Written by John Keddie
|Reformed Worldviews - Environment|
What is most on people’s minds these days when they think of life on this small planet? It seems to be Global Warming. Huge publicity was given to the recent conference in Copenhagen. What’s going on? It seems that the earth is heating up. Life on this earth will be limited if we don’t do something about it. Many scientists say that global warming has arisen from a build up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and that human activity has contributed greatly to this. It is described as a ‘greenhouse effect’. Weather patterns, they say, will change; ice sheets will melt; water levels will rise, and so on. Some scientists are sceptical and say it is not human action but a natural phenomenon and that climate has always gone through cyclical patterns. Who are right? Only time will tell. Yet on the whole temperatures are rising. Spring appears to come earlier each year. Ice caps are melting. Documentaries produced have a ‘doomsday scenario’ feel about them. What is the biblical/Christian position on this? Where do we start?
1. This World is God’s World (Genesis 1)
We start with creation. This world is a result of divine creation. No science can disprove this. We recognise in creation a dazzling order and design and complexity. We have no difficulty in going to an Art Gallery and looking at paintings and recognising the work of the artists or in going to a museum, seeing the array of machinery and recognising the work of inventors and designers and manufacturers. We just need to look at the marvellous intricacy of our eyes or peer through a microscope at the smallest natural organisms to recognise amazing complexity and design. But who designed the natural world? The Creator. Admittedly this is a matter of faith. In the letter to the Hebrews we read: ‘Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear’ (11:3). There is nothing unreasonable in this. We recognise that this understanding of nature gives meaning/purpose. You cannot have purpose in this world without a Creator. But of course if there is a Creator this puts man on the back foot: What is your responsibility to Him? What are you doing with your life? As His creature you are answerable to Him. Again in Hebrews we read: ‘without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him’ (11:6). So, this world, in the Christian perspective based upon the Scriptures, is a creation of God.
2. This world has been spoilt by man (Genesis 3)
Is the creation the same as when it came from the Creator’s hand? No, it isn’t perfect now. Things go wrong. Everything was perfect in the beginning. We are told in Genesis that ‘God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good’ (1:31). But now there is death. There are floods and volcanoes. There are monsoons and droughts. Nothing lives any great length of time. How did this come about? In Genesis 3 we are told about the Fall of man into sin and how it affected creation. Man, created perfect, disobeyed God and gave place to sin. That is how death and destruction entered. After sin entered the experience of the first people, Adam and Eve, God said to them: ‘Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life… In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return’ (3:17-19). In other words, the sin of man affected the creation too. Paul writes: ‘we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now’ (8:22). When we look at what is happening at present with alleged global warming, whether the reasons be ‘natural’ or mainly a result of ‘human activity’ through excessive ‘carbon emissions’ we see a creation ‘groaning and labouring’ on account of man’s sin. Even his best stewardship of earth’s resources will be tainted by sin. But what is going to happen to this world?
3. This world is going to be destroyed (2 Peter 3:10)
How is the world going to end? What does the Bible say? In 2 Peter we read about ‘the day of the Lord’ which is to be taken as the day of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. That day will coincide with the end of human history. Peter writes: ‘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’ (v10). There is coming a day in which a great burn-up will take place. No doubt natural elements will be involved, but above all it will take place in accordance with the purpose and plan of God. The present order of things will come to a dramatic end. Peter speaks literally here of destruction by fire. All nature will be destroyed and also the products of man. We get attached to possessions and places and cultural things. These will all burn up. Therefore it doesn’t make sense to be too attached to this world or anything that is in it. The protesters and no doubt some of the delegates to the Climate Change Summit were looking to ‘save the World’. The truth is, there is no saving of this world. People should not be careless in the use of earth’s resources, and should aim to reduce carbon emissions. Yet realism is needed about the effects of sin in the world and because of this its inevitable demise. There should be a greater concern for the next world than for this one, which, after all, is ‘passing away’. A proper reaction to the question of climate change, global warming and the future of this world is: What should I be doing now in view of the coming destruction of this present evil world?
4. This world and all its inhabitants should turn to God (2 Peter 3:11)
Peter puts it straight: ‘Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?’ (v11). The answer is plain: we should be a people who are holy, godly, looking for and preparing for the coming again of Christ which will coincide with the last day of this world. People may protest about climate change induced by human factors; they may agitate for changes in carbon emissions to ‘save the world’. The truth is, what people need to do is turn to God. The concern for ‘climate change’ is perhaps well-meant. It is good that people are concerned about the environment. Whether they will do without comforts and conveniences which are greedy of precious resources; or whether the developing nations will do without development to ‘save the world’ is not at all certain, rather knowing human nature it is unlikely. But the most important thing for anyone on this planet is personal repentance. The end of the world is coming whatever man does about carbon emissions! There is only one Saviour in this world, and it isn’t any head of state or any Climate Change Conference, it is Christ, the coming-again King and the One through whom this world and all its inhabitants will be judged. Have you taken Him as your Saviour and are you preparing for the new heavens and new earth?
Rev. John Keddie is the pastor of the Free Church of Scotland Continuing congregation, in Struan, Isle of Skye, United Kingdom. This article was previously printed in the Free Church Witness and is republished here with permission.