Category: Environment/Environmentalism


  It is interesting to note how the phrase “climate change” is replacing “global warming” as the catch phrase of environmentalism. Some scientists/climatologists are certain that human activity, primarily greenhouse gas emissions, is impacting the environment. What they are not certain about is precisely what the impact will be. A couple of decades ago, “global cooling” was the fear, with warnings of a new ice age being the primary scare tactic. While most scientists/climatologists today believe that global warming is the primary risk, uncertainty has led to “climate change” being used as a less specific warning. Essentially, the climate change message is this: greenhouse gas emissions are damaging the environment, and, while we are not certain what the effect will be, we know it will be bad.

Climatologists, ecologists, geologists, etc., are unanimous in recognizing that the earth has gone through significant temperature/climate changes in the past. Despite the fact that these climate changes were obviously not caused by human activity, many of these same scientists are convinced that human activity is the primary cause of climate change today. Why? There seem to be three primary motivations.

First, some truly and fully believe the greenhouse gas emissions are causing climate change. They honestly examine the data and come to that conclusion. Second, some hold to the climate change mindset with an almost religious fervor. Many within the environmentalist movement are so obsessed with protecting “Mother Earth” that they will use any argument to accomplish that goal, no matter how biased and unbalanced it is. Third, some promote the climate change mentality for financial gain. Some of the strongest proponents of climate change legislation are those who stand to have the greatest financial gain from “green” laws and technologies. Before the climate change mindset is accepted, it should be recognized that not everyone who promotes climate change is doing so from an informed foundation and pure motives.

How, then, should a Christian view climate change? We should view it skeptically and critically, but at the same time honestly and respectfully. Most importantly, though, Christians should look at climate change biblically. What does the Bible say about climate change? Not much. Likely the closest biblical examples of what could be considered climate change would be the end times disasters prophesied in Revelation 6–18. Yet these prophecies have nothing to do with greenhouse gas emissions; rather, they are the result of the wrath of God, pouring out justice on an increasingly wicked world. Also, a Christian must remember that God is in control and that this world is not our home. God will one day erase this current universe (2 Peter 3:7-12) and replace it with the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 21–22). How much effort should be made “saving” a planet that God is eventually going to obliterate and replace with a planet so amazing and wonderful that the current earth pales in comparison?

Is there anything wrong with going green? No, of course not. Is trying to reduce your carbon footprint a good thing? Probably so. Are solar panels, wind mills, and other renewable energy sources worth pursuing? Of course. Are any of these things to be the primary focus of followers of Jesus Christ? Absolutely not! As Christians, our focus should be proclaiming the truth of the gospel, the message that has the power to save souls. Saving the planet is not within our power or responsibility. Climate change may or may not be real, and may or may not be human-caused. What we can know for certain is that God is good and sovereign, and that Planet Earth will be our habitat for as long as God desires it to be. Psalm 46:2-3, “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

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  As Christians, we should be concerned about our effect on our environment. God appointed man to be the steward of this world (Genesis 1:28), not the destroyer of it. However, we should not allow environmentalism to become a form of idolatry, where the “rights” of an inanimate planet and its non-human creatures are held in higher esteem than God (Romans 1:25) and man created in His image. With global warming, as with any other topic, it is crucial to understand what the facts are, whom those facts come from, how they are interpreted, and what the spiritual implications are.

A careful look at global warming, as a topic, shows that there is a great deal of disagreement about the facts and substance of climate change. Those who blame man for climate change often disagree about what facts lead them to that conclusion. Those who hold man totally innocent of it often ignore established facts. Experience and research leads us to believe that warming is, in fact, occurring; however, there is little to no objective evidence that man is the cause, nor that the effects will be catastrophic. The idea of earth “wearing out” is an apt analogy. This entire world has been continually decaying since the fall.

Global warming “facts” are notoriously hard to come by. One of the few facts universally agreed upon is that the current average temperature of Earth is indeed rising at this time. According to most estimates, this increase in temperature amounts to about 0.4-0.8 °C (0.72-1.44 °F) over the last 100 years. Data regarding times before that is not only highly theoretical but very difficult to obtain with any accuracy. The very methods used to obtain historical temperature records are controversial, even among the most ardent supporters of the theory of human-caused climate change. The facts leading one to believe that humans are not responsible for the current change in temperature are as follows:

• Global temperature changes from past millennia, according to available data, were often severe and rapid, long before man supposedly had any impact at all. That is, the current climate change is not as unusual as some alarmists would like to believe.

• Recent recorded history mentions times of noticeable global warming and cooling, long before man had any ability to produce industrial emissions.

• Water vapor, not CO2, is the most influential greenhouse gas. It is difficult to determine what effect, if any, mankind has on worldwide water vapor levels.

• Given the small percentage of human-produced CO2, as compared to other greenhouse gases, human impact on global temperature may be as little as 1%.

• Global temperatures are known to be influenced by other, non-human-controlled factors, such as sunspot activity, orbital movement, volcanic activity, solar system effects, and so forth. CO2 emission is not the only plausible explanation for global warming.

• Ice Age temperature studies, although rough, frequently show temperatures changing before CO2 levels, not after. This calls into question the relationship between warming and carbon dioxide; in some cases, the data could easily be interpreted to indicate that warming caused an increase in carbon dioxide, rather than the reverse!

• Computer simulations used to “predict” or “demonstrate” global warming require the assumption of human causation, and even then are not typically repeatable or reliable. Current computer weather simulations are neither predictive nor repeatable.

• Most of the global temperature increase of the last 100 years occurred before most of the man-made CO2 was produced.

• In the 1970s, global temperatures had actually been dropping since 1945, and a “global cooling” concern became prominent, despite what is now dismissed as a lack of scientific support.

The “consensus” claimed by most global warming theorists is not scientific proof; rather, it is a statement of majority opinion. Scientific majorities have been wrongly influenced by politics and other factors in the past. Such agreement is not to be taken lightly, but it is not the same thing as hard proof.

This “consensus,” as with many other scientific theories, can be partially explained by growing hostility to those with differing viewpoints, making it less likely that a person without preconceived notions would take on the subject for research. The financial and political ramifications of the global warming debate are too serious to be ignored, though they should not be central to any discussion.

• The data being used to support anthropogenic (man-caused) global warming is typically based on small data sets, single samples, or measurements taken in completely different regions. This creates an uncertainty in the results that rarely gets the attention that alarmist conclusions do.

While the above list is not exhaustive, it does include several of the major points that raise doubts about mankind’s actual effect on global temperatures. While no one can deny that warming is occurring, “overwhelming evidence” of any objective type does not exist to support the idea that global warming is significantly influenced by human actions. There is plenty of vague, short-sighted, and misunderstood data that can be seen as proving “anthropogenic” global-warming theory. All too often, data used to blame humans for global warming is far less reliable than data used for other areas of study. It is a valid point of contention that the data used in these studies is frequently flawed, easily misinterpreted, and subject to preconception.

In regards to issues such as this, skepticism is not the same as disbelief. There are fragments of evidence to support both sides, and logical reasons to choose one interpretation over another. The question of anthropogenic global warming should not divide Christian believers from each other (Luke 11:17). Environmental issues are important, but they are not the most important questions facing mankind. Christians ought to treat our world with respect and good stewardship, but we should not allow politically driven hysteria to dominate our view of the environment. Our relationship with God is not dependent on our belief in human-caused global warming.

For further research on global warming, we recommend the following articles:
http://www.icr.org/article/3233/
http://www.junkscience.com/Greenhouse/ http://www.clearlight.com/~mhieb/WVFossils/ice_ages.html
http://www.xtronics.com/reference/globalwarming.htm
http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2002/5/14/161152.shtml
http://www.whrc.org/carbon/images/GlobalCarbonCycleLG.gif
http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/fig3-1.htm

There is a difference between the biblical view of the environment and the political movement known as “environmentalism.” Understanding this difference will shape a Christian’s view of environmentalism. The Bible is clear that the earth and everything in it was given by God to man to rule over and subdue. “And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth'” (Genesis 1:28).

Because mankind was created in His image, God gave men and women a privileged place among all creatures and commanded them to exercise stewardship over the earth (Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 8:6-8). Stewardship implies caretaking, not abusing. We are to intelligently manage the resources God has given us, using all diligent care to preserve and protect them. This is seen in the Old Testament where God commanded that the fields and vineyards would be sown and harvested for six years, then left fallow for the seventh year in order to replenish the soil’s nutrients, both to rest the land and to ensure continued provision for His people in the future (Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:1-7).

In addition to our role of caretakers, we are to appreciate the functionality and beauty of the environment. In His incredible grace and power, God has placed on this planet everything needed to feed, clothe, and house the billions of people who have lived on it since the Garden of Eden. All the resources He has provided for our needs are renewable, and He continues to provide the sun and rain necessary to sustain and replenish those resources. And, as if this were not enough, He has also decorated the planet in glorious color and scenic beauty to appeal to our aesthetic sense and thrill our souls with wonder. There are countless varieties of flowers, exotic birds, and other lovely manifestations of His grace to us.

At the same time, the earth we inhabit is not a permanent planet, nor was it ever intended to be. The environmental movement is consumed with trying to preserve the planet forever, and we know this is not God’s plan. He tells us in 2 Peter 3:10 that at the end of the age, the earth and all He has created will be destroyed: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up” (NKJV). The physical, natural earth in its present form, with its entire universe will be consumed, and God will create a “new heaven and a new earth” (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1).

So we see that, rather than trying to preserve the earth for thousands or even millions of years to come, we are to be good stewards of it for as long as it lasts, which will be as long as it serves God’s sovereign plan and purpose.

A short series on the Environment and Environmentalism

The Green Bible, published in 2008 by Harper Collins Publishers, is not a new translation. The publishers use the New Revised Standard Version as their text. The whole premise of this version is similar to the “red-letter” editions of the Bible where the words of Christ are printed in red ink. Following this approach, the Green Bible prints in green ink verses and passages which, according to the publisher, deal with environmental topics or creation care. They break this down into four categories: [1]. How God and Jesus are involved in creation; [2]. How all elements (land, water, plants, humans, animals) are interdependent; [3]. How nature responds to God; [4]. How we are called to care for creation. The Bible itself is printed on recycled paper using soy-based ink with a cotton/linen cover. There is also a foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as well as several essays by various people including Brian McLaren, of emergent church fame, and Pope John Paul II. Other features include a topical index, a personal “trail study guide,” and an appendix with information on further reading, how to get involved, and practical steps to take.

The idea of a “green” Bible may have merits. The Green Bible can serve as a reminder to believers who are overly critical of today’s modern “green” movement that the Scriptures do speak on the subject of the environment. The heavens, air, oceans, rivers, seas, plants, and animals are all wonderfully created by God. Some need to be reminded that God’s magnificent creation is something to behold, appreciate, respect, and preserve (Genesis 1:26-28). Of course, God’s command to mankind to rule over and subdue the earth does not mean we can abuse it. Rather, God has given care of the environment to mankind to nurture and use with respect, always mindful of our great God as the force behind its creation.

At the same time, there are negative aspects of the Green Bible. A statement by Eugene H. Peterson, author of The Message, explains the whole purpose of the Green Bible: “The Green Bible sets out an urgent agenda for the Christian community.” It seems clear that the main goal and purpose is to promote the “green” agenda and implies that God in His Word confirms this as a primary theme. However, the “urgent agenda” for the Christian community is not the reclamation of the earth, but the reclamation of souls destined for an eternity in hell. Anything that distracts Christians from this most basic reason for our existence is antithetical to God’s plan for His people. Interestingly, the Green Bible does not seem to be prominently used as a tool by those who support today’s “green” movement, no doubt because there are too many other truths in God’s Word that contradict the basic philosophies of the “green” agenda. The Green Bible in reality is a perfect example of what the Apostle Paul speaks about in Romans: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen” (Romans 1:25).

The Green Bible goes beyond just advocating an agenda and actually is teaching false doctrines. This becomes evident in the “Green Bible Quiz,” which has seven questions with three multiple-choice answers for each question. Question #2 asks, “Which verse praising creation is from the Psalms?” and gives Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands,” as the correct answer. The problem here is that this verse does exactly opposite of what the question asks. The verse is not “praising creation” at all; rather, it speaks of the creation praising the Creator, God. Question #4 in the Green Bible Quiz asks, “Where did Jesus go to commune with nature?” The “correct” answer given is Matthew 4:23, but apparently this was a typo and no doubt should have been Matthew 14:23, “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” This verse definitely does not say that Christ went up to the mountain “to commune with nature.” He went up to pray, literally to commune with His Father, God. This goes far beyond stretching the meaning of a verse and actually amounts to deifying nature, which is nothing short of idolatry.

There is nothing wrong with Christians being involved in a conscious effort to appreciate and even preserve God’s wonderful creation. But any effort directed at preserving the planet forever runs counter to God’s revealed plan. He tells us in 2 Peter 3:10 that at the end of the age, the earth and all He has created will be destroyed with fire. The physical, natural earth in its present form, along with the entire universe, will be consumed, and God will create a “new heaven and a new earth” (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1). As believers, our focus has to be living for the Savior and, in what the Scriptures call the “last days,” to be about the business of sharing the good news of the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ with as many people as possible.