By Dn Deborah Lim
In recent months, climate change issues have shared as much news coverage as Covid-19. In December, an editorial in The Lancet medical journal announced that “the causes of both crises share commonalities, and their effects are converging…both born of human activity that has led to environmental degradation”.
Just as the church has responded to the pandemic in various ways, climate change is no longer a matter that the church can ignore. If we believe that we are called to be Christ’s witnesses in this complex world, we need to understand the problems that the rest of the world is grappling with. Responding to such issues with Christian grace and wisdom glorifies God, and points others to Him. Firstly, we need a right understanding of the doctrine of God as our Creator.
God Revealed In Creation
God reveals Himself through creation (Psalm 19). Much like how a masterpiece reflects the master, a destroyed masterpiece does not accurately reflect its Creator, but disrespects Him. German theologian, Jurgen Moltmann, applies Christian theology to environmental issues. In his 1985 work, God in Creation, he suggests that the pillage of creation is an assault on God.
God’s Authority & Our Stewardship
God spoke and the universe came into being (Genesis 1), implying God’s authority over the earth (Psalm 24:1). When God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to work it (Genesis 2:15), it was a sacred service entrusted to man. God’s command to ‘rule’ and ‘subdue’ the earth is to be understood as ‘stewardship’. We cannot do with it as we please, but must care for it to honor God.
Reconciliation & Renewal of All Things
Daniel Migliore, writes in his book, Faith Seeking Understanding, that “the creation of the world, its reconciliation in Jesus Christ, and its promised renewal and consummation are all acts of the one triune God”.
We live in the tension between Christ’s first and second coming (Romans 8:18-27). Reconciliation of all things (including creation in its entirety) to God, is part of the gospel plan (Colossians 1:19-20). The Creator God of the Old Testament and the Redeemer God of the New Testament, are one and the same. Nature is entangled with us in sin and will be redeemed in the new heaven and new earth.
When creation is renewed (Revelations 21), all that we do in faith, hope and love in the present, in obedience to God, will be enhanced and transformed at His appearing. Creation Care can be seen as running parallel to our sanctification journey.
The old mindset of anthropocentrism, assumption of limitless resources, consumerism, self-entitlement and neglect of creation care has to give way to the new mindset of recognizing that part of our discipleship involves working with God for the wellbeing of both humankind and our earth. How do we play our part in our vocation, in our personal lives and in the church?
In Our Vocation
Our vocation is not to meaningless activity but should be seen as meaningful work. Modern science and technology have acquired enormous power over the forces of nature and can be used for good or evil. At work, do we have opportunities to put this knowledge to constructive use? Can we use our influence in the marketplace to put strategic policies in place? If our work emphasizes only the ‘bottom line’ or competition rather than responsible treatment of people and the environment, that will not do.
In Our Personal Lives
As Christians, we also need to remember that unchecked consumption deprives others. In her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warren explores how the anonymity of commodities we consume like our food can lead us to ingratitude and contributes to injustice. “Like so much of what we consume in our complicated world of global capitalism and MNCs, purchasing this corn and these beans, involves me, however unwittingly, in webs of systemic injustice, exploitation, and environmental degradation that I am ignorant about...” She goes on to remind her readers that our core identity is not that of a consumer, but a worshiper, image-bearer, created to enjoy and glorify God.
When we take on this perspective, I believe that God will lead us to make right purchasing decisions in our everyday lives. Begin by taking time to observe and appreciate God’s beautiful world. As we do this, different characteristics of God will come to mind. This can lead us to praying, reflecting and taking bold actions (even making certain sacrifices) to reduce our carbon footprint.
In The Church
Firstly, the church plays its God-given role as priests, demonstrating to the world how the gift of the earth should be cared for and enjoyed. Secondly, the church plays its God-given role as witnesses, showing the world what a wonderful creator God is.
As a church, how well are we doing in these God-given roles? How can we take concrete steps to respond to climate change in a way that, as research scientist, Benjamin Grandey puts it, ‘is faithful to both the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20)’?
Let’s consider ways we can care for creation in a way that loves God, loves our neighbor and protects the next generation. In this pandemic, extending God’s blessings to those around us and beyond our shores also means living sustainably to allow for life on Earth to thrive.
You may also want to read these other insightful articles which offer practical ways to be involved in Creation Care:
If you have thoughts about how our church can play its part in Creation Care, feel free to drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.