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through the lens of Scripture”

7 Billion People

from the August 23, 2011 eNews issue

The world's population is estimated to reach seven billion this year after having hit the six billion mark just 12 years ago. A recent report by the National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED) suggests that the population of Earth will stabilize at between nine and 10 billion by the end of this century, and as people look at crowded cities and water shortages and world hunger, too many feel fear and contemplate ways to prevent the spread of any more humanity.

In Genesis 9:1, God told Noah and his sons to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth, and as a race we've done a fairly decent job. It's taken several thousand years, and we've been pretty stingy about filling up Canada and Siberia, but we human beings have worked our way all over this globe.

We humans do have some problems. We have used poor farming practices that have depleted our soils and lowered our water tables. We have pillaged and destroyed the crops of our enemies, causing hunger even in rainy years. We have allowed thousands of pounds of fruit to fall to the ground and rot in one place while people starve in another. One group goes to war against his neighbor, fighting over land and water and historical rights rather than finding practical, peaceful solutions. 

Yet, while people blame bad management and greed for the poor water quality in many countries, for starvation and disease, for unemployment and poverty, some see the true culprit as Earth's growing human population.

One John Katz of Ridgefield, CT wrote to Newstimes.com, "Those without totally calcified intellectual hardware will see that, going forward, systemic overpopulation is the real cause of our and the world's major deficiencies, from water and food shortages to the legions not working."

Jon Stafford raised some eyebrows on the Daily Kos site August 10th when he wrote:

"In fact, I often describe myself as 'Not Pro-Choice, [but] Pro-Abortion. There are too many … people already.' And while this is meant to be facetious, nevertheless there is a seed of truth in it, because I believe that the world is wildly overpopulated and that we must take steps as a society to reduce it. This will undoubtedly be met with accusations of callousness, but [what] we... could really use is a global superplague. The Black Death may have been horrible, but without it there would never have been a Renaissance."

Jon Stafford's sentiments are not just callous but frightening, and yet, he's perfectly self-consistent. Stafford is a self-avowed atheist who thinks that religion is "stupid, silly superstition." If human beings are not made by a loving God who values them, and if they are ultimately just products of natural selection acting on mutations from bacteria over billions of years, then who cares if a few billion die off in order to make the rest more comfortable? Thinning the herds is a natural, necessary part of protecting the species. Piles of bodies are not a pleasant prospect, of course, but they do make good fertilizer for depleted soils. This is a gruesome, but logical viewpoint if there's no God.

Moving The Planets:
Worries about Earth's having too many people are not new. In 1956, when the world population was 2.833 billion, an article appeared in the March 16th issue of the Wilmington, NC Star-News offering a solution for world overpopulation. Dr. Fritz Zwicky, a rocket scientist at the California Institute of Technology, suggested that we use the power of the hydrogen bomb to build some new Earth-like planets from the useless old ones floating around the solar system. He figured we could move planets and planet parts, and he envisioned building rocket ships that would transport humans from one planet to another. His plans were more than naiive for a rocket scientist, even in 1956, but it shows that there was a concern about overpopulation even when the planet held two-fifths the number of humans it does now.

Nothing New Under The Sun:
Human beings have been fighting over land and water and property throughout history. It's not a new seven-billion-people-planet problem. In Genesis 13:6-7 there was "strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle" because Abram and Lot had too many animals and "the land was not able to bear them." The world has had poor, naked, and hungry people since Job's time (Job 24:9-10), and most certainly before then as well. There was still the whole world to explore, and yet Abram and Lot's herdsmen were bickering over a hunk of land in the desert.

The fact is that every single one of the world's almost-seven-billion people could fit onto a piece of land the size of Rhode Island.

It's true. There are 1,214 square miles in Rhode Island, about 1,045 of which are on dry land. That's equivalent to 29,132,928,000 square feet. Divide those up between seven billion people, and each person gets four square feet of space. Not much, but we're talking babies and little kids too. If we moved everybody to Connecticut, the 3rd smallest state, each person would get a whopping 19 square feet of dry land. We can't live that way of course (and each person might have to share their 19 square feet with a tree or two), but the point is that there is a tremendous amount of room on this planet. Our problem is not that we have too many people, our problem is that we're corrupt and selfish and foolish and evil.

The God that Jon Stafford does not know did not start wringing His hands in 1956, anxious because He had miscalculated and made too few Earth-like planets. He's not chewing His divine nails today because the world is too small for the upcoming seven and eight billion people. Anybody who has ever had to drive across North Dakota and Montana knows that there is still a lot of space available in the world.   God made the size of Earth just right, and He's already promised us a departure one day.  In the meanwhile, we can seek His power in healing our lands.

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." 2Chronicles 7:14

We need to manage our resources more wisely. We need to care about each other. We need to share with people the good news of who Jesus Christ really is. If we want this world to be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control, and the prosperity and health that goes with those things, then we need people to be filled with the Spirit of God.

Rather than fretting over the size of the world population, we need to be caring about the condition of the world population, and that's healed through the blood of the man from Galilee. 


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