By Jeffrey B. Riley
The Environment! Global Warming! Why should Christians get involved with those kinds of debates? Don’t we have more important, or perhaps more interesting, issues to consider? The Great Commission, for example.
I’m reminded of one of my sons who, when asked to clean his room, regularly responds, “Why?” Although I think he likes a clean room, perhaps he thinks that if he does nothing his mom will clean his room for him. More than likely he just doesn’t think a clean room is worth the time and effort. My common response to him is that this is our home and he needs to take some responsibility for it.
I fear that many Christians, when asked about environmental issues, respond in a way similar to my son: We want a safe, clean, productive place to live but don’t really care to take the time and effort to get involved. Scientists, politicians and people with nothing better to do will take care of the details.
Indifference and apathy towards environmental issues, however, is an uncharacteristic position to take for those who follow Jesus Christ. After all, this is our Father’s world, “the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” The Apostle John said of Jesus, “all things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:3). Moreover, in Colossians 1:16-17 the Apostle Paul declares, “by Him (Jesus) all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
One could argue from this account that God’s got it all under control, and we therefore have nothing to worry about. The problem with this line of thinking is that God involved us with care of the world when He created us: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth'” (Genesis 1:26).
We are stewards of this earth that God created, and those of us who have been redeemed by Christ Jesus have an obligation to represent the interests of the living God regarding issues that affect the earth
In short, we are stewards of this earth that God created, and those of us who have been redeemed by Christ Jesus have an obligation to represent the interests of the living God regarding issues that affect the earth, serious issues that directly impact human flourishing. In many cases, who flourishes depends on flawed human beings making evaluations and implementing responses to issues. These are examples of humans making flawed evaluations and implementing damaging responses to issues:
• A politically powerful group determines that overpopulation is a problem and enforces a one child policy through forced abortion
• Air or water pollution are not deemed serious or cleanup is not judged economically feasible and the cases of cancer increase in a vulnerable population
• A scientist declares that humans are causing catastrophic global warming, majority world nations are forced to cut cheap energy sources, and the poor are devastated
These are the kinds of environmental problems Christians should be keen to understand and eager to answer with godly wisdom and in light of theological, moral and scientific truth. Christians should be the most eloquent and serious defenders of creation, compelled by the Great Commandment to love God and our neighbors.
On April 10-11, the Greer-Heard Forum at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary will host respected scholars who will dialogue on “Christians, the Environment, and Climate Change.” This event is a wonderful opportunity for our seminary family, area churches and any interested persons to be informed on this controversial, politically important, and globally significant issue. The truth about climate change matters to every one of us. Come and weigh the evidence for yourself. Register at greerheard.com.
About the author: Jeffrey B. Riley is Professor of Ethics and Chairman, Division of Theological and Historical Studies at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a Research Fellow in Christian Ethics with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Editor’s note: The views expressed in individual Geaux Therefore blogs are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.