of children into the world reminds our world of the hope of redemption in Genesis 3:15. In a very real sense, a child is hope. Hope, of the curse’s reversal, hope of blessing. Children bear new life to a world broken and dying. This new life recalls Eden’s blessing of life (Gen. 1:28), and even proclaims the new life that is available in Christ. Children remind mankind of God’s forbearance: that he is not finished with us yet––he still sends us life.
The headline of a recent news article read “Having children is one of the most destructive things you can do to the environment, say researchers.” Another more recent article suggests that adults are refraining from having children due to fear of accelerating climate change. However, far from being destructive in essence, Genesis 3:15 shows us that children are hope–inducing. Children show forth God’s graciousness and his promise to redeem, and to restore all things. The Protevangelium helps to build a theology of children in a curse–ridden world, that awaits God’s restoration. Children bear this hopeful news of God’s grace by their very existence. Ultimately, children act as a reminder of Christ, the promised seed, who makes known to us life eternal. Such a theology begins to explain the unexpected but deeply intuitive response to our new family addition.