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Christian Biblical Studies
A CHANGE IN THE WEATHER
Scripture references are to the NIV-UK, 1984.
For all its faults, the doctrine of Evolution has alerted the modern mind to Man’s relationship with the Earth. In its assertion that the human and the animal arise from similar biological imperatives, it links Man’s destiny with that of the planet, arousing his interest in, and anxiety over, what goes on around him.
It is not surprising that the motivation to ‘save the earth’ has come largely from secularists. Looked at from a humanist or materialist standpoint Nature encompasses all that can be known. Human beings are thus viewed as one animal component of existence that runs from the single-cell through to the more complex. Nor is man regarded as the finest expression of life in this philosophy, which has no room for the supernatural. No wonder that panic sets in when one’s only planet comes under threat. If there is a saving grace to this human-centric approach, it is that people care passionately about their ‘home’.
Christians regard Earth as a tribute to God’s creative power, and believe that He rules over it all and will take care of His handiwork. In His Providence He sends the sun and the rain and orders all things, as in the children’s hymn:
bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
– W. H. Monk (1823-89)
Christian Theology vs the Religion of Ecology
At the root of the disagreement between secular environmentalists and evangelical Christians is the validity of Scripture and the principle of stewardship: it is galling to the Christian to see the unbeliever assume responsibility for the rehabilitation of the planet which God created. Most naturalists today are, by definition, agnostics or atheists. It might not be pressing the point too far to assert that the ‘environment’ has become a pseudo-religion, prosecuted with a zeal normally reserved for a revival crusade, with all the attendant dogma.
For long years the Christian faith has to some extent abrogated responsibility for ecological health. In the belief that all Christians are bound for Heaven and the rest of wicked mankind are destined for eternal torment in Hell, there would seem to be no need for the believer to take a position on the final outcome for the Earth, since it is viewed as disposable.
At the other extreme some Christians adopt the vague position, ‘God will sort it out’, thus deferring an opinion on the matter to an indeterminate future; or, alternatively, denying there is any proof of climate change. The attention to detail by secular scientists regarding planetary health stands as a partial rebuke to such indifference and is a reminder of our Lord’s words that the children of this world may often be wiser than the ‘children of light’ (Luke 16:8).
The British naturalist, David Attenborough, has put it this way:
In the past, we didn’t understand the effect of our actions. Unknowingly, we sowed the wind and now, literally, we are reaping the whirlwind. But we no longer have that excuse: now we do recognise the consequences of our behaviour. Now surely, we must act to reform it: individually and collectively; nationally and internationally — or we doom future generations to catastrophe.
Of man’s relationship with nature, he has this to say:
The whole of science, and one is tempted to think the whole of the life of any thinking man, is trying to come to terms with the relationship between yourself and the natural world. Why are you here, and how do you fit in, and what’s it all about.