I write this just a few days after the Climate strike and only hours after Greta Thunberg has addressed the United Nations. Her speech there (it can be viewed here) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMrtLsQbaok was full of emotion and indignation, challenging us to urgently address the emerging climate crisis. Greta and the movement she is a part of is generating plenty of discussion. I will share a few personal reflections.
Firstly, the speech was largely factual. Greta cut through some of the lies and propaganda that have deliberately been sown by vested interests to create confusion and inaction. Many of us are familiar with this as similar tactics have been employed by the tobacco and various other industries.
Called to be good stewards
Secondly, creation care is a foundational part of our God given mandate. In Genesis 1:26-28 (the first chapter of the Bible) we read:
“So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
We can see that we are to use the resources that God has provided us, but as responsible co-rulers made in His image (this is what to have dominion means). We are to rule with and under Him in a sustainable way for the wellbeing of all. When the first humans sinned the image of God in us was horribly distorted. We selfishly exploit each other and creation. The industrial and technological revolutions have amplified this as we can manipulate and milk God’s good creation and its order in unprecedented ways. We have drifted from faith and a contentment which uses God’s good gifts humbly, rightly, joyfully and with thanksgiving to greedily wanting and seeking everything now. We hear this in the Queen anthem ‘I want it all and I want it now’. It doesn’t matter what area of life we are talking about, many modern materialistic people do not want to live within limits. Sadly, even parts of the Church have bought into this with their ‘prosperity gospel’ or by simply conforming to the spirit and values of this fallen world and of our old sinful natures. In fact, none of us are exempt and I see too much of this in myself also. We need a saviour. We need Jesus who restores the Image of God as He lives a humble and contented life for us and gives His Holy spirit to help us curb and put down the idolatry of wealth, greed and covetousness.
While the Bible calls us to be responsible managers and stewards of God’s gifts, Jesus also calls us not to worry about tomorrow (God is a good provider), to be generous and to be on our guard against every form of greed. Those in Christ will have everything for all eternity and so are to resist the temptation to try to have and experience everything now, which ultimately doesn't fulfil anyway. As Jesus says ‘those who lose their life for my sake find it’ and ‘what does it profit a person if they gain the whole world but lose their soul?’ C S Lewis famously once said that those who live the most for the age to come paradoxically are often those who do the most for this present age.
Political responsibilities, dangers and limitations
While there is much in Greta’s challenge that I can resonate with and appreciate, there will no doubt be those who use such movements for their own agenda. While a price on carbon has been shown by many economists to be a very effective mechanism to aid or hasten the transition to renewables (with any revenue generated coming back to the people), I think last centuries totalitarian Communist or Socialist regimes should make us wary of over-reacting and embracing simplistic solutions which may end up proving to be deadly. For me, healthy systems will encompass both incentive and checks and balances to curb the inevitable excesses of sinful human beings.
While we have responsibilities to care for God’s creation, to live simply and to develop appropriate policies, a society that neglects or rejects God and His ways will not bring about the solutions or goals they desire. The prophet Hosea (4:1-3) had this to say to God’s wayward people:
'The Lord has a charge to bring
against you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.
There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Because of this the land dries up,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
and the fish in the sea are dying” ‘.
Global warming, climate change and biblical prophecy
Whether we stave off the projected warming and resultant climate change or not remains to be seen, although having advocated for a responsible stewardship of creation and an awareness of the affects of our reckless use of fossil fuels for the 30 plus years of my ministry, I am not optimistic. It is likely that the huge nudge we are giving the climate will result in the warming taking on a life and momentum of its own, as Greta implied as she mentioned tipping points and feedback loops. Regardless of when such runaway warming happens, the Bible clearly and incredibly predicts it as a precursor to the end. Not only were many ancient biblical prophecies fulfilled in the first coming of Jesus, many more are and will be fulfilled as we approach the predicted return of the Lord and His ushering in of the eternal new creation. The Bible has been demonstrated repeatedly to be a supernatural book and truth. It can be trusted!
While fringe and sectarian Christian groups create fanciful interpretations of such prophecies we should not let such distortions deter us from seeking out what God actually does say. The most comprehensive predictions of run away warming are found in Isaiah 24 and Revelation 16 and are universal or global in scope (I encourage the reading of them). We are told that ultimately such devastation will be a judgement of God on the evil and wickedness of this present age including disregard for Him, the persecution and killing of his people (the persecution of Christians globally is at near genocidal levels according to a recent report ordered by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-48146305 ) and the rejection of God’s laws and commands. In fact we are told (Matthew 24:22) that things will get so bad just before the end that “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened’. Yet Jesus also reassures His people in the closing verses of Matthew that ‘surely I will be with you, even to the end of the age’. Isaiah 24 states:
’The earth dries up and withers,
the world languishes and withers,
the heavens languish with the earth.
The earth is defiled by its people;
they have disobeyed the laws,
violated the statutes
and broken the everlasting covenant’.
Ultimately our climate crisis reveals our true crisis, namely that we are dying sinners urgently in need of salvation and redemption. It is the outworking of the sin of Adam who rejected God and his ordering of creation, and so embraced death.
The ultimate restoration and transformation of creation.
Thankfully God has sent a second Adam or new head of the human race, Jesus Christ. He, God the eternal Son, takes the curse and suffering of the fall and the sentence of death and separation from His Heavenly Father that we deserve upon Himself to bring us back to God the Father. Because of of Him and what he has done, those who are reconciled to God the Father through faith in Jesus Christ will be ushered into the new and restored heavens and earth to live with and under Him in perfection forever. I must therefore strongly reject Greta’s comment ‘if you chose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you’. Does Greta not see her own need for Divine forgiveness? Are any of us so perfect that we do not also need to forgive and be forgiven by one another? There are ways of holding people accountable without forever withholding the possibility of reconciliation. This is a far cry from Jesus and the God of the Gospels who in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15) can’t wait for his wasteful and reckless son to come to his senses and come home to Him.
St Paul reveals in Romans 8 that the only ultimate, eternal and lasting solution to our ecological crisis and ultimately to all of our human failings and limitations is God and what He has done for us in Christ. He writes:
‘I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently’.
Greta’s repeated ‘How dare you’ may have its place, but I envisage Jesus saying something more like this ‘I dare you’. I dare you to follow me and discover the ultimate healing for both body and soul, beginning in part now and lasting for all eternity!
Warmest regards and blessings,
Pastor Mike Steicke.
The aim of this Page is to be a safe place to explore the ultimate questions of meaning and purpose and to enquire about and discuss the Christian faith from a Lutheran perspective.
A Little About Me
I am Pastor Michael Steicke, often referred to as Pastor Mike. I have been a Lutheran Pastor for over 30 years, having served Parishes in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, before moving to Tasmania to be the Pastor of St Peters Lutheran Parish in Hobart at the beginning of 2016.