What Should Our Attitude Be Towards Environmental Issues Such As Climate Change?
To answer this question, let us first consider why this is such an important issue today. In the autumn of 2021, at the opening of the COP26 summit on climate change in Glasgow, Scotland, the well-known physicist and TV presenter Professor Brian Cox delivered the following introductory comments: ‘imagine that the earth is the only place in the galaxy where intelligent life exists … the only place where collections of atoms as old as time have come together into improbable patterns that can think and feel and bring meaning to an otherwise meaningless universe … we must consider ourselves and our world to be inconceivably valuable’.
These words encapsulate both the concerns and yet the confusion underlying the powerful global movement we currently see at work to save the planet. They acknowledge that planet earth is a unique place containing the precisely-tuned conditions necessary for life to exist. For example, the average temperature on earth is that required for the oceans and rivers to exist in liquid form. The words also reveal the critical importance of the earth to a world that does not take account of its Creator or that does not have eternity in view. To this world, planet earth is all there is. Hence, it must be entirely invested in securing the future of the earth to ensure its own survival.
But what should our view be as Christians? Is saving the planet a legitimate concern? As with many other subjects, the Bible provides a holistic view prompting a balanced perspective. We see the bigger picture. Let me give you three reasons why we should be concerned about the planet, and three reasons why we should not be overly concerned about the planet.
Reasons to be concerned about planet earth
- Reason 1: ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof’, Ps. 24. 1. This earth belongs to God. It is His work of creation and hence does not belong to us. For this reason, and this reason alone, we should take care of planet earth.
- Reason 2: Adam was given dominion over the created world and appointed as head over it at the beginning of creation, Gen. 1. 26; Ps. 8. 6. Adam lost that dominion when sin entered the world. Climate change and the pollution of the planet result from the abject failure of fallen humanity to carry out the responsibility entrusted to them. Motivated by selfishness and greed, we have squandered the earth’s precious resources. Yet the responsibility to care for the planet, along with the life found within it, is a task we are still entrusted with.
- Reason 3: We are clearly instructed in the scriptures to ‘be subject unto the higher powers’ since ‘the powers that be are ordained of God’, Rom. 13. 1. In fact, the Bible informs us that authorities are ‘minister[s] of God to thee for good’, v. 4. If our governments set laws, for example to control emissions and limit pollution, we should obey them, especially since, in general, authorities aim to do good.
Reasons not to be overly concerned about planet earth
- Reason 1: God is in control of this world with its climate and seasons. God gave His promise to Noah, ‘while the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease’, Gen. 8. 22.
- Reason 2: Our home is in heaven and not here on earth. Paul reminded the Christians at Philippi, ‘For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ’, Phil. 3. 20. We should, therefore, set our ‘affection on things above, not on things on the earth’, Col. 3. 2. Spiritual and heavenly matters should be the focus of our efforts in generating the greatest impact here and in eternity.
- Reason 3: We know what the future holds for this earth. In the short term, we know that the planet is headed for the devastation of the tribulation period which will include cataclysmic changes affecting this world’s climate, salt and freshwater systems, animal and human life.1 Ultimately, therefore, the efforts of this world to reverse climate change will prove futile. The capability to restore this world to Eden-like conditions rests alone upon the One to whom the title deeds of the earth belong, Rev. 5. 9. The Lord Jesus Christ will personally restore the planet when He returns to the world at the beginning of the Millennium. Finally, we read of the very elements of this universe melting in fervent heat, 2 Pet. 3. 10-13. We ‘look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness’.