Creation and Climate Change

Creation is not just a ‘big‐bang’ beginning in the distant past, but also an ongoing process in which all creatures depend on God’s gift of life (Psalm 104:25-­‐30). Human beings have a special responsibility to be stewards of the world that has been given to us by our Creator. In Genesis 1, God declares that the original created order was ‘good’, and in Romans 8 we find that all creation is moving towards redemption, so Christians should behave in ways that are consistent with these basic convictions about the past and the future.

The poetic picture of “new heavens and a new earth” in Isaiah 65:17, for example, does not literally imply the destruction of this earth (or heaven), but rather, the renewal of creation as outlined in the rest of that chapter. The enduring marriage of heaven and earth in Isaiah 62:1-­‐5 is not contradicted by Revelation 21, where the new Jerusalem comes down from heaven to a renewed earth – the home of God among humans (21:3).

We need to repent of the misunderstandings of Gen 1:28 that led many Christians in the past to think that creation is simply available for human exploitation – to be ruled and subdued. In its historical context, this verse implied that human responsibility shaped ‘in the image of God’ was not just a model for kings but for all humankind (cf. Mark 10:42-­‐43). Gen 1:28 needs to be held together with Gen 2:15, which says that the first humans were called to serve and protect the Garden of Eden – the part of the earth that fell to their immediate responsibility. The expulsion from Eden was a consequence of sin, but as Hos 4:2-­‐4 and Jer 4:23-­‐28 make clear, sin also impacts on the whole created order. Nevertheless, in spite of the suffering of creation, Psalm 96.11-­‐13 suggests that the earth, seas and forests are waiting hopefully for the justice of God, the point that is echoed in Romans 8 (cf. Mark 16:15).

Unlike the ancient mythologies that imagined an unstable earth at the mercy of capricious gods, Old Testament theology affirms that the one God has given laws and statutes to creation (Proverbs 8:27-­‐29; Job 28:26; 38:8-­‐12, 26-­‐27). This biblical perspective lays the foundations for a science that can explore patterns and interconnections in nature, including the challenges set before us by climate science today.

While there may be disagreements on points of detail, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that climate change can be related to the growth of industrialized economies and to relatively recent patterns of human consumption. Accordingly, a crucial question for mission today is how to challenge the dominant models of consumption in the wealthiest nations of world.

At the level of policy advocacy, Christians need to affirm the most effective measures for reducing reliance on fossil fuels. We need to call on governments to facilitate economic transformation by means of taxes and subsidies, while being careful not to allow the burden of economic change to fall on the poor. There will inevitably be differences of opinion about the most effective policies, but there should be no reluctance to encourage rigorous debate at all levels, and to examine the effects of policy on vulnerable people, including our Pacific neighbours who are already experiencing the traumas of climate change.

In all our churches, homes, workplaces and travelling, Christians need to think carefully about our environmental footprint, and to present ourselves as active stewards of God’s creation.

Tips to Combat Climate Change:

Save hot water Keep showers as short as possible to save both water and the energy needed to heat the water. The ‘egg timer’ is still a good way to do this.

Use a solar hot water system if possible.

Sort out your recycling at home Recycling stops re-usable items from ending up in landfill and therefore decreases greenhouse gas emissions.

Plant trees Trees absorb carbon dioxide and help to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Buy energy efficient appliances Look out for the energy rating ‘star’ system.

Take public transport, ride or walk whenever you can

Save domestic energy Switch off lights when they are not in use. Hang your washing on the line instead of putting it in the dryer, so the sun and wind can dry it naturally. Turn off appliances at the plug, or use the automatic switches supplied by the state government for this purpose.

Drive better You can drive better to improve the fuel efficiency of your car by servicing your car regularly, driving in the right gear, using air‐conditioning only when needed, not speeding and minimising your vehicle use.

Manage your own climate. In winter make sure you are wearing warm clothes before turning up the heater.

Learn how you can get involved with your community to make a low pollution future

Have an energy audit done and implement recommendations that your church can afford

Use the worship resources provided at sites like: www.seasonofcreation.com

Paul Gilding http://paulgilding.com/the-great-disruption/

Papal encyclical on climate change and the environment http://reneweconomy.com.au/2015/pope-on-climate-change-science-and-morality-can-his-message-change-the-conversation-37507.

Tim Jackson, Prosperity without Growth? Economics for a Finite Planet (Earthscan / Routledge 2009) Michael Northcott, A Moral Climate: The Ethics of Global Warming (Darton, Longman and Todd 2007) Tom Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church (HarperCollins 2009)