home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > July > CHRISTOLOGY AND CLIMATE-CHANGE


I am a student of theology. Even though I’m often introduced at my speaking engagements as ‘a theologian’ and written theological books, articles, papers and lectured for four theological colleges, I still consider myself a theological student rather than a theologian. I have a similar outlook toward pastoring. I have been trying to do it for three decades and served pastorally in three churches, I still regard myself as a student of my craft. Yet, in a very natural way, theology and pastoring are nearly identical twins. My posthumous mentor, Dr. F.W. Boreham, regarded the work of pastoring as a theological exercise. The main responsibility of the pastor, Dr. Boreham contended, was to show people who God was and what He was like. This is the essence of theology. I recall that Pastor John Piper once said something like this at a pastors’ conference when he spoke of every pastoral problem — marriage difficulties, relationship difficulties, financial difficulties, employment difficulties — each being caused by a theological problem. It might take me longer than you need me to be to explain this more fully, but needless to say, when we have a clearer vision and understanding God and how relates to us, it has a profound salutary effect in how we live, relate to others, handle money, and resolve life’s challenges.

With this in mind, it has become increasingly obvious to me that the greatest challenges that we (all 7 billion of us) face – including African poverty, Middle Eastern wars, Mexican drug cartels, shooting deaths in Philadelphia, domestic abuse in Tasmania, and global-warming, are all theological problems that can be solved by correcting poor theology. To illustrate this I will consider how climate-change is an example of how a good Christology (the foundation for all sound theology) provides hope and solutions.

¶ The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
In them He has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
Psalm 19:1-6

 

Dr. Hugh Ross with Dr. Andrew Corbett

Dr. Hugh Ross with Dr. Andrew Corbett in Los Angeles

WHY CLIMATE-CHANGE ALARMISTS ARE ALARMED

 While theology is my passion and discipline, I’m also extremely interested in various fields of science and serve as a visiting scholar at the Science-Faith think-tank, Reasons To Believe. I do not regard science as an enemy of theology, and therefore take what scientists claim with appropriate acceptance. The scientific case for recent global-warming is barely contestable. If the modelling is correct about the rate of global-warming continuing to increase there can be no wonder that so many people are alarmed at what the future may hold. The Australian government’s ‘Future Climate-Change’ website states a range of temperature increases over the next 30 or so years ranging from rising sea-levels engulfing many Pacific Ocean island nations, and temperature increases in the range of 1°C to 4.8°C.

Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg in 2019

Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg in 2019

 According to the World Wildlife Fund website this level of unabated human-induced climate change will wipe out most of the world’s wildlife and devastate many of the rainforests in which this wildlife depends. The Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, went further suggesting that human-induced climate-change would cause mass extinction of wildlife and echoed the growing fear that governmental inactivity that could even lead to the extinction of the human race. She was given the opportunity to raise her concerns in an address to the United Nations in which she stated (September, 2019) –

How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words!

In his book, Weathering Climate Change — a fresh approach, Dr. Hugh Ross affirms that the data does indeed reveal that the planet has been warming over the last century. He points to the growing concern about it among Americans.

“The percentage of those surveyed [by Gallop] indicating that they ‘personally worry about this problem a great deal’ stood at 35 percent in 1989 and seesawed between a low of 24 percent in 1998 and a high of 45 percent in 2017… Since the turn of the twenty-first century, the percentage of Americans who concur that scientific data affirm global warming has risen to more than 70 percent. The percentages of those who see human activity as the cause of global warming and who believe the effects of global warming have already become apparent have risen to nearly that same level” (pg. 18).

Dr. Ross goes on to report that “the younger the adult respondents, the more they ‘worry a great deal/fair amount about global warming.’” Many of these young people are convinced that climate-change will inevitably lead to human extinction and the death of our planet. No wonder they are so alarmed!

 

EARTH’S KNIFE-EDGE FINE-TUNING ENABLES LIFE ON EARTH

For those who understand just how finely tuned our planet is to enable life, they quickly recognise that the slightest increase in the rate of CO2 in the atmosphere, or the slightest increase in global temperature, could have a devastating impact for the possibility of life on earth. This is why they are so concerned (“alarmed”) about human-induced global warming due to increased CO2 emissions. Many of them understand that our Earth needed around 660 at-the-same-time fine-tuned parameters to an eye-watering precision of ‘millimetre-perfect’ exactitude, that physicist Dr. Freeman Dyson stated, “The more I examine the universe and the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were coming” (Freeman J. Dyson, Disturbing the Universe, New York: Basic, 1979:250). What Dr. Dyson was probably referring to is our exquisitely fine-tuned atmosphere which is perfectly composed for life on earth to be possible – consisting of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.9% argon, and several other gases comprising 0.1% (which includes carbon-dioxide). One of our planet’s unique parameters is its precise distance from the Sun which places us perfectly in a zone where we are not too close to be over-radiated, and yet not too far away to be a frozen wasteland. This is why astronomers refer to earth’s location in our solar system as being in the “Goldilocks Zone”. Added to this fine-tuning for life is our precise rate of gravity; our distance from our moon enabling our earth’s stable and consistent rotation and tidal rhythms; and, the composition of our earth’s crust on tectonic plates which facilitates our life-giving waterways and enables access to minerals and nutrients necessary for it.

¶ And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Genesis 1:28

Strangely, it is this miraculous fine-tuning that makes life on earth possible that has caused so many people who ignore its implications to regard it all as a luck-of-the-evolutionary-draw that mankind may well destroy within thirty years or so. They therefore speak of human-induced global-warming as humanity’s greatest crisis in language that almost sounds biblical in its use of apocalyptic forecasts and warnings. Several science commentators have noted this religious fervour and its accompanying Old Testament sounding woes.

The difference between that earlier and half-forgotten surge of alarmism and today’s is in the more emphatically religious character of our present [Environmental] movement. There is an ethical dimension…[requiring] political action too. 
-Tom Stacey, science journalist (p. 16)

Science journalist, Tom Stacey, speaking about this religious fervour of the Green Movement mimicking ‘genuine religion’ which lays the blame for earth’s woes squarely at the feet of humankind, wrote, “A factor of what I venture to call genuine religion had come into play, in that it is present in the Abramic traditions. We recall Adam who in eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil attained to consciousness and chose to disobey; and hence his inherent sense of original sinfulness(Climate: The Counter Consensus, 2010:17). But, Stacey cautions, the idea that mankind’s greatest problem is global-warming, ignores the point of the Genesis creation of Man account – “For although Man may feel himself to be made in the image of God as the Book of Genesis avers, he at once discovers he cannot be God.” Which is why Stacey found it incredulous that despite the extremely complex nature of climatology (which involves over “100 scientific disciplines” according to Palaeoclimatologist Professor Robert Carter) that any politician “could presume to promise that he would see to it that the rise in global temperatures would be restricted to 1.5 degrees Celsius” as UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown did at the Earth Summit at Copenhagen in December 2009 (p.18).

 There is a deeply religious worldview that undergirds this widespread concern about climate-change which is grounded in the idea that mankind is not just the cause of Mother Earth’s problems—but that mankind actually is the problem! That’s probably why the spirit behind this religious-environmental movement often describes earth as being over-populated and so heavily promotes such things as widespread abortion of babies; euthanising the elderly/infirmed/disabled/‘defective’/depressed; intentionally sterile sexualised relationships; and, suicide for those who have lost hope. 

because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
Romans 1:25

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Second Corinthians 4:4

 

THE SCOPE OF SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE & THEOLOGY

Keble College Chapel, Oxford University

Keble College Chapel, Oxford University, founded in 1096.

 Theology used to be commonly referred to as the Queen of the Sciences. It was the unifying field of study that tied all of the various fields of academic diversity together. This is why all of the world’s oldest universities were established originally as schools of theology which then branched out into other academic arenas. It is also why these schools became known as uni(fying)+(di)versities. Over time though, ‘the pursuit of knowledge’ (which is what the word science means) came to mean that which can be known objectively, physically, materially, by testable, repeatable, measurable methods. This is now known as methodological naturalism. It limits the scope of knowledge to the natural realm and ignores the realities of the subjective realm (psychology, human emotions and relationships), and, the supernatural realm (the immaterial, the spiritual, philosophy, religious claims). This is why Theology is regent over the physical sciences (chemistry, physics, biochemistry) because views knowledge as not being limited to just the material realm. 

At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And He who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.
Revelation 4:2-4

And herein lies the problem with how most of those in the so-called Environmentalist Movement see the worldthey view the universe comprised entirely of material particles as the result of a series of unguided, undirected, naturalistic uncaused events that has somehow evolved its own impersonal god-like soul (“Gaia”) which is now present in everything. But this is a lie. The universe, let alone our planet, does not have such a soul, and is most definitely not Mother Earth or Mother Nature. The universe, and especially earth, is the deliberate, intentional creation of the One True GOD, Yahweh, the God of the Bible (Gen. 1:1; Jn. 1:1). In the worldview of the leaders of the environmental movement it’s not just that no-one is seated on the throne of the universe and ruling the world, it’s that there is no throne upon which to rule from! Therefore, in this view, there is no God, and therefore there is no one ruling and regulating the universe. But this too is a lie. The truth is, there is One who rules over His creation, and He is seated upon the throne from which He does so!

¶ “Worthy are You, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for You created all things,
and by Your will they existed and were created.”
Revelation 4:11

 

WHY GOOD CHRISTOLOGY MAKES CLIMATE-CHANGE LESS ALARMING

 Dr. Hugh Ross is not a climate-change denier and makes a compelling case for why mankind should steward (manage) the earth and its resources responsibly. There are many parts of the world that are largely deprived of clean air or clean drinking water. We should be doing all we can to collectively resolve these dangers to human life, including the appropriate reduction of CO2 emissions. When God originally created mankind, He placed them in a garden He had planted (Gen. 2:8). After showing Adam and Eve around Eden, He told them to –

¶ And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.
Genesis 1:28-29

God never surrendered the earth to mankind. He entrusted it to mankind. He demonstrated what all the earth could be by showing the original two members of mankind what Eden consisted of. When the environmentalist weeps because forests have been cleared and the edges of the Gobi and Sahara have now spread their barrenness even further, he may be living out his pantheistic worldview. But perhaps we should weep too because the divine vision of an Edenic Earth has been set back even further (again). 

¶ The earth is the LORD’S and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
Psalm 24:1

 What the naturalist (the environmental materialist) misses, it that the earth is remarkably resilient because its Maker has made it so. All of the fine-tuning involved in the necessary conditions for the biological life on earth, were not the chance result of mere random, unguided, undirected, laws of physics (where do laws come from anyway??). No, all of the incredibly, eye-watering precision involved in the fine-tuning of our universe and especially our planet, was the result of an All-powerful, All-good, All-wise, All-present, All-knowing eternal and unique Being we call, God. He is guiding our universe toward its climatic conclusion because it was always His plan to display to glory through the ultimate triumph over evil so that the original vision of creation could finally be fulfilled — a dwelling place for God and man.  This is why Jesus, the eternal Son of God, referred to His Father as the Lord of heaven and earth.

¶ At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;
Matthew 11:25

 Ultimately it is God’s desire for dimension of the seen (the material world) and the dimension of the unseen – the dimension where He is seen clearly, becomes the dwelling place of God and mankind together (Rev. 21:3). 

¶ We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing Him directly just as He knows us!
First Corinthians 13:12, The Message

In the meantime, we rest in the knowledge that this universe is the creation of Jesus the Christ, the Lord of Heaven and Earth. (Acts 17:24). He is the One who holds and sustains this earth and will never allow any opponent to destroy it until His plan of redemption and triumph over evil is finally culminated — and even then He will redeem it, rather than destroy it. This is good Christology, and understanding it should cause anyone who is fretting over man-made climate-change to cease being alarmed and begin to turn their attention to the One who is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and the Lord of Heaven and Earth and everything in it!

He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
Hebrews 1:3-4

 

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

2 Comments

  1. Norman Macdonald

    Always good to remember God is in control and his plans cannot be thwarted.

    Reply

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THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.