The Economist reports (October 31st) that fertility rates worldwide are falling and that, before too much longer, the world will reach a point of populationstability. Just enough children will be born each year to replace, but not increase, the existing population of around 9 billion.
The reasons for this trend are mostly economic - families wanting fewer mouths to feed now have access to birth control methods formerly unavailable; young women are finding work and its rewards more satisfying than raising a family; increased wealth seems to make people less inclined to procreate and more inclined to indulge.
Some may find comfort in this trend, but I find it disturbing, and that for two reaons. It is a sad testimony on the growing popularity of Mammon worship that people in many nations appear to be setting more stock in material wealth than in children, families, and the future. Since the beginning of the 20th century the Christian faith has expanded more rapidly than all other religions, and than at any previous time in its history. But where is the evidence that this rapid and widespread expansion has encouraged the values of Jesus and His Kingdom rather than of Mammon and Molech?
This trend toward population stabilization also represents a (doubtless unconscious) denial of the divine mandate for men to fill the earth. Again, where is the evidence that widespread acceptance of Christianity has contributed to the embrace of this mandate rather than its repudiation? An article in a recent issue of The Wilson Quarterly explained just how relatively sparsely populated America actually is: all the people in America could exist in a square mile of their own property comfortably within the state of Oregon. That being the case, there is surely room for more than 9 billion people on planet earth.
So the report is troubling not so much for what it reveals about the values of secular people, but for what it suggests about the nature of the Christian faith that is being preached, taught, and believed around the world. Apparently Christianity is believed and practiced in a way that makes it possible for Christians to fit in to developing social and economic trends rather than to transform them according to clear Biblical guidelines.
If we won't take seriously the mandate to fill the earth, will we take seriously the command to make all the nations disciples?
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