Malthus & The Confessions

One reason that is often put forth in favor of the contraceptive age is world over-population. This has seldom been brought up on this blog (if ever) but deserves attention because it does appear from time to time. Certainly there are secularists who cheer the contraceptive age for this reason. But, we must also take note that there are Christians who take up this battle-cry, and even Lutherans.

Dr. Alfred M. Rehwinkel (professor of Christian Ethics at Concordia Seminary - St. Louis for 15+ in the '40s and '50s) in his book 'Planned Parenthood' even gave a nod to this belief: "A nation that is not able or willing to propogate itself is doomed and sooner or later will have to make room for a more virile race... But on the other hand a nation which propagates more rapidly than the available or potential food supply is also headed for serious trouble." Certainly, there appears to be a simple and reasonable logic in his statement - People need food. The land can only produce so much food. If we have more mouths to feed than the land can produce food, we are in trouble.

This line of thinking was first made popular and championed by a british demographer and economist Thomas Robert Thomas Malthus (1776 - 1834). His concern was that human population as he observed it grows geometicly (1, 2, 4, 8, 16) while food supply only grows arithmeticly (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). His line of thinking, which has been expanded upon, championed, refuted, and re-tooled at times, is called Malthusianism.

Malthusianism today asserts simply that the earth has been duly filled. The earth is populated. It cannot handle more humanity. Period. Of course, this is something we think about as the world's population is now well over 7 billion souls. That's a big number after all (like the sands on the seashore or the stars in the sky) that has the ability to play on our fears and anxieties over whether the earth can provide for "all that I need to support this body and life" - as if the earth were doing the providing on its own. Maybe then you will understand my surprise when in my study of the Confessions I recently noticed for the first time that during the Reformation this 'full earth' argument was being put forth when the world population was just over 450million. It was an argument which along with its pernicious implications the Confessors rejected:

First, Genesis [1:28] teaches that human beings were created to be fruitful… Our opponents trivialize these arguments. They say that in the beginning there was a command to fill the earth, but now that the earth has been filled marriage is not commanded. Look at their clever argument! The Word of God formed human nature in such a way that it may be fruitful not only at the beginning of creation but as long as this physical nature of ours exists. Likewise, the earth became fruitful by this Word [Gen.1:11]: “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed.” Because of this ordinance, the earth commenced to produce plants, not only in the beginning, but yearly the fields are clothed as long as this natural order exists. Therefore, just as the nature of the earth cannot be changed by human laws, so neither can human nature be changed by vows or by human law without a special act of God.
Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Kolb/Wengert p. 249.

Noteworthy is how they considered an attack upon fruitfulness/procreation to be none other than an attack on the Lord's institution of marriage. "Our opponents trivialize these arguments. They say that in the beginning there was a command to fill the earth, but now that the earth has been filled marriage is not commanded."

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.