Caring about Climate Change is Biblical

[Updated from the archives.]

Denial of Overwhelming Evidence

According to a report on NPR:

Academies of science around the world agree that climate change is real and caused largely by burning fossil fuels. So do many professional scientific organizations. Polls of scientists point to the same conclusion, and so now does a review of the scientific literature. It shows that 97 percent of the time, scientists who express a view say that human activity is warming the planet.

This agreement among scientists has not been embraced by the public, though.

Less than half of the public understands that there’s widespread scientific agreement about climate change. About 40 percent believe that there’s a lot of disagreement among the scientists.

Why do people not follow the scientists’ lead? There are a lot of reasons, perhaps, but Jeremiah 5:30-31 and 2 Timothy 4:1-5 hit the nail on the head when saying that people love to turn away from truth. Of course Paul was focused there on the truth of the gospel, but we need to keep in mind that all truth is God’s truth, because our God is himself the Truth. (John 14:6.)

Sadly, some of God’s own people want to deny the truth, and even make jokes about what’s happening to the world God has made. But as Jonathan Merritt pointed out, a prominent pastor who jokes that he doesn’t care about the environment and will drive a behemoth of a car because God’s going to burn up this world anyway is not only joking in poor taste, but preaching a lack of stewardship and a lack of concern for the people around us. And for those people around us, this is not joking matter; in fact, as Karen Swallow Prior reported from Malawi, it’s become worse than HIV-AIDS for some communities.

Here’s where we are, then. The survey of the scientific community shows scientists are convinced that human activity is warming the planet. And as Merritt explains, that human activity is devastating to African dirt farmers, communities neighboring Appalachian coal mines, and little children living in modern cities. Drought, polluted drinking water and asthma all result from the planet-wide impact of human activity.

Our Responsibility

The Blue Marble photograph of Earth, taken during the Apollo 17 lunar mission in 1972. (Wikipedia)

You can add John MacArthur to the list of prominent pastors who preach there is no need to preserve the planet. He teaches that since Jesus will create a new heaven and a new earth:

It is a disposable planet. We’re not here to preserve the planet, we’re here to proclaim the gospel. (John MacArthur, The Eyewitness Account of Creation.)

But Mr. MacArthur is preaching an unbiblical dichotomy. It’s not a matter of preaching the gospel or taking care of the planet. The Bible tells us both are worthy and important. No one disagrees with Mr. MacArthur that preaching the gospel is important; the Bible says it is, after all. Why will he not teach that caring for the planet is important when the Bible says it belongs to God?

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. (Psalm 24:1.)

God cares for plants and animals, and Jesus said that because he does we can be assured that God cares for us too. (Matthew 6:25-34, Luke 12:22-31.) In fact, we are not separate from the rest of Creation; we are in the process of salvation with it.

 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:18-21.)

People and Creation. People in Creation. People with Creation. However you look at it, we’re all in this together. And what we do with what God has given us matters a lot to God. (Matthew 25:14-30.)

Now there’s an idea we can warm up to.

***

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22 Responses to Caring about Climate Change is Biblical

  1. Doug says:

    Perhaps climate change is true. We own a piece of property that was a long time ago occupied by glacier, and is now a very fine sylvan property. If the climate had not changed, what would it be today?

    If climate change is occurring, does anyone really know the slowly progressing future results of this change, locally or globally? That it will be disastrous or gloriously better?

    The religion of Atheistic Evolutionism should really have no fear or trouble with this either way, since they believe in progressively improved “natural” adaptation, right? From whence comes their ethic of good in general, or stewardship in particular? (See Romans 1:18-20 for an answer).

    As Christians, we trust that God so loves the world that He cares for it beyond our understanding. Also, He wants us to be good stewards of His world. Question: Does God really so love the world He sent His Son to save that He intends to destroy it?

    Could we consider that gradual global changes might increase atmospheric warmth and moisture, better distributed precipitation, less harsh winters/summers, less weather related disasters, overall weather moderation and stability?

    Might these changes increase world-wide vegetation, forests, etc. With the atmosphere and increased vegetation holding or storing more water, more arable land becomes available for agriculture, cities, production. Am I dreaming of impossible scenarios? Who knows?

    Overly optimistic and hopeful thoughts? Our nice property suggests not.

    Doug

    • Tim says:

      I don’t know what is coming regarding climate, but I do agree with these points, Doug: “As Christians, we trust that God so loves the world that He cares for it beyond our understanding. Also, He wants us to be good stewards of His world.” Well put.

  2. roscuro says:

    If only the climate change movement was about using the earth more wisely and cutting back on excess. I love nature and am concerned about how greed destroys it; but I cannot ally myself to a movement which habitually characterizes humans as a disease that infects the earth. The things that have been done to humans in the name of saving the environment – for it cannot be denied that population control schemes were and are supported by the environmental movements – are hideous and cry out for God’s justice. When I was reading news stories about the recent Ebola outbreak, I could not help noticing comments which repeatedly said it was nature’s way of culling; if it was just one or two, I would have thought it was some crank, but it was suggested repeatedly. I was thinking about this just the other day, after reading how an Italian conservationist was shot by desperate Kenyan herdsmen – it was the affluent West which treated Africa as a hunter’s playground and altered the landscape for its own ends, and then turned around and sought to introduce animal conservation methods and stop the deforestation they started, treating the growing African population as something to be deplored. I see no evidence that the climate change movement really cares about the people affected by the current drought in East Africa – they merely use them as posters for their campaign, like aid agencies who cynically use pictures of starving children for fundraising. Even in the jurisdiction in which I live, which is in the affluent West, climate change is being used as an excuse to raise taxes on fuel, meaning that food prices also rise. For someone on a slender budget, it is becoming increasingly hard to afford adequate amounts of that basic necessity. Making it harder for people to eat is definitely not Biblical.

    • Tim says:

      One of my environmental studies professors used to say “environmentalism is a full stomach phenomenon,” meaning that if you were struggling to find food to eat you could not concern yourself with environmental issues. A lot of people in the world find themselves in that position, and I don’t criticize.

    • It may be that from some environmentalists’ points of view humans come second, but from a humane point of view, as someone who cares deeply about the poor and who has studied the environment and international development, I know that it is the poorest of the poor who are and will be worst affected by climate change. That is why you and I, as followers of Christ, should do all that we can to reduce our physical impact on the planet, aka our ‘carbon footprint’.

      • Tim says:

        I completely agree, Sandy.

      • roscuro says:

        I have worked in a developing country, one that, like Malawi, lives on subsistence farming. I have treated children who looked like those pictures of starving children. Climate is, as Karen Swallow Prior conceded in her article, not the whole cause. In my observation, it played a less significant role than inadequate farming methods, customs which produced waste (it wasn’t famine which caused those children to be malnourished), and corruption. After all, North America, and especially California, recently went through a long drought period, without there being any significant food shortfall. Northeastern Brazil recently experienced a long drought, as they do periodically, yet they have learned to cope, meaning that there are no longer mass migrations or deaths due to the lack of water. India also no longer has mass famines due to the Green Revolution. To use the Biblical example of Joseph in Egypt, the years of plenty can provide for the years of famine, provided the excess of the plenty years is not wasted.

        There are many factors why people in the West cannot further reduce their ‘carbon footprint’. It is easy for those in urban areas to speak of taking public transit, but rural dwellers have need of cars. For those who live in cold climates, heating is essential. I was speaking from personal experience on the rising cost of food (access to the internet is not a sign of prosperity. I also come from a low income rural family whose ‘footprint’ has always been small, long before climate change was a hot topic, as the poor generally consume much less than the wealthy. Now, I watch my parents, who live on pensions, struggle to make ends meet due in large part to the rising cost of living as a result of climate change policies.

        • I am not in the US so I don’t know about the rising cost of living as a result of climate change policies, but as you rightfully say, in general frugal methods of living tend to be the more ‘green’ anyway.
          I get the sense you are upset by what you see as people or entities trying to make you feel bad when you’re just living your life and doing your best. Being a good steward – which is what a Christian’s attitude towards climate change comes under – includes good organization and good governance just as much as taking personal responsibility for one’s ‘footprint’, etc.
          Why oh why can’t human beings work together to do what is best for everyone, instead of the less well off paying the price for the indulgence of the wealthy? I point the finger at myself as much as anyone else because I am still learning how very materially blessed I am compared to most of the world – and how much I have taken for granted throughout my life. God bless you, roscuro.

        • roscuro says:

          @sandyfaithking, I am not in the U.S. either. And I’m not upset, not for myself. I never have been able and never will be able to wield any kind of organizational or political influence, since those with low incomes have much less of a say in such things. I have seen those concerned about climate change begin to advocate for population control (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/11/the-climate-change-solution-no-one-will-talk-about/382197/), and I do not like it. Enough injustice has been inflicted by the West in regards to that issue – the article linked mentions in passing the forced sterilizations that happened in India in the 19070s, which were a direct result of the U.S. aid-for-population-control policy, but it does not mention that those forced sterilizations were accomplished by bulldozing poor neighbourhoods and rounding up the people, that millions were sterilized within that short space of time, and that voluntary sterilization campaigns in India continue to cause deaths due to botched procedures. If climate change policies in the developed world cause those in the low income bracket to have less, what will such policies do to the poor in developing countries?

  3. It is a very self-absorbed attitude that uses the environment in such a throwaway manner. Completely un-Christlike, imo.

  4. This is an area in which I think I have a lot to learn (and could do a lot more), Tim. As the comments suggest, there are a lot of different facets of this matter for Christians to consider:implementing climate-change policies that seem to punish the poor, vs. the poor being the ones who do and will suffer most from climate change, etc. It is so difficult to know where to start – but that should not keep us from trying.

  5. Thank you for this post. So many Christians act like this is a side issue and of little consequence, but I can see from the comments it’s an even heavier subject then I what I even think about. I care very much about creation. I try to be a good steward. Creation groans. There is life all around us, and that life is not just human. How is everyone missing that in the garden before the fall, “you only had one job”– to care for creation. (Gen 2:15). Also, I love this picture; thank you.

  6. The MacArthur quote is worse than denying climate change. Even with his theology, it is irresponsible to imagine, much less to preach that what happens to the earth doesn’t matter to future generations. Lord help us!

  7. Pastor_Bob says:

    There are respected scientists who disagree with much of the climate change theory.
    We hear little of them for some reason. Yet those who disagree with some of this are ridiculed despite advanced degrees. The adherents will not permit disagreement, yet cling to tideas that have flaws….
    — “I have made up my mid, fact and truth are irrelevant.”

    We are stewards, we are to take care of what we have control over.
    Respected non-believers have commented on the arrogance of man to think that he can change climate through good or bad actions.

    MIT found evidence of prior global warming preceding the industrial activities that are the current source of blame by at least 800 years. We don’t hear of this…. wonder why??

    Is climate change real? yes. Man made? doubtful.

    Where are the dissenters? ignored or ridiculed.

  8. uplandweb says:

    Do you have a citation for the MIT study?

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