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Thomas Malthus as Apologist

Of course you know this most famous work by Thomas Robert Malthus – An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798). It is still discussed today among social theorists, Marxists and academicians. Charles Darwin credits his first insight into natural selection as inspired by his reading of Malthus. In addition, Malthus scores Christian apologetics points as he touches upon a variety of issues such as the best life, morality, the purposes of God, the reasonableness of bodily resurrection and the problem of evil. Who knew? It is a fascinating work that went through seven editions.

One extended quote on the reasonableness of bodily resurrection will hopefully pique your interest. He begins with a thought experiment…

The resurrection of a spiritual body from a natural body does not appear in itself a more wonderful instance of power than the germination of a blade of wheat from the grain, or of an oak from an acorn. Could we conceive an intelligent being so placed as to be conversant with inanimate or full grown objects, and never to have witnessed the process of vegetation of growth; and were another being to shew him two little pieces of matter, a grain of wheat and an acorn, to desire him to examine them, to analize them if he pleased, and endeavour to find out their properties and essences; and then to tell him, that however trifling these little bits of matter might appear to him, that they possessed such curious powers of selection, combination, arrangement, and almost of creation, that upon being put into the ground, they would chuse, amongst all the dirt and moisture that surrounded them, those parts which best suited their purpose, that they would collect and arrange these parts with wonderful taste, judgment, and execution, and would rise up into beautiful forms, scarcely in any respect analogous to the little bits of matter which were first placed in the earth, I feel very little doubt that the imaginary being which I have supposed would hesitate more, would require better authority, and stronger proofs, before he believed these strange assertions, than if he had been told that a being of mighty power, who had been the cause of all that he saw around him, and of that existence of which he himself was conscious, would, by a great act of power upon the death and corruption of human creatures, raise up the essence of thought in an incorporeal, or at last invisible form, to give it a happier existence in another state.

The only difference, with regard to our own apprehensions, that is not in favour of the latter assertion is that the first miracle we have repeatedly seen, and the last miracle we have not seen. I admit the full weight of this prodigious difference, but surely no man can hesitate a moment in saying that, putting Revelation out of the question, the resurrection of a spiritual body from a natural body, which may be merely one among the many operations of nature which we cannot see, is an event indefinitely more probable than the immortality of man on earth, which is not only an event of which no symptoms or indications have yet appeared, but is a positive contradiction to one of the most constant of the laws of nature that has ever come within the observation of man.”

More gems such as this are to be found, but I leave it to you, dear Reader, to find them.

An Essay on the Principle of Population

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