Christian Church Leader Doesn’t Believe in Climate Change

I was inspired by the latest Biologos podcast episode with Katherine Hayhoe on climate change. I posted some highlights on my FB about why climate change is a Christian issue, despite being associated with political liberalism. The woman who teaches Bible study at my church commented that “no matter what we do, God will always maintain the planet”.

Any advice on a respectful rebuttal? I do not wish to be rude but I also do feel many Christians use this as a “free pass” to trash the environment…

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That’s too bad, but also not surprising… I’ve heard similar from other church people in leadership positions. The idea that “we will always have enough food, water, energy” sounds like it comes from a pretty privileged place, from someone who has never lacked those things and can’t really imagine it any other way. Christians killed in or fleeing natural or human-made disasters might take issue with such a glib statement. Also, the Psalm verses mentioned are a nice song of praise to God but certainly don’t guarantee abundance for everyone, and using scriptural poetry that way is not really respecting the genre.

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It is difficult to disagree without being argumentative. I have trouble myself when confronted with those who hold very different views.
In this case, I think you could state something like this:

I certainly agree that God created and sustains all creation. That is very true from the orbit of Jupiter to the clouds of electrons surrounding the nucleus of atoms, and even to those sub-atomic particles that comprise it all. However, he made us in his image, and gave Adam the task of tending the garden, and being a caretaker. To abandon that responsibility would be to turn away from God. Genesis 2:15 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
God delights in his creation, as he said it was good in Genesis, as evidenced in his discourse to Job, and in Psalms 19. To debase and destroy that which God has created and blessed certainly gives one pause.
While God indeed provides, he provides our needs, not our wants. He gave the Moses and his people manna in the wilderness for the day, He provided a means for survival for Jacob’s family in the midst of terrible famine. But many today starve and suffer due to lack of food, shelter and care, as God has provided us to feed the hungry, and clothe the naked, a task that we have been found wanting in doing. Taking care of creation is a way to assist in that task, as the vulnerable and weak are the ones most affected by climate change. The poor cannot sell their condos on the beach and move to an inland resort.

Hum. I fear I got a little preachy there at the end of that paragraph despite trying not to, but as he obviously holds scripture in high regard, look to scripture to argue your point, and refute his statements telling God what he will provide.

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This is a great observation. The NGO I work for now does a lot of work in the climate justice/change space and the picture outside of the west is pretty bleak. The reality is that we might be facing the same climate storm but we are certainly not in the same boat. Those who have done the list to contribute to problem are currently the one’s reaping the consequences. Hard to imagine telling people in South Sudan that that they’ll always have enough water when many of them have to walk miles to find a water source… maybe further to find one that is clean.

My advice @ciaociara would be to provide some links to how climate change is effecting people around the world. Sometimes stories are more impactful for those who refuse to engage with the facts. They also have a way of challenging our biases in an indirect, non-confrontational way.

Hope that helps

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Revelation 11:18 (emphasis mine):

The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small— and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

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The truth is, God created our planet and He takes care of it

Boy, that sounds familiar!

The truth is, God created Israel and He takes care of it.

Uh… no!

This kind of attitude of entitlement to the work of a “doitallforyouGod” is one that has fallen flat on its face before… in the Bible (book of Jeremiah)!

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The Bible clearly says that God created humans in God’s own Image to be God’s Viceroy on earth. This means that God shares God’s power over the universe with humanity. We often thank God for this power, but with power comes responsibility.

God will sustain us, but if we abuse God’s gifts, then it is on us. God will lead us and shows us the way, but if we do not follow, it is on us. God’s promises are not for a rebellious people, who reject the wisdom of science, put their faith in conspiracy theories, turn their back on others in need, and are more interested in greatness than goodness.

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You could do the Jesus thing and respond with questions. If what she says is true, why is God not saving the Western US from wildfires, huge swaths of Africa from drought and desertification, the Caribbean and Southeastern US from hurricanes, or Bangladesh from flooding?

The following article lists climate disasters that have happened this year. In her theology, why didn’t God act to prevent them and why does she expect things will be different next year or next century?

I think it is sometimes helpful to get people to stop focusing on an imaginary apocalypse in the future and try to explain how their beliefs about God affect what is going on now, a time in which the earth and humans are currently “being destroyed” in various unsettling ways because of global climate change.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. Enjoyed reading your thoughts and will use them to formulate a thoughtful response!

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Great point!

Haha I like the Jesus approach idea :grin:

I hear this often. Environmentalism is something really important to me and I hear this often. I do use the “Jesus Approach” a lot but often I’ve noticed things will come up about “ sin” and punishment. They often really grasp at cruel straws. I definitely think often the best response depends on the person and how many times you’ve responded to them.

A while back there was these really obnoxious self professing Christians who was really against environmentalism. They equated it to liberalism and liberalism to something negative. Anytime I tried to bring up the typical triggering worlds “ carbon footprint, global warming, climate change, light pollution, air pollution and so on” they would get defensive and just tune you out and would often fall back on “ at least one day God will restore everything” .

But what ended up working was knowing through our various talks that they often reflected on their younger days when the place was less crowded. That’s because they remembered being kids and all the forests around and how you could go swimming in the creeks and fishing and hunting all over. They realized in the last few decades that they could no longer do that as easily. The reason why is because urbanization was destroying wilderness. Miles and miles of what use to be forests and lakes and creeks off of a dirt road was not strip malls and 6 lane roads. So I begin to get them to realize it’s in their interest to help fight things such as some manufacturing plant wanting to buy up 1500 acres and pave it over. I pointed out to them that have they noticed how much groceries have went up? That they can actually spend less and get more on locally produced food in season at farmer markets.

Getting them to go kayaking with me and hiking with me made them care more about nature than science or facts. One of the strongest examples I ever shown anyone was when during a hike 8 years ago a bunch of 14-16 year olds at the nature preserve on a hike with me came across a dead opossum with its head stuck in a can that was tossed out. The poor
Creature shoved its head inside of the can and could not get its head back out because of the angle of the lid still partially attached and starved dehydrated to death. I met some of them kids again few years ago and they said now whenever they saw things like that in nature they picked it up. To many people have a disconnect to the land.

So one approach is to be less combative and find out what they care about in nature. Get them out hiking. Start a small garden on the churches property if they allow it. I tried to get one church to start a garden and they just would not. They felt it was a waste of the congregations money. I talked them into a dozen dwarf fruit trees from cuttings and sold it as a way to invite the hungry to be able to pick free fruit and to have a drinking fountain added with a small pergola and bench. People started resting there while walking and eating fruit when it was there. They saw how it was servicing the community. That in return inspired a bunch of the congregation to also stsrt their own small gardens to eat from and to share from. That resulted in them caring more about nature and realizing the importance of pollinators which meant having native plants which mean learning about and caring about ecosystems and biodiversity.

I also bring up James 2. God says he takes care of us also. Yet he still tells us to feed the hungry. That’s because God works through us. The same with environmentalism. God expects us to be stewards.

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Climate change for the worse is among the possible judgements on sin mentioned in Deuteronomy, and carried out in the case of Ahab. Of course, there are other instances like the famine affecting Canaan and Egypt in Joseph’s time that are not attributed to particular sin. But the claim that “no matter what we do, God will take care of it” is that of Satan telling Jesus to jump off the temple - it’s putting God to the test. True, we are to trust God and not worry, but we are to do our duties well; that “not worry” should not be that of Alfred E. Newman.

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When I read the OP quote, I see a logic that it doesn’t look like people have engaged with. She has already agreed on stewardship of the planet, so that’s not the issue, though that is the subject of a number of posts. Focusing on convincing people there is a problem is not the problem.

She says, “…if everyone did all that is humanly possible, it wouldn’t make a significant difference.” Therefore she is putting her trust in God. That’s her logic.

The question for her seems to be, what can I do that would make a meaningful difference? And since she can’t see anything, she’ll put her trust in God’s providence.

So can someone suggest to her/us/me something she/we/I can do that will reduce climate change?

Another unstated premise of the quote may be that God is more trustworthy than the “solutions” being offered by “politicians and their scientists.” Unfortunately scientists have betrayed the trust of many. The actual science in various areas may be sound, but there’s too much money in science looking for an a-priori conclusion, too much cherry picking of data, too much exaggeration of significance, too much scientism, and not enough integrity. Folks on this board probably excepted from this, but I trust you see what I mean.

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Appreciate your insights.

Is the real question individual Christian responsibility? Should Christians crusade for alleviating climate change? Are climate change issues included in the proclamation of the gospel of the Kingdom of God? How a Christian answer these questions will determine their understanding about their individual responsibility.

A different perspective is believing climate change and the consequences are irreversible. In this case the trust in the providence of God may be a way of ignoring the problem or accepting any responsibility. Some Christians I know who deny climate change, do so to avoid responsibility.

Another perspective is that trusting in divine providence presents the speaker as more pious.
Other Christians see climate change as an eschatological event.

Eventually, climate change will alter every one’s life and seen by Christians as a divine trail.

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Well … yeah! Pick nearly anything that reduces your carbon emission. Choose to walk or bike somewhere rather than drive. Or hang your clothes out on the line rather than use the dryer. It’s a target rich environment.

I think the key word that does the damage here is: “meaningful”. People want some action of their own to “save the world”, so-to-speak - which of course none of these things by themselves come close to doing. So it ends up being an excuse to hide behind. It would be just as if I refuse to put any money away into retirement or a savings account because the deposit I would be making there this week or month by itself doesn’t begin to make a dent toward what will likely be needed for retirement, or more likely … medical bills. Therefore - since my actions today can’t make a meaningful dent, I just won’t put anything into savings at all. Which of course is … idiotic.

So the word “meaningful” in too many cases means no more than “I’m too inconvenienced to attempt any of that, so I’ll hide behind the excuse that doing it won’t single-handedly usher us all to the Promise Land.”

OR … God may be using politicians and scientists to help us see better what ought to be done.

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I understand. In my original FB post I proposed that climate change is an inherently “Christian issue” (should be of upmost concern to Christians) because the detriment being caused is resulting in people around the world suffering and dying. Not to mention other creation such as animals and ecosystems, but other human beings are also starving and dying due to the excess pollution and trash being produced. Learning about these people is what made it apparent to me that Christians should be caring much more about our impact, not making excuses about why “no matter what we do” nothing will change.

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Climate change inherently related, but my inspiration has been in knowing that the trash alone that we produce and ship off to other countries for “processing” is causing major issues for life in less fortunate places and the environment (ocean). Believing in climate change/the implications is honestly secondary in my opinion.

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Do you have any evidence of this?

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You don’t have to go back that far, even: just think of Auschwitz, where three (or possibly more) Jews, at least one of whom must be knowledgeable in the relevant area(s) of Jewish law, held a trial of God on the charge of crimes against humanity – and found Him guilty.

In the audience was Elie Wiesel, a 12-year-old boy (so too young to sit on the bet din), who much later wrote a play called “The Trial of God”, transposing the action to Ukraine in 1649, during the pogroms led by Bohdan Khmielnicki.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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