Observations on life; particularly spiritual

What about climate change?

Roy Morgan’s 2019 survey found that Australians regard environmental concerns as the major problem facing the world. This included climate change, water conservation, pollution, rubbish, famine, and cutting down rainforests. And economic concerns came next.

What does the Bible say about the natural environment? Should Christians care for the environment, or doesn’t it matter?

Biblical worldview

This post looks at the natural environment from an understanding based on the Bible, which is God’s message to us. This leads to different understandings compared to if we reject what the Bible says. It’s a theistic viewpoint, not an atheistic one. The Bible says that the universe was formed miraculously by God’s command (Ps. 33:6-9). People can look at the same world, but their interpretation depends on their worldview. It’s like wearing glasses. For example, clear glasses give a brighter view than sunglasses.

The main false worldview today is naturalism, which is the idea that the universe was formed by natural processes and has evolved over billions of years. It rejects the validity of written biblical history. I hope you have an open mind to overcome the brainwashing of the atheistic worldview we are exposed to every day. It even creeps into books written by Christians! For example, one I read recently says that the dinosaurs were killed off 65 million years ago. Really? That’s inconsistent with Scripture.

Creation of the world

The Bible says that in the beginning of time, God created everything – “the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1NIV). This fact is mentioned several times in the book of Psalms (Appendix A). And how He did it is summarized in Genesis 1-2 (Appendix B). God said that the whole creation was “very good”. This means that it had intrinsic value. All creation belongs to God (Ex. 19:5; Ps. 24:1; 50:10-12; 89:11) and its purpose is to bring Him glory (Col. 1:16; Heb. 2:10).

All creation is interdependent. It’s a web of life and it’s our life support system. Everyday we rely on plants, animals, rocks, minerals and soils. The raw materials for everything we use come from God’s creation (or you could call it nature or the natural environment).

To see the marvellous beauty and variety of God’s creation, keep your eyes open and visit places like zoos, botanic gardens, national parks and nature museums.

If God wanted to let us know how old the world was, He would have indicated it in the Bible. Did you know that God did that? There is chronological information to date important events back to Adam and Eve. In fact the most detained genealogies in the Bible, called chrono-genealogies are in the 5th and 11th chapters of Genesis. This shows that the world was created thousands of years ago and not billions of years ago as is commonly accepted today.

The difference is explained by the fact that God made a mature world. 500 years ago Michelangelo knew that God made Adam and Eve as adults, and not as infants. They were mature enough to be married (Gen. 2:23-25). And the trees and plants were mature and not seedlings so that Adam and Eve could eat their fruit (Gen. 1:29). And God made a huge mature universe and not a primitive one.

But because many scientists don’t accept that God created everything, they imagine that everything came into being by the slow process of a big bang, the nebular hypothesis and biological evolution. So they replace Genesis 1-2 with billions of years of deep time and millions of years of geologic time. But this time is just an assumption. It’s the atheist’s creation story. They assume that over billions of years, the present universe came from nothing by natural processes. But history says that God made it all in six days, not billions of years. He did it rapidly, not slowly. Written history is better than historical science in dealing with ancient history. Remember, the Bible is a selective history book!

The world is God’s creation, He made it all. The Bible says that “it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). So it was perfect. In the beginning everything was harmonious. There were no environmental problems. There were no social problems. And there were no personal problems. In fact, there were no problems at all. It was paradise in the Garden of Eden. But it didn’t stay that way.

Not long after the creation of the world, Adam and Eve disobeyed God. And the world changed for the worse. Conflict, hostility, suffering, decay and death came into the world. There were environmental problems. There were social problems. And there were personal problems. In fact, there were problems everywhere. It was not like the Garden of Eden at all. People spoilt God’s perfect creation. In the tenth generation, the wickedness of humanity got so bad that God decided to make a new start.

A new start

The global flood was God’s judgement on the wickedness of humanity. It was the world’s biggest environmental disaster. It was like a new start. There was a genetic bottleneck when the earth’s population went down to 8 people (from Noah’s family). This climatic, tectonic and volcanic upheaval resulted in the broad landscape of the earth we see today – the formation of the continents and most of the sedimentary rock layers on the earth and their erosion to form major mountains and valleys. And the extinction of creatures like dinosaurs. The fossil fuels were buried at this time along with other fossils. Most of the fuel that drives your car and produces your electricity comes from life than was buried in Noah’s flood. After the flood the sea level was higher than today because there was no ice on earth.

The ice age came next. It was caused by the warm water from beneath the earth and the dust from volcanoes. It probably took about 500 years to develop and then subsided over about 200 years. That’s why we have ice on earth today, it’s the remnant of the ice age. During this period, the sea level dropped, maybe about 100m lower than today and then rose back up to where it is today. The lowest sea level is marked by the edge of the continental shelf. Sydney harbour was formed when the sea level rose to flood a valley. The lower sea level in the ice age enabled people and animals to migrate across the world after the flood via land bridges between the continents and islands. You could walk from New Guinea to Tasmania. That’s how the people dispersed across the world from Babel about 150 years after the flood.

This is different to naturalism which assumes there were millions of years of history and multiple ice ages.

So the flood shows that God judges the sinfulness of humanity, but He saves those who trust in Him. Do you trust in Him? And God’s creation had a new start. But there were still problems like before the flood. Conflict, hostility, suffering, decay and death were still prevalent. There were environmental problems. There were social problems. And there were personal problems. In fact, there were problems everywhere. People continued to spoil God’s creation.

What did God do about it?

The new creation

Let’s go to the end of history. While creation is important for our well-being, we are also taught it is temporary. At the end of the Bible, God promises a new creation (Rev. 21:1 – 22:5). He calls it a new heaven and a new earth, which is a new universe. It’s not a remodelling of the old creation like what happened during the flood. Instead, it’s like God’s original creation in the garden of Eden. It says:
– God will dwell with His people (Rev. 21:3).
– “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old [sinful] order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
– God said, “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:5). It will be a radical change.
– Because there is no sin, “No longer will there be any curse” (Rev. 22:3).
And no one in heaven will be banned from God’s presence.

Christians have a wonderful future. They’ll live in a new city, called the New Jerusalem. And they will continuously experience the presence of God. It’s different to Eden because there will be more people – it’s a city to house the redeemed. There will be no problems like today. There will be no conflict, or hostility, or suffering, or decay or death (Rev. 21:4). And no environmental problems. And no social problems. And no personal problems. In fact, there will be no problems anywhere in heaven.

This new creation is made possible by Christ’s death and resurrection. “God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him [Jesus], and through Him [Jesus] to reconcile to Himself [God] all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His [Jesus’] blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:19-20). To reconcile means to bring back to a former state of harmony. The relationship between God and people will be restored.

Meanwhile, Paul said that creation is still under the curse of Genesis 3. But the curse will be removed in the new creation (Rom. 8:18-23NLT): Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He [God] will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who His children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as His adopted children, including the new bodies He has promised us.”

This world is handicapped by the curse of God. That’s why there are thorns and weeds. Maybe creation is also groaning because people worship it instead of seeing evidence of God’s power and glory (Rom. 1:20). One day God will lift the curse. That is one of the effects of the death of Jesus upon the cross. In that day believers will have new bodies and we will no longer need dentures or glasses or doctors or medications. In that day there will be no crop failure. Meanwhile both believers and the creation look forward to this new creation (2 Pt. 3:13).

The Bible says that God is going to renew and restore His creation. It also says that believers are already part of this new creation. They are commanded to love one another. This includes not exploiting and degrading creation so that the next generation can experience it like we can.

Are you a part of God’s new creation (2 Cor. 5:17)? Jesus is the only way to acceptance with God (Acts 4:12).

So the overall message of the Bible is that God made it all. We broke it. And Jesus fixes it. Through Jesus, God is restoring everything that sin ruined. Jesus came to make everything new again (Thornton, 2016).

Sustaining the world

God designed earth and its physical and biological systems to be robust, resilient, stable and self-correcting. They are not fragile or unstable. Consequently, life thrives on earth.

But God not only made it all, He also sustains, maintains, and preserves His creation (Appendix C). The Bible says that Jesus is “sustaining all things by His powerful word” (Heb. 1:3). He protects it from harm and provides for the needs of His creatures.

Through all the relationships and feedback mechanisms in ecosystems, God’s creation is self-sustaining in many ways. And it’s is more complex than we can imagine. Each year scientists discover more about it.

Managing God’s creation

Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day of creation after everything else was created. They were different to the other animals because “God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground’” (Gen. 1:26). According to the NET Bible, “In the Book of Genesis the two terms [“image” and “likeness”] describe human beings who in some way reflect the form and the function of the Creator. The form is more likely stressing the spiritual rather than the physical. The “image of God” would be the God-given mental and spiritual capacities that enable people to relate to God and to serve Him by ruling over the created order as His earthly vice-regents.” Since people are made in God’s image, they are all worthy of honor and respect. Like God, they were to rule over the rest of creation. They were delegated by God to manage His creation. For example, Adam took care of the garden and named the animals (Gen. 2:15, 20).

Adam was put in the Garden of Eden, “to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15). According to the NET Bible, “Note that man’s task is to care for and maintain the trees of the orchard. Not until after the fall, when he is condemned to cultivate the soil, does this task change”. They were to care for God’s creatures and use them in the service of God and humanity. They were to care for them and not exploit, waste or spoil them.

After the fall, people worked hard to cultivate the land (Gen. 3:17-19, 23). In the next generation, Cain grew crops and Abel kept animals.

David described the role of people poetically. Addressing God, he said: “You [God] made them [people] rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas” (Ps. 8:6-8).

And the psalms also say, “The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth He has given to mankind” (Ps. 115:16).

As God’s representatives on earth, people were given dominion over the rest of creation. They are to manage God’s creation. That’s what it was like for Adam and Eve. But Hebrews says, “Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them [people]” (Heb. 2:8). Since the fall into sin, people’s rule over nature is limited and they struggle with the impact of sin and death. But through Jesus this dominion will be restored. When Christ comes to rule on the earth, He will restore God’s design for mankind and all creation.

Scripture encourages the ethical treatment of land and animals. Throughout the Old Testament law, rules were given regarding the proper treatment of livestock and of land (Appendix D). We need to remember that creation was designed and created by God; it belongs to God, and is valued by God. And we have obligations to Him as our creator.

Our responsibility

Christians are part of a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). We share the gospel message (the good news about Jesus) with many people, even though we know that probably only a few will respond. Likewise, we ought to be willing to care for creation, even though we know we can’t bring full restoration. It’s therefore right to care for the natural environment, provided it does not conflict with another Scripture principle. Too often we waste and misuse God’s possessions, like the manager in Luke 16:1 wasted his master’s possessions. The other extreme is to treat environmentalism as an idol and elevate its importance (Appendix E).

Paul said that believers should be “eager to do what is good” and “be ready to do whatever is good” (Tit. 2:14; 3:1). Caring for God’s creation can be an example of doing good. It can include anything that benefits others in society.

All believers are expected to treat God’s creation with respect. However, we can do this in a range of ways. I think that how each person implements this principle is a debatable matter that we shouldn’t quarrel about (Rom. 14:1-15:12; 1 Cor. 8:1-13; 10:23-11:1). For example, one person may feel strongly about eating vegetarian, recycling, or reducing carbon impact. Another believer may also care about creation, but not adopt these practices.

The questions to ask regarding matters of secondary importance are.
Will it honor or dishonor God?
Are we acting in love?
Are we accepting one another regardless of their views on such matters?
Will it help or hinder the harmony of believers?
Are we judging believers on such matters?
Will it hinder the spiritual progress of a weaker believer?
Will it promote order or disorder in the local church?
Let’s apply these New Testament principles to the debatable maters in our daily lives.

When visiting a national park they say only take photos, and leave only footprints. And Environmental Impact Statements are required for large projects. What’s our environmental impact? Is what we are doing sustainable? What kind of a world are we leaving for future generations? Are we providing a better life for our children and grandchildren?

That’s the background to our main topic of climate change. First, what does the Bible say?

God’s promise to Noah

After the flood God told Noah that the earth would never be destroyed again by a flood and the rainbow is the symbol of this promise (Gen. 9:11-17). So the flood was a unique event, never to be repeated. And because the flood caused the ice age, the ice age was a unique event, never to be repeated. Instead God would provide regular seasons as long as the earth endured, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (Gen. 8:22).

This doesn’t rule out any global climatic changes. But “seedtime and harvest” are guaranteed. Plants will continue to grow and provide food. So any climatic changes will not be catastrophic. The earth will remain habitable.

Isaiah said, “For this is what the Lord says—He who created the heavens, He is God; He who fashioned and made the earth, He founded it; He did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited” (Isa. 45:18).

God designed our planet to be inhabited. But the Hebrew word “erets” (Strongs #776), can be translated as either “earth” or “land”. As the context of this verse is the Jewish exile, it probably meant that Judea and Jerusalem would be repopulated after the exiles returned. It also means that God designed the climate so that life would flourish and not be threatened. It would include feedback mechanisms to regulate temperatures within a liveable range.

Climate change

I learnt about the Koppen climate classification system in High School Geography and I tutored in Climatology at Macquarie University over 40 years ago, but I didn’t think that climate change would ever be a top news story like it is today. And over 20 years ago I gave presentations to staff at electrical power stations on the enhanced greenhouse effect which is a hot topic today.

This year our local Council declared a state of climate emergency. And the Australian Conservation Foundation called the federal election “The climate election”. And Greta Thunberg demanded action for climate change. She says we are at the beginning of a mass extinction. She fears irreversible chain reactions that are beyond human control. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said climate change was influencing the frequency and severity of bushfire conditions across Australia. In relation to the recent bush fires the Mayor of Glenn Innis said, “It is a scientific fact that we are going through climate change”. And the media often blame climate change for droughts, floods, cyclones and bushfires (wildfires). So is climate change a problem that threatens us all? Is it a crisis?

Definitions

Looking at definitions. Weather is the day-to-day condition of the atmosphere. Climate is the long-term average weather pattern over decades. It is usually averaged over 30 years. Climate change means the change in climate, which is much less that the change in the daily weather.

Global warming is the warming measured in the lower atmosphere since 1900. The UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assumes that most of this warning is due to greenhouse gas emissions associated with human activities and that this in turn is causing climate change.

We’ve always had those who raise an alarm of impending doom. For example, in a poem written 100 years ago an Irish farmer in Australia said during a drought (Appendix F).

If we don’t get three inches, man,
Or four to break this drought,
We’ll all be rooned [ruined]” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”

Then it rains and floods

And every creek a banker ran,
And dams filled overtop;
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“If this rain doesn’t stop.”

Then there is knee-deep grass

There’ll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
T
here will, without a doubt;
We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”

That’s weather, not climate. It’s not averaged over at least 30 years.

The “problem”

Here’s a graph of the supposed average global temperature since 1850. I say “supposed”, because many temperature measurements have been adjusted to try to remove any local impacts as not all measurement sites are well exposed to the atmosphere. And there would be considerable uncertainty in the average global temperatures calculated in the 1800s because of the spatial paucity of temperature measurements around the globe. As other indicators show warming (except for in Antarctica); the lower atmosphere is indeed warming. The concern is, how high will the temperatures go (see the dotted line)?

Here’s the graph of annually averaged temperatures since 1850 from the last IPCC report. The danger of extrapolation is illustrated when the trend from 1940-1980 raised concern of an impending ice age! This concern was raised when I was at university in the 1970s. That’s why I’m sceptical of the extrapolation of the trend in 1980-2020 shown in the previous graph. Extrapolation is less accurate/certain than interpolation. And extrapolation can be unreliable and speculative. But in a complex world, it’s difficult to predict the future. Just ask an economist! Or try to predict how share prices will change.

According to the IPCC, “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since 1950”.

Is the temperature increase significant?

The naturalism worldview says “yes” because they compare it with trends that are alleged to have occurred over eons of geologic time. They think that global temperatures are rising dangerously rapidly and will continue to do so. So the alarm is partly driven by beliefs about geologic time.

But is this part of natural climatic variations? You need a longer data set to look at that. These are called proxy temperatures because they are determined from trends in the concentrations of oxygen isotopes in ice cores. And because of the assumptions involved, these average global temperatures will have even more uncertainty than those in the previous graphs. The two most well-known recent temperature variations are shown on this graph of inferred temperatures over the past 2k years. They are the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) that peaked about AD 1000 and the Little Ice Age (LIA) that occurred after AD 1500.

The MWP was in about AD 900-1300. Wheat and grapes were grown at latitudes and elevations that were far higher than today. And settlements prospered in Iceland and Greenland with crops and cattle. As humans weren’t emitting many greenhouse gases then, this indicates that other factors can warm the atmosphere besides the greenhouse effect.

The LIA was in about AD 1400-1850. Alpine glaciers advanced. In London, the River Thames froze. Frequent cold winters and cool, wet summers led to crop failures and famines over much of Europe. This indicates that there are factors that can cool the atmosphere.

Other questions and comments

We are educated to ask questions. And you can ask many good questions about climate change.

Why doesn’t the IPCC average meteorological data for time periods of at least 30 years, which is the standard for climatology? By not doing this, they exaggerate the importance of the trend of increasing temperatures.

The IPCC thinks that the current trends in global temperature and carbon dioxide are unique, but there would have been high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere before the flood, just 5k years ago. And global temperatures rose rapidly after the ice age peak.

Why don’t they mention the benefits of higher carbon dioxide causing increased plant growth?

What caused the Medieval Warm Period? It doesn’t look like greenhouse gases. What caused the Little Ice Age?

The baseline for the temperature trends is assumed to be 1850-1900. How do we know that this is the normal global temperature? Because it’s just after the LIA, couldn’t this be lower than the long-term average temperature? In this case, it could exaggerate the importance of the trend of increasing temperatures.

Did you know that water vapor is the main greenhouse gas, not carbon dioxide?

Just because carbon dioxide and temperatures have been rising at the same time doesn’t mean that one causes the other. Correlation does not imply causation.

The temperature predictions are based on mathematical models. These climatic models are making predictions for the year 2100, which is 80 years ahead. This large extrapolation would give unreliable predictions.

The impact of clouds and aerosols is poorly modelled. And these both can reduce atmospheric temperatures.

In the models, positive feedback seems to dominate negative feedback. This means that it can go out of control and keep on getting hotter. I don’t think God designs like that. For example, the human body regulates its temperature within a tight range. Similarly, because God is in control, I think there will be negative feedback processes that will keep changes in the atmospheric temperature within a certain range. I believe that the earth’s atmospheric system is designed to be stable and not unstable.

Because it’s God’s creation and not the product of random natural processes, the atmosphere is designed better than we think. It’s more complex than we think.

The science

But don’t most scientists believe that climate change has been caused by human action? Am I being unscientific? The problem is that operational science (that produces smartphones) is reliable, but historical science (that proposes geologic time) and futuristic science (that predicts atmospheric conditions in 2100) are speculative because they rely on assumptions that can’t be proven. That’s why smartphones are reliable, but I don’t think that the ideas of geologic time, biological evolution or catastrophic global warming are reliable ideas. In fact, they are more like religious beliefs.

Conclusion

A biblical worldview helps us understand the past, present and future. It recognizes that:
– God created everything and He sustains everything. So don’t be anxious about global warming because God is in control. He is sovereign. Instead be concerned about God’s judgement of sinners.
– Creation is suffering because of our sin, but through Jesus, God is restoring everything that sin ruined.
– Are you a part of God’s new creation? That happens through trusting that Jesus died for us.
– Are you taking care of God’s creation on behalf of God? How are we treating God’s provisions for humanity?
– But most of all, we should take care of our souls. Is Christ the center of your life, and are you seeking to live for Him every day? Do you have hope and a vision of a better future? Not only in this world, but in eternity.

Appendix A: Creation in the Psalms

The Psalms use poetic language to teach that God made everything. In the beginning, He “spoke” the universe into existence.

“When I consider your [God’s] heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Ps. 8:3-4).

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands” (Ps. 19:1).

“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; He puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere Him. For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm” (Ps. 33:6-9).

“The day is yours [God’s], and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon. It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter” (Ps. 74:16-17).

“The heavens are yours [God’s], and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. You created the north and the south” (Ps. 89:11-12a).

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Ps. 90:1-2).

“The sea is His [God’s], for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land” (Ps. 95:5).

“In the beginning you [God] laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands” (Ps. 102:25).

“Praise the Lord, my soul. Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. The Lord wraps Himself in light as with a garment; He stretches out the heavens like a tent” (Ps. 104:1-2).

“May you be blessed by the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth He has given to mankind” (Ps. 115:15-16).

“Your [God’s] hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands” (Ps. 119:73).

“Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you [God] established the earth, and it endures. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you” (Ps. 119:90-91).

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:2).

“Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Ps. 124:8).

“May the Lord bless you from Zion, He who is the Maker of heaven and earth” (Ps. 134:3).

“I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. The Lord does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from His storehouses” (Ps. 135:5-7).

“Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever. To Him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever.  Who by His understanding made the heavens, His love endures forever. Who spread out the earth upon the waters, His love endures forever. Who made the great lights—His love endures forever.  The sun to govern the day, His love endures forever. The moon and stars to govern the night; His love endures forever” (Ps. 136:3-9).

“I praise you [God] because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Ps. 139:14).

“Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—He remains faithful forever” (Ps. 146:5-6).

“He [God] determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit” (Ps. 147:4-5).

“Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise Him in the heights above. Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His heavenly hosts. Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all you shining stars. Praise Him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at His command they were created, and He established them for ever and ever—He issued a decree that will never pass away” (Ps. 148:1-6).

Appendix B: God created everything

The Bible says that God brought everything that exists into being in six days without the use of pre-existing materials. God created out of nothing: space and time; the laws that govern the universe; and the physical world of matter, forces and energy. He made the spiritual world of angels. God also created things from what He created earlier. For example, He made animals, birds and Adam from dust and Eve from Adam (Gen. 2:7, 19, 21). There was nothing evil within God’s original creation; “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Gen 1:31). Eden was paradise.

Creation is emphasized at the beginning of the books of Genesis, John, Colossians and Hebrews. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Jesus was the one through whom God made the universe (Heb. 1:2). “ Through Him [Jesus Christ] all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made” (Jn. 1:3). “In Him [Jesus Christ] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16).

God created everything. “God made the world and everything in it” (Acts 17:24-28). “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Heb. 11:3). So God is the sole source of all that exists. “You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything” (Neh. 9:6). Jesus is “the author of life” (Acts 3:15). And “everything God created is good” (1 Tim. 4:4).

Creation is separate to the Creator. “They [the ungodly] exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things [creation] rather than the Creator [God]” (Rom 1:25).

The relationship between God, people and nature can be summarized as follows. God is infinite and personal. People are finite and personal. Animals, plants and machines are finite and impersonal. So humanity has special value, we share personality with God. We were made in God’s image, and people still have some of God’s image (Gen 9:6). Also, God came to earth as a man. So the Bible says that humans are both a part of nature (but not on the basis of biological unity), and apart from nature (like God). Nature is not our Mother, it is our brother and sister (as we are both created things).

God owns creation. God owns what He created. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Ps. 24:1). For every animal of the forest is mine [God’s], and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine” (Ps. 50:10-11). Creation has value because God made it and owns it.

Creation praises God. The Bible says that God created the world for His glory (Ps. 19:1; Isa. 6:3; 43:7; Rom. 1:20-21). In heaven, God the Father is praised, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will [God’s plan] they were created and have their being” (Rev. 4:11). In heaven, all creation praises God (Rev. 5:13).

An architect is greater than a building, and an engineer is greater than a car, and a graphic artist is greater than an animated movie and a sculptor is greater than a pot. As a creator is greater than their creation, God is greater than anything in creation. He alone is to be worshipped.

The awe and beauty of nature. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

Appendix C: God sustains everything

The whole creation belongs to God and matters to Him. He cares for it. God sustains and preserves the creation He has brought into being. This means that God is active in creation (nature) and in our lives. Without God’s sustenance, nature would cease to be. It’s like driving a car without using cruise control. The driver needs to keep pressing on the accelerator pedal to make it go and to keep it going.

The Bible says, “In Him (Christ) all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). And Jesus is “sustaining all things by His powerful word” (Heb. 1:3). The fundamental forces of nature are gravity, electromagnetism, and nuclear forces. Gravity holds the universe together, keeps planets in orbit and keeps the atmosphere, water, and us on planet earth. Electromagnetism keeps electrons in orbit around the atomic nucleus and binds atoms to one another to form molecules and compounds. And nuclear forces hold the nucleus of an atom together. Scientists believe that these forces are related, but they don’t know how. But we know how – Jesus holds all things together! He’s the common power.

God sustains nature. Jesus said that God provides for the birds and flowers (Mt. 6:25-34). He works through the processes of nature to provide for the needs of His creatures (Job 5:10; Ps. 104:10-28).

God also sustains humanity. We are in His care (Dt. 31:6). Jesus said that all the hairs of our head are numbered (Mt. 10:30). In Athens, Paul said that God “gives everyone life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25). Also, Christians are sustained through suffering. Writing from prison, Paul said that God will meet all our needs (Phil. 4:19).

We can view God’s power and presence in nature, as being like electricity flowing through a wire. The wire is not the electricity, but it can be the vehicle through which the electricity flows. God is not nature and nature is not God. To think that would be a to think like a pantheist and not a Christian. But in this sense, God is in nature.

Appendix D: Environmentalism in the Old Testament

Here are some examples of environmentalism in the Old Testament.

The animals that went on the ark with Noah, “Came to Noah and entered the ark” (Gen. 7: 8,15). So God directed them onto the ark to save their kind from extinction. The rest of them died in the flood.

When there was a 7-year famine in the Middle East, God enabled Joseph to store up food for the previous 7-years (Gen. 41:53-57). Many of the ten plagues in Egypt were environmental disasters (Ex. 7-11). The land in Canaan was to be rested in the Sabbath year (Ex. 23:10-11; Lev. 25:6-7). This also helped the poor and wild animals.

When besieging a city, they were to protect the fruit trees. “When you [Israelites] lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees people, that you should besiege them? However, you may cut down trees that you know are not fruit trees and use them to build siege works until the city at war with you falls” (Dt. 20:19-20).

“If you [Israelites] come across a bird’s nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life” (Dt. 22:6-7). This shows respect for wildlife. It enables the mother to breed again.

They were also commanded to let an ox eat as it is treading out grain (Dt. 25:4). This is an example of the principle; “The righteous care for the needs of their animals” (Prov. 12:10).

Appendix E: Environmentalism can be an idol

Money can be an idol if we’re greedy. Environmentalism can also be an idol. Here’s a parable of Jesus where greed has been replaced with environmentalism (Lk. 12:16-21).
“A person was devoted to caring for the environment. They had solar panels for electricity, tanks to harvest rainwater, energy-efficient appliances, a water-efficient washing machine, low-flow plumbing fixtures; they were reducing, reusing and recycling waste; and they were vegan. So they said to themselves, ‘What should I do next? I’ll save up for an electric car’. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “You’re saving lots of money and caring for the environment. Now take it easy! And enjoy life!”’

“But God said to them, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will look after everything you worked for?’

“Yes, a person is a fool to care for the environment but not have a rich relationship with God”.

We are accountable to God for what we say and do.

Appendix F: “Said Hanrahan”

A poem written by the Australian bush poet John O’Brien in about 1919.

“We’ll all be rooned [ruined],” said Hanrahan,
In accents most forlorn,
Outside the church, ere Mass began,
One frosty Sunday morn.

The congregation stood about,
Coat-collars to the ears,
And talked of stock, and crops, and drought,
As it had done for years.

“It’s lookin’ crook,” said Daniel Croke;
“Bedad, it’s cruke, me lad,
For never since the banks went broke
Has seasons been so bad.”

“It’s dry, all right,” said young O’Neil,
With which astute remark
He squatted down upon his heel
And chewed a piece of bark.

And so around the chorus ran
“It’s keepin’ dry, no doubt.”
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.

“The crops are done; ye’ll have your work
To save one bag of grain;
From here way out to Back-o’-Bourke
They’re singin’ out for rain.

“They’re singin’ out for rain,” he said,
“And all the tanks are dry.”
The congregation scratched its head,
And gazed around the sky.

“There won’t be grass, in any case,
Enough to feed an ass;
There’s not a blade on Casey’s place
As I came down to Mass.”

“If rain don’t come this month,” said Dan,
And cleared his throat to speak–
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“If rain don’t come this week.”

A heavy silence seemed to steal
On all at this remark;
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed a piece of bark.

“We want a inch of rain, we do,”
O’Neil observed at last;
But Croke “maintained” we wanted two
To put the danger past.

“If we don’t get three inches, man,
Or four to break this drought,
We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”

In God’s good time down came the rain;
And all the afternoon
On iron roof and window-pane
It drummed a homely tune.

And through the night it pattered still,
And lightsome, gladsome elves
On dripping spout and window-sill
Kept talking to themselves.

It pelted, pelted all day long,
A-singing at its work,
Till every heart took up the song
Way out to Back-o’Bourke.

And every creek a banker ran,
And dams filled overtop;
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“If this rain doesn’t stop.”

And stop it did, in God’s good time;
And spring came in to fold
A mantle o’er the hills sublime
Of green and pink and gold.

And days went by on dancing feet,
With harvest-hopes immense,
And laughing eyes beheld the wheat
Nid-nodding o’er the fence.

And, oh, the smiles on every face,
As happy lad and lass
Through grass knee-deep on Casey’s place
Went riding down to Mass.

While round the church in clothes genteel
Discoursed the men of mark,
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed his piece of bark.

“There’ll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
There will, without a doubt;
We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”

References

IPCC, 2014, Climate change 2014 Synthesis report.
Thornton C, 2016, “The radical book for kids”, New Growth Press.

Written, December 2019

Also see: A robust climate?
Environmentalism: Idolatry or stewardship?
Using history and science to investigate ancient times
Six reasons to be skeptical of the geological time scale
What does the New Testament say about Christians getting tattoos?

2 responses

  1. Your views on climate change is all I need to know about you

    Like

    December 17, 2019 at 8:41 pm

  2. Pingback: mid-week apologetics booster (12-19-2019) – 1 Peter 4:12-16

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