The More Secular a Society, The Fewer Children Will Be Born

When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, the big concern and among fear-mongering apocalyptics was over-population. One best-seller at the time, published in 1968 by Stanford University Professor Paul Ehrlich, was subtly titled The Population Bomb. It predicted that there would be starvation on a mass scale by the 1980s because there would just be too many people. He starts his book this way:

The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate . . .

Not only did Ehrlich’s hysterical predictions prove laughably false, in the 21st century demographers are telling us the exact opposite is the problem. Population decline is now the fear. All over the Western and much of the Asian world, women are not having enough children to replace current populations. Unlike the apocalyptic fear-mongers (yes, that in includes you, Al Gore) who see human beings as leaches on society and the natural world, demographers understand that human beings are a net resource; fewer human beings, fewer resources. More human beings, more resources.

In other words, there are consequences to having children or not. The more we have, the better the consequences, not only for the family, but for a society and for the earth. This should be the default conviction of conservative Christians. Unfortunately, most Christians have uncritically accepted the assumptions of secular Western culture, that children are a nice-to-have, but not necessarily a must-have. The secular culture tells us having children is expensive and hard work, so having fewer, if any, is better. It’s gotten so bad that instead of having children, many couples have pets instead, and treat them like children.

But why should we have children? For those who embrace the religion of secularism, it’s all a cost-benefit analysis. The biblical position on Children could not be any different, and in fact is diametrically the opposite. Here is how Christians ought to think of children:

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their opponents in court.

It staggers me to think that any Christian would believe that the blessing of children is somehow an option. I once had a little Internet spat about this with some kind of Christian fundamentalist. His contention was that because the Bible doesn’t commanded us to have children that somehow this meant having children for the Christian is a choice. That any of God’s people would need to be commanded to have children would have struck ancient believers as the height of absurdity. To God’s people and the culture of that time, not being able to have children was a curse.

Throughout Scripture Children are not seen as an afterthought, but as the natural outgrowth of marriage. The covenant promises of God are always to “you and your children forever.” I love these words of Moses in Deut. 29:29:

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

The piece I linked to above about the consequences of what’s being called “the baby bust,” tells of the country of Finland doing everything it can to encourage women to have more babies (fewer babies were born there in 2016 than in any year since 1868!). Guess what? It doesn’t work. Only religious people who take their faith and their God seriously have the proper motivation to have more rather than fewer children. Secularism is a sterile and barren religion because God is either non-existent or mostly ignored. I pray that young Christian couples would resist the ever present secularism of our culture, and have LOTS of babies!