God's Babies: Natalism and Bible Interpretation in Modern America
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Foreword

UN projections indicate that the global human population is likely to increase by nearly 50% in the first half of the 21st century, from 6 billion to 9 billion (United Nations 2004). This staggering and unprecedented growth deserves much greater attention from Christian ethicists and the church at large. A concern for the welfare both of human beings and other creatures provides good reasons to think that Christians should give strong support to measures that would result in a slowing of this projected growth, notwithstanding concerns about reproductive liberty and the ethics of contraception. In this book, however, John McKeown draws attention to the uncomfortable truth that Christian engagement with this issue needs to start further back. As he shows, many Protestant Christians in the US believe that having larger than average families is biblically mandated, and statistics indicate that this is having an impact on birth rates in the country where per capita impact on scarce resources is greatest.

McKeown’s book engages constructively and critically with the arguments of the natalists who believe that the Bible requires them to have large families. He does so by situating a careful and painstaking analysis of the hermeneutical arguments that are put forward in favour of this position alongside an equally well-informed account of how the texts they reference have been interpreted by Christian theologians at key points in the Christian tradition. Reflection on this juxtaposition makes clear that the modern arguments put forward in favour of large families are poorly grounded in Christian readings of these texts, and that taking the Bible seriously on this issue is likely to lead to very different interpretations of Christian responsibility.

I very much hope that this book finds an audience among those Christians it most obviously addresses and those in dialogue with them. Christians may finally not be able to agree on this and other issues of biblical interpretation, but they at least owe one another the time to listen to interpretations with which they disagree, in order to consider whether they need to learn to read the Bible differently. This is especially the case when the case for change is argued as clearly, carefully, and persuasively as McKeown does in this book.

David Clough, Professor of Theological Ethics,
University of Chester, UK