The End is Nigh! Extinction and Evangelism

This weeks article in Christian Today – you can read the original here – 
creation
(Photo: Unsplash/Tim Schramm)

The End is Nigh

Did you hear the news? In 12 years time the world could come to an end. Rising sea levels, coastal flooding, crop failures, carbon in the atmosphere will cause the earths temperature to rise by up to 7 degrees with all the problems arising from that.

No – this was not Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old eco-activist who also argues that we have 12 years – nor is it the UN’s latest extinction report which suggests that one million species could become extinct.

This was an apocalyptic report from 1989 but the year 2000 came and went – and the prophesied end times did not occur.

Of course as Christians we are well aware of fringe (and sometimes not so fringe) elements of the Christian movement, predicting the end of the world and telling us all to buy our cans of beans and head for the hills.  Although if it’s the end of the world why do people sell books and make money for a non-existent future?

But today’s apocalyptic doom-mongers are the prophets of climate change, which leads me to ask: what about climate change? What should the Christian attitude be?

The Christian Attitude to Climate Change

Firstly, we should not be denying climate change. The fact that some political and ideological groups may be using climate change to further their agenda does not negate the fact of climate change. It is happening – but the causes and effects of it are a lot more complex.

Christians, unless they are climate scientists, are in no position to pronounce as though we were experts.

Secondly, we must not allow our eschatology (theology of the end) to prevent us from fulfilling the creation mandate to be good stewards of the good earth in the present.

After preaching in a church in the Southern US and citing Revelation 11:18 where the Lord says the time has come “for destroying those who destroy the earth”, I was approached by a somewhat belligerent man who asked me if I was “a tree hugging communist!” I owned up to the communist bit, forgetting that irony is not always understood! A discussion then ensued in which he said that the environment didn’t matter because “it was all going to be burned up anyway”.

I informed him since that was the case, he would surely not mind if I came round later that evening and burned his house and cars! End of discussion.

Thirdly we should not become adherents of the new/old pagan religion of Mother earth. From a Christian perspective we were the original environmentalists. We don’t believe that the earth is God, but we do believe that God commands us to take care of this world that he created.

I remember at Live Aid, Freddie Mercury singing an astonishing lyric: “If there’s a God up above, a God of love; then what must he think, of the mess that we’ve made, of the world that he created.” Indeed.

However, believing that we are commanded to take care of the earth is different from believing that the  earth is God, or Mother, or Gaia.

Fourthly, we must see the panic and hysteria around the Extinction Rebellion as an opportunity to bring the light of the Gospel into the dark despair of the world. Greta Thunberg is in my view a terrified child prophetess of the new religion. “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day.”

But panic is not an appropriate response – and filling people with fear about an impending doom is a recipe for disaster. Either they think they can do nothing and become depressed and in despair. Or they think they can do everything and become pawns in the political games of those who use fear and hubris as weapons.

A Wake Up Call?

Our society might just be waking up to what the church has taught for 2,000 years – this world will have an end and history does have a purpose. Ironically, a society which has sought to deny sin for decades is now coming to realise that sin exists and it has cosmic consequences. The suggestion is that we can make atonement for our sins by changing our ways.

My fear is that this particular form of eco-redemption will mainly be at the expense of the poor – the rich will benefit from the renewables industry – and the poor will pay the higher prices. The rich will continue to fly (even in order to attend a demonstration against flying!) but the poor will be priced out of their holidays.

The Christian story of redemption through Christ is so much grander and bigger than redeeming the earth by not buying a plastic bag!

A Sure and Certain Hope

And that’s why finally we must have hope, in the biblical sense. A sure and certain hope. The creation groans; the creation is subjected to frustration; “in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. ” (See Romans 8:19-21 – NIV).

We are looking for the promised renewal of the earth, not its destruction. As I was preparing to write this I read the following from Lloyd Jones’ commentary on Romans 13 – perhaps this is a good way to finish.

“If you merely look at this world, you might end in depression, but the Christian never does. ‘For here we have no continuing city’, says the writer to the Hebrews (Hebrews 13:14). It is all right, the door is open, this world is not all there is.”

We live in The Shadowlands, the reality of a renewed heavens and earth is yet to be. This does not mean that we don’t care for this earth. Precisely the opposite. We care for it all the more – not out of desperation but out of hope. And we point our fellow citizens to the one who is the guarantee of that hope. Don’t panic. Look to Christ.

A Taste of Heaven

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16 thoughts on “The End is Nigh! Extinction and Evangelism

  1. The raising of Saint Greta to sainthood is alarming and I would say challenging to true Christian beliefs. Her ‘gospel’ is one of hopelessness and despair, plus she’s manipulated by her parents.

    1. Here is an excellent article on Greta Thunberg & the manipulation of, not only her, but the tens of thousands of children worldwide foregoing school days to protest an issue most of them lack any means of comprehending. In my own response to one article I likened this to the infamous “Children’s Crusade” of the early 13th century.

      https://quillette.com/2019/04/23/self-harm-versus-the-greater-good-greta-thunberg-and-child-activism/?fbclid=IwAR39MqLM7ctYMwRE3MS31vIRghRoGYiQxvo3gKIC5x-gGZYbABwZyMxhANk

  2. “Firstly, we should not be denying climate change….It is happening – but the causes and effects of it are a lot more complex.”

    This report is very long, but as it is the result of research by a number of Evangelical Christian climatologists, it will fully repay the time taken:-

    https://www.cornwallalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/a-renewed-call-to-truth-prudence-and-protection-of-the-poor.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0kBGs_43GFWjh5lbvbGMx_b-MORgv-3tvdxWaENVRuAUmO7Tlg8fAqdV0

      1. “You seriously post a link to an article that refutes climate change on theological grounds?”

        You seriously question such a document before you have a chance to read it?? And especially when it’s a technical paper outlining the position of a large number of climatologists??

        If you’d even bothered to browse the first few pages, you would have found statements pointing to the REALITY of climate change. It’s what they, as experts in that field, deduce from that which is what makes it pertinent.

      2. Kim with all due respect to suggest that the solution to climate change is going to be found with Christian theology is just laughable.

        I had a look at the article and it makes it patently clear that the argument against the reality of climate change is based on theology and pseudo- science which fits that theology.

        Just exactly how far in to a meeting of meeting of actual scientists about climate change do you think someone turning up with a theory based on the bible would get? They wouldn’t even let them in to the room .

        Just imagine someone at a lectern offering this on climate change:

        “Environmentalism sees Earth and its systems as the product of chance and therefore fragile, subject to easy and catastrophic disruption. The Biblical worldview sees Earth and its systems as robust, self-regulating, and self-correcting, not immune to harm but durable.  Environmentalism sees human beings principally as consumers and polluters who are only quantitatively, not qualitatively, different from other species. The Bible sees people as made in God’s image, qualitatively different from all other species, and designed to be producers and stewards who, within a just and free social order, can create more resources than they consume and ensure a clean, healthful, and beautiful environment.  Environmentalism tends to view nature untouched by human hands as optimal, while the Bible teaches that it can be improved by wise and holy human action.  Environmentalism tends to substitute subjective, humanist standards of environmental stewardship for the objective, transcendent standards of divine morality.”

        That sort of stuff is best read out while standing behind a pulpit.

      3. “That sort of stuff is best read out while standing behind a pulpit.”

        Whether that’s true or not has no bearing on whether the assertions made which you quoted are true or not. I think, when fleshed out, that they are.

        As the prevailing worldview underlying what they identify as “Environmentalism” is materialistic, then their differentiation is perfectly reasonable & accurate.

        So to assert as you do that they should be restricted to a pulpit is nothing more than a genetic fallacy.

    1. Even based on the first paragraph, it’s evident that “The Cornwall Alliance” is immersed in climate science denialism.

      One of the basic clues that the article is based on simple denialism is that it’s peppered with pejorative terms that will influence the reader at an emotive rather than a factual or objective level. For example on page 1: “And in its rush to impose draconian reductions in greenhouse gas emissions..” is a loaded statement because the words ‘rush’, ‘impose’ and ‘draconian’ convey the authors’ negative emotions about clean energy, rather than by conveying a description which can be fairly weighed up by the reader later.

      Another basic clue is the appeal to authority. For example: “Executive Summary”. Obviously, the people who wrote it are in charge – you’d better listen up! And yet from the first sentence they make a glaring theological or factual errors. Consider:

      “Earth and all its subsystems—of land, sea, and air, living and nonliving—are the good products of the wise design and omnipotent acts of the infinite, eternal, and unchangeable Triune God of the Bible”

      God has the characteristics they describe, but it is He who is omnipotent, not his acts. God made the grass on our lawn, it’s very nice thanks, but it’s not an “all-powerful” act. Or, later, in the same paragraph “..enable people to create wealth..” is not a Biblical concept, but a free-market concept (by the 18th century atheist Adam Smith, no less).

      “Environmentalism sees Earth and its systems as the product of chance” . This is not true, environmentalism itself makes no claims about whether Earth is a product of chance or not, it’s only concerned with being able to safeguard the environment given the available geological models and current trends.

      “Earth and its systems as robust, self-regulating, and self-correcting, not immune to harm but durable”. This is not true: “creation was condemned to lose its purpose, not of its own will, but because God willed it to be so. Yet there was the hope that creation itself would one day be set free from its slavery to decay” Rom 8:20-21a. Creation cannot be self-regulating if it is condemned to decay.

      “Environmentalism sees human beings principally as consumers and polluters who are only quantitatively, not qualitatively, different from other species” This is not true, if it were so, Environmentalists would primarily advocate eliminating humanity. And of course, from a scientific viewpoint, people certainly are ‘qualitatively’ different from other species, because, by definition species are differentiated by their qualities.

      “The Bible sees people as made in God’s image.. can create more resources than they consume..” Consumerism isn’t even a Biblical concept, but one from the enlightenment and industrial revolution.

      “Environmentalism tends to view nature untouched by human hands as optimal.” Not true and contradicts the first claim. If Environmentalism (which isn’t an active agent despite the use of the term here) considers nature to be a product of chance, then how can it be optimal?

      etc. etc. The Wikipedia entry on the Cornwall Alliance is a good place to start when trying to look at the bigger picture: “Critics of the Cornwall Alliance have accused the organization of being a “front group for fossil fuel special interests,” citing its strong ties to the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, which is funded by oil industry giants such as Exxon-Mobil and Chevron.[11][12]”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornwall_Alliance

      It would be much wiser to look at Katherine Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian and climate scientist’s contribution to communicating climate science.

      https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCi6RkdaEqgRVKi3AzidF4ow

  3. I think, in my understanding, it is how we interpret the command to have ‘dominion’, and our role as ‘stewards’. I would also add that the command in Genesis was given to humanity, and is not exclusive to Christians.
    My understanding is that a steward (in biblical thought) is a person appointed by a Sovereign Ruler, to have responsibility over everything in that monarch’s absence. The steward represents the monarch, but no one would mistake the steward for the monarch. The steward, unlike the monarch, does not claim ownership of anything within the created order. Humanity came from the dust, and had no active role in the created order. We, as humans, are stewards, charged with caring for the people, nature and possessions God has placed under our responsibility.
    The word ‘dominion’ places on us a responsibility then to act as ‘kings and queens’ ruling over creation in the absence of the monarch. We must therefore draw our understanding of ruling from a reliable source, and not from worldly examples of monarchy.
    Therefore if we set as standard the one who is the ‘King of all Kings’, the man Jesus, as the archetypal King, then we should look to his example. What better example than the one in which the creator Himself, takes a towel and and bowl of water and washes the feet of His creation, the man of clay.
    So for me it is simple, we are to rule over creation in a way that is humble and washes its feet, that for me is ‘dominion’
    So with that in mind, I can listen to people like Greta, and many others, but I actually, have a higher calling to adhere to. In the process though, my higher calling, as a servant, should be attractive to those outside the Kingdom and we should be able to find a common place in which to fulfil the command given to humanity in the Garden.
    On a personal level I do, and have done, much these last 30 years to fulfil the command, both before and after finding faith. Recently that has led to non-consumption of meat and fish, living without a car and switching to bike, and a minimalist lifestyle, avoiding the trap of consumerism.
    We all have to interpret and apply as we are led, but the natural world is being destroyed, after all, the killing of millions of sharks each year for soup, rhinos for increased libido, and snakes for fancy handbags is a sure indicator that we are not listening to the Creator as we devastate those whom He created as companions.

  4. An excellent synopsis of the biblical position as usual David. There are those who disagree – like the Cornwall Alliance. In a nutshell, they believe that human caused climate change cannot be happening because God made the world robust enough to withstand anything fallen human beings could throw at it. However, their theology of God’s sovereignty is flawed because it seems to ignore the fact that God’s sovereignty works through human actions as well as the forces of nature. A nuclear holocaust was certainly a possibility but God in his sovereignty prevented it through human actions – for but one example see https://www.warhistoryonline.com/cold-war/man-saved-world-nuclear-destruction.html/2

    Christians should act to prevent climate change, and we do so with the certainty that we have a sovereign God who fills us with hope and not the crippling uncertainty of others who deny God’s existence.

    1. If God, as you say through the agency of human actions, prevented a nuclear holocaust then the obvious question is why he didn’t through that same human action, prevent the Jewish holocaust.

      Doesn’t your interpretation of this “through human actions” scenario also compromise the Christian notion of free will?

    2. “In a nutshell, they believe that human caused climate change cannot be happening because God made the world robust enough to withstand anything fallen human beings could throw at it.”

      I read it somewhat differently, in that they were clear on the fact that climate change is an undeniable scientific fact, but that the completely negative assumptions of those they define as coming from an “Environmentalism” position are not the only assumptions or possibilities, & not that “God made the world robust enough to withstand anything fallen human beings could throw at it”, but that it’s much more robust than the doomsayers make out, & more positive possibilities exist.

  5. Sanity in the midst of insanity is much appreciated. Here in the U.S., we have Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beating the drum that there are only 12 years left.

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