Not surprisingly, Tyler Cowen gets Malthus pretty much right at Marginal Revolution. He begins with what David Levy and I have written at Econlib -- that Malthus was no Dismal Scientist but instead allowed for foresight to intervene between population pressure and starvation -- and then moves on to the overriding role of God (or providence) for Malthus:
I view Malthus as a tempered social revisionist who knocked down myths, thought in terms of social science mechanisms (he had both supply and demand and Keynesian macro in surprisingly sophisticated forms, not to mention an early form of Darwin's theory of evolution), and was painfully aware of the importance of contingent human choices. He is one of the five most underrated, and also least understood, economists. To be sure, he favored small government and opposed the Poor Laws. But he was skeptical enough about the notion of a voluntary self-regulating order that I would not quite call him a classical liberal. I read his economics as starting with the Bible, and asking whether any mechanisms might bring us to a less tragic outcome than what is found in the Old Testament. He was never quite sure of the answer, and his mix of moralizing and skepticism later attracted Keynes.
Anthony Waterman and Samuel Hollander have both written a good deal on how scarcity is a moral issue, one that raises questions about the beneficence of God. Hollander writes:
There are then two theological Malthuses at work, one proposing the ideal solution to the problem of the threat of poverty created by potential population pressure; and the other, warts and all, and arriving at a wholly difference set of recommendations. ... The vision [in 1803 and thereafter] was a bright one, not a dismal one, for 'the evils resulting from the principle of population have rather diminished than increased, even under the disadvantage of an almost total ignorance of their real cause. The original theological problem had thus been entirely superannuated by events; and the revised theological problem of the need for the 'painful' check of chastity before marriage was merely theoretical, considering the ongoing acceleration of the national product, or, at worst, a problem for some distant future. (Hollander 1997, pp. 942, 947-8).