Environment
The Problem of Evil
PDF Print E-mail
Reformed Worldviews - Environment
Written by Ian Macleod   


The following article is a speech that was given to a Reformed youth group in May 2012.

As you know, many nowadays deny the existence of God.  Universities and colleges are full of professors who equate belief in the God of the Bible with belief in Santa, or a tooth fairy.  But whether it is at college or school, the workplace, or with the next-door neighbor, most of us are going to be confronted at some stage with our belief in God.  Now, arguably the most common and the most difficult question for a Christian to answer is what is often referred to as the Problem of Evil.  Now this may come in several different forms, but basically it can be summarized using this argumentation:

Premise 1: Evil and suffering exist in the world.

Premise 2: If God is all-powerful, then he is able prevent evil and suffering.

Premise 3: If God is all-loving, then he would want to prevent evil and suffering.

Premise 4: If there is an all-powerful, all-loving God, there would be no evil and suffering in the world.

Conclusion: God is therefore either powerless, loveless or non-existent.

Well we certainly hold to the two premises that God is all-powerful and that He is a God of love. 

Rev. 19:6 “the Lord God omnipotent reigneth,” and 1 John 4:8, “God is love” 

So then the question becomes – How do we as Christians reply to this argument?  My intention is not to give any exhaustive answers, but I just want to make several suggestions to you, which may be of some help if you are confronted by this question.  

But before we address the problem, there is a very important preliminary that we have to consider.  It is very important that we are sensitive to the audience we are addressing.  Remember that a lot of people that come with this question have suffered, many of them are hurting – perhaps from the loss of a loved one in a tragic accident, in a tsunami, have lost a child to cancer, a loved one in 9/11. These people are hurting.  Obviously, when dealing with such people, it is not the time or place to hit them with cold logic.  What we have to realize when we are dealing with this question is that there is, yes, a logical problem, but in most cases it is first of all a psychological problem. 

1.  Take evil seriously

It is important for the Christian to recognize - indeed, to insist upon the reality and serious nature of evil.  Evil is a very real and ugly thing.  So what do we say about the natural disasters, the acts of God- typhoons, earthquakes and tsunamis that wipe out entire communities in a moment?  What about children born with defects, what about parasites, attacks of violent animals, radioactive mutations, debilitating diseases, deadly cancer, starvation and crippling injuries?  And then how do we account for the savagery and inhumanity of man to man – rape, theft, murder, and so on and so on. 

Well, as a Christian, I am in fact happy to hear that an atheist is positively angry at what he/she perceives to be evil.  I am happy that they are prepared to admit the fact that evil does actually exist, it is a real, objectively evil thing. 

Well, why do I say that?  Well, I say that for this reason – because I want to ask this question….. 

2. For whom is evil logically a problem?

My contention is that the atheist has no basis for even speaking about the term “evil.”  If the atheist is being consistent with his/her atheistic worldview, then he/she has no right even to use that term.  Let me try and demonstrate.

I want to ask the atheist this question.  I’m going to say: “You believe in evil, well, what is evil?  And for that matter: What is good?  By what standard are you judging between good and evil?  You are coming to me asking why a good God would allow evil, well tell me what makes something good and what makes something evil.”

Now, at this stage, you must not let the atheist of with any arbitrary statements. [Important word - an arbitrary decision– a decision based solely upon someone’s own judgment.]  Don’t let them off with saying something like: “Well we all know that this is evil, or everybody knows that is evil, it’s obvious that that is evil.”  You would reply: Yes, I too believe that it is evil but I can also account for why it is so, but you Mr. Atheist, I want you to tell me by what standard you are calling it evil?

Here the atheist will likely appeal to human reasoning or choices – humans, either as a society or as an individual must then decide what is good or evil.  Utilitarian, society in general – consensus, individual choice.  And at that point you must press home the logical incoherence within the atheist’s worldview. 

If society decides then what do you say to some tribe in the jungle who unanimously decide that it’s ok to sacrifice their children?  Oh, that’s obviously wrong!  Why?!  You said society decides!  Yes, but our culture is more advanced.  Oh so now you are saying that not just any culture but your culture decides.  How then do you know that you are more civilized or moral??  Perhaps in point of fact, they are the ones who are more advanced – how do you decide?  Who determines?

So you see that without a transcendent God who has a perfect rule of righteousness beyond which there is no further appeal, the atheist can’t make any sense out of morality, out of right or wrong, good or evil, and therefore his question is not even valid!  The problem of evil is therefore more of a problem for the atheist. As a Christian, I can make perfectly good sense out of my moral revulsion and condemnation of child abuse. But as a non-Christian I cannot.

3.  What does a Christian say? 

But the atheist may then turn round and say that even if he/she cannot make sense of evil, there is still a problem for the Christian to answer. 

1. God is all good. 

2. God is all-powerful. 

3. Evil exists. 

Is there not a logical inconsistency here? 

Well, of course, we are going to direct them to the fact of sin.  Solomon says: “Lo this only have I found…”  We will tell them that the Bible says: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (James 4:1) 

But - Why did God not create man in such a way that he could not sin?  Well, are you not then asking why He did not create man as a robot?  Are you saying that he should have forced him to love God?  Is forced love, love?  If man doesn’t have the free choice to choose evil, then he does not have the free choice to choose good and the free choice to love. 

But the atheist will still object, “Okay, but nevertheless why do evil people prosper and good people suffer so much? There is so much unfairness in the world.”

Well, as a Christian, when I take the whole Bible as my guide, I can add a fourth premise here, one which takes away all logical contradiction. “God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists.”  Now the atheist is not likely to accept this, but that is no longer on the grounds of logic, but simply on the grounds of his own unbelief. 

“Think of Abraham when God ordered him to sacrifice his only son. Think of Job when he lost everything that gave his life happiness and pleasure.  In each case God had a perfectly good reason for the human misery involved. It was a mark or achievement of faith for them not to waver in their conviction of God’s goodness, despite not being able to see or understand why He was doing to them what He did.

Indeed, even in the case of the greatest crime in all of history—the crucifixion of the Lord of glory—the Christian professes that God’s goodness was not inconsistent with what the hands of lawless men performed. Was the killing of Christ evil? Absolutely! Did God have a morally sufficient reason for it? Absolutely! With Abraham we declare, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25). And this goodness of God is beyond challenge: “Let God be true, though and every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4).

In conclusion then we practically ask – who can give comfort to a mother grieving at the loss of her firefighter son who died at September 11?  What will the atheist say?  If all we are, and all that her son was, and all that the suicide bomber was, was evolved pawn scum or evolved cosmic soup, then what’s the problem?  If our minds simply consist of billions of neurons firing about, if all we are is the sum of our biological parts, then why be upset – this was just fate running its course.  Why is the slaughter of highly evolved humans so painful and sore, and yet the slaughter of billions of insects every year goes unnoticed every year?

You see it is the Christian alone who can truly come along side of a suffering person.  No, we may not have all the answers, but we can tell them that what happened was evil, and we can therefore grief and weep with them.  And above all we can share with such people the gospel of grace – the story that speaks, yes of man’s misery on account of sin, but also of the One, who though he was God and had done nothing worthy of sin and misery; he became man so that he could suffer and die for a countless number.

We can also tell them that this same Jesus is coming again to judge the earth in righteousness and that the wrongs will be put right.  Evil will not go unpunished.  The atheist is wrong to say the suicide bomber has either been reincarnated or passed into oblivion, but will in fact have to appear before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil.  The wrong will be put right!

And on that day, everyone who believes in Jesus Christ will pass into a new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness, where there will be no more suffering, no more pain, but where the former things will have passed away.  Then God’s people will understand perfectly all the evils that God permitted in their providence.  And so now by faith they can sing in the fire, in the words of a famous poem - Not till the loom is silent….

Well I understand that there may be a lot of new information for you to digest, but I hope that these few thoughts will help you somewhat if you are confronted with this problem of evil.  And what a great wonder it ought to be to us, that whatever we suffer in this world, if we are Christians then we have in Jesus Christ one who suffered for what we deserved – in the words of the psalmist: thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell (Psalm 86:13).

Mr. Ian Macleod is a student for the ministry at Purtian Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

 
Here Come the Greens
PDF Print E-mail
Reformed Worldviews - Environment
Written by Cornelius Pronk   

Of all the colors God created, one dominates the social landscape today. It is the color green. Green is in. We have green technology, green homes, green cars, green lifestyle, green government. America has its first green president: Barack Obama. To be politically correct these days, one has to adopt the green vision and agenda. Here are some items on that agenda:

  1. Our very survival as a human race depends on how we treat planet Earth.
  2. We need to drastically reduce CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions into the atmosphere.
  3. We need to end our addiction to oil (our main pollutant) and find alternative, renewable sources of energy.
  4. Measures must be taken to greatly reduce the size of the world’s population.
  5. To make sure these goals are met, governments must enact laws to force compliance with them.

Lifestyle Changes Required

To “save” the planet, the Greens suggest we start with some easy lifestyle changes. Take colder showers. Turn the heat down. Use less air conditioning. Drive small, fuel-efficient vehicles or stop driving altogether. Bring your own bags to the supermarket. Buy energy-efficient lightbulbs. Quit drinking bottled water. Use cloth diapers. Cut down on family size: two children is max; better yet, have just one as in China.

You may wonder what’s wrong with these “recommendations,” except the last one, of course. If they help to keep the earth clean, should we not be willing to make some sacrifices? Besides, do we not have a God-given responsibility to be stewards of the earth? We do indeed. So before we criticize the Green Movement, let’s remind ourselves of our duty in this regard.

Christian Stewardship

The Bible clearly states that the earth and everything in it was given to man to rule over and subdue (Gen. 1:26–28; Ps. 8:6–8). Stewardship means managing the resources God has given us, using great care to preserve and protect them. An example of this caretaking is given in the Old Testament, where God commanded that fields and vineyards could be sown and harvested for six years but had to be left fallow the seventh year to replenish the soil’s nutrients and to give the land rest (Ex. 23:10–11; Lev. 25:1–7).

God also wants us to appreciate the purpose and beauty of His creation. He 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. In addition, He has decked out the planet in glorious colors and scenic beauty not only for His own glory but also for man’s enjoyment.

It is wrong, therefore, to allow this beautiful earth to be polluted by poisonous gases and other contaminants. Surely we must not find fault with environmentalists for being alarmed about the way this planet is being mistreated. Their zeal in this regard puts many of us to shame.

The Greens are Pantheists

We need to understand that there is a fundamental difference between Christian stewardship and environmentalism. This difference lies in the motive behind concern for the planet. As stewards of the earth, Christians are more concerned with the glory of the Creator than with His creation, whereas most environmentalists are concerned solely with the wellbeing of the earth itself. The earth is their God. They are pantheists. Pantheism comes from the Greek word pan (“all”) and theos (“god”). Pantheists believe that God and nature are one and the same; every blade of grass is part of God. Lakes, rivers, and mountains likewise are incarnations of God. But, most importantly, man is also part of nature, and hence of God. So when environmentalists see pollution harming or destroying the earth, they believe God’s existence and their own are at stake. This explains their repeated and urgent warnings that unless we take drastic action to reduce gas emissions, our planet will go up in f lames and all life will be extinguished.

The existence of the God of the Bible, however, does not depend on the survival of the earth. God is from everlasting to everlasting and, when He created the earth, He did so with a plan in mind—a plan that called for the salvation of His elect to be redeemed by Christ and to live forever with Him on a gloriously renewed earth (2 Pet. 3:13). Christians therefore have a totally different outlook on life and the world. Yes, we are to be concerned about the earth and the damage done to it by polluting the air. But our concern is not born of fear. A Christian has no need for panic. God has created the earth and upholds it by His almighty and all-present power (Lord’s Day 10).

Eco-Spirituality

As surprising as it may sound to some, environmentalism is a religion with deep spiritual aspects. Man is a spiritual being who needs to worship someone or something greater than himself. Having abandoned Christianity and the true God, modern man is now filling the vacuum in his soul with substitute gods. For most Greens, that god, or rather goddess, is Mother Earth. Many people in Europe and North America have become worshippers of Gaia, the Greek word for Earth, and they look to her for comfort and direction. This ecospirituality is increasingly taking on aspects borrowed from Christianity and other world religions. Earth worshippers everywhere are meeting in nature’s cathedrals: mountain valleys and old-growth forests. They celebrate annual Earth Days and chant their praise songs to Nature. In Vancouver alone, hundreds of eco-spiritualists gather once a week in community circles for fellowship and encouragement.

Here’s what one spokesperson for this movement said recently: “Eco-spirituality has become very much part of my spiritual practice. If I don’t get out and walk by the trees and by the ocean, I start to suffer.” Another Gaia worshipper states, “We need to think of the Earth as a sentient being and to realize that the Earth we are walking on is also conscious of us.... Unlike faiths that promise heaven in the afterlife, we treat the biosphere as our paradise on earth” (Article in Globe and Mail, Jan. 26, 2010).

Impact on Culture

This idea that the Earth is a living, breathing, and conscious being is popularized in our culture, most recently by the film Avatar. According to reviews I’ve read, the main characters in this movie are extra-terrestrial, kind-hearted, blue-skinned Na’vi people who worship a biological force that unifies their planet Pandora and all its life forms. This force is so tangible that the Na’vi can literally plug into it by connecting the tips of their long tails to the fronds of sacred trees. The producer of this blockbuster film, James Cameron, is promoting the eco-spiritual message in a very subtle way. Most people watching that movie are intrigued by its spellbinding storyline told with amazing special effects. But they leave the theater with the Satanic impression registered on their subconscious minds that the Na’vi people were better off being “plugged” into pantheistic natural forces than those who have grown up in a culture rooted in the supernaturaland theistic religion of the Bible.

We have seen that today’s environmentalism is permeated with pantheistic and New Age ideas. It is largely an anti-Christian movement. For this reason, we must reject its panic-driven agenda and resist its attempts to force radical changes upon us through legislation and intimidation. As Steve Milloy warns, “A great green tsunami is heading your way, threatening to wash away your standard of living and many of your liberties...it promotes countless new restrictions and regulations designed to reorder society from top to bottom” (Green Hell, 2). The biblical principle applies: “Try [or test] the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1).

Rev. Cornelis (Neil) Pronk is an emeritus pastor of the Free Reformed Churches and the editor of the FRC Messenger. This article was printed in the FRC Youth Messenger and is republished here with permission.

 
The Christian and the Green Movement
PDF Print E-mail
Reformed Worldviews - Environment
Written by David Silversides   

The purpose of this address is to give a summary of the leading points of the Green Movement and to show where it is at variance with biblical Christianity.

1. We are stewards of the earth not saviours.

Two strands to the Green Movement both creature centered:

-Environmentalism- the engine of socialism.

-Pantheism

The believers' interest to know what our duty is before God.

2. The present state of creation is temporary not eternal

1). The creation under God's curse.

Primary message of the church should be redemption from sin.

The Green Bible.

2). The atheistic denial of the beginning and end of the present earth.

3. The best environmentalists are those who submit to King Jesus.

God's judgments upon man's sin can adversely affect the environment. A nation's true prosperity flows from submission to Christ. Sinners confounded in their attempts to control what they cannot. God's blessing alone makes rich.

Rev. David Silversides is the pastor of Loughbrickland Reformed Presbyterian Church in Loughbrickland, Northern Ireland, UK.  This audio message is published here with his permission.

 


 
The Green Bible: A Version for Christian Environmentalists
PDF Print E-mail
Reformed Worldviews - Environment
Written by Cornelius Pronk   

Having just entered the year of our Lord 2010, we are naturally asking ourselves what we may expect to happen during this new time frame. No doubt there will be many events that no one can foresee and that will take us by surprise. But there will also be developments that we can count on to take place. We can be sure that our economy will continue to be sluggish for most of this year. The war in Afghanistan is not going to end any time soon. The secularization of our society will go on unabated. The United States will have their congressional elections in November while Canadians will likely go to the polls this spring or summer.

The Ongoing Debate On Climate Change

Another thing that will dominate the news this year is the global warming debate. Copenhagen may be behind us, but its failure to produce anything of substance should not be interpreted to mean that the discussions regarding climate change have come to an end. If anything, they will intensify. Despite the shocking revelations of the Climate-gate scandal, which should have resulted in a thorough review of the scientific data on which the theory of global warming is based, the proponents of this theory are as determined as ever to force their ideas upon an increasingly confused and skeptical public. Although there are many eminent scientists who dispute the claims of the climate change elite, it is still the politically correct thing to do to take the dire warnings of Gore and his ilk seriously. The US government, and to a lesser degree the Canadian government, and almost all of the media, are in the pocket of the environmentalists.

Why the Colour Green is In

Evidence of the success of the climate change agenda is the ubiquitous displays of the colour green. Wherever one looks this colour dominates the landscape. Green has become the symbol of environmentalists’ determination to clean up the pollution allegedly caused by years of reckless spewing of CO2 gas emissions into the earth’s atmosphere. The culprits are the rich industrial nations of the West, which are under tremendous pressure to spend billions of dollars to drastically reduce gas emissions in their own countries and to dish out additional billions to help poor developing nations do the same. It’s all about redistribution of wealth, taking it away from the rich and giving it to the poor, by force if necessary. The enforcers of this new edict are the United Nations, which is increasingly taking on the role of a world government. Its members include many left-wing nations such as Zimbabwe and Venezuela, ruled by dictators like Mugabe and Chavez respectively. These gentlemen vented out their hatred of capitalists at Copenhagen, calling them evil and immoral, salivating at the prospect of robbing them so they can ostensibly finance their clean air projects, while in reality they intend to line their own pockets with Western free enterprise gains. These scoundrels received standing ovations from the audience. This tells us a lot about the political and ideological leanings of these delegates, many of whom hailed from Canada and the United States.

An Environmental-Friendly Bible

But while one can expect such environmental frenzy from secular humanists who despise religion, especially Christianity, the sad thing is that increasingly one finds professing Christians, even evangelicals, embracing the environmentalist agenda as well. Proof of this is the recent publication of the so-called Green Bible. This Bible, based on the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), includes the following distinctive features.

Green-letter edition:

Verses and passages referring to God’s care for creation highlighted in green. Contributions by Brian McLaren, N.T. Wright, Desmond Tutu, the late Pope John Paul and many others. A green Bible index and personal study guide. Recycled paper, using soy-based ink with a cotton/linen cover. An anthology of “Teachings on Creation Through the Ages” from Clement of Rome to Rick Warren, author of the bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life.

A quick look at some of these contributors immediately raises one’s suspicion as to the tendency of this new edition. Brian McLaren is the guru of the emerging church movement. N.T Wright is one of the founders of the New Perspective on Paul theory. Desmond Tutu is an Anglican bishop known for his activist role in the anti Apartheid movement in South Africa.

It is not my intention to evaluate the NRSV as such, but the Green letter edition based on it. Our readers will know that today we are not only offered a plethora of new Bible versions, but many of them are marketed towards specific customers as well. Go to any Christian or even secular bookstore such as Chapters or Barnes and Noble and you will see Bibles aimed at almost any demographic constituency imaginable. There are Bibles for everyone from toddlers to teenagers, young marrieds, seniors and recovering addicts. But in addition to these we now have a Bible aimed at environmentalists as well.

Why A Green Bible?

Supporters of the Green Bible, which highlights passages related to the creation or nature and man’s responsibility to preserve and protect it, hope that this version will encourage more Christians, particularly evangelicals, to support the efforts of environmentalist to preserve Planet Earth. One of them, Rusty Pritchard, editor of Creation Care Magazine, an eco-friendly publication for evangelicals, writes “When you look at it through that lens, it really jumps out at you that God is calling us to care for the world around us” (Quoted from a review of the Green Bible by Ginger D. Richardson, Dec. 29, 2008 in The Arizona Republic -down loaded from internet.).

There is some merit in what Pritchard writes. The Bible does address the issue of stewardship regarding the creation in more passages than we may be aware of. We all know of verses like Genesis1:26-26 and 9:1,2,7, which deal with man’s dominion over the lower creation. But there are many more references in Scripture to man’s obligation to take care of God’s creation and to treat it with respect. The Green Bible highlights these verses and passages in a powerful and “right in your face” way.

Already on its home page it draws attention to what it regards as the theme for the entire project by quoting Romans 8:19-21: “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God; for the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.”

The Basic Flaw Of The Green Bible

However, while the editors of the Green Bible are correct in pointing out that the creation is suffering, they do not explain, at least not sufficiently and biblically, the reason why it is in bondage to corruption. In fact, by highlighting in green all passages referring to the creation and man’s care, or rather, lack of care for it, they have shifted the focus away from the essential message of Scripture, which is man’ redemption from sin against the Creator rather than the Creation or the environment.

As another reviewer, himself an ardent environmentalist, writes, “subjecting the whole of Scripture to one agenda— enfolding it in the single adjective green—is, I think, an ill-judged strategy for pursuing a worthwhile goal.” (Alan Jacobs in First Things, May, 2009, down loaded from internet).

I wonder, though, whether even the goal is so worthwhile. Many of the essays that are included in The Green Bible deal with the effects of pollution on people living in underdeveloped areas. Bishop Tutu writes “the poor and vulnerable  the members of God’s family and are the most severely affected by environmental disturbances created by other human beings, especially the wealthy.” This theme is repeated so often by other contributors that it seems that being “green” or an environmentalist is a good thing because it helps the poor, while it benefits the planet only in a secondary way, as a kind of bonus.

One wonders why they are calling this the Green Bible rather than the Social Justice Bible, because their real agenda is to redistribute wealth from the have to the have-not nations. In other words, their goal is the same as that of the secular environmentalists. No wonder that the Green Bible has won the support of such groups as the Sierra Club and the Humane Society. These secular institutions will never say anything positive about the “red” Bible and its message of salvation through the atoning blood of Christ.

That the main purpose of the Green Bible is indeed the promotion of social justice through proper environmental policies becomes very clear from what we read in the “Green Bible Trail Guide” at the back of the book, namely that “this (the green underlined sections) is the stuff that really matters.” That can only mean that the rest, the non-emphasized stuff, printed in black, doesn’t matter very much.

Comparison With The Red Letter Bible

At this point you may ask whether I do not also have a problem with red-letter Bibles. Why be opposed to a green letter Bible and accept one that has the words of Jesus printed in red, implying thereby that these words have greater authority than the rest of Scripture? I am not fond of such red-letter Bibles either. Many fundamentalist Christians favour these bibles because to them the words of Christ seem holier than those by mere human authors. Some have even started a “red-letter Christian” movement, which claims that by highlighting Jesus’ words they can give greater emphasis to His (supposedly) neglected statements. But while they are misguided. As another reviewer, himself an ardent environmentalist, writes, “subjecting the whole of Scripture to one agenda— enfolding it in the single adjective green—is, I think, an ill-judged strategy for pursuing a worthwhile goal.” (Alan Jacobs in First Things, May, 2009, down loaded from internet).

I wonder, though, whether even the goal is so worthwhile. Many of the essays that are included in The Green Bible deal with the effects of pollution on people living in underdeveloped areas. Bishop Tutu writes “the poor and vulnerable are members of God’s family in this effort, they are correct in stating that “you can only understand the rest of the Bible when you read it from the perspective provided by Christ” (Alan Jacobs, Ibid).

Reading the Bible from the perspective provided by green-coloured passages does not result in such an understanding. For Christians, Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). He is also “the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth” (Rom.10:4). The Green Bible does not emphasize these truths. The green-letter sections don’t help us understand the essence of the Gospel because it focuses our attention on the creation rather than the re-creation. It separates between Christ as Mediator of the creation and Christ as Mediator of redemption. These two aspects of the work of Christ cannot be separated (Col.1:16-20). It is not enough to be well versed in creation studies and what it takes to protect God’s green earth, useful as this may be. The one thing really needful is to know Christ as Creator and Redeemer and Saviour from sin.

The Centrality Of Christ’ Priestly Office

Ralph Erskine says somewhere that any theology that focuses on anything other than Christ’s priestly ministry at the cross will result in serious errors. Even those who emphasize his prophetic or kingly office at the expense of His priestly office run a great risk of destroying the very essence of Christ’s purpose for coming into the world, namely to save sinners from eternal perdition.

Church history has proved the correctness of Erskine’s warning. In the 1970s there were some within the Reformed constituency who taught that the Great Commission is essentially nothing more than a republication or reaffirmation of the original cultural mandate given to man in paradise. This meant that the gospel call to faith and repentance was seen as less important than the call to redeem culture, which in today’s terms would include saving the planet from the effects of man-made CO2 emissions.

While many evangelicals welcome the Green Bible as a helpful tool to equip believers to become more active in the environmental movement, others are fearful that such activism will distract them from the church’s true mission, which is to preach repentance and remission of sins in Jesus’ Name among all nations (Luke 24:47).

I firmly believe that the latter are right. This earth lies under a curse due to man’s sin and cannot be restored to its original “green” and pristine beauty by human efforts. This does not mean we should do nothing to stop or reduce pollution. As Christians we are stewards of the earth. But we don’t need to go about this task frantically as if the survival of our planet depends on the energy we put forth or the amount of money we are prepared to put up, even to the point of ruining our economy. The earth will continue and so will the seasons, as God promised Noah and his descendents (Gen. 8:22).

Some years the climate will be colder than usual; other years will see the temperature rise higher than what we consider “normal.” There have always been ice ages of shorter or longer duration, as well as brief or prolonged heat waves. I agree with those scientists who think that human activity has little or nothing to do with climate change over time. I may be wrong, of course, but one thing is sure: this earth and all that is in it will come to an end, but only when it is God’s time. Unbelievers dread that day. But Christians do not, or at least should not fear the change that is coming. The apostle Peter writes in his second epistle that “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up... Nevertheless, we according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2:10,13).

What will that new earth look like? I don’t know for sure, but based on the description given of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 1 and 2, green will most likely be a very prominent colour again. Meanwhile, let us look to our Great and Good Shepherd to supply all our needs and to make us lie down in the green pastures of His Word, also in the year 2010 (Ps. 23:1,2).

Rev. Cornelis (Neil) Pronk is an emeritus pastor of the Free Reformed Churches and the editor of the FRC Messenger. This article was printed in the FRC Messenger and is republished here with permission.

 
The Bible and Global Warming
PDF Print E-mail
Reformed Worldviews - Environment
Written by Cornelis Pronk   

A Hot Topic

We are hearing a lot about global warming. Earlier this year scientists from all over the world met in Paris, France to discuss this issue and it was reported that a vast majority of participants at that conference agreed that global warming is a fact that no intelligent person can deny. Unless drastic action is taken we are headed for a great disaster in the near future. Therefore governments are urged to cut down drastically on carbon monoxide and other harmful emissions, no matter what the cost, even if it will greatly harm the economy.

Why We Cannot Ignore it

What should be our response to this issue? Must we take the global warming issue seriously or can we afford to shrug off the many doom’s day scenarios that the new media are reporting on an almost daily basis?

Let me state first of all that the Bible clearly teaches that we must be concerned about our environment and the effect human beings may have on it. God appointed man to be the stewards of this world (Gen.1:28), not the destroyer of it. However, we should not let ourselves be intimidated by environmentalists, many of whom do not believe in God or His Word. They may be excellent scientists and experts in their field but in many cases they proceed from the wrong presuppositions and therefore their conclusions are questionable at best. These people often have an idolatrous regard for planet earth or “Mother Nature,” as they call it. The apostle Paul says in Romans 1 that such people worship the creature more than the Creator (v.25).

Global Warming: Fact or Fiction?

With global warming, as with any other topic, it is crucial to understand what the facts are, who presents them, how they are interpreted, and what implications are drawn from them. A careful look at global warming shows that there is a lot of disagreement about the facts and implications of climate change.

According to most scientists, the earth’s temperature is definitely rising. This increase in temperature amounts to about 0.4-0.8 °C (32.72-33.44 F) over the last 100 years. Reliable scientific data before that period are hard to come by and the methods used to obtain historical temperature records are controversial. What is even more controversial is the role man has played in the current changes in the earth’s temperature.

Although the vast majority of scientists maintain that man is the culprit, a small minority of climatologists and experts in related disciplines strongly disagree. Among the latter are Professor Ian Clark of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Ottawa, Professor Tim Patterson of Carlton University, also of Ottawa and Dr. Tim Ball, professor of climatology at the University of Winnipeg. What these recognized scholars maintain is that there have always been and always will be fluctuations in earth’s temperatures and that human activity has little or no impact on such changes.

They point out that:

1. Global temperature changes from past millennia were far larger and faster than the current trend, raising doubts about man’s effect on global temperature. That is, the current climate change is quite small in comparison to past changes.

2. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is thought to be the biggest contributor to temperature change, yet 97% of atmospheric CO2 comes from volcanoes.

3. Given the small percentage of human- produced CO2, human impact on global temperature may be as little as 1%.

4. Global temperatures are known to be influenced by other, non-human- controlled factors, such as changes in sunspot activity.

5. Most of the global temperature increase of the last 100 years occurred before man- made CO2 became a serious factor.

6. In the 1970s, global temperatures had actually been dropping since 1945, causing many scientists to be concerned about a “global cooling” 1

The Basic Error of Environmentalists

While we, as Christians, ought to treat God’s creation with respect and good stewardship, we must not allow politically and ideologically driven hysteria to dominate our view of the environment.

The basic problem with extreme environmentalists like former U.S. Vice- President, Al Gore, and Canadian earth scientist David Suzuki, is that they ignore the biblical teaching that this present earth is not destined to last forever. This world is not our eternal home. “Here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come,” the apostle to the Hebrews says (Heb.13:14) In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul writes, “the fashion of this world passeth away,” or, as we can also translate, “this world and all it contains will pass away”(1 Cor.7:31).

The Bible and Global Warming

It cannot be denied that global warming is occurring. This should not surprise us because the earth is undergoing a process of deterioration and decay. This process did not just begin with the industrial revolution or the machine age but it started right after Adam sinned. The entire creation has been in a state of decay since the fall, and perhaps what we are seeing today is a speeding up of this process.

Scripture also mentions a form of “global warming.” In 2 Peter 3:7-13, the apostle writes: “But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word [of God] are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” When Peter speaks of the present heaven and earth he is contrasting it with the one that existed long ago. That first world was destroyed by the waters of the Great Flood. But the present earth will be destroyed, not by water, but by fire. Remember the rainbow? This present earth that the environmentalists are so concerned about will continue until Christ will come to judge this wicked world.

Judgment by Fire

People laugh at the idea of a judgment to come, just as the people in Noah’s day ridiculed him when he warned his contemporaries that the Flood was coming. The Creator will destroy the earth again; but this time by fire. He reserves it for that purpose. The word “reserved,” in the Greek is thesaurizo, from which we get the word thesaurus, a treasury in which words are stored up for future use. Like a woodpile in the garage is kept for the fireplace, so God is keeping the earth and all that is in it for the day when he will burn it all up. Talk about global warming! There will be a global heating so intense that the very elements of which the earth is composed will melt down.

The old world, Peter says, was destroyed by water coming from above and below. But this present world will be destroyed by fire that will also come from above and below. The heavens or the sky is the source of tremendous heat. Think of the sun and the stars. These will come down and incinerate everything in sight. There will also be fire coming from below the earth’ surface. The earth’s core is one huge furnace of fire, the temperature of which is 12,400 degrees F. (6,871 C.) and there is only a thin ten-mile crust that separates us from it. Every once in a while volcanoes belch forth molten lava that is hot enough to melt even the hardest metals. The highest melting point of any metal known is tungsten that melts at 6,500 degrees; so 12,400 degrees will liquefy anything. The conflagration referred to by Peter could also come through the splitting of the atom. A worldwide nuclear explosion may set off a chain reaction that will have enough force to incinerate the earth and heavens. But whether the end will come by way of a nuclear reaction or whether the fire will come from inside the earth’s core, the apostle says that there is a reservoir of fire waiting to be released at a time appointed by God. “It is kept,” Peter, says, “for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

Who Will Escape?

When God flooded the world, He spared Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives--eight souls in all. Similarly, when the Lord comes again in judgment by fire, not all human beings will be burnt up. When this whole world goes up in smoke, and is burned to a crisp, believers in Christ will escape the universal holocaust. The Day of Judgment will not harm God’s people. When this earth and its wicked inhabitants will be destroyed by fire a new heaven and earth will arise from its ashes.

When is all this going to happen? Scoffers from Peter’s day to our own say “never; you Christians are waiting for something that will never come. Look how long the earth has been in existence. Every morning the sun comes up and every evening it goes down again.

As Christians we are sometimes tempted to think the same way. Generations come and go but the earth continues and may do so forever. Not so. Remember what Psalm 102 says: “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed. But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end” (vv.25-27.

Why The Judgment is Delayed

Judgment Day will come. If it seems a long way off it is because it is delayed. Why? What’s the purpose of delaying this dreadful day? Peter’s answer is both clear and hopeful: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward , not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet.3:9). The reason for the delay is that the Lord wants to give sinners time to repent. Remember how long it took Noah to build the ark. One hundred and twenty years and the whole time he warned his contemporaries about the judgment to come. That was God’s patience. “The patience of our Lord leads to salvation,” Peter says in verse 15. It is because He does not want anyone to perish, but that all may come to repentance that He waits to unleash His judgment. Calvin’s comments on this passage are worth noting: “This is His wondrous love towards the human race, that he desires all men to be saved and is prepared to bring even the perishing to safety.” But, perhaps anticipating the question some of his own disciples would raise in this connection, he adds,

If God does not want any to perish, why do so many in fact perish? My reply is that no mention is made here of the secret decree of God by which the wicked are doomed to their own ruin, but only of His loving- kindness as it is made known to us in the Gospel. There God stretches out His hand to all alike, but He only grasps those (in such a way as to lead to Himself ) whom He has chosen before the foundation of the world.

Calvin is saying that we must always go by God’s revealed will and not His secret or hidden will. That revealed will says: “Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near, Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”

The Sinner’s Only Hope

Here is hope for sinners, even for neo-pagan environmentalists who worship the creation rather than the Creator and are more concerned about preserving planet earth than saving their own souls. But here is hope also for those who know the way of salvation but are still going their own way. Is the Lord perhaps waiting for you to repent? Do so at once and the Lord will spare you on the Day of the universal meltdown.

But here is also an exhortation to believers who by God’s grace have come to repentance and faith in Christ. As Peter concludes, “Therefore, seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heaven s being on fire shall be dissolved and the elements shall melt with fervent heat Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pett.3:11-13).

Rev. Cornelis (Neil) Pronk is an emeritus pastor of the Free Reformed Churches and the editor of the FRC Messenger. This article was printed in the FRC Messenger and is republished here with permission.

1. For a more detailed report of the findings of the above-mentioned dissenting scientists go to http://splatto.net/blog/?p=379

 
<< Start < Prev 1 2 Next > End >>

Page 1 of 2