Over the past couple of weeks, many people in our world have focused on Copenhagen, Denmark where representatives from 183 countries met to try to come to agreement on how to best reduce mankind’s “carbon footprint” on our world. By now I’m sure you are aware that the summit was largely a failure, as developing countries became greedy in their demands for money from developed countries (primarily the United States and western Europe) to help them meet the standards that would be imposed under the proposed accord. In addition, they demanded greater reductions from the United States than our nation was willing to do, and China played the old “bait-and-switch” game with their numbers on how much they would reduce their carbon output.
As I listened to the various news stories about the events in Copenhagen, I noted that the world’s perspective on global warming and climate change is based on an entirely humanistic, evolutionary, God-denying approach which sees no place for divine revelation and preservation in the climate change equation. In their minds, biblical truth about creation (Gen. 1:1-31) and God sustaining the world (Gen. 8:22) until the day He sovereignly chooses to destroy it by fire in order to create a new earth (2 Peter 3:7-13; Rev. 21:1) are mere myths and fables which have no place in the climate change debate.
Many evangelicals have become caught up in the whole global warming environmental discussion, often adopting the same perspective as the secular world, sometimes even reinterpreting biblical texts to give them a “green” interpretation rather than what God intended those passages to say and mean. For example, some bible teachers have tried to say that Isa. 24:4-6, which talks about the distress of the earth and then states, “The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants,” is referring to air and water pollution rather than moral pollution which is clearly the meaning when the overall context of the passage is considered.
All such an approach does is change the focus of scripture from one which deals with man’s sin against a holy, righteous God, and how that sin can be forgiven and man’s relationship to his Creator restored, to one which deals with peripheral, temporal issues which have no eternal consequence for man’s soul. This is borne out by the approach of such influential men as Rick Warren, pastor of California’s Saddleback Church, and Duane Litfin, president of Wheaton College, who have endorsed the “Evangelical Climate Initiative,” a movement which focuses on stopping global warming in order to demonstrate our appreciation of God’s creation and our love for our fellow man. Instead of focusing on evangelizing the lost souls of countless millions who will spend eternity in hell if they do not hear the good news of Jesus Christ’s substitutionary death for sinners and forgiveness through faith in Him, they focus on a social agenda which includes everything but moral sin. In fact, this has become a pattern with Warren, to the point that before he interviewed Barack Obama and John McCain when they were running for President of the United States, he was described in Time magazine as shifting the focus away from sin issues such as abortion and gay marriage to the issues which he felt united people, including “poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate change and human rights” (Time, 8/7/08).
So what should believers think about the issue of global warming, climate change, and environmental protection? Any answer to that question must be grounded in biblical truth. Thus, we should appreciate the creation and glorify the God who made it, but we must also be careful not to adopt the secular, naturalistic, evolutionary mind-set that characterizes the world. We turn nature into an idol when conserving it is given a higher priority than obeying the clear commands of scripture, starting with the greatest commandment, which is to love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:29-30).
According to Scripture, the world was created for man, and not vice versa. God told man that he should be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth (Gen. 1:28). He went on to tell man to cultivate the earth (Gen. 2:15) and to use both plants and animals for food (Gen. 1:29; 9:1-3). Therefore, any environmental position which imposes population growth restrictions, unduly limits the cultivation of the earth for food, or attempts to prohibit the eating of meat should be rejected. If we claim to believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant, sufficient Word of God, then we must not allow ourselves to be distracted from obedience to its commands by the world’s humanistic perspectives. As Christians, we are not called to focus our resources on preserving this planet. Rather, the responsibility upon which we are to focus our time and resources was articulated by Jesus in what we call the Great Commission:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:19-20).
So, instead of being distracted by attempts to save our broken planet, we should focus on the primary mission God has given to the church.
We must keep in mind that God has revealed in His Word that one day He will bring devastation to this planet like no man has ever seen. During the Great Tribulation which is spoken of in the book of Revelation, there will be world-wide plagues and destruction of such extent that millions of people will die. There will be famine and disease; there will be cosmic cataclysms which cause vast destruction; a large celestial body will strike earth and one-third of all fresh water will become poisonous, causing many deaths (Rev. 8:8-11); and there will be droughts and devastation at a level which no one can comprehend. And ultimately, after His millennial reign and mankind’s final Satan-led rebellion against Him, God will destroy the world with fire before He creates a new heaven and earth (2 Peter 3:10-13). So this world is a temporary planet, but one which will last and which God will sustain just as it is now (Gen. 8:22) until He finally comes and brings about ultimate climate change as He moves forth in His wrath to accomplish His purposes.
So we are called to be good citizens and submit to our government (Rom. 13:1-7), to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39, Rom. 13:8), and to wisely use those resources which God has entrusted to us (Luke 16:10-13), but we must not become distracted or preoccupied with political agendas or concerns which distract us from our primary mission in this world, which is to win lost souls to Jesus Christ. To do anything else is to deny the truth of His Word and to bring dishonor to His name.