It’s no secret that people in our culture are deeply polarized over many different issues. One of the issues on which there seems to be much division is man-made climate change. Some say that humans are destroying the planet through carbon emissions. Others are doubtful, believing man-made climate change is politically motivated and has no basis in fact. How should Christians respond to the climate change debate? Should a Christian worldview allow for the possibility that we might be damaging our planet? Should we even care?

Can Humans Destroy the Planet?

The main argument I hear Christians make against climate change is, “God is in control of the earth and we don’t have the power to destroy the planet.” Personally, I agree that God is in charge and that he has future plans for planet earth, but this is NOT a good argument. Let me explain why.

When climate change advocates use extreme language like, “destroy the planet,” I don’t think they mean “annihilate the earth from existence” or even make the earth 100% uninhabitable. They simply believe we are messing things up so badly that many people will die and some places on the earth will be much less inhabitable than they are now.

Could they be right? Even though God is in charge of the planet, is it possible for humans to mess things up so that people die, the environment changes, and places are made uninhabitable? I honestly don’t know if climate change is happening or not, but humans are certainly capable of causing horrible environmental changes. Consider some of the worst environmental disasters in history:

  • Chernobyl – Thousands developed cancer and miles and miles around the site have been made uninhabitable for decades.
  • Kuwaiti Oil Fires – Black rain, lakes of oil, and fires that burned for months.
  • Dust Bowl – Failure of farmers to rotate their crops contributed to dust storms that killed many and drove multitudes from the area.
  • London Smog – People in London burning coal in 1952 created toxic air that killed thousands.

Again, I don’t know if man-made climate change is happening; and if it is happening, I have no idea how bad the consequences will be. However, saying that because God is in charge or that he has plans for the earth is no excuse for not considering the possibility. God was in charge of the earth when all of the above disasters occurred, but humans still made choices that led to the deaths of thousands and negatively impacted the environment.

The Bible and Climate Change

It seems that many believe that you cannot accept man-made climate change and have a biblical worldview. However, there is nothing in Scripture that would preclude man-made climate change. In fact, Scripture has quite a bit to say about human beings stewarding and caring for the earth.

  • Adam was put “in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15).
  • Hebrew soldiers were not allowed to cut down any trees around a city when they besieged it (Deuteronomy 20:19-20).
  • Hebrew farmers were supposed to allow their fields to “rest” every seven years (Exodus 23:10-11).

A biblical worldview means accepting the fact that the earth is loved by God and humans have a responsibility to care for it. We have a responsibility to not strip the land of vegetation and to allow the earth to have what it needs to be fertile and productive. That’s not liberal environmentalism, that’s Bible.

If man-made climate change is true, Christians ought to be the most outspoken and supportive of change, because we believe that our God has tasked us with caring for this planet in such a way that it thrives.

Be Skeptical, But Listen

Again, as I’ve said several times, I don’t know if man-made climate change is a reality or not, but I’m willing to listen. That’s all I hope to encourage us to do, just listen to each other and love each other. Yes, I’m quite sure there are political and financial motivations on BOTH sides of this debate, so we need to have a healthy amount of skepticism when we listen to pundits on either side.

But when we are given information and data, we need to not be dismissive based on having a biblical worldview. Nothing in Scripture precludes this possibility and it actually teaches us to take responsibility for this sort of thing.

So I think we need to listen. We need to not assume the worst about our neighbors. We need to help bring people together rather than deepening the divide. Let’s be good neighbors and good stewards of our home.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams

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