US Protestant natalist reception of Old Testament "fruitful verses" : A critique
AuthorsMcKeown, John P.
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AbstractThe advocacy of a high birth rate is an ideology called natalism. In the USA since 1985 some Protestants have used Old Testament verses to support natalist arguments. This thesis argues that natalism is inappropriate as a Christian application of Scripture, especially since rich nations’ populations’ total footprint is detrimental to biodiversity and to poor nations’ welfare. The methodology is analysis of natalist writings, investigation of possible historical roots, and then evaluation of natalist interpretation from three perspectives: the ancient Near Eastern OT context, patristic Christian tradition, and contemporary ecological concerns. The analysis and historical investigation consists of two chapters. Chapter 2 considers wider natalism, modern secular and religious varieties, and the cultural context of US Evangelicalism. Through textual analysis of biblical reception in recent natalist writings, it identifies the verses cited and common interpretative arguments. Chapter 3 asks whether this natalism has roots in historic Protestantism. It investigates the claim made by some natalist advocates that Martin Luther in the 16th century expounded similar ideas about fecundity. The evaluation consists of three chapters. Chapter 4 explores the ancient Near Eastern cultural context, and Old Testament ideas about fecundity’s role in God’s project of salvation. Ventures by biblical scholars into contemporary application of the verses in question are critiqued. Chapter 5 considers Augustine’s comments on human fruitfulness in the Bible and his thinking on fecundity. Using ressourcement from this representative of patristic tradition, Augustine’s reception is compared with natalism. Chapter 6 explains an ecological hermeneutic which brings biblical and classic Christian biblical reception into conversation with contemporary concerns. My reception of the verses uses a hermeneutic lens derived from Genesis 1, and gives priority to the contextual issues of biodiversity and the un/sustainability of the ecological footprints of overpopulated rich nations. The thesis is the first to offer systematic analysis of natalist biblical reception, and focuses on the neglected majority of natalists which accepts family planning. It highlights exegetical arguments which are then compared with Luther’s writings, tested against plausible meanings of the fruitful verses, and tested against Augustine and patristic tradition. Previous research on ecologically responsible interpretation of these verses and on Christian thinking about human fecundity and overpopulation is updated and extended in this dissertation.
CitationMcKeown, J. (2010). Receptions of Israelite nation-building: Modern Protestant Natalism and Martin Luther. Dialog, 49(2), pp. 133-140
TypeThesis or dissertation
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