We live at a time dominated by an obsession (and increasing hysteria) about climate change and related environmental issues. Major cities around the world have been ground to a standstill by protests from groups such as Extinction Rebellion who paint a bleak picture of impending doom unless we act to save the planet. We are repeatedly warned by scientists and academics of dire consequences unless there is radical and immediate action. The language and tone used against those raising sincere questions about the science behind the climate agenda or advocating a balanced approach to green issues usually consist of ridicule and dismissal. Therefore, the easiest response is to keep our mouths shut and simply surrender to the increasingly absurd way our lives are controlled by the cult of environmentalism.
Although this whole issue raises wide-ranging questions for the Christian, the main purpose of this article is to assess how the presentation of environmental issues portrayed by the green movement stacks up when measured against the Bible. We do not intend to get into a discussion about the merits of the science involved, which is very complex and we are not experts on this at all. However, the theological angle is particularly pertinent because we fear that much of the church is hopelessly confused between the secular worldview and the Biblical worldview when trying to carve a response to the aggressive nature of the environmental activism we are subjected to.
Before we dive in, let us stress that we unequivocally endorse a wise and responsible approach to the stewardship of God’s planet – we wholeheartedly support a principle of restraint with regards to earth’s resources and advocate the conservation and care of our planet. It is extremely distressing to see examples of the needless and greed-fuelled plunder of many of earth’s resources resulting in incredible suffering and destruction. One day, we will each give an account of our stewardship of God’s creation based on the level of responsibility and influence we were each given – something which should motivate us all to leave a minimal environmental impact.
With that as a starting point, we must now explore the Bible’s description of the world we are custodians of. As is often the case, before we can accurately assess where we are now (or even look ahead), it is important to look at how we got to where we are now.
A Fractured Planet
At the outset, we must recognise that that the planet has dramatically changed from its original condition at creation – the world we see today bears very little resemblance to the paradise that God intended us to enjoy. And whilst we are responsible for the cause of the change, it is God that cursed the planet in response to our rebellion, not us…
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. (Genesis 3:17-18 NIV)
So, although our actions led God to declare the curse, God mandated the curse and the world is a more oppressive place for us as a result – the stewardship of the planet will always be incredibly hard:
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19 NIV)
This curse led to a dramatic fracture of the world. We cannot undo this – only the Lord God can undo this curse!
Unfortunately, these conditions worsened even further as a result of Noah’s flood which was the second major fracture of the planet. Again, although it was also our rebellion that led to this, God was active throughout and this fracture mandated by God made living conditions even harder. As a result, the planet was now even more inhospitable and dangerous, and we see life-spans dramatically reduce soon after this which reflects this. However, the key thing to recognise throughout is that it was God who mandated these fractures on the world – what God has done, we cannot undo. (As an aside, if you are interested in learning more about these fractures of the God’s creation, it’s worth checking out our Bible Study series on the book of Genesis).
Therefore, although we live on a planet that is undeniably created and beautiful in many amazing ways, it is still a cursed planet that does not function properly. Life is unpredictable and difficult, we live with multiple forms of danger and our survival will always be uncomfortable and a struggle. We will not be able to change this no matter what we do to ‘save the planet’. Any attempt to undo this curse displays an undercurrent of defiance against God and it is arrogant to believe we can rescue a situation that only the Lord himself can restore.
However, the most obvious contrast between the ideologies of the green movement and the Christian worldview is the conflicted view of what lies ahead which will lead to significant variance in proposed action.
What Lies Ahead?
Whilst we would all agree that the current environmental situation on planet earth looks troubling and there is huge capacity for us to harm the world, we must let Scripture inform our view of the future of this planet. It is very easy to get drawn into the secular dream that we play a pivotal role in saving the planet and it is equally easy to become fearful that we will cause the end of the world – neither is accurate.
Unfortunately, the Bible clearly warns us of grave environmental disasters ahead, but they are not caused by humanity. A read through Revelation 6-19 will reveal that our planet will be subject to catastrophes that are unimaginable compared to what we see today – consider some of the trumpet judgments:
The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water– the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter. (Revelation 8:7-11 NIV)
Things get even worse later in Revelation when the seven bowls of wrath are poured out:
The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died. The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. … The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him. … Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge hailstones, each weighing about a hundred pounds, fell on people. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible. (Revelation 16:3-4, 8-9, 20-21 NIV)
The terror describe here from an environmental perspective is unimaginable and many other passages, particularly some unfilled OT prophecies of end-time events, echo an equally bleak picture of what will happen to our environment in the end-times. In fact, Peter sums this up the climax to this:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:10-13 NIV)
Whilst none of this is pleasant reading, the crucial point is that God is in control throughout – it is God who is inflicting this carnage, not humanity. We will not destroy the planet, we cannot destroy the planet – God will reduce this planet to ground zero as He exercises his wrath and judgment on a rebellious and unrepentant people who are determined to dethrone Him. Even if we were able to undo all the environmental harm we are responsible for, in a sense, it would be futile as God’s word reveals coming destruction that is infinitely worse than anything we can bring out.
A Biblical Response
However, there is good news and God promises to restore all that he destroys – after a calamitous period known as the Great Tribulation, the believer can look forward to a redeemed planet that will be enjoyed to the full by those who choose to take refuge in him. As followers of Jesus, we long for this time and eagerly await the prospect of a world without any environmental problems whatsoever – again, Scripture provides a glimpse:
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. (Revelation 21:1-7 NIV)
The key point is that the Lord God will bring this about – it will be done in his time and on his terms…not ours!
We recommend watching the 20-minute clip from a talk given by John MacArthur at the bottom of this page. Whilst we do not fully understand all of the scientific data that is thrown around in discussions about environmental issues, we feel that John is able to cut through much of the theological confusion in these debates. Yes, the world is a mess and yes, it will only get worse, and yes we do have a duty to be responsible stewardship. However, the best response to this is a restored relationship with God the Creator rather than a restored relationship with the planet He created. An obsession with saving the planet is a form of idolatry that displays a misunderstanding of what lies ahead and subtly dethrones God from his place in our minds. Our Lord is patiently waiting for those who are willing to turn to him – the safest place is securely within the kingdom of God that can only be accessed through the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are convinced that time is rapidly running out and this world will be subject to successive waves of judgment that cannot possibly be imagined. No effort of ours will save the world from what has been foretold – however, we can look forward to a complete restoration that the Lord himself will achieve for us.
Until then, the secular world’s futile attempt to save our planet will gather increasing intensity and result in even more radical action. Those who question the ‘facts’ and resist the intrusive ways that regulation affects our day-to-day lives will be bullied and marginalised into submission. Our politicians, media, education system and the academic establishment will all toe the line and bow the knee to the cult of environmentalism.
However, as followers of Christ, we should focus instead on the return of the coming King as we discern the times we live in through the prism of Scripture – only then can we display a balanced approach to the environment that does not descend into hysteria and fear-mongering. Our King will return soon and He is the only hope for this planet – the question for us all is will we be ready?!
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:20-23 NIV)