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Population control

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Contemporary concern about population growth would appear to be a direct contradiction between the Orthodox Christian ethical imperative to “be fruitful and multiply.” In the fourth century [[St. John Chrysostom]], noted the population question and related it to the need that the sexual drive be fulfilled in marriage. "It was for two reasons that marriage was introduced; so that we may live in chastity (sophrosyne) and so that we might become parents. Of these the most important is chastity...especially today when the whole inhabited world (he oikoumene) is full of our race." Chrysostom's arguement is equally relevant today. Humanity has been obedient to the divine command and has been “fruitful” and has “multiplied” and “has filled the earth” (Gen. 1:28). This raises the question for Orthodox ethics regarding the appropriate means for population control. Coercion of the individual couple's choices regarding their obligation to procreate does not seem ethically appropriate. Also, Orthodox ethics opposes the use of abortion as a birth control method. Advocating widespread abstinence from sexual relations by huge numbers of married people without contraception control methods violates some of the purposes of marriage as understood in the Orthodox Church. The use of contraceptives within marriages to space and limit offspring seems to be the appropriate ethical response. Persuasion and education are appropriate means to encourage smaller families. All Orthodox ethicists, however, would hold that respect for the freedom of each couple to decide must be considered an important and significant factor of population control policy.

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