Should the Church Take Climate Change Seriously?
Environmental issues have become a major concern in our modern society. Climate change has become a hotly debated topic. Governments have declared climate emergencies to keep the climate crisis from becoming a climate catastrophe. Students have staged climate strikes.
Corporations have “gone green.” There’s even a push for climate/environmental justice. Much of this concern comes from a fear that mankind is facing mass extinction and that the world will end in no more than twelve years. We are on the brink!
Does it matter?
While some Christians respond with verses such as Psalm 46:1-3 and affirm their trust in God, the Church has been largely quiet on the subject of environmentalism. There has even been an attitude among some Christians that it doesn’t matter because “it’s all going to burn up anyway.”
I, however, believe a dispensational view can actually inform and equip us in the environmental discussion. Dispensationalism is based on three basic principles:
- That the Bible, including prophecy, should be interpreted literally
- There is a distinction between Israel and the Church
- The purpose of everything in the Bible, and really all of history, is the glory of God.
Each of these principles can speak to the issue.
Not by blind faith
We don’t need to face the future blindly or with blind faith in humanity or God. There is a lot of fear that mankind will go extinct if we don’t act now, but the Bible teaches that humanity is God’s special creation, and in the end, God will dwell among mankind for eternity (Revelation 21).
That being said, when we look at Scripture, we do see “disasters” in the future. There will be famines (Revelation 6:8), massive earthquakes, celestial disturbances, and meteor strikes (Revelation 6:12-14), among other things. However, Scripture makes it clear that these are not mere natural disasters.
They’re supernatural, and, judging from the human reactions to them, everyone knows it (see Revelation 6:16, Revelation 16:9, 11, 21).
So, yes, in a sense, there are “crises” and “catastrophes” to come. Yet, as we see from prophecy, this seven-year period of tribulation is not the final end. There are at least a thousand years of life left on this earth. Revelation 20 tells us Jesus will sit as King on this earth for one thousand years, which we interpret literally.
There are beautiful descriptions of this era throughout the prophets, especially in Isaiah. This earth will see its best and most productive days when Jesus reigns as King. What a reassuring reality!
A guaranteed future
The second principle of dispensationalism, that the Church and Israel are separate, really guarantees the future of the earth for another one thousand years at least. God made promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David, that will be ultimately fulfilled in the millennial kingdom to come.
These promises are fleshed out by the prophets. The Church has not replaced Israel, and Israel in the Old Testament is not the Church. So, since God keeps His promises, we can be sure that the earth isn’t going to just die in the next few years. Conditions on the earth may change, but it’ll still be here.
Everything for God’s glory
Whether you believe climate change is real or not, there is a real incentive in dispensationalism to treat the earth with care because it asserts that everything is for the glory of God. When we care for the environment, we can glorify God.
Seeing it this way, our focus is directed back to the One who deserves it. Doing our best for the environment is a very practical way to love and glorify our Creator.
Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, a climate scientist who grew up in the brethren, says that caring for the environment is also a way to love one’s neighbor since so much of our trash and pollution ends up in someone else’s yard (across the street or across the ocean).
We already believe that loving our neighbor glorifies God, what a testimony we could have if we learned to love others by how we treat God’s creation.
What can we do about it?
- As assemblies, we can take recycling and reducing waste at our meetings more seriously.
- Why not carpool to the hall? Whether the chapel is in the country or the city, there’s a good chance that you’re not the only one driving from that direction.
- If public transportation is reliable in your area, why not take that instead of driving? You might even get some opportunities to share the gospel on the way.
- In this highly connected world, why not have elders/leaders meetings on a video chat?
- Plant native wildflowers and trees around the meeting room to help bees and insects.
- Try participating in clean up days around the neighborhood.
- We could ensure our camps and conferences are more environmentally conscious. One weeklong brethren camp houses every one in tepees and even fills in the holes left by the tent pegs.
There are many ways we can care for the environment if we just open our eyes and minds.
Talking about climate and environmental issues is a very natural thing to do these days that can lead to opportunities for the gospel and when acted on, can bring God even more glory.