Environmentalism has been on the political agenda for quite some time now, but this year has seen a series of significant events. The Extinction Rebellion protesters have enlisted wide support, other groups have blocked motorways and more recently media attention focused on COP26. Undoubtedly there is a certain element of crossover between some forms of environmentalism and paganism especially when some consider our earth to be divine. Meanwhile a sinister form of paganism has crept into places of worship including Gaia ideology and/or exhibitions in congregations. Elijah would not have entertained that kind of compromise and we would do well to remember his Mount Carmel victory and how that arose (1 Kings 18). We must ask, how long can those claiming to be believers falter between two opinions?
How can we respond biblically and constructively? We should first of all be biblically informed and not create a theology of the environment from media propaganda. We were made for God’s glory and the beauty of His creation displays His glory. We should therefore commence with a biblical framework and recognise that God has given us this earth and we should be good stewards of what God has given us. When forests are plundered to the extent that they become deserts largely due to exploitation and greed that is a serious abuse of resources. It makes sense to attempt to rectify that and to plant trees and protect ecosystems. It should go without saying that recycling and responsible use of our land should consider the generations to come as well as our immediate interests.
Many people, some of whom are believers, are greatly concerned about climate change. But ultimately, God has a covenant with creation known as the Noahic Covenant. After the great flood God promised that “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8:22).” Joseph was made Prime Minister in Israel during a famine, yet the Lord revealed to Him how to make provision for Egypt, and which also benefitted His brothers and their families.
From the creation to the book of Revelation, the Lord is in control of the weather and our climate. He is sovereign over all things, and in Him all things consist (Colossians 1:17). Some worry about climate change yet fail to recognise that if God ceased to exist, then so would our universe, since He is upholding it. Our Lord created the heavens and the earth, flooded the earth due to rebellion, corruption, and violence, caused the Red Sea to part enabling the Israelites to cross safely, and calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Meanwhile, our Lord was calmly sleeping on the boat whilst His disciples were afraid that they would perish. The astute reader will notice than in some ways the closing chapters of Revelation mirror that of the opening ones of Genesis regarding the River of life, tree of life and that the Lord God gives them light.
In addition to looking to the Scriptures, it is interesting to look at historical records that demonstrate climate change and fluctuations of weather. Consider that in London, the River Thames was sometimes frozen over between 1600 and 1814 for two months at a time resulting in Frost Fairs.[i] If we go back further, warmer climates during part of the Middle Ages facilitated wine production in England.[ii] We should also be wary of what the papers say. One particular tabloid frequently and inaccurately predicts severe winters, presumably because it enables them to sell more newspapers. Equally some scientists who spoke out as recently as the 1970s were predicting climate cooling.
We should not be naïve, or fail to acknowledge, that environmentalism to some degree and in some cases has become an industry as well as a religion. This has also generated enormous funding for research and in some cases can potentially skew results by tweaking modelling to prop a politically driven agenda when people want to retain their livelihood. Nonetheless, we should be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater due to our own prejudices or opinion on the cause of climate change. Nonetheless our initial starting point should be from a firm and thorough grasp of the Scriptures and a balanced consideration of how climate change has impacted various communities throughout the ages.
Interestingly the biblical feasts contained in Leviticus 23 in many ways are linked to agriculture and harvesting times though they all focus on glorifying God, not His creation. They differed remarkably from the Pagan practices both then and now. They occurred at set times according to God’s timeline and relate to Jesus the Messiah who died, rose and who is the firstfruits of those who have died. He sent the Holy Spirit at the feast of weeks (a spring harvest known as Shavuot/Pentecost). The feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the feast of Tabernacles remind us He is the first and the last and the One who knows the end from the beginning and is coming again.
[i] The Thames Frost Fairs https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/The-Thames-Frost-Fairs/