I have to admit that I feel betrayed by Al Mohler. The guy was one of the signatories for the Cambridge Declaration, one of the most important Christian documents written in the last 25 years in Evangelical History. Yet time and again Al has disappointed me by teaching what is unbiblical.
Recently, I lambasted Mohler over his stance on alcohol. In the initial posting, I unfairly labeled him a Pharisee. In a subsequent posting, I retracted this claim, but still pointed out the error of his ways.
Now Mohler has posted about the absolutely shocking decline in birth rates around the world that threatens to destroy the human race!!! My goodness!!! All over the world women are having less babies!!! Birth rates are down!!! If we don't have lots of children we''ll suffer massive economic hardship and the end of the world will be nigh!!! Is there any other way of ending such sentences without three exclamation marks???!!! What are we to do???!!!!1111eleven!!
Alright, let's look at the issues.
Yes it is true that birthrates are down all over the world. In many countries, the average woman is giving birth to less than two children. This is below replacement level. In order for a population to remain stable over the long term, each woman must give birth to, on average, 2.1 children. Any birth rate below this will eventually lead to population decline. Countries which have birth-rates below replacement level include Australia, Germany, Japan, Italy, Iran, Turkey, Russia and Algeria.
Economists generally portray this situation in a negative light. Without an increase in population, there will not be enough economic resources to support an ageing population that, over time, will become less and less productive. With less people, there will be less production and less consumption - leading to economic decline.
There is no doubt that a declining population will lead to this situation - but many economists have yet to tout the benefits of such a situation. With a declining population, less money would need to be spent on societal infrastructure such as roads and buildings. Housing would be quite cheap and space plentiful. Less food and energy would be required, making the costs of providing these things quite low.
So in my mind, the jury is out when it comes to the economics of population decline.
Mohler, however, is not talking so much about the economic problems as he is about the spiritual problems. Behind his article about population decline is a tacit assumption that we, as Christians, should have lots of babies.
In his arguments against the use of alcohol, Mohler attacked arrogant and divisive young people who were using their freedoms to almost prescribe the drinking of alcohol amongst Christians. I don't know if such people exist, but he essentially set up a strawman argument to bolster his case. He does the same in this area too. A month or two ago Mohler wrote an article about married couples who were putting off children until later. He attacked these couples as being selfish and materialistic.
There are obviously couples out there who have chosen not to have kids because of their materialism. But the last time I looked, Iran and Algeria were not the world's most richest places - and yet here are two nations who have below-replacement birth-rates. Mohler has assumed that couples who go without kids (or who have only one or two) are victims of our consumerist age - which shows how limited he is in his understanding.
Why is it that birth-rates are falling world-wide? During the Great Depression, birth rates fell dramatically, showing that economic circumstances do affect the decision to have children. But there is actually more to this than simple economics.
In Northern Australia, wildlife exists in a delicate balance with the amount of water available. During years of drought, Kangaroos and other native animals actually put off having babies. It's not that the animals have worked out that they need to do this because of lack of water - it's just a natural instinct they have under very trying circumstances.
All I'm trying to point out here is that birth-rates fluctuate because people (and animals) know that their present circumstances affect their decision to have offspring. It is a natural behaviour, and it is not easily explained away by selfishness or materialism.
So what does the Bible say on this matter?
As far as I can tell - precious little.
Psalm 127 is one of the passages that is oft quoted in this area. The Psalm points out that children are a blessing from the Lord, and that a man's children are like arrows in a quiver.
It is true that children are a blessing - but the psalm does not contain either an explicit or implicit command to have lots of children. God is not saying through this psalm that Christian women should aim to have at least three children.
Genesis 1.28 is another verse that is quoted often - the idea that God has commanded us to "be fruitful and multiply". Again this does not contain any implicit or explicit command to have lots of kids. It tells us that we should have them - but it doesn't say anything about having three or more kids.
Moreover, if this verse is a command to have kids regardless, then perhaps all those Kangaroos in Northern Australia are sinning against God when they, too, choose to limit their offspring. After all, God commands them to reproduce in Genesis 1.22.
So Biblically, I can't find any support for Mohler's command to have more babies. I therefore will assume that it is a command that comes from the mind of man, rather than God. Get your act together Al.
One more thing - In Al's recent posting about this issue, he speaks of "Scandinavian countries... dropping their population control policies". As far as I know, the only nation that has active policies in this area is China. If someone can give me any evidence of Scandinavian population control policies that would be handy. The reason why I am asking this is that I think Al is mistaken here - he is reproducing someone else's factual error.
That is, of course, if Al is the one actually writing his blog. I have questioned this before.
From the Correct and Rebuke Al Mohler Department
© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.