This post is part of an ongoing discussion on the Writers’ Block about the necessity, or lack thereof, of procreation for Christians. To see other articles about this issue, click here to return to our home page.
In a previous post, John briefly mentioned an interesting point in regard to the command to “be fruitful and multiply.” He wrote, “I think this command is still vitally important, even though we already have filled the earth and ‘subdued’ it (some might argue we overdid it there).”
I had never thought of it this way, but reading John’s comment made me realize that this command from Genesis is very similar to the common marriage vow: “until death do you part.” Both the vow and the command have a built-in termination point. The marital vows end when we die, the command in Genesis (“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it…” [NRSV]) ends when the earth reaches its human saturation point. This raises the question: When can we say the planet is “subdued?” I see an answer to that question in the Bible’s commands about personal wealth management:
- “The good leave an inheritance to their children’s children” (Prov. 13:22).
- “If you have nothing with which to pay, why should your bed be taken from under you?” (Prov. 22:27).
These examples of the biblical wisdom on wealth reveal one of the things I love about Scripture: the book is very practical. If you consider the two verses I cited, they both implicitly encourage people to plan ahead. Consider how much you have and then live life accordingly, otherwise you may not have even the most basic of possessions or die in poverty with nothing to pass on. (For a more complete study of the wealth management topic, see The Recession as a Moral Crisis… over at the Center for Theology.) It would seem only natural that if the Bible encourages us to be this careful with our money, we should plan how much of Creation’s resources we use and how much will be available to the next generation (this was the point made by the Australian Anglican Church, who started this discussion on here).
So, how many people can live on this planet before we deprive the progeny of those who have children? This is an exceedingly complex question because it cannot be answered by simply totaling up the amount of all resources we have. Tomorrow, a group of scientists could come up with a way to turn grass into a fuel capable of running cars, and thus the planet’s energy supply would be greatly extended. Technology allows us to use our resources more efficiently and turn some things into far more useful commodities.
With that caveat in mind, consider the state of the world today. The world’s population continually rises (it stands at roughly 6.7 billion), one-in-six do not have enough food to be healthy, nature continually recedes (every year, an area of forest four times the size of Switzerland is lost), and many scientists question the stability of our current environment with considerations such as global warming.
While I am not saying our planet cannot handle any increase in population, perhaps we should slow our growth and consider the future. Perhaps our mandate, at our current level of technology, has been fulfilled and we should pause to take stock.