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I am the Pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. It's a church made up of people from around the world who love Jesus and find themselves here in France. These articles are written with them in mind, but feel free to read them wherever you are from!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Global Warming and the Believer

One of the great concerns that forms the backdrop of our days is global warming or climate change. It is the basis of studies and journal articles. Movies influence us and talk shows educate us. Every now and then a scientist will argue that it is a natural fluctuation or that its causes are not man-made. They are usually shouted down or ridiculed.

Occasionally I am asked what my opinion is on the topic. As a pastor, I take a different approach than most people because I spend most of my time studying to apply the Bible to everyday life. I do a lot of reading about what is happening in the world so I can make these applications, but my focus is on the Bible. Based on that study, I believe that we have a responsibility to care for the environment. This belief is grounded in God's Word and not swayed by the latest series of articles trending in the popular press.

Let me say something we all agree with: Pollution is bad. A clean environment is good.

Scientists now believe that there is a link between the burning of fossil fuels and the warming of the earth. They may be right. If they are, we need to work hard to reduce the impact of fossil fuels. Even if they are wrong, it is still true that pollution is bad and a clean environment is good. So working to minimize pollution is a winner in either case. It is also an important part of a biblical worldview.

The Care of the Creation is Our Responsibility.
In the opening chapters of Genesis, God gave Adam and Eve the responsibility for caring for the earth. They were to have dominion over it (Genesis 1:28). They were to work it and keep it (Genesis 2:15). God entrusted the care of the earth to us. He has given us the planet as a resource to be used and He expects us to take good care of the planet rather than ruining it. We are to work the ground to grow food. God's Word does not condemn the building of houses and cities or the advancement of civilization, in fact, it is expected. We were given a universe to explore and study and delight in. It all reveals his glory. Given that we have been entrusted with the responsibility for the planet, it makes sense for us to be concerned about the environment as followers of Christ. The fact that even on good days the air quality here is "mediocre" should bother the thoughtful Christian.

True Science and Biblical Christianity are not in Conflict.
Science is that field of study which seeks to observe, discover, and understand the properties of the world around us. The sciences have advanced our knowledge of the physical world to an immense degree through systematic observation and experimentation. Far from being in conflict with Christianity, the discovery of new things in the Creation should result in glory being given to the Creator and a more careful and wiser exercise of our responsibility to have dominion over and care for the world with which we have been entrusted. Accurate and responsible scientific discovery is a blessing. The application of that knowledge can be a blessing or a curse. The unlocking of the atom produced both nuclear energy and nuclear bombs.

When scientific study points to harm being done to the environment by our actions, we must carefully consider ways to minimize that harm. Science can help us understand the implications of our actions. Science can find ways to reduce the amount of pollution caused by fossil fuels and can point to alternative energy sources that can be developed and implemented.

The Care of Creation is a Reflection of Love.
The ethics of the Bible are reflected in the ideals of love for God and love for your neighbor. This is where the Bible speaks loudest about our care for the environment.

Let's take the example of human waste. Science might supply evidence that it is healthier to have a latrine than to throw human waste into the streets. So love would dictate that I build a latrine. Science might then discover that improperly built or located latrines contaminate wells. Love says that I shouldn't build my latrine in a way that it can contaminate my neighbor's well. Love might also lead us to agree as a community to use scientific knowledge to build a waste treatment facility to handle all of our wastes. Goodbye latrines!

Love might also lead to clean water for the community. It might lead to working together to develop public transportation systems. It demands that we harness scientific knowledge in ways that are beneficial.

The Decisions Regarding Caring for the Creation are Complex. 
For example, consider the eco-friendly bicycle. How can we have our bicycle in a way that is good for our environment as well? Where should the iron come from to build the bike? Mining and making metal causes pollution. Does a city dweller's interest in a clean environment trump the interests of someone who lives and works in the area where the mine is located? What if they would prefer to have a job mining the ore on the nearby land and the city dwellers would like the "environmentally friendly" forest left undisturbed? How strict should the environmental regulations be on the operation of the mine? Most mines use incredible amounts of power equipment. What kind of energy should they use to mine the ore? Fossil fuels? Electricity (generated how?)?

Once we have the ore dug out of the ground, where should the steel mill be located? What type of regulations should govern its environmental impact? What about the paint for the bike? Don't forget that butyl rubber, carbon black, and silicon are needed to manufacture tires for the bike. Where will they come from?

Each step in the process of producing a bicycle can have dramatic environmental impacts. Legislation should be passed to ensure that effects of manufacturing are minimized. The trouble is that pollution control will increase the cost of the bicycle. What if the regulations raise the price of the bicycle to the point that I cannot afford one? If our nation passes tough restrictions, is it ethical to buy a less expensive bicycle from a country that has no environmental regulations?

The questions about a simple bicycle are endless. We simply cannot have a bicycle without creating an impact on the environment. Walking is less destructive, but the reality is that we don't want to walk everywhere we go. We want our bicycle. We want to fly across the oceans in jets rather than using wind-powered boats made out of renewable resources like they did a couple of centuries ago.

Questions of the environment and how we can best manage the resources of the planet are important matters for Christians to be talking about. Caring for the environment should concern us. Science can help us make intelligent decisions, but we must remember that there are no clear cut answers. It is important that anger and divisiveness not be a part of our discussion of these issues. We must seek to understand others and to voice our own opinions in a constructive way. The fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) should be evident in our lives.


The Care of the Creation is not the Most Pressing Problem.
The care of the creation is important. We should be concerned about it. But we also understand that there is a far greater crisis facing people than global warming: a Christless eternity. So let's be concerned about the environment, but let us also work to keep the most important thing our greatest concern. If we are more passionate about fixing the environment than we are about our neighbor's eternal destiny, something is out of balance in our belief system.

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