You may have missed the birth of celebrity couple Victoria and David Beckham’s fourth child in July, but Simon Ross, head of the British nonprofit, Population Matters, didn’t. Mr. Ross told Britain's Observer that the Beckhams and London Mayor Boris Johnson, who likewise has four children, “are very bad role models with their large families. There's no point in people trying to reduce their carbon emissions and then increasing them 100% by having another child.”
As the Wall Street Journal noted, Population Matters “sees ‘overpopulation’ as a culprit in everything from African famine to resource scarcity to poverty to climate change.”
The notion that a family with four children is “large” speaks of the change in attitudes toward family size in recent times. The famous 18th century composer, J. S. Bach, had 20 children.
Susanna Wesley, mother of Methodist ministers John and Charles, gave birth to 19 and she herself had 24 siblings. But today 19 children is enough to garner Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar a reality television show that satisfies the curiosity of millions who wonder “how can they do it!”
While many may be fascinated by the Duggars, they horrify the zero population growth (ZPG) movement. Across the internet, articles mock the “quiver full” movement among Christians who take the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 127:3-5 literally: “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.” According to the ZPG movement, fertility rates world-wide should remain static at the replacement level. In this way the earth can attain long-term “environmental sustainability.”
“Zero Growth” is also popular among America’s billionaires, as Dr. Calvin Beisner of the Cornwallis Alliance for Stewardship of Creation points out. “Bill Gates, David Rockefeller Jr., Warren Buffett, George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, Ted Turner (who says, ‘We’re too many people, that’s why we have global warming’), and Oprah Winfrey all favor reducing human population, in part to forestall global warming. President Obama’s science advisor John Holdren has advocated abortion and other involuntary measures to fight population growth.”
The fact is, however, as Dr. Beisner explains, when you do the math it becomes clear that even without the use of abortion and other “involuntary measures,” the earth’s population is shrinking, not growing. Dr. Beisner calculates that “at a [current] birth rate of 1 million every 4 days, it would take 73.4 years to replace the world’s population. With the world’s average life expectancy hovering around 67, that means 1 million births every 4 days is below replacement rate, which would entail that population is shrinking now, not growing.”
Some have proposed a Zero Growth Creed which begins, “We believe the Earth, our home, the most beautiful in all the heavens, is a finite sphere. Copious as she has been in the riches she has bestowed upon us, her beneficence is not without limit….” Clearly, according to this view, God is not the source of blessing upon humankind, the Earth is-and “her beneficence is not without limit.”
Another faith statement codifying the sacredness of the Earth is the Earth Charter. Deeply religious, it is anything but Christian. However, its language appeals to Christians by calling for the protection of the Earth as a “sacred trust” and stating that we should “live with reverence for the mystery of being, gratitude for the gift of life, and humility regarding the human place in nature.”
Lest we be deceived by phrases such as “sacred trust” and “gratitude for the gift of life,” we should take note of what Dr. Beisner says about environmentalism in his essay, The Competing World Views of Environmentalism and Christianity. “[E]nvironmentalism has become a full-fledged religion in its own right. It is the most comprehensive substitute in the world today for Christianity so far as world view, theology, ethics, politics, economics, and science are concerned….”
In his book, Resisting the Green Dragon: Dominion, Not Death, James Wanliss explains that environmentalists “idealize nature as an intrinsic good-they refuse to admit that God has cursed the cosmos, that its present natural state is not good.” As Wanliss states, “The natural is so idealized and exalted that the idea of man improving the land is, by environmentalists, counted as an oxymoron and abomination.”
In 1990, Dr. D. James Kennedy saw that idolization and idealization of the planet would diminish man’s ability to use the abundance of potential resources with which God has stocked the earth for our benefit. In an article, “To Tend the Earth: Our Christian Responsibility,” he wrote that such a worldview “can only make our life on earth miserable, as every resource we need to live is declared off-limits for the sake of that jealous goddess, ‘Mother Earth.’” Dr. Kennedy predicted what is now taking place in places where the federal government is turning once-cultivated lands into “wilderness preserves.” “Our idolization of nature will turn our world into a howling wilderness,” wrote Dr. Kennedy.
By contrast, the Christian view of nature is set in the context of God’s instructions to the human race given at the dawn of creation and recorded in Genesis 1:26-28. Dr. Kennedy explicated this passage, writing:
God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness….” He went on to say He blessed man and told him to be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth. Man is to subdue the earth and have dominion over all its creatures. This is called the “Cultural Mandate” because it deals with all culture as we know it. As god’s junior partners, we are to care for-or tend-the earth in His name. Here, in a nutshell, is God’s environmental, as well as His sociological, political, and institutional agenda.
At the heart of all idolatry is disobedience of the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Environmentalists who worship the earth are yet another example of those who, as the Apostle Paul said, “exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 1:25).
Should Christian’s limit the size of their families for fear that the earth will not be able to sustain us? God says, “Be fruitful and multiply.” As He promised Noah when He placed His bow in the heavens, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.” All is in His care, and He will sustain the earth until the day when “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout” and “we shall always be with the Lord” in the new heaven and earth.