By Ralph D. Winter
From his Editorial Comment originally published in the January 1998 Issue of Mission Frontiers
Consider the truly amazing fact that for many, many centuries due to hatred, unrestrained bloodshed, and microbial assaults the incredible potential of population growth on a world level simply did not happen.
Let me explain that. We are now ending the second millennium AD, aren’t we? For the entire first millennium world population didn’t go anywhere. Only in the Christian West did it even begin a tiny expansion. According [a recent] National Geographic issue the growth was then only one tenth of one percent per year until 1700 AD. But, as hygiene and increased food production began to batter down the destructive forces, and colonial expansion put an end to hundreds of local wars in Africa and Asia, world population began to explode.
To get perspective, if the population of the entire globe in Abraham’s day (estimated to be 27 million in 2000 BC) had grown at the present rate of world population growth (1.7 percent per year), world population would have shot up from 27 million to 6 billion in just the next 321 years.
A second example: if the 2 million population of England in 440 AD (at the time of the withdrawal of the Roman legions) had grown at the current rate of world population growth, England would have multiplied 38,275 times in the next six centuries to become 76 billion people by the time of the invasion of William the Conqueror in 1066 AD! That’s over ten times the present world population—in England alone.
But no growth took place during those hundreds of turbulent years between 440 and 1066 AD. Why? Unending tragedy of war and bloodshed and pestilence—first the invasion of the pagan Anglo Saxons and laterthe invasion of the pagan Vikings. Once those illiterate invading savages (ancestors of some of us) became Christians things began to settle down. And the population began to grow, albeit slowly…
…slowly until Satan’s insidious inroads at the microbial level were intelligently and specifically resisted. Then disease was reduced and growth picked up speed. Yes, evil was dramatically unmasked when the very existence of microbes was discovered. Who would have thought that tiny little things smaller than you could see with the naked eye (20,000 on the face of a smooth, clean front tooth) would be a source of such staggering global suffering and tragedy? People were as confused about how to fight these evil bugs as we are about how to fight nicotine and STDs which are devouring our people today.
Who would have thought that tiny little things smaller than you could see with the naked eye (20,000 on the face of a smooth, clean front tooth) would be a source of such staggering global suffering and tragedy?
And, why has war and pestilence been so hideously widespread for the vast majority of the many, many centuries of human experience? Why do we find cannibalism in every evidence of ancient man? The National Geographic article sanitarily skirts these factors.
The grisly reality of the very slow human population growth on this planet fairly shouts at us: there is an evil principle (person) at work at every level of life, from the world of good microbes and cell structures in our bodies battling for survival against assailing destructive microbes to the grim world of combat by tooth and talon. No doubt about it, evil was unleashed and has been stalking the world unchecked until, until, until, what? …until another principle took hold—at the time God set in motion a corrective, conquering Kingdom in Abraham’s mandate (Gen 12:1-3).
No question about it—except to those who may not have thought it through—our modern, relatively safer, healthier, explosively growing, relatively less warlike world of today is due to the quiet, 4,000 year-old impact of the work of God in collaboration with His people. Things are coming to an end.