Human reproduction, when considered in its social context, is expressive of beauty and purpose. Though human history and the human family is marred by division, sorrow, and every form of violence, this beauty and purpose yet remains, albeit obscured and deeply marred. Further, in God’s grace, this beauty and purpose is redeemed and directed unto a new and greater perfection.
Not every creature needs a mate to reproduce. There are aphids, frogs, salamanders, and other animals which can reproduce by means of parthenogenesis. Parthenogenesis is a form of asexual reproduction in which an individual animal provides all the genetic material necessary for its offspring. Offspring which result from this form of reproduction are genetic clones of a parent. If one could take an aerial-view of the history of such a species, it would look something like this:*
These frogs persist in a chain of reproduction, parallel with other members of their species. Though they have genetic/morphic structures in common with one another, they are otherwise individual reproductive beings.
One might think of humanity in similar terms. Children come from their parents, who came from their parents, who came from their parents. But this ignores the rich physical and social reality of the human being who forms a part of a woven structure of relations. The nature of the human family discloses that there is no such thing as an absolute ‘individual’. People are not simply clonal offspring, but simultaneously a continuation and development of an interwoven history. Indeed, we cannot rightly live or love without acknowledging these social realities.
It is not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18).
Sexual reproduction, along with the social structures which supplement it, creates not just an anthropological chain, but a anthropological tapestry. Sexual reproduction means that two members of the species have united physically. Their union, traditionally contextualized by love and marriage, creates a horizontal bond that is absent in asexual reproduction. This social and sexual bond results in the birth of a child who constitutes a new bond of unity in the human family. While the mother and father are united by love, affection, commitment, as well as social and religious structures, the child is related to his parents by different, albeit similar structures.
A child is a physical embodiment of parental union. Sexual reproduction means that children are genetically woven together from intermingled strands of DNA. The child, while a separate individual, is yet bound to his parents, being not only from both of them, but also of them both.
Because of this genetic platting, a child emerges not simply in a historic clonal chain, but as a being who embodies a new and deepening reality of the human family. The families of mother and father, once separate, are first bound together in a commitment of affection and service (marriage). That bond is then further developed and confirmed in the reality of a living person (offspring). Human history is therefore not a history of lone individuals who occasionally look across to one another and produce offspring. Rather, human history is the interweaving of the human race through the dual bonds of love and family.
In His wisdom and mercy, God so created man as to be knitted together by a dual bond, in order that familial and romantic love might intermingle, inform, and reinforce one another. These bonds not only strengthen and enrich one another, but serve as warp and woof in our history, weaving together the human family in an ever greater tapestry.
The very meaning of family is constituted by the love which ideally unites mother and father and thus brings family into existence. The meaning of love is constituted by the kind of belonging which the familial expresses and creates. The mutuality of these threads reveals the unity which we were created to express in our history and in our very flesh. Male and Female he created us to embody in our persons and our relations a tapestry of exquisite and ever deepening unity. This unity is to instruct us in justice and mercy. It is also a reflection of that original and transcendent union of our source, the holy Trinity.
So In Christ, we though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others (Romans 12:5).
Yet the family of man is deeply marred. In the beginning there was one family, but division emerged as a result of sin. God, who ordained that humanity should be constituted by this double bond, foresaw and permitted sin; yet, he did not foresake us or leave us without remedy. He provided a new body in which the entire human family and all human relations might be redeemed and made new. In Christ, mankind is invited to partake of a new and preeminent unity, one greater even than that which we originally possessed in Adam. Through Him, we become adopted children and partakers of His divine nature.
A new thread is woven into the fabric of human destiny by Christ, a thread which coherently binds, completes, and redeems the whole of human history, so that none need be ashamed to be woven and platted into such a tapestry. To the dual natural bonds of familial and romantic love, God joins himself to our history and nature, taking on these bonds in all their failure and imperfection, and transforming them by his sacrificial presence.
The story of human history is made new by this humble thread which now gives life, hope, and meaning to all things. The Creator, that is, the Master of the Loom, has woven and platted himself into the fiber of human existence that we might be so woven into the eternal joy of Trinitarian life–itself a transcendent interwoven reality of unity and love.
*most of these animals can also reproduce sexually