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Stewardship of the Earth: Population Control is Not the Answer

In the not-too-distant future, a highly advanced alien civilization discovers the planet Earth and its inhabitants. Shocked at the environmental devastation they see, and afraid that it might spread to other planets, the aliens use their advanced technology to wipe out the human race and save the earth from destruction.

Does this sound like the plot of a bad science fiction movie? It actually comes from a NASA-affiliated scientist and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania, who produced a report about possible outcomes for human contact with extra-terrestrials.

Now my question is, what will the aliens do with our planet once they destroy us? Turn it into an inter-galactic eco-tourism destination?

Joking aside, this so-called “scientific” report does reveal something useful – something about the scientists’ worldview.

These scientists see human beings not as bearers of the image of God, not even as one part of our planet’s ecosystem. They see us as a kind of terrestrial cancer and assume that super-intelligent aliens would share their enlightened view.

This same view of human as polluters and despoilers is prevalent in the modern environmental movement. Its most common manifestation is the link between environmentalism and population control.

Its most extreme manifestations are wishful musings about “culling the human herd” and calls for “voluntary human extinction.”

Given the literally inhumane thinking that animates a lot of modern environmental thinking, a humane Christian response is sorely needed.

Fortunately, there is such a response -- one that does not force us to choose between man and the rest of creation.

According to this worldview, man was given the task of steward, not ravager, of earth and the creatures on it. And because man is made in God’s image, he is also a creator who can use his creativity to harness the earth’s resources in ways that benefit man without destroying or degrading the creation.

Second, the Christian worldview holds that man, as the crown of God’s creation, is to benefit from the fruits of the earth; that environmental efforts should promote human flourishing — clean water and air, healthy and sufficient food supplies for all.

Third, we recognize that man is fallen; our record for stewarding the earth is not good. That calls for man’s repentance, not his annihilation.

Fourth, the same God who placed man in the garden as steward also commanded him to be fruitful and to multiply. Not only should Christians reject population control on theological grounds, as I’ve said many times on BreakPoint, there are practical reasons to do so as well. The greatest threat to developing and especially developed nations isn’t over-population. It’s de-population and crashing fertility rates -- the results of which are aging populations, failing economies and a net loss of that human creativity I’ve been talking about.

So, any Christian should welcome efforts to steward the world’s resources effectively and for the benefit of all. Not because we’re afraid aliens will wipe us out if we don’t, but because we have a divine incentive to do so.

Come to our website and we’ll link you in with a great resource on stewardship. Produced by the Acton Institute, it’s the best little booklet I’ve read on the subject of stewardship.

Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media and print.

Publication date: November 17, 2011

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