I rarely enter the Climate Change debate and leave that to more experienced bloggers who are more well-read on the subject. I simply take it for granted that there is some change happening in the climate and that this is a problem that we need to be concerned with. I have yet to be persuaded that changing our lifestyles is a bad thing, even if global warming is not happening. I certainly don’t believe it is a ‘hoax’ of an omnipresent ‘they’ who want to limit our freedoms (which is not to say that the smaller number of scientists who doubt global warming are wrong – just the [normally less scientific] people who say it’s a hoax).
But the passage in the Old Testament that I have been reading today (Noah and the Flood, the assigned reading for today from The Bible in One Year) has entered the debate on climate change when Rep. John Shimkus (R.-Ill.) read the verses where God promises not to destroy the world and from that understands that global warming is not a problem. Many people have taken a view that God will not allow the earth to be destroyed and have used this as a reason not to take an interest in environmental concerns. James Dobson (Focus on the Family) and others sought the removal of Rev. Richard Cizik from the National Association of Evangelicals because his opposition to global warming. And in many discussions some say (and I used to be one who said this), I don’t believe God will let us mess up the world that badly, so why worry about it?
First, because God gave to us the care of the earth – as stewards, not as owners to do as we like. Despite my uncomfortable-ness with the way God acts in this story (as I mentioned in my previous post), God has a problem of human sinfulness that needs to be corrected. After the flood, in God’s promise that he will not destroy the earth, he admits that he is taking a risk with humans and their evil intentions (Gen 8:21). God is willing to allow humans to act of their own accord, even though he knows what it will bring about. We have not cared for the entirety of creation, and this should be seen as the environment as well as how we treat others. As the story in the one following Noah shows, God watches what humans are doing and mixes up their language to stop their full impact that could allow them to accomplish what they set out to do (Gen 11:6)! Humans, evidently, can cause a whole host of problems.
Second, and maybe this is because I am simply too Wesleyan/Arminian, I think the issue here is not God’s sovereignty. What God has control over is a separate issue from what God will redeem. Nothing is too far outside God’s redemption, and God’s grace can redeem even where humans have caused the worst evils (whether that comes in this age or at the resurrection). As in our own personal sins, we may still have to face the consequences of our lifestyle, but God can still bring his grace. So, too, with the environment. If global warming is a big concern (as well as how we have stripped the earth of resources), then we will indeed have to bear the consequences of those actions. Yet, in this, God will bring his grace. As a Wesleyan Christian, I believe God gives us the Holy Spirit to bend our wills toward the will of God, which would certainly be a return to God’s original purpose for us as caretakers of the earth.
If we believe that because God will ultimately redeem creation that there is no use worrying about global warming, I can hear Paul asking us, ‘What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?’ (Romans 6:1). We do not keep on sinning despite our trust that God’s grace will overcome (or will keep us from totally destroying the earth), any more than we keep on sinning in other ways believing that God’s grace will abound. The actions we commit do harm others, and our work in creation is likely having a negative impact on the world (even if global warming turns out to be false). We cannot let a bad doctrine of creation give us licence to do with the earth as we want.