Go forth and multiply - or not
The Herald ran a report on the weekend called Australia 2050, speculating about what life will be like in 40 years. One projection suggested there would be 36 million people in our land by that time - and that we couldn’t possibly afford the infrastructure necessary for that number.
The population debate is not new, and it’s certainly not restricted to Australia. For years, certain segments of the environmental movement have been telling us that we must stabilise (or even decrease) the human population, or face disaster.
Where should Christians sit on this issue? Is it ok for a Christian to support zero or negative population growth? Sermons on this subject invariably return to Genesis 1:28, where God says to humanity, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it”. Zero population growth, some say, is contrary to this command, and so should be treated with great suspicion.
I used to buy into this thinking, but now I’m not so sure. It seems to me that Genesis 1:28 is possibly the only command of God that humanity might reasonably claim to have obeyed. The earth has been filled, and it has been subdued. Unless someone figures out how to colonise Mars, maybe we can tick that command off.
Are there any other texts that might inform this debate? Well, my mind was recently drawn to 1 Timothy 5:8 - “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” It establishes an obligation to provide for our family, especially our immediate family.
Given this obligation, a very poor man might decide not to have any more children because he cannot afford to provide for them. If that seems a reasonable position, then it also seems reasonable to discuss how many people the planet can afford to “provide for”. It’s about good stewardship. This argument seems plausible to me, and so I believe it’s possible for conservative, Bible-believing Christians to advocate zero population growth.
Now, I’m not saying this is my position - merely that I think it is a valid position within biblical Christianity. As far as my own opinion goes - well, I already have 3 children, and I think it’s likely I will have a few more. You can draw your own conclusions from that…