With the rise of Greta Thunberg as a public figure it seems that many more people are paying attention to news about climate change. However, Christians should not look only to the news media or to scientists to inform our thinking on this issue. Instead, we should consider how climate change fits within a Biblical worldview.
In this post I want to share a few things that I think can help Christians take a more Biblical position on environmentalism and climate change. I hope that it will give some perspective and help Christians avoid unnecessary anxiety or fear about the future of the planet.
Caring for the Environment Is Good
First of all, I want to say that yes, Christians should care for the environment. God originally gave Adam and Eve the mandate to "have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Gen. 1:28). In Eden, they were tasked with working and keeping the garden (Gen. 2:15).
Some people accuse Christians of thinking we can do whatever we want to the world because of verses like Gen. 1:28. But exploitation and abuse is never a model of Christian leadership. God didn't give Adam and Eve free reign to use creation in destructive ways for their own selfish benefit.
Instead, Christian leadership is about serving (Luke 22:26-27). It's hard to say exactly what Adam and Eve's duties in caring for the garden involved before there were weeds and thistles (these appeared only after the first sin as per Gen. 3:18). But we can probably say it involved being caretakers, stewards, and managers of the garden and its resources for their benefit and the benefit of all God's creatures.
God also cares for the environment and nature. The Bible says God pays attention to and cares for even the tiniest birds (Luke 12:6-7, Matt. 10:29-31).
So yes, Christians should try to care for creation. We should try reduce the amount of waste we produce, to save energy and water within reason, and try to protect and care for God's creation and animals. But, humans are also allowed to use nature wisely for our benefit. We are not a 'plague' on the world—the world is made for us. But not only us.
Unfortunately, in this sinful world, humans are selfish and we think more of ourselves than the rest of creation. We bring suffering to creation rather than acting as wise caretakers, stewards, and managers of it. This is sad, and is not the way it should be.
I've heard it said that leaving sinful humanity to care for the planet is like telling a two-year-old to clean up a closet. Really, it's only going to make things worse, not better. But Christians and people in general should still try to do what we can.
It is true that many aspects of our world today should be questioned and challenged by Christians who care about the planet.
"Planned obsolescence" of items is an extremely wasteful practice, even if it keeps companies profitable. We should encourage moving toward a more sustainable economy which pollutes less by making things last longer and be easily recyclable when they wear out, rather than throwing things into landfills. Corporations' pursuit of unlimited profit, and profit at all costs, is certainly harmful and not sustainable. It is true that we cannot have infinite economic growth or unlimited profit on a finite planet with finite resources.
We should move toward more natural farming methods that are better for animals and for the food we eventually eat. We should try to prevent oil spills, and reduce fertilizer run-off, reduce antibiotic use and pesticide use in farming, and clean up the garbage patches in the ocean. These are just a few things that Christians can support and advocate for.
Christians can also be examples of how to spend money wisely on products which are more sustainable or eco-friendly, to reduce our waste, and be energy-efficient.
Of course, technology is a good thing, and so we don't have to go back to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Bringing clean water and electricity to poorer countries saves lives, reduces suffering, and reduces pollution.
Using fertilizers and mass-farming techniques are likely necessary to feed all the people of the world. It has been predicted that if something suddenly knocked out all our technology, many people would starve to death because our food production and distribution methods are massively dependent on electricity and fossil-fuels. There's no easy or quick way to change that.
Unfortunately, I think one by-product of the Fall into sin is that now there is no way for humans to live without something else suffering or dying. Some waste and pollution is unavoidable. Ancient people's garbage dumps are now sites for archeological exploration. Our landfills may be sources that future humanity will mine for resources.
Just as we can't avoid all sin, so we can't avoid all pollution, and I don't think that will ever be remedied until we're on the eternal New Earth.
Can Humans Truly Affect the World's Climate?
However, it seems that lately that the anxiety is not about all these obvious environmental concerns, but about a tiny amount of gas in the atmosphere, and the projected effects that gas might have on the temperature of the planet.
I don't want to get into all the debates here about whether human-caused climate change is true or not. I have read enough to say that perhaps the science is not as 'settled' as many make it out to be.
We could debate all day long about which sources on these things are the most credible and legitimate, and which are 'fake science.' I would encourage any interested Christian to read both sides of the argument with an open mind.
After all, scientists are sinful people too. Scientists on all sides of the debate have their own agendas, biases, and can make mistakes. They might even outright lie, if it is in their interest.
Scientists depend on funding; if the government guarantees them a constant stream of income to study climate change, it's in the scientists' interest to make it sound like an urgent, dangerous topic in order to get more funding. If the scientists discover it's not really a problem, or not something we can control, then the government might withdraw their funding. This should make us consider the scientific hype around climate change with at least some suspicion.
I am not willing to put all my eggs in one basket as to whether humans are affecting the world's climate. It seems this is still up for debate. And it should be! This is the way science should work.
New observations and studies are always being done and should be done, and new theories should be made. Some of those theories may contradict what is considered the 'established' view right now. But so did Galileo's theory that the earth revolves around the sun, when back then the "science was settled" that it was the opposite!
If the scientists really want to pursue truth, and not just funding or political power, then they should be willing to go wherever the best and most accurate evidence leads. Cutting short the debate, or excluding people for not being 'real scientists' or for presenting conflicting data doesn't help anyone except those who are not interested in truth and only want power.
Climate Change Is Not The End of the World
But I can confidently say that the truth is that climate change is not going to be the end of the world. Maybe Greta would be less fearful about climate change if she knew what Scripture had to say about the future?
Taking a Biblical view of the future helps us say that no, we are not facing the end of human existence in the next 10 years. Not even the next 100 years.
Jesus promises that he will return to earth at the end of the yet-future seven-year period of time that prophecy experts call the 'Tribulation', and he will set up a kingdom where he will rule from Jerusalem for 1000 years! (Rev. 20:4).
During Jesus' millennial kingdom, nature is going to be even better than it is now!
God prophesies that the environment will be so conducive to farming and produce so much food that the people who are harvesting the crops will not have enough time to collect it all before it is time to plant again for the next season (Amos 9:13). There are prophecies of people living in cities, having vineyards, and growing fruit (Amos 9:14, Micah 4:4).
There are promises that there will be lots of rain for crops, and plenty of food:
"And he will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and bread, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. In that day your livestock will graze in large pastures, and the oxen and the donkeys that work the ground will eat seasoned fodder, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork" (Is. 30:23-24).
Nature will flourish. Isaiah says "The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing" (Is. 35:1-2).
Futhermore, "For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water" (Is. 35:6-7).
Perhaps this will be the fulfillment of what nature has been longing for from the time it was cursed after the fall of humanity, as described in Romans 8:19-23 (NRSV):
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies."
So we don't have to worry about the world permanently turning into a barren, dry, overheated place. God has promised it won't, and instead, God has promised that the planet's best days seem to be ahead of us.
If carbon dioxide is plant food, perhaps higher concentrations of it in the atmosphere would actually enable such a future time of lush vegetation and plentiful crops as described by Scripture?
Some researchers say more CO2 in the air and higher temperatures might be beneficial for plant growth. For example, NASA did a study that showed that higher CO2 in the air has contributed to about 70% to the increase in plant growth on the planet over the last 35 years! The earth now has 25% to 50% more green plants on it than it did 35 years ago.
Climate change may indeed be occurring, even if humans have no effect on the climate. But the climate is always changing, because in the past it has been both warmer and cooler than it is now, with sea levels higher and lower, and humans have adapted to it. Why should now be any different?
Climage Change Is a Convenient Excuse for World Government
The excessive urgency and hype around climate change makes me wonder if there's not something more behind it.
After all, if it is true that people are having an impact on the climate, then why don't we see environmentalist leaders actually changing their lifestyles in order to be examples for others to follow?
But no, Al Gore, David Suzuki, Elizabeth May, etc. still have mansions, private jets, and SUVs. Barack Obama has recently bought beachfront property, a pretty silly thing to buy if global warming is really going to increase the sea level and make coastal areas uninhabitable.
So the elites who cry so much about climate change being the end of the world are happy to fly around the world to climate conferences in their private jets, drinking out of non-reusable coffee cups, and living fossil-fuel dependent lifestyles.
At least Greta lives out her conviction to not fly in airplanes, which has now left her stuck in North America after the UN suddenly moved its important climate conference in December from Chile to Spain.
Clearly these other hypocritical leaders are not so afraid of climate change that they feel the need to change their lifestyles. They just seem to want the power to tell others how to live.
For example, in 2019, Prince Charles has claimed that if we're going to save the planet so that humanity doesn't become extinct, then major changes need to be made to our society in just 18 months.
The UN also wants to bring in its Agenda 2030 by 2030. On the surface these goals seem noble, such as sustainable economic development and environmental protection. Yet "These are universal goals and targets which involve the entire world, developed and developing countries alike." Many similar statements about "all countries" echo throughout the document. They specifically say they want "all States to work for an ambitious and universal climate agreement."
What better excuse is there for giving government unlimited control over everyone's lives on the planet than with the claim that if they don't, then the planet will become uninhabitable?
After all, to "save the planet" from that awful carbon dioxide, the government would have to have absolute control over things like:
- how much food and what sort of food everyone eats
- how you travel around your city (transit/bike/walk/car-share)
- how large of a home you're allowed to have
- how many children each family is allowed to have (to avoid overpopulation)
- what sort of vehicles you're allowed to have (electric or hybrid?)
- what sort of appliances you're allowed to buy or that you must buy (solar panels?)
- how much you are allowed fly or travel long-distance
- what sort of products you have access to in your local stores (international shipping produces lots of CO2)
It would require them to have total control over the economies of the entire world, to determine what is allowed to be produced, by who, where, in what quantity, and using which sources of energy. But when has that level of government control over the economy ever worked out to anyone's benefit? (Hint: see the horrific history of 'centrally planned' economies).
It would probably lead to some sort of global carbon-credit system, which would turn into a rationing system of carbon credits where you only get so many credits per month. If you run out, you have to pay more, but if you use less, then you can sell them. This sort of system is already being used in countries around the world for large businesses.
So I think that the hype is probably an attempt to implement global government using people's fear of climate change. And of course, God tells us where global government leads:
"And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it." (Rev. 13:7)
This is referring to the "Beast" of Revelation. Satan claims to already have power over the nations of the world and to give them to whoever he wants (Matt. 4:8-9). But can we imagine how much more convenient it would be for him if there were a one-world government?
No more pesky democracy to worry about getting in the way of his ultimate plans for the world. All Satan would have to control would be the leader of this world-government, who is usually referred to by Bible-prophecy scholars as the "Antichrist".
Daniel metaphorically describes such an authoritarian world-wide government as a beast which is "exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet" (Dan. 7:19). Basically, this future government will crush all resistance and dominate the world.
Jesus says this situation will come as a "snare" or a "trap" upon the whole world (Luke 21:34-35). With a one-world government, you are indeed trapped—there's no place you can run to escape it. This is the government which will make war on God's saints and overcome them (Dan. 7:21, Rev. 13:7). This would be a truly terrifying situation for Christians on earth during the Tribulation.
But it gets even worse. The "false prophet" in league with the Antichrist will then set up an economic system where "it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name" (Rev. 13:16-17).
To me, this sounds like exactly the sort of economic control that could be implemented through a mandatory worldwide carbon-credit exchange system, which would track every purchase or exchange of credits anyone anywhere makes. Without the "mark" that enables your access to such a system, you can't buy or sell anything. But if you do take the mark, then you get to face God's eternal punishment (Rev. 14:9-11).
The prefix "anti-" in the term "Antichrist" can also mean this person is not just "against" or "opposed to" Christ but comes "instead of" or "in place of" Christ.1 The "anti-Christ" will want to be worshipped by everyone as if he were God: he "opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God" (2 Thess. 2:4).
If people are scared enough of climate change, they may very well look to world-government to save us from our environmental "sins" if it promises "salvation" to us if only we will do whatever it demands. The one-world government would become a sort of savior, replacing Christ as the one in whom all people should place their hope for their future and to whom they owe our ultimate allegiance.
Those who follow and worship the Antichrist and take his "mark" will realize too late that they have sacrificed their eternal future for their temporal future when Jesus returns and they are eternally destroyed in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15).
It's Not God's Judgment, It's Just Climate Change!
Conveniently, many of the natural disasters in the book of Revelation that are a result of God's end-times judgment on the world could perhaps be explained away as catastrophic results of climate change. See:
- people being killed by "famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth" (Rev. 6:8)
- a third of the trees and all the grass being burnt up (Rev. 8:7)
- a third of the sea turning into blood, and a third of the creatures in it dying (Rev. 8:8-9)
- a third of the fresh water turning 'bitter' (Rev. 8:10-11)
- every living thing in the sea dying (Rev. 16:3)
- rivers and springs becoming like blood (Rev. 16:4)
- people being scorched by the sun's "fierce heat" (Rev. 16:8-9)
- the Euphrates river drying up (Rev. 16:12)
- extremely large hailstones (Rev. 16:21)
And these are only some of God's judgments that will be poured out on the Christ-rejecting, rebellious world during the Tribulation.
God warns us that nature is under His control, and can be used as judgment on sinful people in Hosea 4:1-3:
"Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel, for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens, and even the fish of the sea are taken away."
If we're seeing nature become uncooperative and unhabitable, and we see animals becoming extinct at faster rates, we should consider that maybe this is a form of God's judgment on a sinful world. Unfortunately, the book of Revelation seems to say it will get much worse before it gets better.
So yes, perhaps Greta should be afraid after all. But not because of climate change.
Christians Today Should Have No Fear
Yet for Christians today, we can be comforted by Jesus' words:
"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also" (John 14:1-3).
Jesus' return for Christians can happen anytime in the event colloquially called "the Rapture". Paul describes this event in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18:
"For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words."
We are guaranteed that this will happen before any of the judgments in Revelation occur, because of God's promises in Scripture.
For example, later in 1 Thessalonians, Paul says Christians shouldn't worry about the end-times because "God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:9).
In contrast, Jesus describes the Tribulation as the worst time in the history of the world (Matt. 24:21), and it is called "the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev. 6:16-17).
In Rev. 3:10 God promises the faithful church that "Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth."
There is no reason for God to keep faithful Christians on earth during that time.
(There will be some people who convert to Christianity after the Rapture, but it will be too late for them to escape and they will be the ones who will be persecuted and probably killed by the Antichrist. But they will be resurrected at the end and rewarded for their faith: Rev. 20:4).
There are other good arguments for why the Rapture will be before the Tribulation begins. But right now that's not the point.
My point right now is that the Tribulation is what non-Christians today should actually be worried about, far more than climate change. The signs that the Tribulation is near are so numerous that someone who is paying attention can see them everywhere.
And that means the Rapture is even nearer, and so Christians today shouldn't be scared about climate change or the Tribulation. Instead, what we can do is share with our friends and family the good news of Jesus' death for our sins, so that others can believe and have eternal life. Then they can also look forward to the Rapture, and have peace about their eternal future, no matter what happens in their temporal lives.
So if you meet someone who is overly fearful about climate change, perhaps sharing with them these points can help. Remind them that God is in control of nature, and that God has promised that humans will be around on earth for a long time to come.
And share the gospel with them, because despite all the signs of the approaching Tribulation, each individual may face God sooner than that since we are never promised our next breath (Luke 12:20). Eternal life is infinitely more important than temporary life on this planet.
But if you have trusted in Christ, then be at peace. The world is in God's hands, and your future is safe. You will get to see nature restored and flourishing during the millennial kingdom of Jesus, and forever on the New Earth (Rev. 21:1). It's going to be amazing. In comparison, the most beautiful sunset or nature scene that you've seen in your life will seem like a dull, half-dead thing.
So encourage one another with our Biblical hope of the soon return of Christ for the Church, and look forward to Christ's coming kingdom where all things will be set straight—including nature.
- 1. Mark Hitchcock, Who Is The Antichrist? (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2011), 41.