Climate Change and The Truth: Christian Worldview

Christian Worldview

An early entry on AGW expressed gratitude that some “Christian leaders, including Dr. James Dobson and Chuck Colson, wrote a rebuttal letter” asked other Christian leaders not to join the Evangelical Climate Initiative. What if Dobson, Colson, etc. were to say “we have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians;” would their acceptance change your opinion?

Another claim is that AGW is possibly “one of those issues to which Jesus referred when he said that ‘false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible’ (Mark 13:22).” I think this comment verges on parody, but I hope to provide respectable evidence that acceptance of AWG is not a deceitful great sign or anything supernatural; it is the product of decades of good science.

One is correct to state that “we are told repeatedly in Scriptures that man’s wisdom is NOT God’s wisdom” (e.g. 1 John 4:5). However, John warned against worldly wisdom, which may not be the same as human wisdom and understanding. The world is, by definition, opposed to God. Humans have a choice about whether to follow divine or worldly wisdom (e.g. Deuteronomy 30:19).

Claiming that human and divine wisdom are mutually exclusive presents a false dichotomy. In Proverbs 8:22-31, we learn that one expression of God’s wisdom is the Creation. Wisdom, personified as a woman, was present “at the first, before the beginning of the earth.” She says, “I was beside him, like a master worker” during the creation of the Universe. Therefore, by exploring and understanding the physical creation, humans can access God’s wisdom. This also means that scripture is not the only source of truth. Francis Bacon famously recognized this when he admonished, “let no man upon a weak conceit of sobriety or an ill-applied moderation think or maintain that a man can search too far, or be too well studied in the book of God’s word, or in the book of God’s works, divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both” (Bacon). Kepler when considering his exploration of creation wrote simply, “O God, I am thinking Thy thoughts after Thee” (Mead).

Scripture, the book of God’s word, says nothing about the existence of microbial life, and understanding of which is essential to modern medical advances such as vaccines and antibiotics. Scripture does not mention the electron, but an understanding of its behavior is essential to powering this computer and designing its microchips. Understanding of bacteria, viruses, electrons, and anthropogenic global warming is the result of our God-given ability to understand Creation.

The second round of answers to my questions contains the admission, “that, science aside, I am usually quite skeptical of anything anyone claims as truth; either about this world or the next. I try to ‘test everything and hold onto the good'” (I Thessalonians 5:21). That Biblical command has much in common with the scientific method. Tests are a critical part of science, and to the best of my knowledge, the hypotheses and models dealing with AGW have been tested and found true. I will share two examples in a later section.

At the end of this round of answers, Matthew 6:25-34 is quoted, in which Jesus says that we should not worry about tomorrow, for each “day has enough trouble of its own.” Your warning against fearing tomorrow seems contradicted by other elements in your blog. The Draft Fred Thompson banner shows that considerable worry about the results of primary elections which will not occur until many months after tomorrow. The plots of Saudi Arabia’s future population indicate worry about the population of that nation 45 years from tomorrow.

I am not suggesting panic or fear is the proper reaction to AGW any more than they are the proper reaction to the possibility of Rudy Giuliani being elected president. The proper reaction to the possibility of an undesired candidate being elected is the use of appropriate tools, such as a web banner, to elect a more desirable candidate. Similarly, I think we should respond to AGW with the proper tools, such as energy efficiency and duly considered mitigation measures, to prevent it from becoming a more serious problem for us and future generations.

Skeptics, such as yourself, “fail to see how worrying about how warm a piece of ice in the Arctic has gotten or running out to buy a hybrid vehicle furthers the kingdom of God or brings even one person closer to finding eternal life. I neglect His kingdom enough as it is, why throw another distraction in my way?” This implies that bringing people to eternal life is our sole duty as Christians. However, I believe God’s role for us is much broader than that; Scripture tells us that before God said anything about evangelism or eternity (or capitalism), he made humans rulers over this planet (Genesis 1:28). AGW is not a distraction; combating it is part of our mission on Earth. Combating it will also aid evangelism because flooding half of Bangladesh or causing droughts in Uganda is unlikely to help the people of those nations find eternal life.

In many passages and contexts, scripture indicates that God does care about the environment. By the “environment,” I mean the atmosphere, land, water, rock, and ice on Earth and the lifeforms sustained by them. In other words, Scripture is in strong contrast to the claim that Al Gore “says that the polar bears aren’t having fun anymore. Now, instead of sitting back and enjoying an ice-cold Coke with her cubs, a mother polar bear now has to watch as her dear ol’ iceflow melts out from under her.”

God cared enough about the cattle of the city of Nineveh that they were one of the reasons he sent Jonah to preach repentance unto that city (Jonah 4:11). When the LORD was demonstrating his greatness and might to Job (38:39-41), he rhetorically asked “Can you hunt the prey for the lion,/ Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,/ When they crouch in their dens/ And lie in wait in their lair?/ Who prepares for the raven its nourishment/ When its young cry to God/And wander about without food?” Again, in Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them….See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Of course, Jesus’ point is that God cares more about us than about the sparrows or lilies, but he does care about the young lions, ravens, sparrows, lilies, cattle, and polar bears.

Scripture also declares that all of Creation, not just humanity, is included in his redemptive plan. Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:13-20, emphasis mine). From the Fall, “the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:20-21, emphasis mine). The physical Creation will be brought into eternal life with us.

The most obvious reason for his care is that the environment is part of his Creation, over which he claims ownership (I Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 24:1; I Corinthians 10:26). Earth is his property, and we disrespect that property to our peril. God has also entrusted humanity to care for this planet, beginning with Adam being placed “in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). More specifically, he famously commanded the Israelites to let their land lie fallow every seventh year as a sabbath for the land (Leviticus 25:2-7). Less noted is that their refusal to obey this command determined the length of their exile in Babylon (Leviticus 26:43; II Chronicles 36:21). For more examples of scriptural Creation Care, read the scripture page of the Evangelical Environmental Network website.

A skeptic might respond to the land sabbath with an argument similar to the one used in response to my question about methods to curtail AGW. “Also, reducing our energy bills and reducing smog only helps ourselves and our pocketbooks, it doesn’t make an iota of difference to the environment.” That is another false dichotomy. The sabbath, one could argue, was designed to keep the land productive so the Israelites could stay fed, but it didn’t make an iota of difference to the environment. However, caring for the environment and caring for ourselves are not mutually exclusive; they are closely related, as the land sabbath example shows. We depend on the land, sea, air, and lifeforms for our survival; if we damage the environment, we damage its ability to give us air, food, and water. If we damage the environment, we damage ourselves.

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