Overpopulation? August 18, 2020

The beginning of the Bible says (NRSV), “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiple, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1.27-28). Bible readers generally have understood this pronouncement as a universal command that applies in a general sense to all of future humankind.

This is certainly how religious Jews have understood it down through the ages. They therefore have encouraged young people to marry and have children. For example, see the online article, “Why Do Observant Jews Have So Many Kids?

When God later destroyed the earth with a flood, he told Noah and his family inside the ark, “Go out of the ark, . . . be fruitful and multiply on the earth” (Gen 8.17). After they departed the ark, we read again, “God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth'” (9.1

Gordon Wenham in his Gen. com. says of this at 1.28, “God’s blessing on mankind is like that pronounced on the animals in v. 22. Like the animals man is to ‘be fruitful and multiply.’ . . . man is told to ‘subdue and rule’ the earth and its inhabitants . . . the focus in Genesis is on the fulfillment of the blessing of fruitfulness.” At Gen 9.1 Wenham says, “This is the third time . . . man has been told to be ‘fruitful and multiply'”. Hebrew expert Bruce Waltke in his Gen. com. translates 1.28, “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” At 9.1 he says “be fruitful and multiply” means “propagation of life.”

But in modern times, many people and their cultures have claimed that the earth and its human population have been suffering from human overpopulation. Some of them therefore have advocated the forced restriction of the population. China’s government did this because its rulers thought population growth hindered economic development.

For example, beginning in 1979, China’s Communist rulers instituted forced restriction of China’s population. Couples were not allowed to have more than one child. The government implemented birth control programs. It also offered economic incentives for those who abided by this policy. Couples that were going to have their first child had to obtain a government certificate in which they promised to use contraceptives to prevent further pregnancies. This was necessary in order for the child to be a birth certificate to be issued when the child was born.

But decades later, the Communist Party of China discovered that its one-child policy per family was resulting in an aging population that was becoming financially burdensome to the younger generation due to a shrinking workforce. So, in 2016 the Peoples Republic of China changed to a two-child policy per family.
This problem of an aging population that is becoming burdensome to the younger generation is not happening only in China. In fact, it’s happening in large economies throughout the world, where there has not been any forced restriction of the growth of population. It’s a serious problem in Japan. And it’s happening here in the U.S. Health insurance premiums are skyrocketing due to an aging population that retires early, and those premiums are unfairly burdening the younger generation. Plus, in the U.S., the Trump administration is making this aging population worse by its harsh measures against immigration. It is young people who try to immigrate to better countries.
But this aging population, and its declining workforce, is not just due to the fact that people are living longer and thus enjoying more retired years. Young people are marrying later in life and therefore having fewer children. It’s mostly because of our educational system and the huge increase of women in the workforce.
So, should we go back to the Bible and thereby have more children? Is there really a problem of overpopulation on the earth? What do you think?

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