Let’s begin with a confession: We Evangelicals aren’t the most eco-friendly lot. I recycle and conserve water, but I also like plastic straws and drive a truck. Don’t get me wrong, we Evangelicals love and appreciate God’s creation as much as, and perhaps more than, others. We read Psalm 8 with tear-filled eyes: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3–4). It makes us feel small, but loved!
In our understanding of the world, this beautiful third planet from the sun belongs to God and has been given to us in trust as stewards. And we take that charge seriously.
Well, semi-seriously. Perhaps we haven’t been as involved in its care as we should have been. That doesn’t mean we’re against saving the whales, but we’ve been pretty busy saving souls and unborn children … or at least talking about it.
So how are we to respond to decidedly left-leaning, “eco-pocalyptic” predictions that the world will end because of climate change and associated human-created-geo-malfunctions?
First, we must consider the source of these predictions. I became aware of this in the ‘70s when Time Magazine – with a penguin on the cover – predicted a cooling trend in the northern hemisphere that would inevitably lead to a new ice age.
How times change. An Associated Press headline in 1989 warned of the opposite – a melting of the ice caps: “Rising seas could obliterate nations.”
Today, the global warming bandwagon remains the eco-pocalyptic threat du jour. It is a major topic of discussion for all 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Projected dates of our demise have come and gone. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, author of the “Green New Deal,” gives us 12 more years.
Despite the sensationalism attached to it, global warming seems to be a real threat, even if the human contribution to it is debated (see here). For a wonderful discussion of the failed eco-pocalyptic predictions over the last 50 years – from the ’69 population overload to the ’75 famine – read here.
Much of the hysteria behind the dire eco-news is probably well-meaning, but definitely politically motivated and vote driven. Nevertheless, right-leaning Evangelical Christians aren’t opposed to the idea of protecting our planet. We live here, too! We’re invested. We believe that humans, represented by the first human, have been given the divine planetary charge to “work it and care for it (Gen. 2: 15).”
However, as with Adam’s other charge, not to eat the forbidden fruit, we have failed. “… Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17–19). With that cursed ground, we might add cursed air and water.
Generations later, Paul would echo the result of this curse for our planetary home: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons 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 glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19–21)
Our planet – nature itself – is frustrated by us. It groans under our care (see Rom. 8:22). In our greedy sinfulness, we plunder, pilfer and rape her. As a result, we check ozone alerts along with the weather report and suffer the results of toxins in our food and air. We’re forced to develop drugs to replace what we’ve lost from nature.
The planet longs for the day when all things will be made new (Rev. 21:5). The planet, and we, await a new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1).
Whether you believe the current eco-political hype or not, there is no doubt our planet has been affected by human sin. But will the earth’s failure (man-made or not) be the ultimate demise of humanity? Is the earth as fragile as we’ve been told? Not according to Scripture.
Behind the left-leaning political motivations of Kyoto and AGW (anthropocentric global warming) is a humanistic worldview – the idea that humans are at the center of the universe. This philosophy gives no room for a Creator-God with future plans for us. In this humanistic thinking, we, and we alone, are the masters of our destiny. Humanism contradicts the idea that an Almighty God has created a planet resilient enough to handle our poor stewardship of it. The Apostle Paul says we’ve become thankless to our Creator and have instead begun to worship the creation itself (see Romans 1:21-25).
Of course, there will be an end. The end will come when humans, in their ultimate hubris, revolt against their Creator. Following a leader who presents himself godlike (the Antichrist), mankind will eventually fully embrace the rebellion against God which Adam foreshadowed. War – both political and spiritual – will break out.
In the meantime, the planet will be affected even more devastatingly than it is now (see Rev. 8). “As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: ‘Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth …!’” (Revelation 8:13).
But even then, with apocalyptic hail, darkness, dead seas and earthquakes, a failing planet won’t be the end of us. The earth won’t give out. It won’t be global warming that spells our doom. It won’t be global cooling. It won’t be over-population. The end will be caused by us. Our open rebellion against our Creator, our sin, will be our demise.
Even here, there is grace. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away … And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1, 3–5)
Trustworthy and true…God’s word – and also the planet He’s given us. We must repent of our poor stewardship of this beautiful home – the “old order of things” isn’t working. We must repent of our sin. Until that day, despite our sin, we must maintain our charge of our planetary home as stewards: “to work it and care for it.”