Can We Save the Planet? - Part 1

Johannes Pflaum

Many Bible-believing Christians don’t realize that they are being taken in by a conception of the world and mankind that is contrary to what the Bible teaches. As far as the topics of ecology, climate change, nature, and health are concerned, evolutionary theory has left a much deeper mark on our thinking than we are aware.

Ecological awareness, environmental conservation, climate change, natural lifestyle … it all sounds so good and catchy. Even as Bible-believing Christians, these phrases have flowed through our thinking for years. We believe ourselves to be immune due to our solid understanding of the Bible, so we often don’t notice that our spiritual coordinate system is being shifted more and more by new ideologies. The big environmental boom began in the early and mid-1970s. Classes covered forest decline. According to what we learned then, those in Switzerland and Germany should be living in the middle of a desert today.

Many media outlets have publicized the life of Tony Rinaudo, an agronomist for World Vision Australia. His prayer has been, “God, forgive us for destroying the gifts of your creation.” This Australian Christian is committed to the reforestation of Africa. Using natural resources sensibly is good. The focus and approach of this article, however, provoke thought. Rinaudo is quoted as saying, “I’m certain that there are people who come closer to God when they care about His creation.”

According to Romans 1:20, “The invisible things of [God] from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” The tendency of the above-quoted article, however, goes in a different direction. It doesn’t elaborate on the necessity of proclaiming the gospel at all. In fact, it goes further by having a paragraph entitled, “Conservatives Evade Responsibility.” It discusses Donald Trump’s withdrawal from climate treaties, and quotes Republican politician Tim Walberg as saying, “As a Christian, I believe that there is a creator God who is much bigger than us […] And I’m confident that, if there’s a real problem, he can take care of it.”

This seemingly negative assertion is contrasted with the positive examples of the evangelical church in Germany and Pope Francis, with his demands for climate protection requirements. Mind you, the article in question was from an evangelical publication.

Discussion of climate and the environment is one thing. But the subject continues under another guise among Christians. There’s nothing wrong with placing value on a healthy diet. But when it develops more and more into outright nutritional ideology and religion, it becomes questionable. Generally, alternative medicine is going in the wrong direction. And many Bible-believing Christians don’t realize that they are being taken in by a conception of the world and mankind that is contrary to what the Bible teaches.

God speaks to the people of Israel in Isaiah 22:11: “Ye made also a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool: but ye have not looked unto the maker thereof, neither had respect unto him that fashioned it long ago.”

Jerusalem was besieged by the Assyrians, and later by the Babylonians. It’s logical and humanly understandable that its inhabitants did everything they could to defend the city and avert the siege. But the big problem was their blindness to what was truly behind it. They didn’t look to the Lord, who had sent the Assyrians and Babylonians as His instrument of judgment.

That’s precisely our problem with eco- and climate religion. From a human perspective, everything seems so logical and plausible. And even among Bible-faithful Christians, our view of God is increasingly clouded; our God who is above and in all, who actively engages with humanity and realizes His plans.

As far as the topics of ecology, climate change, nature, and health are concerned, evolutionary theory has left a much deeper mark on our thinking than we are aware. The view is prevalent everywhere that nature and ecology are the product of a happy coincidence. The Creator God is excluded. And if a god is considered as the creator—whoever and however—then it is a distant god, who may have worked through evolution and then withdrawn. But, as a ruler of the world and active agent, God is excluded. We are constantly bombarded with this thinking today. We’ve arrived at an understanding of nature that completely factors out the fall of man as the catastrophe of human and world history.

By contrast, the Bible begins in Genesis 1 with the almighty Creator God, who created everything through His Word. And it ends in Revelation 21 and 22, again with the Creator God, who will make a new heaven and a new earth. Additionally, God’s Word teaches us that nature’s laws and processes aren’t self-automated, but that everything exists only in and through Christ (Col 1:15-17). Even the change in seasons, which is so natural for us, has its foundation in God’s promise after the Flood (Gen 8:22).

God didn’t create the world and then leave it to its own devices. He is a God who guides everything according to His plan, and also actively intervenes and acts through natural processes. So, the Flood wasn’t the product of CO2 emissions at the time or any other environmental sins (as we would say today). Rather, it was God’s mighty intervention and judgment on a corrupt humanity (Gen 6:5-7). Without question, fallen man has also become the tyrant of creation. But God’s actions and work are above all.

All of Scripture testifies to God’s sovereignty over the forces of nature. We don’t just see this in the Flood (Gen 6-8). Remember the plagues in Egypt (Exod 7—13); the parting of the Red Sea (Exod 14); the tremors at Sinai (Exod 19); the sun standing still in Joshua (Josh 13); the water catastrophe at Megiddo (Judges 5); the drought in the time of Ahab (1 Kings 17); Jesus calming the storms (Matt 8:23-27; 14:22-33); or, the judgments and earthquakes of Revelation (Rev 6, 8, 16, 18).

When we consider the calming of the storms, we usually begin the story with the disciples’ panic as they are in mortal danger from the wind and the waves. But when we read Matthew 8:23 and 14:22, we can see that the storm was no arbitrary event which the Lord Jesus saved His disciples from. Rather, He ushered it in both times. He did this to prove His deity. “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!” (Matt 8:27).

These events were a tremendous demonstration of Colossians 1:15-16. The second storm, when Jesus walked on the water, is reminiscent of Job 9:8, “[He] alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea.”

In many cases, Scriptures relate God’s action through the forces of nature and the weather (cf. Ps 29:3-10; 104:3; 135; 147). When God revealed Himself again to Job after all of His servants’ ignorant questions, He did so in the storm (Job 38:1). Then He spoke to Job, and made His unfathomable greatness clear to him from the weather and natural processes. Elihu, who presents Job before the Lord in chapters 36 and 37, also cites God’s work in the forces of nature.

The forces of darkness also work through natural processes. We read in Job 1:19, for example, that Satan sent the storm that cost Job’s children their lives. However, this was under God’s control, as the beginning of Job 1 makes clear. With regard to the natural processes and supremacy of God, the words from Amos 3:6b also apply: “Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?”

Humans undoubtedly try to influence and experiment with the weather. For example, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, mankind was convinced that it was only a matter of time until hurricanes could be scientifically mastered and prevented. In spite of all these attempts, mankind has clearly reached its limit here. We know what an uncontrollable threat hurricanes are today. The summer of 1947 was so hot and dry that Americans tried to seed Bavaria’s few clouds by using a chemical spray. It obviously didn’t achieve much.

In the context of God’s sovereignty over the weather, it isn’t just the climate discussion that appears in a different light. This is where conspiracy theories of chemtrails and alleged gigantic meteorological weapons—which constantly circulate, even among Bible-faithful Christians—fail.

It may be possible for mankind to influence the weather to a small extent every now and then (for example, dissolving hail in rain). But, according to the Bible, sole supremacy over it belongs to the living God. He talks to man through the weather; He uses the climate and the forces of nature to realize His plans and intentions. Man cannot do anything to change that. “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?” (Job 38:22-23).

Regarding the actions of God through the forces of nature, we can see a much greater fear of God among the population of earlier times. Along these lines, the fourth verse of the Swiss national anthem serves as an example:

Towards us in the wild storm coming,
You yourself give us resistance and
You, almighty ruling, rescuing!
During horror and nights of
Let us childlike trust Him!
Yes, we feel and understand,
That God dwelleth in this land.
That God, the Lord, dwelleth in this land.

That was one piece of popular piety in the broadest sense. In the biblical sense, Paul Gerhardt composed in his song Commit Thy Way:

He who for winds and clouds
Maketh a pathway free,
Through wastes or hostile crowds
Can make a way for thee.

In his lyrics, he makes it clear how much faith in God’s sovereignty over the forces of nature is connected with our personal faith in God through all difficulties and hardships.

When we consider salvation history, the fall of man in Genesis 3 is the grave event for the earth as God’s creation, and for us humans as the crown of creation. Since the Fall, nothing is like it was before. Because of this huge downfall, and not because of coal-fired power plants or diesel vehicles, all of creation is subject to perishability (Rom 8:20). Death and dying entered our world through sin (Rom 5:12). This doesn’t just affect mankind, as Romans 8:20 shows, but all of creation. Related to this, the end of our earth is firmly established by God. In 2 Peter 3:10, we read that on the Day of the Lord, the elements will dissolve with a crash. No climate protection objective will be able to change that. We must take note of this baseline in order to stay off the wrong track.

It’s proper for the believer to have a different relationship with this fallen creation than the godless man. This also applies to interactions with animals (Prov 12:10). But he does it all while preserving the right order of rank, knowing that man is set as the crown of creation over the rest, and knowing that this earth is temporal and transient.

The godless man, by comparison, both idolizes and destroys creation. He places creation and himself in the position of the Creator, and puts mankind, beast, and nature on par with each other. We’re experiencing this today with eco-religion.

If we live our lives in accountability to God, including in our dealings with creation, we know that creation is transient and intended for use. But our real goal in life is eternity and the new creation.

Thanks to modern science, we can do much more research today than ever before. As a result, we’re discovering more and more things that can be harmful or even deadly. For example, it’s been found that burning wood into ash forms the harmful heavy metal chromium (VI). But should constant new discoveries of harmful substances frighten us and throw us off balance? Isn’t science confirming what the Bible has been saying all along, that death has entered the world and everything is subject to perishability? The immaculate Garden of Eden lies beyond reach, before the Fall.

We can apply the same principle to medications and their side effects. Sickness, pain, suffering, and death will not be abolished until the new creation and perfection. So, it will never be possible for humans to eliminate all side effects and to sustain an unscathed life through medicine. Yet, allowing for this perspective, we can gratefully use such things as a temporary pain reliever, despite the side effects. As believers, we should never forget that we have no permanent city here (Heb 13:14).

All things are subject to perishability. For this reason, genetic birth defects increase over the generations. That’s the opposite of the theory of evolution. Our increasing susceptibility to disease and allergies is therefore not due to environmental factors alone. They simply affirm that man and mankind are not evolving further, becoming healthier and more immortal, but are instead degenerating.

The Bible also has a few things to say about climate change, but it’s very different from what we’re constantly being told. The first major climate change came with the Fall. When man rebelled against his Creator, death and transience came into all of creation. Everything changed. Just the same, people then lived ten times as long as we do today.

The second major climate change came with the judgment of the Flood. Again, the sin of man (not nitrogen oxides or excessive meat consumption) triggered the disaster. Scripture mentions rainfall for the first time in the context of the Flood, and after the Flood, summer and winter, frost and heat. Completely different climate conditions must have prevailed on earth before the Flood.

After the Flood, human life expectancy took a nosedive until it finally settled at the biblical limit of 70-80 years (Ps 90:10). Today’s life expectancy, on average, has reached this limit. On its face, conventional medicine has contributed to this.

Above all else, after this second great climate change, God promised that summer and winter will not cease for as long as the earth exists. Of course, climate has flexibility within these limits. But, if we take God’s Word seriously, we can remain relaxed in the face of current scare tactics.

So today, we’re living after the second fundamental climate change on earth, which was triggered by the sin of the people. After that, the Bible predicts a third fundamental major climate change. It isn’t instigated by the realization of green ideology or humanity’s climate protocols, but by the return of Jesus. It is connected with enormous cosmic and topographical upheavals (cf. Zech 14:4-5; Matt 24:29; Luke 21:25-27; Rev 6—8, 16).

There will still be summer and winter after this third major climate change (Zech 14:8), but without the pronounced distinctions that we know today. The sun and the moon will shine seven times brighter than today (Is 30:26). Some say that this is figurative in light of Isaiah 60:19-20. But we see no indication of this in Isaiah 30. This greater intensity will not lead to drought and life-threatening conditions. On the contrary. The Dead Sea will fully recover and become a rich fishing ground. There will be trees in the Jordan plain that bear fruit twelve times a year (Ezek 47:7-12). The desert will blossom and experience unprecedented fruitfulness (Is 35:1-2; 51:3; 55:12-13). This will solve all environmental problems. In spite of greatly increased solar radiation, people will have their pre-Flood existence back. This third great climate change of the millennial kingdom is preceded by the Great Judgment (Joel 3:1-3; Matt 25:31-46; Rev 20:4) and the binding of Satan for a thousand years (Rev 20:3).

After the third great climate change and the connected messianic kingdom, comes the judgment of the world (Rev 20:11-15). And then finally the new heaven and the new earth, which are joined together (Rev 21—22). In the new creation, everything is completely different.

Thus, the Holy Scriptures show us three drastic climate changes on our earth. The first two have already passed (the Fall and the Flood), and the third great change lies ahead (Jesus’ return, the millennial kingdom). All three major occurrences are related to the sin of mankind and the judgment and saving action of God, respectively.

Midnight Call - 11/2019

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