NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, January 7th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. WORLD’s editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky now on public policy and the nature of man.
MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: It’s 49 years since the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. The celebration had wide backing from the left and the right. Richard Nixon hoped that students who spent time on ecology would have less time for anti-war demonstrations. Other Republicans supported it out of fear of over-population.
Some Christians–I was not one at the time–became involved for the right motives. They understood that God made Adam a gardener, calling him to take the raw materials of nature and make them more beautiful and more productive.
A decade ago, New York City pastor Tim Keller offered an excellent exegesis on this theme to a group in his city. He observed that many people, including venture capitalists, are gardeners. They take the bare materials of the world and add value.
God wants us to be fruitful and multiply, but after hearing Keller point out that gardeners do not grow on trees, I thought more about God’s methods. To help us produce gardeners, He provided incentives such as sex and the expectation of old age.
Within marriage, if it feels good, do it. And behold, a certain percentage of unions will multiply the population. And, folks who understood they would one day grow old and frail welcomed children who could support them down the road.
Over-population fanatics a generation ago forgot that every “extra” mouth brings with it one more pair of hands. So they ardently tried to make big families unfashionable. Public policy and technology assisted them.
Effective contraception offered sex without reproduction (and abortion became a backup). Social security offered retirement income without reliance on children.
With sex and security no longer tied to procreation, many couples had one child instead of four.
Over the years the separation of sex and security from reproduction has trimmed but not stopped U.S. population growth. That’s because the U.S. is still the most religious country in the West. But many de-Christianized European countries have shrinking populations. The 20 million or more immigrants who do Europe’s dirty work are from Muslim countries. They are culturally much harder to absorb. Israel and Japan face the same problem.
I’m not, let me emphasize, arguing against contraception used by married couples who have been fruitful or plan to multiply. (Other Christians differ on that, and we should respect each other’s positions.)
Nor am I saying it’s necessarily wrong to have government stipends for the elderly. (Some Christians disagree.) My point is that massive social changes have consequences. Planners may not have anticipated them, but those who understand the nature of man should have. Children are a blessing but also a lot of work. Our sinful nature is to be risk-averse unless material benefits are evident.
Any call for social renewal and reformation needs to once again emphasize God’s command to be fruitful and multiply gardeners. A nation that is not born again will eventually die, and its environment will revert from garden to wilderness.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Marvin Olasky.