Al Gore, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his movie "An Inconvenient Truth," which is about global warming, has recently said, "We may have less than ten years in order to make dramatic changes, lest we lose the chance to avoid catastrophic results from the climate crisis. We're building up CO2 so rapidly that we're seeing the consequences scientists have long predicted..."
And what are those consequences? According to the theory, global warming will cause all kinds of bad things to happen, such as:
This sure sounds like the worst thing to hit the earth since the Deluge, and while most environmentalists aren't predicting the end of life on earth, this would certainly have a major negative effect on everything around us. What should we do about it?
Al Gore says we need to generate all our electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind power, regardless of the tens of thousands of jobs that would be lost, especially in places like Appalachia where coal mining is the only job there is, and regardless of the fact that these sources aren't as cost-effective as fossil fuels and we have no guarantee that they ever will be, and regardless of the fact that other environmentalists are against wind turbines because they kill endangered birds by the hundreds. Scientists are intently studying cow burps in the American midwest and and sheep flatulence in New Zealand, because those are big sources of greenhouse gases. We even have an international treaty, the Kyoto Protocols, that call for some nations like America to cut their CO2 emissions, no matter who suffers, but allows others like China to keep right on emitting CO2 because... well, no one seems to know why.
The question has been asked, "What is the Christian position on these things? How should a Bible-believing Christian respond to global warming?"
Any time we need a Christian view on something, we ought to go to the Bible first. The Bible is not a science book, but what it does say about science is true. In fact, any time we weigh some matter of science, our first question should be, "Does the Bible confirm or deny the truth of this?" Along with your church bulletin this morning, you should have received a little graph that will help you understand how to rightly judge any matter of science. Take a look at that, if you would, and we'll fill in the blanks.
|Guide to Rightly Understanding Science|
Example: __________ __________
Example: ________ ____________
These matters can be divided into four categories, based on two questions. Question #1 is, "Is this true or false?" A good place to begin, yes? So, at the top, we have "True," and in the bottom, we have "Falsehood." Any science that we put in the top half of this diagram will be true, and anything we put in the bottom will be false. Have I lost anyone so far?
The other question is, as I just said, "Does Scripture address this issue?" If the Bible says something is true, that's all we need to know; and if the Bible says a thing is untrue, then that's all we need to know about that. If the Bible does not address the issue, then we have to go to other sources to prove or disprove a thing. So, on the left, we have "Scriptural facts." On the right, we have "Other facts." Any science we write on the left side of this diagram will be something that's settled by the Bible, and anything on the right side is something the Bible does not mention.
You may notice that we, as Christians, are taking it upon ourselves to determine the truth or falsehood of science. Most worldly people would be appalled at our audacity — who are we to make such a judgment? Leave it to the experts! If anything, they'd reverse it and say that science has the right to judge the truth or falsehood of a religion. But God commands us, in I Thessalonians 5:21, to test all things. We have the God-given right and responsibility to pass judgment on these matters, because we will answer to God for what we believe, and especially for what we teach to others. For us to judge issues like global warming isn't audacity, it's obedience.
Now, to make this all make sense, I'll give you four examples, one kind of science for each of the four categories. For our first category, the upper left box, which would be True and based on Scriptural facts, a fine example is the (two words) water cycle. Ecclesiastes 1:7 says, "All streams flow into the sea, and yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again." This simple fact was known to Bible scholars centuries before worldly scientists figured out the details. Water flows from uphill to downhill, it reaches the sea, it evaporates, it goes into the clouds, it falls on the land as rain, and it goes around again. It's true, and it's supported by Scripture.
For an example of science in the upper-right box, true and supported by other facts, we have gravity. I don't know of any Bible verse that says, "What goes up must come down." Nor is there anything against it in the Bible. So, without Scriptural input, we go to other sources, and we find that gravity is a pretty well accepted fact. Science believes it, the Bible doesn't say no, so we accept that it's true.
In the lower-left box, which is False according to Scriptural facts, the best-known example, of course, is Evolution. A majority of people who call themselves scientists believe that we all came from lower species, which evolved from even lower species, until we go all the way back to the first one-celled organism, about three billion years ago, which came into being out of chemicals washed out of rocks and animated by a lucky stroke of lightning. The Bible does not say we all came from a rock. The Bible says God made the earth and all the kinds of plants and animals on it, in just six days. So we, who believe that God knows what He's talking about, reject evolution as false on the basis of the Scriptures.
The lower right box is for things that are False on the basis of other facts, because the Bible does not address the issue. An example here is the (two words) four elements. The ancient Greeks believed that all matter was made up of four elements — earth, air, fire, and water. Modern physics tells us that all matter is made up of over a hundred elements — antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium, and hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium, and so on. The Bible does not address this issue. There is nothing in Scripture that says what the building blocks of the universe are, except that it's Jesus Christ Who holds them all together. So we Christians have no problem believing modern physics in this area, and we reject the old idea of just four elements.
Okay, now we've laid our foundation of judging science rightly. Now let's apply it to the subject of global warming and see what we find.
The first thing to keep in mind is that the Bible does not address the subject. Oh, there are passages that sound a lot like the effects of global warming, like this one from Revelation 8:7-11:
7 The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
8 The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood,
9 a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
10 The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water —
11 the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.
Some of those judgments sure sound like the effects of global warming. But keep in mind that it is God who is causing these disasters, not man. These are judgments from God on an unrepentant human race, not the effects of man-made activity.
So if the Bible does not address the issue, then we know that global warming won't be on the left side of our graph — its truth or falsehood isn't determined by Scripture. Now we have to determine that truth or falsehood.
Consider the following facts:
"The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it. In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant overall loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually. During the same time, the average temperature around the equator has risen by a fraction of a degree - a fraction that in some areas can mean drought and desolation. Last April, in the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded, 148 twisters killed more than 300 people and caused half a billion dollars’ worth of damage in 13 U.S. states.
"To scientists, these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world’s weather. The central fact ("fact," mind you) is that after three quarters of a century of extraordinarily mild conditions, the earth’s climate seems to be cooling down." Not warming, cooling! Thirty-eight years ago, the world's experts were convinced that greenhouse gases were having the exact opposite effect from what they're predicting now.
Given these facts, would you conclude that man-made global warming is the truth? Is it a fact that we can put our faith in? There are religions in this world whose leaders handle truth the same way those Newsweek scientists handle greenhouse gases — for instance, the Jehovah's Witnesses have gone back and forth at least three times on whether lost sinners will be resurrected at the end of the age — but is that how a Christian is supposed to handle truth? Proverbs 13:5 says, "The righteous hate what is false." Can you be righteous in the sight of God and embrace what is false at the same time?
Let me be clear about one thing: we ought to take good care of this planet of ours. It's the only place we have to live in this life, and if the Lord tarries, it's where our children and our grandchildren are going to live, too. When God placed Adam in the garden, his role was to dress and tend that garden. Granted, that wasn't very hard, since there were no such things as weeds then. But from the moment Adam took his first breath, he was taking care of the planet.
Noah and his family were commanded to "be fruitful and multiply, replenish the earth, and subdue it." That means bring it under human control. That doesn't mean wreck it, spoil it, or destroy it. We should be good stewards of the things God has given us, knowing that some day we will give an account of our stewardship. That includes the planet we're on.
The problem arises when the planet becomes our god, or our goddess, and caring for the planet becomes more important than the greater issues that God has commanded us to take care of. That's called idolatry, and it's alive and well on the earth today. That wasn't Jesus' focus, it wasn't the apostles' mission, and it isn't meant to be our calling.
There are others who embrace the theory of global warming as a means to a different end. According to a DVD called "Global Warming or Global Governance?" "...by following the lead of global warming alarmists including those at the U.N., global institutions not accountable to the American people will come to control every aspect of our economy."
These people want a one-world government, and they're using panic over the environment as a lever to gain control over our government and our Constitution. Eventually, their wish will be granted, and they will get a one-world government... and boy, are they gonna be sorry! But that, too, is going to be under the Lord's control. Man can't make it happen by himself if the Lord isn't good and ready for it to happen. It is the Lord who sets up kings and deposes them (Daniel 2:21). As long as God has some kind of plan for America, then these foreign organizations who are trying to take over our energy and transportation systems are working against God.
Having said all that, let me now say this. There are aspects of global warming that a Christian should be very concerned about, and to which we ought to give our entire attention. Turn, if you would, to Luke 16:22. It's a well-known passage, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
22 The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, "Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this flame."
The fiery torment that the rich man was experiencing, is also being experienced by uncounted lost souls from all over the globe. This is an example of the "global warming" that Christians should be very concerned about, and should be working very hard to prevent.
The entire reason Christ came to earth was to save souls from hell. The only reason He doesn't take us straight to Heaven when we get saved is because He wants us to carry on that great work of preaching the Gospel and saving souls from the fire. The Great Commission does not say, "Go and save the planet," it says, "Go and make disciples." That is our work. Nothing else comes close in importance.
We are all born deserving eternal fire. It's only the blood of Christ that can save us from that "warming." And if you aren't sure whether you've been saved, then please don't leave this building before you talk to me, or one of the faithful men or women of this church, so we can explain it to you. It's simple, it's not negotiable, and if you want to avoid the "warming" that the rich man endured, and is still enduring today, and will continue to endure for all eternity, there is no other way.
And if you know you're saved by Jesus alone, then your mission in life is to spread that around. All these people we know who think they're doing good by saving the planet from us, are distracting themselves from what really matters. They may or may not be saving the planet, but they are failing to get their souls saved. The warming they're trying to prevent is a matter of a few degrees, but the "warming" that they will experience in Hell is the temperature of molten sulfur — that's what "brimstone" is. They will launch themselves from a comfortable planet into a Christless eternity, where all their well-meaning efforts will count for nothing at all. We Christians have the answer for them. Our #1 mission in life is to tell them. May none of us ever have to hear a voice rising from the pit, crying for all eternity, "Why didn't you tell me?"
There's another kind of "warming" that Christians should be aware of. That's in Revelation 3:14:
14 To the church in Laodicea write: "These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm — neither cold nor hot — I am about to spit you out of my mouth."
Jesus had seen the works of the church in Laodicea and found them wanting. They were only warm. He wanted them to be hot for Him, but even being cold would have been better than their uncommitted, lukewarm state. He told them later, "Be earnest, and repent." "Turn up the heat!" is what He was telling them. And there are churches all over the world, and Christians all over the world, who face this same problem. This is a "global warming" that needs to happen.
It's so easy to get comfortable in our Christian lives, fulfilling the same comfortable, predictable ministries, going through the motions Sunday after Sunday, while the Spirit's fire slowly dies inside us, and no one notices, not even ourselves. Jesus says He'd actually prefer us to grow openly cold — it's easier for Him to work in someone's life when they know something's wrong than when they're fat, happy, and lukewarm. The answer is repentance, which tells us that lukewarmness is a sin. Maybe you know someone in that condition. Maybe you are in that condition. What should you do?
Repent! Turn up the heat! Step out of your comfort zone; try doing something for the Lord that doesn't come naturally. Pastor Doug's evangelism program would be a great way to get some "warming" happening in your spiritual life. If it's someone you know, then a little coming-alongside may be in order, for encouragement and exhortation. Every Christian could benefit from greater zeal; none of us has it all together. So let's get some "warming" happening, starting right here at home, and then spread it around and make it "global."
There's a third kind of "warming" that we need to be conscious of, and that's in I Corinthians 3:11 —
11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
When the saints of God reach Heaven, every one of us is going to find our works — what we did on this earth for Jesus — put to the test of fire. Our works are going to to experience a "global warming." And the results of this test will decide how much glory you will give to Jesus on that day.
Will you cast at His feet a crown made of the most precious of metals, covered with fabulous gems, each jewel the reward for some great work you did in His power and for His glory? Or will you drop at His feet a handful of ashes, all that remains of a life lived for your own goals and your own pleasures? What do you want the outcome of that "warming" to be? If your goal is anything other than the glory of Jesus, then whatever you do in this life, you've gotten your reward. You'll have nothing to show for it in eternity. Jesus made that plain in Matthew chapter 6. But if your works survive that great "warming," then you will bring honor to your Savior, which is all any right-thinking Christian ought to want.
And what are the works that will survive that "warming?" Whatever God has called you to do. There are general calls, like to obey the Great Commission, to not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, to rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in all things give thanks — these are things that every Christian is supposed to do, things that we will be rewarded for if we faithfully do them. But God also has a special, unique plan for each of us, and if we obey His call, then we will be rewarded for that. It doesn't matter if you're called to be a pastor or if you're called to clean up the church at night — if you do what He wants you to do, with the motive of honoring Him, then you will receive a "Well done, good and faithful servant," and you will be rewarded when your works are tried by fire.
Now, you may think I'm being flippant about this "global warming" thing. Let me assure you, I am not. The global warming that all lost souls will experience is far more important than any supposed climate change. The global warming that half-hearted Christians need to experience is much more significant, in view of eternity, than the oceans rising an inch or two. The global warming that will test our works is going to last forever, while the global warming that concerns Al Gore may not even happen, and if it does, it's strictly temporal.
As Christians, we should be taking the long view. The eternal view. The view that's going to be affecting us and the ones we love, long after this planet has been done away with and replaced by the new heaven and the new earth. Yes, again, we should be good stewards of this planet, as something God has entrusted to us. But this planet was never meant to be our priority.
When every lost soul has heard the Gospel, when every lukewarm believer has been challenged to get it in gear, when every Christian understands that his/her deeds and motives are going to have an eternal impact — when all these major Christian issues have been dealt with, if you still have any time and energy left over, then go right ahead and focus on threats to the earth. But until that happens, we Christians need to keep our focus on the things that God has commanded us to focus on. Those were the things that concerned Jesus while He was on this earth, so if you aren't sure where your priorities should be, then read the Gospels and see where Christ put the bulk of His time and energy.
Global warming. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won't. Maybe it's man-made, and maybe it isn't. But setting aside all these maybe's, we should definitely be putting all our efforts and all our energy into things that are eternal, not things that are temporal. "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." (Colossians 3:2) "For the world in its present form is passing away" (I Corinthians 7:31). Let's pour ourselves into things that will not pass away. Let's dedicate ourselves to the things that will endure forever.