Should the Christian Be Concerned about Climate Change?
If you have watched the news for just a brief time, you will hear about the issue of climate change. For many Christians, the words climate change can bring a strong reaction. Some Christians hear the science behind climate change and bulk, while others listen intently and ask what they can do to preserve God’s earth. Some Christan, like dispensationalist would say, “well, we are getting raptured anyway, so what does it matter,” while the amillennialism would argue that Jesus’ Kingdom is here and we need to take care of the earth until He comes back.
These doctrinal differences can bring a diverse opinion about what role man plays on the earth. Is mankind supposed to subdue the earth, controlling, using (or even) misusing it for the proliferation of our species, or our way of life? Should we, in the words of Governor Sarah Palin, “drill baby drill,” or should we be fighting for space for the hawksbill turtle, the amur leopard, or the dugong. Should we raise a ruckus for the rainforest, the marshlands, and the prairies?
The primary question cited above seems to surround two important words as we consider man’s role and responsibility when it comes to “creation care.” The first word is anthropocentrism. This is a word that defines the belief system that mankind is the most important creation on the earth, and as such, anything that mankind desires he should have because he is supremely entitled to anything they want. This means that any mineral, any material, or any habitat that we want is for the taking, even if that means harm to another creature.
The second word we need to define is biocentric. Biocentric defines the belief that there is inherent value in all living things. The people who hold this belief would understand that all life is living in cooperation with each other and therefore higher beings need to care for, and respect the diversity of, nature.
So what are we supposed to do? In my opinion, the latter is a more Biblical approach than the former: Christian should practice biocentrism. Christian should take care of the earth. Christians should accept that climate change is real and seek to encourage renewable energy. Christians should plant gardens. Christians should set up bird feeders and help the bee population. Christians should ensure the waterways are free from plastic garbage and pollution. Christians should encourage wildlife management efforts. Christians should hold corporations accountable to keep the air and skies clean. Christians should become educated on the animals that are endangered and work with governments to protect all species. In a word, Christians should care for the environment.
So what is the Biblical evidence for that opinion? In Genesis 2:15, we are told that God placed man in the Garden of Eden and told him to take care of it. God gives us “dominion” over everything: the fish, birds, and all the beast. After Noah departs the boat he plants a vineyard. Cain tilled the land. Many of Jesus’ parables deal with allusions and the land. We are even created from the dust of the earth so that we are a part of creation.
We know that the Hebews were an agrarian culture that relied on the land and saw the use of it as a partnership with God. Time and time again, we can cite many examples in the Bible about the use and care of the land. And for centuries, people did this very thing. They cared for the land.
So when did that change? While this brief blog is not enough space to explore that question, I would suggest that the beginning of the feudal system, the industrial revolution, and the introduction of the capitalist system would be a good start. With the introduction of land ownership as a means of making money, mass production, and the ensuing pollution, and the desire to make more money, opportunities came up to misuse the land. While I am not suggesting that the capitalist system (which I would include in feudalism) and the industrial revolution are solely to blame, prior to such innovations, people depended on the land firsthand and knew that without the land they would not survive.
While some Christians do see the importance of land and game management (hunters, farmers, etc), more Christains have come to depend on their survival outside agrarian employment, and have become politically polarized in a stance against-what is deemed and framed as- “excess” care of the land.
Now part of that care is to recognize the role pollution plays on the climate and the environment. This involves understanding and accepting the reality of climate change. Yet, this acceptance seems to want to come slowly. I have heard Christians advocate for withdraw from the Kyoto Agreement, the Paris Accord, and any other agreements which seeks to reduce pollution at the expense of capitalism
So why the rejection of climate change science? I tend to think that evangelical churches lean right in their politics, and rejection of climate change trends in the more right leaning parties. Pew Research showed these stats:
White evangelical Christians in particular are, on average, more likely to question whether human activity contributed to the Earth’s warming, with research by Pew suggesting 28 percent accept this view, compared with 64 percent of those without a religious affiliation, 56 percent of black Protestants, and 41 percent of mainline Protestants. Over a third of evangelical Christians say there is “no solid evidence” that climate change is happening.
With all that stated, the last question I would present to you for your consideration is this: With all the science, with all the physical evidence, the fact that we were created in God’s image to care for the Earth He created, and with all God’s word tells us about taking care of the land we were created from, is taking care of this place that God has created, and all in it, a moral imperative? How we answer that question may determine if our perceptions of whether or not the Christian should be an environmentalist.