What does Jesus Christ have to do with global warming?
This week, Australia went up in flames quite literally. The whole coast is ablaze with bush and forest fires; it is, officially, a natural disaster. The forest and bush fires threaten the country’s way of life. Many climate activists (rightly, in my view) link the forest fires to the effects of human-induced climate change. Human activity is indeed a contributing factor to the shifts in the world’s climate, leading to many natural disasters.
As such, many people in Generation Z and the Millennial generation are in a panic. I work for Campus Crusade for Christ; when I ask students on campus about the issue in the world that most concerns them, it is almost universally “climate change”. Students and young people everywhere are convinced that we don’t have much time until irreversible damage is done to our world. As a result, many people aren’t asking spiritual questions about “how do I know I can go to heaven?” Instead, people are asking, “how do I know my children will be safe?”
This is a question of utmost importance. How does the good news of Jesus Christ relate to a world that’s dying? Is the gospel of God good news for a planet in crisis?
In fact, it is the only possible enduring good news. The resurrection of Jesus has incredible implications for the health of our world.
The Gospel and the Globe
I have argued elsewhere that the gospel is about more than just dying and going to heaven. My wife Sophia beautifully made the same point here. If you haven’t read her article, stop right now and read it. I will assume all of the points Sophia made in her article here.
Have you read it yet? No? Read it! Seriously. Ok, you’ve read it by now. Great.
If you have read it, you’ll know that the gospel of Jesus Christ has very little to do with us dying and going to heaven. That’s right. Bomb drop, for some Christians. Let me say it again: the gospel is not about God rescuing us from this world for a disembodied heaven somewhere else. God made the world, and it is good. If God’s intent was the blow up the world eventually, why would he have made it in the first place? Why not just make us as spirit-angel-beings if that’s where we will ultimately end up? In truth, the world of space, time, and matter is good.
According to the apostle Paul,
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.Romans 8:18-23
Read this passage, and then read it again. God’s intent is not to do away with this world. In fact, according to St. Paul, the creation is groaning with the pains of brokenness. Earthquakes, forest fires, tsunamis–everything that opposes life in God’s good world represents the groaning and futility of creation. God’s purposes, then, do not terminate with redeeming humans. God’s overarching purpose is to fill the world with his own beauty as waters cover the seas.
That’s good news for the globe. If the resurrection of Jesus happened, then God (through that same resurrection) will do for the world what he did to Jesus and will do for all of those who belong to Jesus. He will bring the world through decay into his glorious future.
The Only Hope for Global Warming
Global Warming, in Biblical perspective, has two chief causes:
1.) Human sin. Humans, in sin–in their refusal to image God’s love, life, and care for the world–have abused and exploited the world for their own purposes. The gospel of Jesus Christ deals a death blow to human sin by re-orienting human hearts to the life-giving Creator. When the human heart is suffused with the Creator’s love, it longs to see the Creator’s beauty portrayed in all of the earth. Thus, a man or woman transformed by the love of God extends that love into God’s good world.
2.) Creation’s groaning. Earthquakes, tsunamis, and all events in the world that bring about death and destruction do not reflect the world as God intended it to be. According to the Biblical story, humans told God off by rejecting to image him into the world. We chose to be the masters of our own destinies and the captain of our own fate. As a result of telling God off, God essentially “exiled” us from his presence; in fact, God exiled the world of human beings from his tender care in response to human rebellion.
The gospel of Jesus addresses both of these concerns. First, the gospel deals with the same sin that leads humans to abuse God’s world. If the world really is the scene of God’s beauty, then the gospel–the reign and rule of God when working in the human heart–produces love for the world. It produces wise care for creation. Second, the gospel is good news for the world, since God’s rule entails the ultimate renewal of creation. God’s intent is not to abandon the world, but physically renew it, joining heaven and earth into one reality. God’s space and humanity’s space will be one. That’s a promise
What does this mean for Australia?
Tangibly, efforts should not stop to put out the fires. But the gospel gives hope in place of despair. Every good, God-given species will be renewed, restored, and swept up into God’s good world. God will restore the scarred land of Australia; that’s entailed by his renewal of the whole creation.
We fight forest fires, then, in anticipation of the day when God will extinguish the groanings of creation once and for all. God’s new world is coming. So come Lord Jesus!