As I sit in the middle of near-zero temperatures with over a foot of snow on the ground, a particular topic comes to mind that produces strong opinions in religion, politics, nightly news, etc…how should Christians think in regards to environmentalism, global warming, earth’s resources and so forth? In other words: what should our role be in relation to the environment? Sometimes it seems if you mention the words “environmentalism” or worse “global warming” it tends to conjure up pictures of left-wing zealots with political agendas who hug trees and try to scare little children with stories of polar bears drowning.
Now as for me: I’ve never hugged a tree or told scary polar bear stories, I’m not left-wing in anything, and politics just tend to irritate me. Yet, I believe in global warming and think strongly that we need to be very concerned about our impact on the environment. Part of this comes from my background. My undergrad degree is in meteorology—I’m a weather nerd. In my studies and my own view of the data, I’m convinced that we do see a present warming trend that is in part cyclic but also displays peculiar spikes not seen in pre-industrial trends. I don’t believe there is enough data to say conclusively that the spikes are man-caused, but I’m open to the possibility.
Yet it’s not so much the science that drives my convictions about environmental concern (though it adds to it) as it is Scripture. In the beginning God gave us the earth to rule over it and subdue it, cultivating the ground. In other words, we were meant to use and care for the earth in a way that honors Jesus and benefits humanity while exacting a minimal toll. If we were without sin, we would do this in perfect wisdom and bring zero harm to our world; but that is not the world we live in. Instead we are in a world where things die and natural beauty becomes scarred. Yet that doesn’t change our responsibility.
Frankly, we Christians should be on the forefront of leading the charge to recycle, of planting trees when we tear others down, of seeking ways to advance technology and minimize pollution, and teaching our children to use the things of this world for the better. I’ve heard many Christians laugh at the ideas of buying carbon offset credits and putting solar panels on our roofs or driving a Prius, but…what suggestions are we making to reduce emissions and pollution. After all, isn’t it just sensible to want to put as few polluting chemicals into our air and water as possible no matter what that volcano in Hawaii might do?
So what am I saying?
First, we Christians need to recapture the understanding that we have a duty to care for creation to honor Jesus. Yes, what exists now will be remade, but the Scripture promises God’s people that one day we will rule with Jesus over the new creation. You have been faithful with a little, I will put you in charge of much. We should be faithful stewards of what we have now in anticipation for what is to come.
Second, we should practice personal responsibility in terms of recycling and minimizing our own garbage and pollution.
Third, we should advocate for clean and efficient fuels and technology. Again: less pollution is just sensible.
Fourth, we should avoid the hype of the extremes. On the one hand, we shouldn’t be people who don’t care because it will all get burned up one day, and on the other hand we shouldn’t be people who think the world is on the verge of coming to an environmental-disaster produced end. God is sovereign and he has given us responsibility. We should trust him to preserve humanity until he brings the world to an end, but we should also take good care of what he’s given us.