God's Politics

God's Politics


Holy Spirit Sustainability (by Brian McLaren)

posted by God's Politics

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According to the World Wildlife Fund, each of us needs about 2.5 acres of arable land to be sustained with needed food. Then we need to add another two acres or so – enough land to sustain the plants and animals that keep our ecosystem balanced and fertile. So, each of the 6.7 billion human beings requires, at minimum, 4.45 acres of fertile land.

But the math stopped working in the latter part of the previous century. The fact is, we’re using about 5.44 acres per person on average, which exceeds the carrying capacity of our planet. And these numbers are skewed by our disproportionate ecological footprint as Americans – we require over 23 acres per person to sustain us at the standard of living to which we have become accustomed.

Perhaps we can be forgiven for developing this unsustainable lifestyle because we didn’t know what we were doing. But now, as the information becomes available – and increasingly incontrovertible – we have a new responsbility and opportunity. And here is my firm belief: whatever the pleasures that come from living an unsustainable, and therefore unwise, life, the pleasures of living a wise and sustainable life will be far greater.

I was speaking on these topics recently, and a woman told me she wrote a note to her husband during my talk, saying something like, “You got me up at 7 a.m. to hear some guy make me feel guilty for being a successful American? Thanks a lot!” But she told me later, with some emotion, that by the end of the talk, she felt God had spoken to her. “The Holy Spirit washed over me,” she said. She was genuinely excited about the chance to learn to live better, and to seek a higher kind of success than we have achieved so far – a wise success, a good success, a sustainable success.

This is true in my own life. When I was researching my most recent book, I kept adding some small choices to my life to adjust my lifestyle to what I was learning. For example, we set a moratorium on incandescent bulbs in our house. Whenever one blows, we’re replacing it with a compact flourescent, and it feels fantastic to do so. I took about an hour and built a composting bin in my back yard, and it’s really enjoyable to add biodegradable kitchen scraps to it each day. These are small things, but I think if you try them, you’ll agree: this isn’t drudgery and painful sacrifice.

As the psalmist said, “You show me the path of life. In your presence is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” I think it was Jane Goodall who said something like this: “You thought the age of reason was good? Wait until you see the age of love!” And I would add, “You thought the age of consumption and waste was good? Wait until you experience the joy of the age of sustainability and wise use!”

In Deuteronomy 15, God promised the people that if they lived according to the Lord’s ways, there would be enough for everyone and “there will be no one in need among you.” This is the dream: that we learn to live “in the ways of the Lord” so that there is enough for everyone and the planet is well-cared for, flourishing and green, full of birdsongs, and teeming with life, to the glory of God.

Brian McLaren’s new book is called Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope.



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Jarrod Saul McKenna

posted October 15, 2007 at 6:46 am


Beautiful Brian. Thank you for your ‘lifestyle leadership’.



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joekc

posted October 15, 2007 at 6:54 am


I plead guilty to being one of those “conservative” Christians who continually speaks of things like “sin,” “Judgment,” “personal salvation,” and so forth – in short, one of those guys who “posts here to rile the progressives.” (or so some of them believe).
So let me quickly say – - one some Godly issues, we all can agree!! And this article speaks eloquently of one of them. Nice job bringing the gentle Holy Spirit into the discussion, Brian. Thanks for the morning pick-me-up.



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Moderatelad

posted October 15, 2007 at 9:25 am


Thanks for the article and causing me to think of what I can do. I have composed for several years and mulch when I mow the lawn. When my daughter wants to roast marshmellows in our little outside fireplace – I have small limbs that I have cut off of the trees and bushes to burn so that we are not cutting larger trees for firewood. We recycle the majority of our garbage and make sure that we despose of TVs – monitors – etc in the proper manner.
When we vacation – we for the most part stay at home and fix the little things around the house that need to be done or we go camping at a lake about 40 min away so that we are not using too much gas for pleasure.
I promise that I will never again ride on a private jet – I will fly commercial when I have to do so. I will not build my 20,000+ square foot dream home for 5 people in my family nor will I go our to Wyoming or Idaho and purchase several thousand acres for me to go out to once or twice a year. I will not buy several SUV’s for me to travel in – I am happy with the mid-size sadan and mini van we currently own.
I will be as green as I can and keep my carbon foot-print small.
It is Monday and prayers were offered for our service personnel all around the world for their safe return and for peace on earth.
Blessing -
.



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tripp

posted October 15, 2007 at 9:37 am


thanks for sharing. do you think addressing the spiritual crisis creates relational space for us to journey to a sustainable living?



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Paul Maurice Martin

posted October 15, 2007 at 9:46 am


The really tough issue, imo, and one we’re no more ready to face now than we were global warming thirty years ago, is population control.
I was listening to a BBC report the other day and the projected growth, in the several billions over the coming century, is astounding. The biologist was making the point that no species can go on forever with unchecked population growth without being checked by catastrophe.
Made sense to me. Finite planet plus infinite population doesn’t add up no matter how many MPGs we get or what kind of light bulbs we switch to.
However, the religious and political barriers to addressing this fundamental driving force behind all forms of environmental degradation are such that I’m concerned that the sky really will be falling before we’re ready to act.
Paul – originalfaith.com



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Ashpenaz

posted October 15, 2007 at 10:21 am


I’ve made some decisions about living simply:
I’m going to try to live in 750 sq. ft. or less.
I’m going to cap my salary at $50,000, should I ever have the chance to actually make more than that. (The rest will go to charity. Probably.)
I rent instead of own, to avoid the mortgage trap.
I use a debit card and not a credit card.
I drive a fuel-efficient car, in this case, a Yaris.
I have 2 part-time teaching jobs instead of 1 full-time to avoid the hassles that come with moving up.
Here’s the result–I’m in my 40s and living simply makes me look like a total failure!!! How can you do the right thing and not look to all the world like you are simply a total screw-up?



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squeaky

posted October 15, 2007 at 11:49 am


Ashpenaz,
“Here’s the result–I’m in my 40s and living simply makes me look like a total failure!!! How can you do the right thing and not look to all the world like you are simply a total screw-up? ”
I would submit you change your measure of success. Failure in the world’s eyes? Sure. Who cares, though? As Christians, we don’t measure our success by the world’s measuring stick.
It’s kind of a revelation–I’ve often thought the Lord’s standards are too difficult for us to live up to, and it just hit me after reading your post: The world’s standards are IMPOSSIBLE to live up to! Not only is it impossible, it is unforgiving and unrelenting, and then, just when we think we have met them, someone better, stronger, and faster (that’s right, it’s the 6 million dollar man), comes along and we’re no good anymore–or worse yet, we attain the top and find it empty and unsatisfying.
In contrast, God’s standards acknowledge that we will screw up, that we won’t make it to the top no matter how hard we try, and that God’s grace has given us provision for our failures–in our weakness, He is strong.



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Cads

posted October 15, 2007 at 2:33 pm


I couldn’t agree more with Paul Martin’s post. Nothing we do really makes a dent in being green if we, as a world, continue to overreproduce. My environmental friend from California informed me that he was proud he no longer kept his electric toothbrush plugged in between brushings (he was serious). I asked if he’d ever considered brushing manually! This is a guy with four kids, which is the same amount fathered by the environmental guru, Al Gore. Please, after having two children, have yourself spayed or neutered!



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Brad

posted October 15, 2007 at 3:02 pm


“Please, after having two children, have yourself spayed or neutered.”
Ps. 127:3-5, Gen. 1:28, Gen. 9:7, Gen. 35:11
Oooops….I’m sorry to let a pesky thing like scripture get in the way of the “wisdom of man.” God has blessed me with two children already and I pray that he will bless me with many more. I would ask you to consider, before you spew your narrow-minded hate, how do you think it makes third-born, fourth-born, fith-born children feel when they hear people like you saying they should never have been born? Ideas have consequences.



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jesse

posted October 15, 2007 at 3:28 pm


“Please, after having two children, have yourself spayed or neutered.”
–I’m guessing that McLaren would not support this sentiment, given that he has four kids.



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Ashpenaz

posted October 15, 2007 at 3:31 pm


I’d like to add this to my list:
I could live on 3000 calories a day. Har-de-har-har, but I could. I’d like to. It’s amazing how many calories are out there that you don’t need.



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Cads

posted October 15, 2007 at 4:12 pm


OK, keep overreproducing if you must and be sure to criticize me for not buying compact flourescent light bulbs if it makes you feel better – my shoulders are broad. And Brad, “spew your narrow-minded hate” is quite an accusation to someone who only wants to better mankind and the environment. Sheeeesh, I don’t know why I bother.



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Rob D.

posted October 15, 2007 at 5:19 pm


Indeed there are many “pleasures living a wise and sustainable life”.
I blogged for Blog Action Day as well. I focused on the ineffectiveness of the EPA and its political implications for the upcoming elections.
Save the Earth. Shut down the EPA.



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Russell

posted October 15, 2007 at 5:21 pm


I agree on the overall message of this blog that we consume and waste too much of the earth that we a supposed to be managing. However, I will warn people on one issue and that is flourescent light bulbs. These bulbs contain mercury which is very harmful to the planet if not properly disposed of and if more and more people begin switching to these bulbs then we will have a major mercury disposal problem on our hands.



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Andrew

posted October 15, 2007 at 6:56 pm


I don’t know about you, but I’m not here to “better mankind and the environment”. There is nothing biblical to that. There is biblical truth in our call to increase and multiply, to fill and subdue the earth. We do consume and waste much as Americans. Let’s focus on the waste and not start sacrifice other things God calls blessings
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.
Psalm 127:4



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squeaky

posted October 15, 2007 at 6:59 pm


Russell–the key to the fluorescent bulbs is, as you say, education. Recycling centers handle hazardous waste, and other hazardous household materials need to go here as well. It isn’t just fluorescent bulbs that are problematic, but really, any electronic waste. E-waste is a growing problem and contains many toxins that need to be properly disposed of or reused.
Thanks for bringing it up–just another reason to emphasise the need for recycling and proper disposal of hazardous materials.



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Kathy

posted October 15, 2007 at 7:00 pm


Oh, please! I speak as a fourth child when I say, Limit your reproduction!



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Jennifer

posted October 15, 2007 at 7:02 pm


Russell – Actually, compact floursecent bulbs contain very minimal amounts of mercury compared to traditional flourescents, and note the following information from http://www.treehugger.com:
Ironically, compact fluorescent bulbs are responsible for less mercury contamination than the incandescent bulbs they replaced, even though incandescents don’t contain any mercury. The highest source of mercury in America’s air and water results from the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, at utilities that supply electricity. Since a compact fluorescent bulb uses 75 percent less energy than an incandescent bulb, and lasts at least six times longer, it is responsible for far less mercury pollution in the long run. A coal-burning power plant will emit four times more mercury to produce the electricity for an incandescent bulb than for a compact fluorescent.
We have replaced almost all the lightbulbs in our relatively new house with compact flourescents, and we’ve given the leftover working incandescent bulbs to Habitat for Humanity ReStore to avoid filling landfills with them just yet…



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Don

posted October 15, 2007 at 9:23 pm


Jennifer is correct regarding compact fluorescents and the mercury they contain.
Even if all the mercury leaked out of a compact fluorescent, less mercury would be released into the environment than in the power plant pollution that would keep incandescent bulbs burning for the same amount of time. Compact fluorescents are also recyclable, and the mercury is recoverable.
Further, technological improvements have significantly reduced the amount of mercury needed to operate a fluorescent.
D



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jwlnler

posted October 15, 2007 at 9:55 pm


Hey everyone, it’s good to see that the church is beginning to discuss the biblical way of looking at sustainable development/living. But on these issues, Proverbs does say “Trust in the Lord your God and Lean not on your own understanding.”
In other words, things like science, and such articles may be helpful, but it’s no replacement for seeking what God would have us do. And as for how many children one has, I believe the Scriptures say that as a general principle that if doing something (unless it’s explicitly stated as right or wrong in scripture) could become a stumbling block, don’t do it! For example, I would never be able to drink wine or beer because for me, it’d become a stumbling block. Therefore, i’ve decided not to drink! And yes, the Scriptures do say that our body “is a temple for the Lord.”
So on the issue of the environment, even though God made the earth and gave humans Dominion over it, in the Garden of Eden, we were to be caretakers of that garden. In other words, we aren’t exploiters of the earth, but stewards of it. This is because everything that exists in this universe belongs to God: we simply have it on lease from him.



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cb

posted October 15, 2007 at 11:43 pm


“Ideas have consequences.”
??????????????
It’s hard for me to believe that you even posted this last line.



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Cads

posted October 16, 2007 at 1:03 am


Thanks to Paul, Jesse, Kathy & Andrew for the support (if I misinterpreted your stance, I apologize). For Mr. McLaren (if it’s true you have four children), Brad and Andrew, please wake up to the facts:
World Population by Date:
Creation – 2
1 A.D. – 150 Million
1350 A.D. – 300 Million
1900 A.D. – 1.6 Billion
2007 A.D. – 6.6 Billion!!!!
Scripture was written way before there was significant world population, not now. The Genesis command to go forth and multiply applied to when there were very few inhabitants of the earth. Times have definitely changed! Why can’t you see that? If you want to take the Bible in its literal sense, then the following would apply: Proverbs 13:24, Exodus 21:15, Leviticus 20:9, Deuteronomy 21:18, Mark 7:9 and Mathew 15:4 tells us that whenever children get out line, we should beat them with a rod and if they talk back to us, we should kill them. While I’ve occasionally felt like doing that with my 20-year old son, I wouldn’t dare follow scripture. What was written then is not always what should be applicable in today’s world. Stop the population explosion NOW or we’re definity in for some REAL trouble in just a few short years. Thanks.



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Trent

posted October 16, 2007 at 1:09 am


While most posters have generally agreed with McLaren, those who have disagreed have one shared idea.
“Oooops….I’m sorry to let a pesky thing like scripture get in the way of the “wisdom of man.” God has blessed me with two children already and I pray that he will bless me with many more. I would ask you to consider, before you spew your narrow-minded hate …”
“I don’t know about you, but I’m not here to “better mankind and the environment”. There is nothing biblical to that. There is biblical truth in our call to increase and multiply, to fill and subdue the earth.”
Anyone care to guess what they share?
Be Blessed,



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Anonymous

posted October 16, 2007 at 1:20 am


>>>”Oooops….I’m sorry to let a pesky thing like scripture get in the way of the “wisdom of man.” God has blessed me with two children already and I pray that he will bless me with many more. I would ask you to consider, before you spew your narrow-minded hate, how do you think it makes third-born, fourth-born, fith-born children feel when they hear people like you saying they should never have been born?” Brad
Brad, just wondering if your partner/wife agrees with your desire to be blessed with many more kids? Voluntarily, that is. Or is that even a consideration in your pristine world?



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Cads

posted October 16, 2007 at 1:26 am


Trent, I guess I’m too stupid to guess what you’re getting at. What I do know is that if we had less than 500 million people populating the earth, we could pretty much do what we wanted environmentally and have little effect on green issues. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.



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Trent

posted October 16, 2007 at 6:48 am


Sorry Cads,
just had dialogue with kevin s. running in my head from a previous post.
What the two naysayers share in common is an inerrant view of scripture. If you hold to an inerrant view of scripture then it is perfectly logical and resonable to believe that we should use the earth and exercise dominion over it. It’s not the only position you can arrive at from that view of scripture but it is a reasonable one.
I happen to agree with you on the population issue. Australia’s population is (apart from immigration) in decline, but our relative impact of the world is very minor.
Be Blessed,



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Trent

posted October 16, 2007 at 9:50 am


Here’s another inerrant take on the environment, from one of yesterdays posts.
“The ethic of conservation is the explicit abnegation of man’s dominion over the Earth. The lower species are here for our use. God said so: Go forth, be fruitful, multiply, and rape the planet — it’s yours. That’s our job: drilling, mining and stripping. Sweaters are the anti-Biblical view. Big gas-guzzling cars with phones and CD players and wet bars — that’s the Biblical view.”
Be Blessed,



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Lonnie

posted October 16, 2007 at 10:16 am


It seems to me that McLaren did a fine job in calling us to do the ‘feel good’ things like composting and switching to flourescent lights. But it is the bloggers who identified the critical issues facing our planet: overpopulation. Come on Brian and all of you other Bible thumping evangelicals, engage with the real world and its very critical issues instead of the magical, wishful thinking that absorbs so much of your time!



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Jordan

posted October 16, 2007 at 11:09 am


Truth with love is wisdom, our Lord’s beloved. Truth without love is cruel.
Just as we learn as we go, so do others and as we’ve learned to trust in the Lord rather than ego’s illusions; we can trust the Lord is at work in others.
How many times even generations do we take Christ off the throne of glory to put Jesus back on the cross and seat ego’s illusions where Christ had been to judge others for ourselves?
We’ve all feet of clay. Love -anyway it’s the only way.
ideas do have consequences and thought has gravitational pull. Thought is energy and energy has mass. Reminds me of John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word; and the word was wiht God and the word was God. But the world knew him not.
The difference in the world and the kingdom is our perception or lack thereof. Jesus said the kingdom was spread out among us. If we can’t “realeyes” it, perhaps it’s for the clouds in our minds.
Patriarchal thought might watch for the shoals effeminating the Lord puts us upon.
Peace B



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Anonymous

posted October 16, 2007 at 12:41 pm


I am glad to read the honesty of the pro-sustainability, pro-population control posters. One of the ironies of the Evangelical Left’s feel-good activism is that it doesn’t do that good of a job of staking out their unique theological and moral claims in contrast to the people they make political alliances with.
It seems to me that someone can be skeptical of the population control arguments and not fall back on inerrantist arguments. I know I do – I find population control ideas disgusting and immoral, but I also find inerrancy a vestige of the modernist past.



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Lonnie

posted October 16, 2007 at 2:24 pm


Please delineate the theological reasoning you have for finding population control so disgusting and immoral and do so without falling back on some inerrant argument.



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kevin s.

posted October 16, 2007 at 6:04 pm


“Please delineate the theological reasoning you have for finding population control so disgusting and immoral and do so without falling back on some inerrant argument.”
Well, the Bible says that the Godly are blessed to have a quiver full of children. The Bible counts children as a blessing, and only as a blessing, whether they are child number one or number six. When God blesses Job, he does so with more children. Birth control didn’t even exist until very recently, and there is no Biblical call to abstain from sex, but rather to continue having it.
Over and over, the Bible counts children as a blessing. But if you can dismiss any scriptural argument as an appeal to inerrancy, then there is no point in offering a theological repudiation of your viewpoint. You don’t care what the scripture says, and you are going to believe as you will.
I find population control advocacy disgusting, and there is nothing in the Biblical texts that would inform otherwise.
“Oh, please! I speak as a fourth child when I say, Limit your reproduction!”
Shall I ship you a box of Quietus?
“Mathew 15:4 tells us that whenever children get out line, we should beat them with a rod and if they talk back to us, we should kill them.”
No it doesn’t, but I have no problem with the rod of correction. Christ came to fulfill the law, which outraged the pharisees, so he pointed out that they weren’t obeying it in the first place. There is nothing that suggests we should not consider children a blessing.
If people don’t want to have kids, that’s fine, but some people want governmental limits on kids. That’s bananas.



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Cads

posted October 16, 2007 at 6:45 pm


Matthew 15:4 – For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’
Deuteronomy 21:18 – Talks of what to do with a rebellious son. The parents shall take him to the town’s elders. “Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death.”
Kevin s., I was trying to summarize what the 6 cited verses said, and I may not have done my best work in my summary. And I never implied that I favor governmental limits on kids. I was just trying to say that people who really care about the environment should take a look at their own reproductive lifestyles to see where the real problem lies with environmental issues, and not just be advocates for higher MPG cars and composting. Today’s population exceeds that which existed at the time scripture was written by over 30 times! Therein lies the problem.



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Lonnie

posted October 16, 2007 at 8:52 pm


“Today’s population exceeds that which existed at the time scripture was written by over 30 times! Therein lies the problem.”
Thank you Cads-my feeling precisely.



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Mick Sheldon

posted October 16, 2007 at 9:54 pm


I don’t think it is really up to other people to decide how many children a person has or does not have . Some people may have five and be great with it , some two , some maybe one .
I know in this country we are running into a problem here with the baby boomers retiring , in this country , people are living much longer . The system of medicare and social security is designed to be paid for by the younger workers , we are going to be top heavy soon .
The best thing for population growth is a “healthy” and growing middle class . One of the main reasons many middle class parents choose not to have more children is the expense . Its very expensive to bring up a child in this world . Promote economies that promote opportunity and techonology .



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Mick Sheldon

posted October 16, 2007 at 10:01 pm


Today’s population exceeds that which existed at the time scripture was written by over 30 times! Therein lies the problem
Yikes so you your belief system believes scripture is not for today , tomorrow and forever ?



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Cads

posted October 17, 2007 at 1:20 am


You are correct Mick, my belief system is that God gave us brains with which to reason. Do I believe slavery is OK simply because the Bible says it is in at least 3 separate places? Should I have had my wife stoned to death as directed in Deuteronomy 22:20 simply because she was not a virgin on our wedding night? Of course not to both questions. I believe the Bible was inspired by God but written by man and therefore, belief must be suspended at times when things just don’t add up. God created me with a functioning brain, and if I fail to use it for good, then I fail and disrespect my creator. It seems as though you advocate a Ponzi-type scheme of having more and more babies to take care of aging baby boomers. Unfortunately, Ponzi schemes ALWAYS fail as time passes, sadly leaving the new investors (in this case, the exploding world population) broke and destitute. My loving God requires me to care about future generations and the condition of the earth. With world population expected to reach approximately 9 billion in less than 50 short years, those who care about polution, the poor and the hungry will really have something to worry about. So yes, I believe strongly that Genesis 1:28 instructing humans to “Be fruitful and increase in number” has been followed to the extreme. Enough already!



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Mick Sheldon

posted October 17, 2007 at 3:05 am


Nope Cads your wrong , because your reason has allowed you to nullify the wisdom of God . The Lord meets us where we are . He always has. Because you have not been able to add things up , does not mean God has not . Reason must be used because the Bible was written by Man . How about another persons reason being used over your reason and using it as God’s ? No thanks , I rather stick with God’s word , why not just join the Shriners and do goo works through them ? What are you advocating , yur reason is superior to another’s well intentioned reason ?
God NEVER condoned slavery , just as Jesus taught us that He never condoned Divorce .
I don’t advocate babies being born to take care of baby boomers , but I will never condone the notion or implication that children are NOT a gift from God . You how ever have done so out of reason ?
Fortunately for us , God has always made those who believe they are smarter or know more then Him appear as fools in light of His word and the experiences of this life . Lets see, according to your theory we should have been in dire straights years ago , what happened ?
Be fruitful and multiply , obviously you do not know what that means . Being fruitful does not mean having babies at will , could it not mean having solar power cells in your backyard and having ONE child ? I suggest some understanding or the Word , before you say things like the Bible supported slavery .



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Lonnie

posted October 17, 2007 at 10:19 am


Please Mike, Do not try to say that the Bible did not condone slavery. All of the religious academic community agrees on this point. If you are not aware of this then I submit you have little ground to stand on when you begin to speak about being a steward of the earth. God gave you a brain—use it!



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kevin s.

posted October 17, 2007 at 1:01 pm


“Please Mike, Do not try to say that the Bible did not condone slavery. All of the religious academic community agrees on this point.”
What? This is ridiculous.
“God gave you a brain—use it!”
Sorry, I don’t consider the proposition that, if we are to obey one biblical principle, then we must stone our wives to death, which thereby negates the entire Old Testament, or at least the components with which I dsiagree, constitutes a very intellectual approach to scripture.



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Cads

posted October 17, 2007 at 1:02 pm


Massive hunger throughout the world, particularly in Africa, disputes your comment about not being in dire straits. And “fruitful” means to produce in abundence. Lonnie, thanks for the support!



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Cads

posted October 17, 2007 at 1:08 pm


And Kevin,
I never could understand how people can pick and choose which Old Testament verses are God’s Word and which are not. Some were simply written by man without divine intervention, and we must use our brains to discard such hatefulness.



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kevin s;.

posted October 17, 2007 at 2:11 pm


“Some were simply written by man without divine intervention, and we must use our brains to discard such hatefulness.”
What hatefulness? I disagree that portions of the Bible were written without divine intervention. If so, then we have no basis for believing any of it.
At any rate, the Bible says God’s followers are blessed to have a quiver full of God’s warriors, not that any old person is blessed when they have lots of children.
Massive hunger throughout the world is not a function of too many people, but rather governmental systems in place that essentially destroy people.



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I and I

posted October 17, 2007 at 2:43 pm


I was a little bit startled by the simplistic and reductionist posts saying that families should not have any children, or no more than one or two, or whatever. The problems of sustainability have less to do with overpopulation than with how the populaton is behaving. Families with eight kids in India are generally less consumptive than most families with one or two kids here in the U.S.
Granted, every individual excretes bodily waste and by definition creates a health hazard unless there is first-world infrastructure in place to process it, and every individual exhales CO2 that contributes to global warming. But not every individual throws away large quantities of plastic and styrofoam, or consumes large amounts of food at the top of the food chain and oil that we must go to war over. These are American habits and many childless adults are guilty of them as well.
I’ve seen families with four or five children who make an effort to live closer to, and tread lightly on, the earth. I’ve also seen wasteful and ignorant childless couples driving gas-guzzling vehicles for no apparent purpose other than pleasure. So let’s not be simplistic about causes and solutions.
By the way, I got snipped after my second child. But let’s not throw judgement on those who have more if they are trying to live responsibly.
One more thought: Malthus was a social Darwinist, in fact more heartless than Herbert Spencer. I don’t think that was coincidence; I think his alrmist view of overpopulation led to his advocacy of population reduction by any means possible. It’s a slippery slope.



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Anonymous

posted October 17, 2007 at 2:49 pm


“Massive hunger throughout the world is not a function of too many people, but rather governmental systems in place that essentially destroy people.”
I absolutely agree. In addition to corrupt third-world regimes such as Mugabe’s, I have to indict the U.S. government as well, and of course multigovernment institutions like GATT and IMF.



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jmz

posted October 18, 2007 at 6:33 pm


I wonder if to “be fruitful and multiply” could ultimately reference the fruit of the Holy Spirit from Galatians 5:22? Be fruitful and multiply in ” . . .love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” As children of God, alive in this fruitfulness, we have a very large and colorful extended family.



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Bill Samuel

posted October 18, 2007 at 7:59 pm


I’m very skeptical of mechanistic arguments about the carrying capacity of the earth. There have been any number of predictions in my lifetime based on such arguments that have proven to be wrong.
My reading of scripture shows a God of abundance. The mechanistic view would be that there was nowhere close to enough food for the 5000 – but there was plenty. Each child is a blessing, not to be viewed as a burden.
This doesn’t at all mean that we can go on being greedy and wasteful. I find no scriptural support for that at all. Instead we are to be good stewards of the blessings of God. If we are, we will find there is enough for everyone. If we are not, many people will suffer.
In fact, there is still plenty of food to go around. The problem of hunger is one of distribution and manmade problems like war and environmental irresponsibility (leading to desertification and other conditions that reduce the ability of land to support us). And the best current projections are that the population explosion is waning, and the population will start to decline within a few decades without imposing any new population controls.
Christian creation care understanding should not simply ape secular environmentalism. It should be informed by the truths of scripture and the Living Word. So, while in many respects it will call for the same things as secular environmentalists do, it will also differ in such things as population control.



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Jill

posted October 18, 2007 at 9:20 pm


Tough to fathom some of the comments here. Some of you folks act as if the Bible is a science book, or a manual on national politics. There are facts, and there is faith. Both can exist harmoniously.
Facts: we are running out of cheap energy – energy fuels our western lifestyle – cheap energy is the reason we grew from 900 million to 6.4 billion people in the relative blink of an eye – 2/3 of the world is living below subsistence level and the chasm between haves and have-nots is worsening. Our current rate of industrialized expansion is unsustainable.
There was a time to “be fruitful and multiply.” There was also a time when men took multiple wives to help this along. Now is no longer that time.



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Jill

posted October 18, 2007 at 9:31 pm


Bill – population growth is indeed “slowing” from its 100% jump in the last 40 years, but it’s still growing fast. At our current rate, we will hit nearly 10 billion by 2050.
There is simply not enough food to go around. It is not a “distribution problem.” It is an energy vs. cost problem. And the problem is worsening.
I wish I had better news, and better answers, but in many ways we’re already hosed.



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