As governments prepare to map out a global agenda to limit population growth, Christians are seeking to become major players in the debate, many of them waging a high-stakes battle to strip abortion advocacy from the resulting plan.

The biggest obstacle for conservative Christians, however, may lie simply in acquiring credibility in a highly secular atmosphere, where there is little tolerance for faith-based reasoning in dealing with population issues.

“The Christian world-view, if it’s really well-founded biblically, is one that looks at the creation whole and not in pieces,” says Calvin DeWitt, a scientist with the Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

DeWitt, who also directs the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies, joined nearly three-dozen scientists, journalists, and activists in suburban Chicago for a mid-April CHRISTIANITY TODAY Institute that examined population and the role of Christians as stewards of the planet.

A common theme of many of the presentations was the need to raise the status of women in Third World countries and to consider the impact of continued population growth on the planet’s resources. Proponents argue that if women have more control over the timing and spacing of children, the women will marry later and begin childbearing later, resulting in fewer children and better-prepared parents.

Christians can help meet this goal by supporting education on health and biblical values through church women’s groups in developing countries, says Amba Mputela, a physician and maternal-health specialist from Zaire. “I think the gospel will set [women] free, set their minds free,” she told CHRISTIANITY TODAY. “They will know that they are walking with God and that they ...

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