How my theology practically informs my understanding of climate change

Climate change worries my 10-year-old daughter. She learns about it at school and hears it on the news. The idea is scary to her.

Living in Australia climate change is a hot topic. We had bushfires in my state burning from September through to February. In November the fires were less than 10kms (that’s 6.2 miles) from my house.

Up to 99.4% of my state is experiencing drought conditions. The town of Gloucester ran out of water for 3 weeks at the start of the year. Trucks hauled drinking water to the residents.

The trucks stopped after a weekend storm. While the storm brought relief and put the bushfires out, it also caused flooding and major power cuts.

So, you may understand why my daughter asked, “Dad is climate change destroying our world?

I wanted to answer her in a way that was truthful, brought her hope and led her to Jesus.

A Caveat

If you’ve come wanting to know whether the science behind climate change is true, or if it lines up with what the Bible says, then you’ll be disappointed. I’m not really interested in those kinds of arguments. Instead, I want to practically help people navigate life through fear and uncertainty, like climate change.

How my theology practically informs my understanding of climate change

1. God is sovereign and he is Good

I’m not a scientist. I can’t tell you the science behind climate change is accurate or not; neither can I tell you if our carbon emissions are making that big of an impact.

But I can tell you that God is sovereign and God is good. If climate change is true and the world is heating up, it is doing so because God is in control. If climate change is false and the world temperature isn’t rising, this too is happening because God is in control.

Just read Psalm 135:6-7:

The Lord does whatever he pleases
in heaven and on earth,
in the seas and all the depths.
He causes the clouds to rise from the ends of the earth.
He makes lightning for the rain
and brings wind from his storehouses.

This doesn’t mean our actions don’t matter. Rather, the consequences of actions are never out of his hand, whether they are caused by pollution, fires, or carbon emissions.

This is good news because God isn’t intending to destroy the world. The world is an integral stage for Jesus’ return. I love how Stanley Grenz writes about it:

As the phrase ’the new creation’ indicates, the glorious future reality that God promises consists of the renewal of the entire cosmos.

God doesn’t wipe the slate clean and begin creation again. He frees creation from decay, disease, and death (Romans 8:21). He will bring harmony within creation, a place where he will dwell, for his followers to celebrate together, who together with all of creation bring glory to God.

2. God gave humans a job

In the creation story, God gave Adam a job to do. God instructed him to look after the world. He was God’s representative in the world, placed at his command to tend to its day to day running.

I like the way Eugene Peterson interprets Adam’s job as ‘be responsible for…’ rather than ‘subdue’ (Gen 1:28). There’s a level of trust granted with responsibility.

We looked after my in-laws’ dog this week. Every night my kids would go, feed it and shut him in the laundry at night. They were acting as my in-laws.

That’s what God called Adam to do. God told him to look after creation in the same way he did – he trusted his creation to Adam.

This hasn’t changed. God still calls Christians today to be responsible for the world he’s made.

The climate debate causes me to ask questions about how responsible I am. Can I make decisions that are good for me and the environment? Are there better choices I can make? How am I serving God by caring for the world around me?

If climate change is true then I have an active role to play because God has called me to be his representative in creation. He has called me to care for his world and make decisions for its good.

If climate change isn’t true, I’m not off the hook. God has still called me to be his representative in creation, care for his world and make decisions for its good.

I’m not talking about being a greenie or protesting, or anything, but stopping and considering how my choices impact the world around me.

Summing it up

I left my daughter with 2 things at the end of our conversation on climate change.

Hope instead of fear. Hope because God is holding it in his hand and taking it toward good not destruction.

And, God wants us to care for his world. Whether or not climate change is true, he wants us to think about our actions and choices, how these care for his world, and whether they honor him in the process.

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