Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Climate change, responsibility, and the sovereignty of God

The last couple of days in the UK have been pretty grim for ginger people.  We are not constitutionally well suited to temperatures above, say, 18 degrees.  One of the things that we've had to do - and I confess I've not done it very well, partly due to enervating heat and total lack of sleep - is manage our kids' concerns about climate change.  They are, of course, taught a fair bit about this at school, and they have an acute awareness that their broiling in their rooms when they should be sleeping is at least partly traceable to human actions and inactions.  They have been alternately, and understandably, angry, afraid, and in despair.  How ought I to have responded, as a Christian dad?  What should I say if the subject comes up again when I'm feeling a bit compos mentis?

Well, I know some Christians would say: just tell them it's all made up and they don't need to worry about it.  Hasn't the Lord promised that seedtime and harvest will continue until he returns?  In the face of that promise, how can we think that human beings have the ability to so desperately damage our planet?  I'm not buying this - it seems to me that the evidence for human impact on climate is pretty solid, and from my position as a non-specialist that's as close as I can get to certain.  But also theologically this just seems desperately naive.  Granted that the Lord does not intend to wipe out all life again in a flood, does that completely preclude the possibility that he might allow our acquisitiveness and greed to be followed by some pretty painful consequences?  It seems dangerous to me to teach the sovereignty of God in a way that strips humanity of responsibility.  We are moral agents, with the ability to make bad choices which have consequences.

On the other hand, I don't want to wholeheartedly embrace the frankly rather panicked reaction which is so widespread in the world (and also therefore the church).  I do think it is hubristic to claim that we can destroy the world; though doubtless we have the ability to make it more or less pleasant to live in.  We are stewards of creation, but that does not mean that the Lord of creation is absent or inactive.  God is sovereign.  Moreover, he is the sovereign God of the resurrection; the end of this world is new creation, not destruction.  We can have confidence in the goodness of this God, and whatever action we might need to take in response to the threat of climate change can be taken calmly and without fear.

So I guess what I should have said is something like:
God is in control, and he is able to preserve the world;
we are stewards, with a responsibility to do what we can to care for the world;
and in the end the Lord Jesus is coming back to renew the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment