Will a contract make parenting easier?

July 16, 2014

When Rebecca Onion looks into her baby-filled future, she sees “only catastrophe.” In an article on Slate.com she vets a solution: the “Pre-Pregnancy contract.” Her goal is to avoid what she dreads: an uneven distribution of household and parenting work. The as-yet childless Onion, 36, accepts that a baby would limit her freedoms and she suspects the physical changes and financial challenges of a baby would be compensated for by the sort of cuteness she sees in “the bright little faces of [her] nieces.” Knowing she’s edging nearer her fertility window, she wonders if a “not-at-all legally binding document, outlining expectations and setting a course for periodic re-examination of the division of labor” would avert what she worries about most. “That motherhood might make me hate my darling husband.”

It’s not about a bargain

If only it were that easy. Tally up all the cleaning, cooking, laundry, and home maintenance, add in the feeding, diapering, rocking, and lullaby-singing and presto: a magic number neatly divisible by two. Hubby takes half, wife takes half, and all is well on the home front. But as with the baby Solomon threatened to divide with a sword (1 Kings 3:25), the wisdom is revealed in the folly. Cutting the body in half would give each of the women a portion of the baby they were fighting over, but half of a dead child is no child at all. So too, cutting household chores in half would solve one problem and create a host of others. Contractual distribution of sweeping, dusting, and dishes would only encourage self-centeredness. And a home with two spouses fixated on fairness is no place for nurturing new life.

Having a baby is exhausting and life-altering. Even if you could find the elusive solution for splitting jobs 50/50, it still wouldn’t be enough. What’s needed is a vow bigger than either party, with more staying power than a non-binding agreement that can be gotten out of just as easily as it’s gotten into. What’s needed is a lay-your-life-down commitment that sees beauty in the heroic. Such are the vows you took the day you got married.

In their book Recovery of Family Life, Elton and Pauline Trueblood explain why marriage requires couples to go further than meeting each other halfway:

The commitment we call marriage is not a bargain! It is a station in which one gives all that he has, including all his devotion and all of the fruits of his toil. ‘With all my worldly goods I thee endow.’ … The result is that marriage is an amazing relation in which the ordinary rules of business, with its contracts and escape clauses and limited liabilities, are despised and set aside. Marriage is no marriage at all if it is conditional or partial with the fingers crossed. There must be, on both sides, an uncalculating abandon, a mutual outpouring of love and loyalty.

Nothing less than total sacrifice

What’s required of dad and a mom is nothing short of total sacrifice. You have to be willing to set aside your desires, your whims, your convenience—not always—but often. You have to be other-centered; focused on the good of one who is dependent on you for his very life at first, and as time goes on, for nurture, training, teaching, leading, and more. Parenthood is all-in, always-on. That doesn’t mean you’ll never get to take a nap or a vacation, but the responsibility of being a mom or dad never goes away. It takes two people, a man and a woman, who are both giving 100 percent, to even come close to supplying what’s required.

In the last paragraph of Onion’s article she petitions readers who have “a process for discussing issues . . . don’t avoid conflict and . . . don’t prolong fruitless stalemates.” She wants to hear from any who’ve found that it works.

Living out your vows

And so, Ms. Onion, here’s my answer to your request. Steve and I have been married for 17 years, have four children ages five to 14, and have regular dates where we discuss our plans and expectations for the quarter ahead. You’re right to want an approach that hits challenges head-on. We’ve made the Bible’s command to “not let the sun go down on your anger” be our guiding principle for what we call “keeping short accounts.” When we disagree, we work it out. We don’t stew, don’t harbor bitterness, and generally don’t let things fester overnight. (I can think of only two times we went to bed not speaking to each other.)

We also have what you might consider a foundational document. It includes our mission as a couple, and by extension, our family. It captures our priorities for the year ahead, including people we’d like to host, milestones we’ll celebrate, things we’d like to learn, trips we’re planning to take, purchases we’d like to make, and more. Making this annual plan together the first of January is something we both anticipate. After the busy Christmas season, it’s a respite to get away, pray, and dream about the year ahead. It echoes our dating days when we were looking forward to what life as husband and wife could be.

What we don’t have, however, is the sort of equitable score sheet that tracks our chores around the house. Such would seem mighty petty after the parenting adventures we’ve been through these past 14 years. The challenges and responsibility of raising children are far too steep for me to stop and count how many times he cleared the table last week. The vision for shaping the lives of other living, breathing human beings, with all their potential and promise, is too grand to get stuck in the weeds of whether I did more laundry and dusting.

The way to resolve the anxiety you feel isn’t a transactional, non-binding agreement because the person you’re working to resolve it with isn’t your lawyer or your business partner. He’s your husband. The man you married. The one you promised to love and cherish in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, till death. Don’t let the possibility of an unfair distribution of trips to the pediatrician keep you from the fruit of marriage: babies. Embrace the heroic. Don’t keep score. Plan for big changes in your home and marriage, not with ultimatums about what you will and won’t do, but with a commitment to work together on your most important endeavor. Hint: it’s not emptying the dishwasher.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24