“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” said Greta Thunberg, a Swedish climate activist, in a 2019 address on the issue of the climate crisis to the United Nations. It was a passionate but dire reminder of the climate crisis that now seems closer to being irreversible. The Recent IPCC (United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report warns governments to act now or else face dire consequences.
Over the years, climate activism has grown drastically with people protesting in the millions. However, these concerns seem to have hardly penetrated the thick walls of our churches. Far from it, some would not even extend the courtesy to acknowledge its validity. For others, it is categorised as a “secular” issue that is beyond the scope of the Christian church and its mission. Interestingly, many Christian leaders will support the idea that we need to care for the environment, but will hardly live it out in their practical ministry and teaching. There is no space for creation care in our understanding of the Bible. Thus, the priority of the church tends to shift towards spiritual needs, ignoring other forms of need.
Failure to identify the environmental issue as a spiritual problem can be credited, in large part, to the Platonic understanding of the world. For most Christians, it seems that the divide between the natural and the supernatural world is so vast in a sense that the whole natural world is doomed for eternity, and the only thing that will remain is the supernatural, unseen and unknown. This kind of misguided understanding of the end times blurs our vision of God-given stewardship. God’s creation, though “gone bad”, is still in the plan of God’s great salvation that awaits its redemption (Rom 8:20-21). And we have completely missed it.
The beauty, the glory, and the work of God that are reflected in creation deserve our attention and service. When we proclaim God’s handiwork in creation, how can we show indifference when the same is being exploited by human activity? Christian leaders should first recognise this as an issue that gravely concerns the mission and vision of the church.
When we start seeing this from a biblical perspective, we can form a robust framework that balances our views on faith and creation care. For this reason, leaders should make the church aware of the current conditions of the planet and should teach and preach about the same from a biblical perspective. Diane J. Chandler from Regent University writes, “teaching and preaching … provide[s] powerful connections between sound theology and faithful stewardship [that] grounds a congregation in belief and praxis.” The congregation needs to be taught about creation and our part in it. We have so focused our lenses on a particular region of Christian practice that we have missed the whole scenery of Christian theology.
For this reason, many younger Christians find Christian teachings on care of the Earth wanting—leading them astray from faith as a whole. Because most of the information regarding environmental issues comes from climate change activists and scientists, there is no space for Christians to adequately understand this whole fiasco in light of the Scriptures and a Christian worldview. Having a robust doctrine on this important topic can help Christians better understand the issue at hand and act accordingly.
Furthermore, Christian leaders can help the church see what inaction regarding the climate crisis is bringing upon the world, apart from the environmental destruction. The IPCC report has warned that the adverse effect of climate change will first be seen in poor and developing countries. It is the duty of the church to look after the poor and the vulnerable. Disengaging ourselves from this issue inadvertently leads to oppression of the poor. Realising this should put upon the shoulders of the church the responsibility that we have towards caring for creation. Finally, leaders can help cultivate behaviours that honour God and His creation.
We are on the verge of a tipping point. As God’s people, we should be the frontrunners in caring for creation; not spectators. We are to engage in this world because it matters. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “So, my dear family, be firmly unshakeable, always be full to overflowing with the Lord’s work. In the Lord, as you know, the work you’re doing will not be worthless.” This is how Paul concludes his section on resurrection.
Because Christ is risen, we have been redeemed and victorious over the powers of darkness. And it is because we are redeemed that we hope for a day where the whole of creation will be redeemed to its fullest. And we are to be a witness to that. It is not that “this world is not my home. I’m just a-passing through” but, “this is the Lord’s creation and I am a part of it.”
Francis A. Schaeffer in Pollution and the Death of Man beautifully yet challengingly writes, “On the basis of the fact that there is going to be total redemption in the future, not only of man but of all creation, the Christian who believes the Bible should be the man who—with God’s help and in the power of the Holy Spirit— is treating nature now in the direction of the way nature will be then. It will not now be perfect, but there should be something substantial or we have missed our calling. God’s calling to the Christian now, and to the Christian community, in the area of nature … is that we should exhibit a substantial healing here and now, between man and nature and nature and itself, as far as Christians can bring it to pass.”
So, let not the dreams of little children be crushed due to our negligence and inaction. But as a church, grounded in the Scriptures, let us work towards the calling that is given to us by God himself to take care of our fellow creation.