To be sure, Christians should certainly oppose wanton destruction and reckless disregard for the environment. As individuals we should always seek to do that which is pleasing to the Lord in everything, including how we interact with nature and utilize earth’s natural resources. I realize there is the real danger of legalism in suggesting that Christians “should do this” and “not do that” when it comes to stewardship of the planet. Therefore, I will not fall into this trap by offering specifics on what kind of cars we should drive or eco-friendly living. Scripture does not offer such specifics therefore I, nor anyone for that matter, can provide detailed specifics without adding to the biblical revelation. However, we are given some direction relative to specific character qualities that can prove helpful in forming a consciously Christian approach to the environment.
Humility is the essential Christ-like quality and a humble character is not disposed to excessive consumption, prideful displays, and selfish exploitation of any resource, either human or ecological. (cf. Eph 5:15-21, Phil 2:1-8) A humble spirit will not consume without regard for their personal consumption’s impact on others and God’s creation. A humble spirit will not acquire based upon an acquisition’s statement to others of their status but rather need and sufficiency. To be clear, I am in no way suggesting that the wealthy are not to enjoy their “wealth and possessions,” as these are clearly a gift from God. (cf. Ecc 5:19) Furthermore, I am not advocating asceticism or a return to primitive living—progress and civilization are part of the dominion mandate given to man. These should be pursued for the benefit of humanity. God has also given us an appreciation for beauty and so emphasis on the aesthetic in the design of our homes, cars and environment expresses the creative quality of God and His glory. Again, each person should ask the question, "Is this sufficient? Finally, a humble spirit does not exploit nature or people by elevating their personal wants or gain over the moral good of others and the environment. It is this quality of humility that should drive our decisions relative to living in harmony with the created order.
As Christians we certainly should not abuse the environment and we should support measures that limit pollution, and encourage development that tries to balance nature and human needs. Granted, this “balance” will inevitably be imperfect but the best of human creativity and ingenuity should be applied to mediating these efforts while preserving the primacy of man. Suffice it to say, opposition to the theory of human-caused global warming does not necessarily mean one is indifferent to environmental abuse.
Again, my principal interests are the “why” and “what” questions related to the global warming issue. If so much evidence indicates otherwise, why are the proponents of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming so determined to assert and defend this perspective and what is their motivation? This is the issue that should be of greatest interest to the Church because herein lies a significant ‘false pretension that has set itself up against the knowledge of God.’
Granted, some are simply motivated by self-serving greed. Funding for climate research has grown from a mere $170 million annually in the early 1990s, which many scientists suggest was adequate given the scope of the industry, to more than $2 billion today. The fact is if you want funding for your research, connecting it to “global warming” increases your chances significantly. For example, if you seek funding to study the mating habits of the Grey Squirrel you are less likely to be successful than the researcher applying to study the effects of global warming on the mating habits of the Grey Squirrel. Money is driving much of the science.
Additionally, there is again the influence of Marxists, who since the collapse of Soviet Communism, see environmentalism as a new means to opposing capitalism and capitalist expansion. Then there are the radical extremists who advocate primitivism and a return medieval life. However, these are fringe elements and not the driving force behind the current debate. I contend, the popular idea that global warming is a human-caused phenomenon, which must be fought, offers secular man both an essential alternative morality to God’s and a purpose higher than himself.
When society jettisons the biblical view of reality, as we are doing in the West, this will necessarily extend to include the rejection of biblical morality. But, given the fact that man is a moral being, he cannot live in a moral void and so secular man must create an alternative morality where he and not God is the final authority. This new moral system will have some distinct characteristics: it will avoid traditional moral positions, such as sexual ethics, or anything that imposes boundaries upon man’s selfish appetites and proclivities. This explains why “homophobia” is regarded as evil while homosexual acts are not and a “woman’s right to choose” is given moral priority over the life inside her. This is the conflict that is at the root of much within today’s culture wars.
Environmentalism offers an ideal moral alternative because it comes across as being motivated by a noble interest in innocent nature and opposes human greed and avarice. Environmentalism, in effect, offers secular man a more defensible moral cause than say the more controversial topics of homosexuality or abortion.
To underscore this emphasis on a moral alternative, consider Al Gore’s own words:
The climate crisis also offers us the chance to experience what very few generations in history have had the privilege of knowing: a generational mission; the exhilaration of a compelling moral purpose; a shared and unifying cause; the thrill of being forced by circumstances to put aside the pettiness and conflict that so often stifle the restless human need for transcendence; the opportunity to rise. When we do rise, it will fill our spirits and bind us together. Those who are now suffocating in cynicism and despair will be able to breathe freely. Those who are now suffering from a loss of meaning in their lives will find hope. When we rise, we will experience an epiphany as we discover that this crisis is not really about politics at all. It is a moral and spiritual challenge. (An Inconvenient Truth)
It is important to understand this philosophical influence because without it you cannot comprehend the motivation of those who are determined to elevate global warming to an apocalyptic “crisis” and lay the blame for this crisis upon humanity. This is the “false pretension” manifested in the global warming debate that demands an intelligent and informed response from the Church because, on one level, God’s moral authority is at stake.
I contend that the most effective assault on God’s truth rarely comes directly but subtly and in ways not always immediately clear. The battle for truth is both varied and multi-faceted but “there is not one square inch of the universe over which King Jesus does not claim, ‘This is mine!’” as the great Dutch theologian and Prime Minister Abraham Kuyper once declared. This royal claim no doubt includes the truth about global warming and the alternative morality it advocates.
© 2007 by S. Michael Craven
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S. Michael Craven is the Founding Director of the Center for Christ & Culture, a ministry of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families. The Center for Christ & Culture is dedicated to the reformation and renewal of society through the reformation and renewal of the Church. For more information on the Center for Christ & Culture, additional resources, and other works by S. Michael Craven visit: www.battlefortruth.org
Michael lives in the Dallas area with his wife Carol and their three children.