THE United Nations International Conference on Population and Development, which will continue in Cairo until September 13, is exploring realistic ways to stabilize population growth. At the heart of this and other attempts to keep the world's human population from overwhelming the planet is the tension between the belief that man is simply a material being, subject only to biological impulses, and the fact that man is spiritual, the creation of a totally good God.
The concept of man as a spiritual entity, created by God, may at first seem like an abstract ideal. But accepting this fact radically changes our thoughts. Through it, we gain control over the impulses of our own ''life forces.'' This control enables us to contribute to finding practical solutions to the world's population problems.
The Bible makes clear that God, Spirit, is the creator both of man and the universe. This means that you and I are the offspring of God, not of material impulses or processes. Instead of man's being genetically programmed with potential for evil as well as good, we recognize that God has made man, according to the book of Psalms, ''a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour'' (8:5). That ''glory and honour'' can never be lost. They are inherent in our--and everyone's- -spiritual nature. But we have to be willing to accept God's government of our lives if we are to actually experience those qualities and the blessings that come with them.
Christ Jesus shows us how to do this. In declaring that each of us must be born of Spirit, of God, he said specifically, ''Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God'' (John 3:3). So we need to be ''born again'' into an understanding of ourselves as God's man, and hence spiritual. And our planet's population needs to be reborn along the same lines.
This doesn't mean transforming a group of material beings into spiritual entities. Rather, through diligent prayer, we bring ourselves under the discipline of Spirit and recognize that man's real purpose in life is to express the divine qualities of God such as love, peace, joy, purity, and goodness. This requires us to make decisions from the standpoint of spiritual love and not material impulses.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, makes this clear in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She writes: ''In Science man is the offspring of Spirit. The beautiful, good, and pure constitute his ancestry. His origin is not, like that of mortals, in brute instinct, nor does he pass through material conditions prior to reaching intelligence'' (p. 63).
Our own spirituality can govern our decisions about our bodies and our relationships with others. And we can go even further by specifically praying for the greater spiritualization of mankind. The world does not need to struggle through famines, epidemics, and natural disasters in order to control its population growth. Through prayer that affirms man's intelligence and perfection, the world's people can be elevated to make better choices about human life.
Intelligence, by its very nature as a quality of God, is spiritual. Prayer for the world can include the affirmation that those in government express divine Mind's intelligence because it is inherent in man's--everyone's--being as God's reflection. This intelligence also lifts our own and other nations above superstition or local customs that make people think the only way to prove their manhood or womanhood is to have as many children as possible. Of course, turning to divine Mind for guidance doesn't preclude getting married or having children. But it does show us that true spiritual being can be expressed in a multitude of ways, and as we open our thoughts to God's direction those alternatives for fulfillment become evident.
When we feel and know the presence of Love in our lives, we are not only more peaceful and wise in the choices we make; we also value others in ways that affirm their higher nature instead of their baser instincts. By beginning with our own lives and reaching out to others through prayer, we will see the transformation of our world--one individual at a time--until God's ''glory and honour'' can be seen in each of us.