Population Control and the Creation Mandate
Fanisi Kalusa in her
wildest imagination could never have considered that she would
become known world-wide.1 In fact, her life centered around her
tiny little village of Margoli, eight miles above the equator in
western Kenya. She would, however, become known for her desire
to have 20 children, as she was the central subject of a
documentary on world population. (The money had been provided by
the United Nations, the World Bank, and private donors.)
Fanisi's village was located in "the middle of the most crowded
farmland of the fastest growing nation in the history of the
world." Her desire and her situation were perfect to portray
what Robert McNamara described as the "rampant population growth
(that left humanity) more certainly threatened, than it has been
by any catastrophe the world has yet endured."
arises whether children should always be reared or may
sometimes be exposed to die.... there should also be a
law, in all states where the system of social habits is
opposed to unrestricted increase, to prevent the
exposure of children merely in order to keep the
population down. The proper thing to do is to limit the
size of each family.2
This quote from Aristotle
shows that concern about population growth is an old phenomenon.
Perhaps it received its greatest momentum, however, when Thomas
Malthus (1766-1834) made his "objective" studies and predictions
about the sufficiency of the earth to sustain the physical needs
of his projected numbers. His conclusions and those of modern
population planners, however, depend upon many assumptions and
distortions. To complicate matters, eugenics in this century has
become linked with concern about population growth. Additional
impetus came from the increasing materialism that focuses on the
"good life" when children absorb large sums that could be used
for personal pleasure. Unfortunately, many Christians have
adopted these secular attitudes. We must, therefore, see what
the Bible says about these matters.
You might ask, "How is
population control related to medical ethics; isn't it properly
a topic for social ethics?" Medicine is the means (birth control
measures) to the end (population control). The ethics of such
measures must be analyzed from two perspectives: from population
control as a goal and birth control methods as medical practice.
This chapter and the next are a unit, dealing with these two
Fallacies of the
First, predictions of
future population numbers are extremely inaccurate. Malthus'
initial projections have proved false.3 He maintained that the
population of the earth would double every twenty-five years. If
his predictions were correct, the world's population would be
sixty billion, nearly ten times what it actually is! Since 1973,
the world's growth rate has slowed to 1.7 per cent (two per cent
prior to that time) as fertility rates have dropped sharply in
Asia and Latin America.4 Colin Norman, a population expert,
doubts that the world's population will ever double again, a
position that contrasts sharply with that of United Nations
planners.5 Causes for his position include increased death rates
from war, famine, poor farming and fishing practices, as well as
increased use of birth control measures (including abortion).
Second, the potential food
supply of the world is far greater than was previously realized.
Colin Clark estimates that the world could sustain 35 billion
people on the "over consumptive" American diet and 100 billion
on an "adequate" Japanese diet.6 Malcolm Muggeridge said that
the arguments and data in Clark's books are "unanswerable and
have never been seriously challenged."7
Third, the most serious
hindrance to maximum food production are man's individual
actions and national culture, particularly is determined by his
religion. Historically, famines are caused by war, the
prevention of cultivation, the willful destruction of crops,
defective agriculture, governmental interference by regulation
or taxation, and currency restrictions.8 It should be noted that
natural causes are the exception rather than the rule.
The recent famine in
Ethiopia is an example. Traditionally, Ethiopian farmers had
stored food for the future years of crop failure that they knew
were inevitable.9 Under the present government, however, those
who continued to store food were accused of "hoarding" and
executed. When others tried to transport food, they were accused
of "exploitation" and their goods confiscated. Sometimes, they
were imprisoned or executed. Many young, able-bodied men were
forced to leave their farms. Entrepreneurial incentives were
dashed by widespread looting, confiscation, and expropriation.
Both individual and business bank accounts were raided. Farmers
were forced into collectives and associations. No plans were
made to replace the former storage of food for future years or
transportation to move food to those parts of the country that
needed it. Even the massive giving of other countries did not
get food to the people. It rotted on docks, was diverted to
those in power, or was used to manipulate the populace.
The situation in other countries also shows that the major problem is inherently
individual, social, political, and religious. Dr. J. S. Kanwar
of the Indian Agrarian Research Institute, has concluded that
modern methods of agriculture in two of the Federal States in
India could produce enough food for the entire country. Then, if
the entire country used such methods, one-third of the crop
would exceed the country's need and could be exported.
Throughout the world the typical work day varies from 45 minutes
to seven hours.10 Obviously, longer working hours would produce
a great deal more. Over fishing, overgrazing, deforestation and
over ploughing are additional problems that reduce productivity
through the destruction of basic resources.11 Further, the lack
of productivity in the tropics has been attributed to the people
who live there and is not due to the heat and humidity per se.12
Fourth, productivity is
not necessarily limited where people are closely populated.
There is an interesting
theory according to which, from an economic point of view,
countries can, on a certain level, be "overpopulated," then,
within the framework of a more developed economy, become under
populated, and with additional industrialization again become
overpopulated, and so forth (his emphasis).13 This
phenomenon may account for the fact that in the West "the
birth-rate began to decrease a generation or so after the
death-rate decreased without any help from contraceptives,
abortion or other forms of birth-control."14 (It is doubtful
that abortion is effective as a birth control measure.15)
The Netherlands and Japan,
two of the most densely populated countries in the world have
had to import workers to meet their productive capacity.16
Tyrol, a federal state of Austria was Central Europe's
"poor-house," in 1898 unable to employ and feed its
population.17 Emigration was high. Today, the lifestyle in a
Tyrolean village is quite similar to that of the United States,
a most remarkable reversal! Taiwan, two-thirds the size of
Switzerland but with sixteen million people, has the second
highest standard of living in Asia (behind Japan, another
densely populated country).
Fifth, cultural upheavals
have been caused by population planning because its acceptance
and practice is uneven. Europeans, North Americans, Australians,
Japanese, and South Africans have been practicing birth control,
but few other countries have done so to the same extent. The net
result is that the "white races" and the Japanese face a
declining percentage of the world's population.18 "Genocide is
now the fashion ... (of these regions) in an undeclared warfare
vis-à-vis an unborn generation."19 In the Netherlands the
Catholics "overtook" the Calvinists as the 20th century began
because the latter used contraception and the former did not.
It would take us far a
field and require a lengthy treatise to discuss the morality of
these demographic changes. It is sufficient here to note that
major shifts take place when population controls are attempted.
Sixth, food production has
increased more rapidly than the population on a world-wide
basis.20 This fact substantiates the above observation that the
major problem lies with people and their culture, not food
production per se.
It appears never
to have occurred to them (the advocates of controlled
population development) that the logical way out of the
chronic situation in which there are more hungry people
than food is not by way of reducing the population, but
rather of increasing the production of the means of
Even in the United where
large surpluses of food are produced almost every year, more
could be produced were it not for government controls. Often,
the problem of insufficient food is its delivery to the people
(see Ethiopia above). Such transportation problems have to be
addressed, as well.
Seventh, how can any
"optimum" number for the population of a country or the world be
determined? What objective standards could be used? How much
land space, food, and other material goods should each person
have? The ultimate question is who will make these decisions?
The answer of the population planners is always the "wisdom" of
an elite group, usually scientists who are quite willing to use
their "expertise" from the "objective" (meaning amoral) world of
science to answer these far-reaching moral questions. It is
fascinating, although nonetheless dangerous, that strong
advocates of pluralism are quite unwilling to determine answers
to these dilemmas rather with a pluralistic approach. Such
unwillingness clearly shows their authoritarian philosophy that
includes coercive tyranny to achieve their ends. (So much for
Eighth, it is not
universally true that large families are "unwanted." The clear
desire of many peoples to have large families has caused a
prominent feminist, Germaine Greer, to "change her tune." From a
tour to rural villages in India she was deeply moved by a
culture in which there were no "unwanted children," in which
family life was strong and sex regarded as something other than
an "indoor sport," in which the women's role in family and
village life was important and honorable.22
Ninth, both the rich and
the poor need their children to provide for them in their
elderly years and to continue the economic development of their
country.22 Allan Carlson has calculated that the loss of 17
million children in the United States (who become producing
adults) through abortion to be $1.45 trillion in national
income, of which $291 billion would have been federal income
tax. Consider this amount relative to the current budget deficit
of $150-$200 billion dollars a year.24 He has called this loss,
"The Malthusian Deficit." His calculations include many
assumptions, but the value of his work is to give some
objectivity to the enormous potential "wealth" to our country
from larger families.
Julian Simon has briefly
summarized other arguments.25 His answers to the question, "Why
is population rhetoric so appealing?," includes: short-run vs.
long-run costs, apparent consensus of expert judgment,
population as a cause of pollution, judgments about people's
rationality, media exposure, money, and standards of proof and
rhetoric. To the question, "What are the underlying reasons for
doomsday fears and rhetoric?," he answers: simple world-saving
humanitarianism, taxation fears, supposed economic and political
self-interest, fear of communism, dislike of business, belief in
the superiority of "natural processes," religious antagonisms,
racism, the belief of the more educated that they know what is
best for the less educated, lack of historical perspective, and
fitness of the human race.
In conclusion numbers
per se are not the disease, so birth-control (especially
abortion) is not the cure. The fact is that the cure is worse
than the problem. There are hidden agendas, motives, and severe
distortions of the facts. Allan Carlson calls us to action.
Christians ... face a special imperative in ending the
Malthusian charade. Its core assumption -- that man alone is
vile and nature alone is holy -- represents a corruption of
The Creation Mandate
"And God blessed them; and
God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth
..." (Genesis 1:28a). This directive is one of seven given to
Adam and Eve prior to their Fall: the replenishing of the earth
(Genesis 1:28a), subduing of the same (Genesis 1:28a), dominion
over the creatures (Genesis 1:28b), labor (Genesis 2:15), the
weekly Sabbath (Genesis 2:3), and marriage (Genesis 2:24-25).
They are called "creation mandates" by some theologians and
"orders of creation" by others. Our focus is on the command to
procreate. It is inseparable from the seventh. 27 When God
limited one man to one woman and vice-versa, He limited
procreation to this union. In the next section we will explore
what that union means relative to the family.
Since these mandates are
not taught widely today, many Christians will not be familiar
with them. Likely, however, you will recognize principles that
Scripture presents elsewhere. Also, you may recognize general
principles that seem to issue from "Christian" responsibility,
but had not yet been crystallized in your mind. Too many
Christians have been "brain-washed" by the population myths and
birth control advocates. The creation mandate is the basic
principle by which to place these distortions in their Biblical
Some may wonder whether
these mandates continue since the Fall wreaked havoc with the
whole cosmos (Rom. 8:20), including its perfect moral structure.
That these mandates need some modification seems necessary from
Jesus' allowance for divorce (Mt. 19:1-12). First, He states the
creation mandate for marriage (v. 4-6). Then, He upholds the
allowance for divorce under Mosaic law, " ... because of your
hardness of heart" (v. 8). Again, He states the creation
mandate, "but from the beginning it has not been this way" (v.
8). Finally, he re-states the Old Testament sanction for divorce
when adultery has occurred. It seems that Man's sin has made
divorce a practical necessity for cases of adultery. (Paul added
desertion of an unbeliever as a cause for divorce later.)28
Since Jesus modified one
creation mandate because of man's sinfulness, it would not seem
inappropriate to expect some modification of the command to "be
fruitful and multiply." Helmut Thielicke apparently takes this
position when he says that this command is "confronted with
concrete situations which resist its realization."29 We should
not, however, be too hasty. Concerning divorce we have an
explicit modification made in the Bible itself by our Lord
Himself. There is no such explicit modification concerning
our being "fruitful." Most assuredly, Christians do not have
the prerogative to modify God's commands without His own
Further, we should not
have to resort to the choice of "lesser evils,"30 where the
situation seems to offer only choices that are each evil. Dr.
John Jefferson Davis calls this principle, "contextual
absolutism."31 It "holds that in each and every ethical
situation, no matter how extreme, there is a course of action
that is morally right and free of sin" (I Corinthians 10:31).
That is not to say that such situations are not extremely
difficult, but Dr. Davis calls us to the "cost of discipleship
... in the twentieth century American church, where believers
are all too often tempted by the comforts and compromises of the
Thus, the creation
mandate remains in effect.33 Its repetition after the Fall
and after the flood clearly underscores its continuance. It
applies to both believers and unbelievers since it was given to
the natural father (Adam) and mother (Eve) of the human race.
Since unbelievers are not likely to respond to biblical
authority, the conscious fulfillment of this creation mandate
falls to believers. There are many reasons why believers should
be concerned about its fulfillment. We will review some of those
reasons after we develop a biblical concept of the family.
The Biblical Concept of
We start with "the
beginning." In Genesis 2 the purpose of marriage is clearly
stated, "...it is not good for the man to be alone; I will make
him a helper suitable for him!" (v.18). Then, God made Eve to
complement Adam in every way, "meet" meaning "appropriate to,
corresponding to or approximating at every point."34 That is,
the man would be lonely and incomplete without his wife. She is
his "companion" (Proverbs 2:17) and he is her "companion"
(Malachi 2:14). Further, that "... the two shall become one
flesh" (Genesis 2:24) indicates the unity of this companionship
since "flesh"35 refers to individual persons (Genesis 6:17,
7:22, 8:21; Acts 2:17). Thus, "become one flesh" means that the
husband and wife become one person: physically as they live
together and enjoy a sexual relationship as they care for each
others hurts and needs, intellectually as they share and
complement each other's life. The "two persons begin to think,
act, feel as one"36 Thus, marriage is primarily a functional and
physical companionship in all the endeavors of both "till death
do you part." (It is an earthly unity, not an eternal unity,
The strength of this
companionship is emphasized in its designation as a covenant
(Malachi 2:14). God chose the covenant as the means by which He
would establish His relationship with the nation of Israel
(Genesis 17:1-14) and spiritual "Israel" (all believers, Gal.
3:29). Thus, marriage is a covenant that reflects God's plan of
salvation. Even further, marriage reflects the relationship
within the Trinity (I Corinthians 11:3). John Calvin commenting
upon Mt. 19:5-6 states, "...whoever divorces his wife (or
husband) tears himself in pieces, because such is the force of
holy marriage, that the husband and wife become one man" 37
A secondary function of
this unity is the propagation and rearing of children. The Roman
Catholic Church and some Protestants are wrong to teach that
procreation is the primary purpose of marriage. First, children
are a temporary part of marriage because they eventually leave
home, whereas, marriage continues for the lifetimes of the
husband and wife. In fact, the children are instructed to
"leave" (separate) from their parents and "cleave" (join)
themselves to their spouses (Genesis 2:24). Second, marriage is
not necessary, biologically, for the propagation of the human
race. The prevalence of illegitimate births and the reproductive
techniques clearly cover this reality.
The sexual relationship is
secondary, also. Obviously, marriage is not necessary for the
act of intercourse, but marriage is the situation that God
designed for its fullest and only means of expression. Sexual
fulfillment flows out of the companionship of the husband and
the wife. In this context of fulfillment and commitment children
are conceived. It is not, however, the only dimension of the
physical relationship. Couples who are unable to have sexual
intercourse can still have a deeply physical relationship
through their touches, embraces and other physical contact. It
is the erotic focus of our society that centers on marriage as a
sexual relationship. The Bible does not place the emphasis on
sex even though it is not embarrassed by the pleasures and
ecstasies of sex, as vividly portrayed in the Song of Solomon.
Finally, marriage is the
basic unit of society and the smallest unit of government.
Education, discipline, and justice, health, and economics are
administered there. A man's ability to govern his family is a
prerequisite for his governing the church (I Tim. 3:4-5) and by
implication, any other social sphere.
In conclusion, marriage
was instituted of God as a lifelong design, primarily for
companionship and complementary work. It is a covenant of
companionship. A man or woman is incomplete until he or she has
married (unless gifted by God to serve Him without a spouse, Mt.
19:12, I Corinthians 7:7). Children and sexual fulfillment are
functions of this unity, but a marriage can be fully complete
without either. The marriage and the family form the basic unit
of society and government; any enhancement or disruption of the
family multiplies far beyond itself for this reason. All medical
ethics to be biblical, must incorporate this companionship
concept of the family.
Implications of the
Creation Mandate and the Biblical Family
Bob's problem (he had come
alone) was unusual for me as a pastoral counselor: his wife did
not want children at this time. He had been married to Jane for
six years and until the last few months, both had agreed not to
have children. He had been in school most of that time and she
had worked to support him. Now, they were both working, their
debts were paid, and he wanted children. Jane, however, seemed
to enjoy buying the things for the house that she had always
wanted and knew the expense of a baby would interfere with her
plans. Bob was concerned that they may wait too long since Jane
had two medical problems that could interfere with conception
and decrease their chances of having any children at all. As I
gathered more data, it was apparent that the presenting problem
reflected other problems in the marriage.
Since this type of case
was the first for me, I made some usual suggestions to improve
their communication, partly to buy time for me to talk over
their situation with other elders. They were both to come for
the next counseling session. As this case turned out, I never
saw them again formally. Evidently, his visit was the stimulus
for Jane to re-think her position. Within a few months she was
obviously pregnant and they now have two children.
Childlessness Because of Physical Inability. As we have
seen, physical inability to have children does not detract from
the primary purpose of marriage so the fullness of the
husband-wife relationship is not necessarily diminished.
Further, even though the couple is not able to obey the creation
mandate, their situation does not involve sin because personal
sin is never ascribed when failure to fulfill a biblical command
is completely beyond personal responsibility.
A different situation is the couple who voluntarily chooses not
to have children. Such is a violation of the creation mandate.
Thielicke states that such a marriage should not take place.38 A
man and woman who contemplate marriage without the intention to
have children, even though it may be rare, have insufficient
biblical grounds for the marriage. Although they could still
fulfill the primary purpose of marriage, they could possibly be
in continual violation of the biblical command to procreate.
however, are in order. Thielicke names several "exceptional"
cases: severe illness of the mother, severe hereditary
affliction, economic circumstances which will not permit the
rearing of another child even with the greatest frugality, early
marriages (that is, by students), housing difficulties, and job
situations.39 The most valid is that of severe illness in the
mother. In this situation, the choice is actually one between
the new life of a child and the life of the mother. The choice
is similar to the one that is faced when a mother's life is
threatened if her pregnancy is continued.40 Other limitations on
this creation mandate also apply.
Arbitrarily, I will divide this limitation into three
categories. Into one category falls the couple whose first child
unexpectedly has a genetic disorder or congenital abnormality (a
problem or set of problems that occurs during the development of
the baby in the mother's womb or the birth process, and is not
an inherited condition.) The difficulty that such a child places
on the couple financially, physically, socially and spiritually
may be sufficient to limit their having additional children.
This limitation is strengthened if there is a high probability
that they will have another defective child. If, however, it is
virtually certain that additional children will be normal, they
may want to have more.
The second category
involves the couple who have not yet had children, but know that
they have a very high probability of having a genetically
defective child. This second category as a limitation is not as
strong as the first because the above couple has already acted
upon the creation mandate. Usually, the stress of
genetically-defective children is outweighed by unexpected
benefits, as with Down's syndrome children. We do not want to
say categorically, however, that this second couple should have
a child. Paul Ramsey, however, believes that they should not.41
A third category is an
older couple who is at an increased risk of genetic aberrations
in their children because of their age. These rates are commonly
given according to the age of the mother, although the age of
the man is a factor in genetic abnormalities, as well. When the
woman is 35 years of age, the chances of a "clinically
significant abnormality" is 0.5 percent (5/1000 births); at 40
years 1.5 percent (1.5/1000); at 45 years 5.0 percent (50/1000);
and at 49 years 13.0 percent (77/1000).42 For the couple who
does not have any children, these "odds" would not seem to
warrant childlessness. These "odds" are considerably less than
those inherited abnormalities that may affect 25-100 percent of
the offspring. Of course, all other factors that we are
discussing here would have to be considered. Having children at
older ages should certainly not be undertaken lightly.
There are too many
variables to cover every situation. Most genetic abnormalities
are not severe. In fact everyone has several hidden genetic
defects. It would seem that the expected disorder would have to
be severe (multiple organ systems affected) to prevent the
couple from having children. The couple would have to consider
their own physical, financial and spiritual resources. They
should talk with other Christians who have these children. Most
importantly, they should seek the counsel of their local church
officers who are their God-ordained spiritual advisors.
Certain situations may require postponed childlessness. 1) A
year is needed to allow for a new husband and wife to begin to
learn to live together (Dt.24:5). Although this passage has to
do with military and civil duties, it probably represents a
general principle that allows a new husband and wife to enjoy
and get to know each other without excessive demands that
interfere with their relationship.
2) Immediately successive
pregnancies may be difficult for some women both physically and
spiritually. It would seem appropriate that some spacing between
children be planned, but this decision seems to be one that each
couple is entirely free to make as they consider their abilities
3) The loss of a job or
other financial loss may temporarily reduce a family's means to
have another child. Again, this decision is one that couple's
are free to make. Many relevant factors vary considerably from
family to family, so their choices here will also vary.
4) A modern limitation is
the time needed to complete lengthy educational requirements,
especially those that require several years in addition to the
usual four years of college. For married couples this situation
usually requires one spouse to work, thus effectively preventing
the financial or spiritual requirements to raise children.
Surely, the better choice is to marry and postpone children than
to be sexually frustrated (I Corinthians 7:9b). Couples should
be careful, however, that careers do not continue this situation
indefinitely. They should also be aware that ten per cent of
married couples have physical difficulties that may inhibit
conception. To wait may decrease their chances to have any
children at all.
How Many Children? How
many children should a couple have? Likely, two are insufficient
for most Christian couples without clearly limiting factors. The
word, "multiply" (Hebrew, rabah), is used in the creation
mandate. It means "to multiply, become numerous, become great
...." Basically, this word connotes numerical increase."43 I am
tempted to say that "multiply" means a greater increase than
simple "addition." The impression is one of large numbers. Even
so, large numbers of people may be achieved by increasing life
expectancy or by large numbers of children. So
practically, "multiply" does not help to determine the number of
children that a couple should have. It does, however, seem to
Psalm 127 implies the
same. A "warrior" is not likely to have only 1-2 arrows and say
that his "quiver is full" (v. 5). Further, he would probably not
go into battle or to go hunting with only one or two. Another
element in the psalm is the blessedness of many children.
Certainly, this description of children is far removed from them
as "burdens," as the description used by many population
Two conclusions seem
warranted. First, Psalm 127 emphasizes the expectation and
blessedness of many children. Second, the population experts
have concluded that two children will not result in numerical
growth. Putting these two conclusions together (with far more
emphasis on the first than the second), we would say that at
least three children are expected of God's people who
otherwise do not face the concrete limitations that we have
outlined. What is necessary is that this Psalm be
contemplated personally and prayerfully by each couple as they
decide what number God would expect them to have. In addition,
substantive reasons call for large families.
1) Every society needs the
morality of children raised in the "discipline and instruction
of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4). For sure, Christian children are not
always raised in that manner, but a recent increased interest in
biblical principles for the home and in Christian education
gives us hope for improvement. Truly, today's emphasis on birth
and population control is a great opportunity for the
advancement of Christianity. With larger families Christians can
become a larger percentage of society, and with proper biblical
training, advance the Christian worldview that has given rise to
the greatness of the Western world. At a lesser level large
families are necessary for Christians to defend themselves
against staunch and widespread opposition to the Bible as a
basis of morality and law.44
2) God's primary
fulfillment of the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20) is through
the family. The marital institution is sanctified by the forces
of redemptive grace to such an extent that it is made one of the
main channels for the accomplishment of God's saving purpose in
The application of the
following Proverb seems appropriate to this purpose.
In a multitude of people
is a king's glory
But in a dearth of people
is a prince's ruin. Proverbs 14:28
Christians who are not
familiar with Covenant Theology may not know that God's promises
in the Old Testament were covenantal. That is, He made covenants
with certain people and their "seed" (Genesis 9:9, 17:7,
35:12). The inclusion of the children is also clear in the New
Testament (Acts 2:39). Certainly, the discipleship inherent in
the Great Commission has the potential to be most thorough for
the children of Christians.
3) Parents can be more
easily cared for by several children if they become unable to
provide for themselves. This biblical picture seems foreign
because our culture has distorted the continuing relationship of
the extended family, and placed the responsibility on the
federal government (e.g. Social Security).
4) Advantages exist for
the children as well. Children learn to share of necessity and
to have fewer "things" in large families. They have to interact
more frequently and with more personalities in close situations.
To have spending money, they have to earn more of it for
themselves. With this training, after they leave home they will
have more potential resources for help in difficult
circumstances. Since children have sinful natures that must be
trained. I am aware of the difficulties that will occur with
more children. I contend, however, that the advantages outweigh
Myths against large
families. The arguments against large families are largely a
result of our non-Christian culture. First, there are already or
soon will be too many people on the earth. This argument has
been dealt with at length already. Second, raising children is
prohibitively expensive today.46 There is some truth to this
argument, but it assumes a great deal. Basic necessities are
food, clothing, shelter and education (the training of children
to provide these things for themselves in the future). The
expenses of children, however, do not increase proportional to
numbers. Clothes can be handed down. Two or more children can
share the same room. Food is proportionally less expensive when
bought in larger quantities and the more expensive foods are not
necessary for balanced nutrition. College education may be
desirable, but many trades and other jobs do not require a
college education. Children can also earn a large portion of (if
not all) these costs themselves. Certainly, some lifestyles
would have to be radically altered, but what is our standard:
our culture or God's word? If children are a gift and blessing
from the Sovereign Lord, does it not stand to reason that He
will provide for them?
Many Chinese families
demonstrate that large families can meet these challenges.
Brought to this country as manual laborers, they became
entrepreneurs, developing small, successful businesses
primarily within family units and have provided their
children with excellent educations, including college and
graduate school in many instances. They are able to distinguish
between "wants" and "needs," a trait that is almost foreign to
our materialistic culture.
The local church is an
untapped resource. The biblical order of responsibility is first
for one's family (I Tim. 5:8), then for other believers (Gal.
6:10), and then for the remainder of society. The family is not
an isolated unit but a part of the larger body that is the local
church, primarily, and the universal church, secondarily.
Certainly, a mature local church is rare.47 The removal of our
materialistic orientation and the development of vital local
churches would provide those necessary resources for greater
numbers of children in Christian families.
Third, we are fooling
ourselves with the notion of "control" and "planning."
... the attempt to
control our reproductive capacities without
controlling ourselves is based on self-deception. For
there are all sorts of possibilities beyond our capacity
to predict, let alone regulate. The financial drain
anticipated from the birth of a child may be bypassed or
surmounted by an unexpected promotion, a change in jobs,
or a son's decision to become a policeman instead of a
Ph.D. Or the undreamed of, unexpected rewards of
child-rearing may more than reconcile the parent to a
flatter billfold. Or it may be as bad or worse than
anticipated. But how does one know beforehand? How does
one ever know?48
We wonder whether our
technological age has blinded us to the reality of God's
ultimate and final Sovereignty. He "works all things after the
counsel of His will" (Eph. 1:11) and He controls the affairs of
nations (Ps. 2:1-12). As Christians, He even "causes all things
(that includes our sins and failures) to work together for (our)
good" (Rom. 8:28). Certainly, planning is proper Christian
stewardship, but we have seen that in birth control we have
tended to leave out God's commands and His ultimate control.
Even so, whether from teaching or the Sovereign movement of
God's Spirit, it is my observation that Christians are presently
having many more than the "allotted" 1-2 children.
Summary. It would
be impossible to deal particularly with all the relevant
decisions that couples face. I can, however, develop some
general principles for use in particular instances. First, any
couple who marries and chooses not to have children, even though
they are physically able or do not have a severely limiting
situation, violate God's creation mandate. On the one hand,
contraception is never forbidden in the Bible. On the other
hand, the emphasis of the Bible is the identity of God's
blessing by the provision of children. Second, one or two
children are probably insufficient to fulfill the biblical
expectation. "The burden of proof rests, then, on the couple who
wish to restrict the size of their family."49 Third, any
limitation of children should not be made without counsel from
one's local church. The final decision rests on the family,
however, not the church.50 The church is then to advise, not to
dictate. Fourth, the responsibility to procreate was given to
the family. The state therefore has no authority to set any
limits whatsoever on the size of families.51
The creation mandate is
consistent with the principles and facts of those who oppose
population control. Although clear biblical teaching does not
need outside support, such consistency gives additional
assurance that our interpretation is correct. Science and
Scripture ultimately cannot conflict.52 Such consistency also
provides non-biblical answers for opponents who do not believe
that the Bible has valid arguments.
The creation mandate is a
position of faith. In spite of the evidence that the world can
support 35-100 billion people, the hypothesis remains untested.
We would not be honest if we did not consider that the
population controllers might be right. Our assurance does
not come from our own "planning" and calculation, but from the
trustworthiness of our God.
Such trust has two
applications. First, His laws and principles in general cannot
be compromised because of any personal or social situation. For
example, induced abortion can never be justified for any reason
because it violates the 6th Commandment.53 Individual families,
however, may have limiting factors. Second, God will make
provision at the appropriate time for the fulfillment of His
commandments. One conclusion of our study is that population
growth is quite unpredictable. Further, food production can be
markedly increased by current methods and future technology is
likely to cause further increase.
We frequently overlook the
fact that we live in a universe were primary reality is
supernatural. The Trinity and created spiritual beings preceded
this universe and will continue to exist after it is gone or
changed by fire. Certain conditions are predicated on God's
supernaturalism. One example is the Sabbath. As Christians, we
almost entirely associate the Sabbath with Sunday, our day of
worship and rest, but the concept of the Sabbath also concerned
rest for the fields (Lev. 25:1-22). American farmers confirm
that land will produce a greater harvest in the year that
follows its lying fallow. There is no naturalistic explanation
for this phenomenon.54
Another example is the
relationship of the physical world to man's sin (Rom. 8:20-22).
On this basis of natural effect by supernatural cause, is it
not logical that God will provide for the fulfillment of the
creation mandate? Again, this position is one of faith, but
one that has "evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). It is
not a blind leap, but a conclusion based upon the character of
God and His activity in the affairs of men and nature.
The "bottom line" is that
man believes that he is able to plan the growth of the world's
population better than God. This deception is one aspect of
God's supposed "foolishness" and man's "wisdom" (I Corinthians
1:25-31). When placed in this perspective, the truly foolish
thing to follow is man's wisdom.
The perspective is clearer
when the population and birth control planners are placed within
their own worldview. Ultimately, they are the advocates of state
coercion and death (by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia) as
a solution to social problems (see our Introduction). Their
practical solutions represent a philosophical (religious) system
that is entirely opposed to the biblical worldview. There are
only two such systems.55 As Harry Blamires has said, there is a
"gigantic battle between good and evil that splits the
universe."56 The population debate is one "front" of that
The family was given
responsibility for the fulfillment of the creation mandate. This
principle alone is sufficient to counter any argument that any
government may mandate or even encourage birth control of its
citizens. It is a family responsibility over which the state can
claim no control. Later, we will see how this principle applies
to those who carry genetic diseases and who are mentally
incompetent. That population planners would advocate such state
control is, however, consistent with their worldview that is not
only anti-life, but anti-family (in their advocacy of
heterosexual activity outside marriage and homosexuality). It is
no accident that legally minor children do not need their
parents permission to receive birth control prescriptions, to be
treated for sexually transmitted diseases, and to have an
abortion. These practices are possible only where the family and
its procreative task is denigrated. It is the imposition of
man's design over God's design.
Evangelicals must see
population explosion as evangelistic opportunity. Today, we have
more means than ever to proclaim the Good News worldwide.
Directly, we have seen that God's primary means of evangelism is
the family. Indirectly, we have evangelism outside the family.
An increasing number of people is an increasing number of people
for God's Kingdom. The greatest blessing associated with many
children is for them to realize their salvation in Jesus Christ.
The euphemism, "wrongful
birth,"57 illustrates the anti-life and anti-family sentiment of
our day. Mostly, this change has taken place within the last
twenty years. The attitude has shifted from children as
blessings to children as wrongs to the degree that tort damages
are sought for both healthy and "defective" children.58 In fact,
courts have ruled that wrongful birth can result for eight
different reasons: "failure to fill a birth control
prescription, an unsuccessful sterilization, an unsuccessful
vasectomy, inaccurate pre-pregnancy counseling, inaccurate
pregnancy counseling, the failure to diagnose a pregnancy, the
failure to offer amniocentesis to a woman whose age makes her a
"high-risk" pregnancy, and... unsuccessful abortion."
These "successful" court
cases contrast with one that occurred in 1934. A man underwent a
vasectomy to prevent the conception of another child after his
wife had "substantial difficulty" with her first pregnancy. When
his wife later conceived and had a normal, healthy child, he
sued for damages from the physician who had done the vasectomy.
He lost the case because a vasectomy was against public policy
(how times have changed)! In 1967, a couple sued their doctors
on the grounds that they were negligent to inform them of the
possible harmful effects of German measles on the unborn child
so that they could have had an abortion. This couple lost
because the intangible, immeasurable, and complex human benefits
of motherhood and fatherhood ... (weigh) against the alleged
emotional and money injuries .... substantial public policy
reasons prevent this Court from allowing damages for the denial
of the opportunity to take an embryonic life (to have an
abortion). Today, the mother has the legal right to "take an
If the concept of wrongful
life continues, it will take its toll on human values. 1)
Increasing pressure will be exerted on women over 35 years of
age, whose babies have a increased likelihood of genetic
problems, to have amniocentesis for all pregnancies to evaluate
the quality of the fetus and to abort those in which genetic
"defects." 2) Infanticide will become the "solution" for those
who are born in spite of attempt to detect and to prevent their
births. 3) The effect may be severe in the child who becomes
aware that his birth was "wrong." 4) Benefits for handicapped
people could deteriorate. 5) Physicians could lose their legal
right not to participate in or perform abortions.
6) The astronomical awards
of these suits are already raising the costs of malpractice
insurance for obstetricians and gynecologists so high that some
are leaving their practice. To continue to deliver babies, they
must raise their fees to cover this "overhead." The problem is
extending to midwives, so the availability of professionals to
manage pregnancy and deliver babies may become inadequate. 7) A
larger dimension of the same concept is that children have the
"right" to sue their parents. That is, wrongs between parents
and their children may be addressed in courts of law (as if
courts have all the answers). Although such action is just
beginning in this country, it is already widespread in Sweden.
From a biblical
perspective the concept of a wrongful birth is foreign to God's
creation mandate, His blessing through children, and His design
for the family. The concept of wrongful birth is another heinous
side of eugenics. The corresponding breakdown of the family in
which a child can sue his parents for such reasons, is barbaric.
Sexual Research and
Christians lack of
response to sexual research and therapy reveals the depth to
which we have been influenced by modern society. Under the guise
of "desensitization" video presentations at medical and other
professional meetings would be "XXX-rated" in a movie theater.
The overflow crowds that attend these showings are evidence that
interest is more than "academic."
The first such "research"
to achieve scientific status was the Kinsey Report in 1953.59 It
is still quoted as a factual source, but rarely is it
scrutinized to determine how its "facts" were obtained.
Dr. S. I. McMillen is one exception. 60 He outlines the extreme
bias present in Kinsey's work: 1) the ratio of single women to
married women was three times greater than the general
population and 2) the only participants were those women who
were willing to report the intimacies of their sexual
experience. Yet, from this study norms were established for
sexually "fulfilled" women.
Today, the most prominent
sexual researchers are the husband and wife team of William H.
Masters and Virginia Johnson. Their, research is immoral since
it includes the study of sexual partners who are not married to
each other. Even a husband and wife who are willing to be
studied under the scrutiny of others violate the intimacy that
God has directed for marriage (Heb. 13:4). A morality that
allows unmarried partners to engage in sexual "research" is
nothing less than a perversion.
Before going further, you
should be aware that the Bible is not prudish about sexual
thoughts or behavior. The Song of Solomon is quite descriptive
of intimacies between two lovers. A recent book has explored the
various sexual themes of this book of the Bible in some
detail.61 In this biblical light the Puritans have been wrongly
maligned for their restrictive attitude toward sexual behavior.
In fact, this view ascribes to the Puritans what actually
reflects the Victorian era. God does restrict sexual activity to
marriage, but the design for the fullest and most joyous
expression of sexual fulfillment is not restrictive!
Evidence for the
association of a strong religious commitment and enjoyment of
sexual intimacy comes from an unlikely source, Redbook
Magazine.62 In its first report all age groups of
"strongly religious women were the most likely to describe their
marital sex as `very good.'" In its second report women were
"asked about religious feelings in a more complex way," but the
results confirmed the first report that no other group had
better sexual relationships than those who were "strongly or
moderately religious." On the opposite side "the women with
strong feelings against religion were the likeliest to have
unhappy sexual relationships."
Two characteristics of
these studies should be noted. First, "religious" people in the
United States are predominately Christians in spite of our
increasingly religious pluralism. Second, Redbook Magazine,
as it promotes the modern "sexual ethic," would not likely try
to refute the long-held view that strongly religious women are
sexually "up-tight." Thus, the source gives greater credence to
the validity of the study and credits them with honest
evangelicals have adopted an importance for sexual activity
within marriage that reflects secular, rather than biblical
thinking. Dr. Robert Smith's review of one such book illustrates
this situation. 63 Although he makes a thorough review of the
book to show many biblical and unbiblical principles, we will
only examine two problems that are especially serious. First,
the title of the book, The Act of Marriage reflects the
authors' perception that sexual fulfillment is the central focus
of marriage. Dr. Smith correctly states that
the act of marriage is the
binding of two people together in a lifelong companionship, and
as a result of that bond the sexual relationship will be a very
vital part of their life.
Second, the authors use
"lovemaking," "make love," and "loving" to identify sexual
activities. This selection of terms is a serious limitation of
the biblical concept of love. Agape, the predominant word
in the New Testament for love, is used of the relationship of
God to man (John 3:16), man to God (Mt. 22:37), man to man (Mt.
22:39), and spouse to spouse (Eph. 5:25). Certainly, within
marriage one expression of agape is sexual, but the
breadth and depth of the word is lost when it is limited to the
sexual part of marriage. Philos is used much less often
that agape, but is a synonym of agape if one
considers that both are used similarly in various contexts.64
The Greek word, eros, that is sometimes use to denote
sexual love, is not present in the New Testament.
The virtual identification
of "love" with sexual behavior is a secular concept, probably
Freudian in origin, that should be avoided by Christians. Anyone
experienced in marriage counseling knows that sexual problems
are almost always secondary to other problems. Undoubtedly, this
reality reflects the biblical concept that sexual behavior is an
expression of marriage, not its central feature.
The biblical standard is
seriously lacking in every area of medicine and sexual
research/therapy. We do not question that sexual problems within
Christian marriages need to be addressed and counseled, but
biblical principles and definitions must control both analysis
and direction. The current knowledge that has been gained from
sexual research should not be ignored, but it must be carefully
scrutinized because of the immoral situations from which it was
derived. At the same time further research in this area must be
condemned. Sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage by the One
who instituted marriage and to those believers whom He has given
gifts to counsel such problems. It is a fallacy of modern
thinking that we must have greater knowledge in every area than
was available in the past in order to" cope." We have the same
promise to us that God gave to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for
you, for power is perfected in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:9a).
1. Tierney, "Fanisi's
Choice," 26. In an about face from previous positions that
generally opposed "pro-life" positions, this magazine presented
an excellent article that pointed out many fallacies of the
Theological Ethics: Sex, 215.
4. Tierney, "Fanisi's
5. Norman, "Will World
6. Clark, Population
and Land Use. (page number not given)
7. Muggeridge, "The
Overpopulation Myth," 117.
8. Chilton, "Planned
9. Carlson, "Famine
1985." All the information in this paragraph comes from this
reference or Note 8.
10. Finkelstein, "Hard
11. Norman, "Will
"Some Reflections," 77.
13. Ibid., 74.
14. Scorer, Life in
Our Hands, 96.
15. On an average 2.4
abortions must be done to prevent one live birth because the
woman will be returned to the fertile state sooner than if she
had completed the nine months of pregnancy. She will also not
experience the relative infertility produced by breast feeding
(see Chapter 2). Experience in several nations is consistent
with this fact. Further, it is likely that the widespread
availability of abortion reduces the effective practice of
contraception because contraception is no longer the "last hope"
to prevent the birth of an "accidental" pregnancy. (Potter,
Additional Births," and Brackett, "Effects of Legalizing
"Some Reflections, 72.
17. Ibid., 74.
18. Ibid., 71-72.
19. Ibid., 78.
20. Kazun, "The
Theological Ethics: Sex, 217.
22. Young, "Literature,
23. Dyck, On Human
24. Carlson, "The
Malthusian Budget," 43-46.
25. Simon, "The
Rhetoric of Population."
26. Carlson, "Famine
Principles of Conduct, 45-46.
28. The importance of
these verses and those that Jesus had in mind relative to the
subject of divorce should not be underestimated. The rampant
divorce among Christians has been further aggravated by
misinterpretation of these and other relevant passages. The
clearest and most thoroughly biblical treatment of this subject
is found in Adams, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage.
Theological Ethics: Sex, 203.
30. Packer, "Situations
and Principles," 164-5. Also, see "Voluntary Childlessness"
later in this chapter.
31. John Jefferson
Davis, Evangelical Ethics: Issues Facing the Church Today,
Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company,
1985, pp. 14-16.
32. Ibid., p. 14.
Principles of Conduct, 78; Thielicke, Theological Ethics:
34. Adams, Marriage,
Divorce, and Remarriage, 16.
35. "Flesh" has other
meanings in other Biblical contexts.
36. Adams, Marriage,
Divorce, and Remarriage, 17.
37. Calvin, Harmony
of the Gospels, Vol.2, 380.
Theological Ethics: Sex, 205-207.
39. Ibid., 203.
40. See Notes 31 and
Fabricated Man, 35-36, 56-59.
42. Hook, "Chromosomal
43. Unger, "To
Multiply, Increase," Nelson's Expository, 254-5.
44. Schaeffer, The
Principle of Conduct, 79.
46. "The Cost of
Raising Babies," Perspective, 1-12.
47. Its function in the
provision of health and healing has been developed in Payne,
Biblical/Medical Ethics, 127-138.
48. Wilson, "Mother
Didn't Know," 31.
49. Montgomery, "How to
Biblical/Medical Ethics, 63-64.
51. For a description
of coerced birth control, including abortion, in China, see
Mosher, "Forced Abortions."
52. Schaeffer, No
53. Even where the life
of the mother is endangered, the goal is to save both lives if
possible not to assure that the unborn baby dies (often by
lethal injections), as is the current practice of induced
Institutes of Biblical Law, Vol. II, 203.
Biblical/Medical Ethics, 11-26.
56. Blamires, The
Christian Mind, 70.
57. All information in
this section is from Eastland, "Who Put the Wrong."
58. Kinsey, Sexual
59. "Wrongful life"
generally refers to a lawsuit brought by a child (or his or her
legal representative) born with birth defects who alleges that
the physician was negligent to advise the mother of the
possibility of birth defects or failed to perform the tests that
would have disclosed their presence. "Wrongful birth" refers to
similar conditions except that the suit is brought by the
parents rather the child. "Wrongful pregnancy" or "wrongful
conception" refers to a lawsuit brought by the parents of a
healthy child whose pregnancy should have been prevented by
a sterilization procedure or abortion.
I am lumping these
terms under "wrongful birth" to avoid too much technical jargon
and, more importantly, to focus on God's Sovereignty in every
birth regardless of the number or severity of defects.
60. McMillen, None
of These Diseases. 1st Edition, 45-51.
Solomon on Sex.
62. Levin, "Sexual
Pleasure;" Philip and Lorna Sarrel. "The Redbook Report on
Sexual Relationships," Redbook Magazine October 1980, pp.
63. Smith, Robert D.,
"Book Review: The Act of Marriage.
64. Clark, First
John: A Commentary, 69.