Citizens’ Climate Radio is a monthly podcast hosted by CCL volunteer Peterson Toscano. Browse all our past episode recaps here, or listen to past episodes here, and check out the latest episode in the post below.
What the Bible says about climate change (global warming)?
As concerns about climate change grow more prevalent in the eyes of the public, many people, including religious leaders, are calling for a solution to help God’s creation.
In this episode of Citizens’ Climate Radio, host Peterson Toscano discusses the evangelical Christian perspective of caring for God’s creation. Peterson sits down with Kyle Meyaard Schaap and Corina Newsome from Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (YECA), along with Rev. Josh Gibson, pastor of Emmanuel Bible Fellowship Church in Pennsylvania, to find out what the Bible says about climate change.
Genesis 1:26: Then God said, let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals and over all the creatures that move along the ground.
Genesis 2:15: The Lord, God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
All of Peterson’s guests explain that we are made in God’s image, and God has appointed us to be the stewards of the earth. This means that when we care for the earth, and for one another by extension, we give praise to God.
“What does it mean to be made in the image of the creator, who creates and calls His creation good over and over and over again, even before humans are on the scene?” Kyle asks. “We look at Genesis 2:15, where it says God took humans and placed them in the garden to serve and protect it.”
Kyle mentions other Biblical examples that provide an even deeper context and understanding. “We look at some of the passages in Leviticus and Deuteronomy when God is teaching His people how to be His people, and some of the commands He gives them have to do with honoring the land and recognizing the land’s need to have a Sabbath in order to honor God. [The land] as well as humans need to have a Sabbath, to let the land rest. We look at the prophets who command the people to seek justice for both people and the land because they recognize that their mutual well-being is inextricably bound up together. We look at Psalms like Psalm 19, Psalm 104, Psalm 24, and others that speak so beautifully about God’s love for the created world for its own sake. God takes great delight in the creatures that He has made.”
Psalm 24: 1-2: The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it, for He founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.
Psalm 104: 10-15: He makes springs pour water into the ravines — it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst; the birds of the sky nest by the waters — they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from His upper chambers. The land is satisfied by the fruit of His work. He makes grass grow for the cattle and plants for people to cultivate, bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts.
“We jump to the New Testament, where we look at the incarnation. What does it mean that God loves the world so much that He takes on the stuff of His world?” Kyle explains. “God could have achieved salvation in any way that He wanted, but He chose to take on flesh and blood and tendon and cartilage and continues to be incarnate. God has taken up the stuff of creation into His own self. I can’t think of a greater affirmation of the goodness of the world in God’s eyes than to actually take on the stuff of that world in order to redeem it.”
Kyle points to more Biblical examples, such as Revelations 21. “We see the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven and a voice saying that God’s dwelling place is among the people, not that the people’s dwelling place is with God. It’s God coming down to the people and saying, ‘See? I’m making everything new.’ And the Greek word there for new means renewed, not brand new. We see that God’s ultimate purpose for the world is to join heaven and earth as one.”
Rev. Gibson expands on this point, explaining that stewardship for the earth is a way of honoring heaven and earth. “Stewardship is a biblical principle…and doesn’t mean that we’re supposed to dominate the Earth. Dominion is something that we are supposed to reflect on, how God would treat His creation. He’s given us these resources, and to use them in such an over abusive way…there’s going to be consequences.”
This idea of creation care tends to be interwoven with environmentalism. Corina Newsome, who is an Associate Conservation Scientist, as well as active in the evangelical movement, has been addressing the overlapping circles of religion, environmentalism, and minority communities for some time. You can see examples of her work on her website, on her Instagram, and on her Twitter.
“We are stewards of the Earth,” she says. “So not only is it a gift, and not only did God furnish this for us and provide this for us, if we destroy it, it’s only going to hurt us. So we are responsible for stewarding this earth because if we allow it to become destroyed or become compromised, it’s going to decrease the cleanness or the reflection of God that exists within it. And ultimately it will cause harm back to the stewards — back to us.”
For Corina, the idea of being a steward of the earth flows directly into loving our neighbor. “There’s no question that any church or any Christian would agree with me: we are to love our neighbor. That is a principle that you must abide by. If you call yourself a follower of Christ, then stewarding the natural world is a reflection of loving our neighbor. Because when we choose to be wasteful or we choose to live in a way that is unsustainable, that creates waste, that creates degradation in the natural world…even if it doesn’t affect us, it is affecting some other human being. It is affecting people who live by landfills…people who live in these extremely marginalized and vulnerable areas. They’re the ones who are going to be reaping the negative effects of our lifestyle. You must be a good steward if you love your neighbor.”
Matthew 25: 34-40: Then the king will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed by my father, take your inheritance: the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick. And you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer Him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The king will reply, “Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
If heaven is our home, then what is the earth? A temporary shelter, a rental property, where we bide our time before we come into our eternal inheritance? Kyle explains that God doesn’t want to replace this earth, but renew it. “Our home is the kingdom of God, which is not here yet, but it will be here on this renewed earth forever joined with heaven.”
Romans 8:19-21: For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed, for the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage and decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
There are times during our climate work when it seems like our efforts can be in vain. Sometimes we question whether or not it really matters. Rev. Gibson references the above passage and the strain on creation that human sin has caused. He discussed the Book of Revelations, and how creation groans and seems broken. However, Rev. Gibson gives us a sign of hope, pointing to the promise of resurrection and new life.
“God didn’t say he’s going to make all new things. He’s going to make all things new. So creation is going to have a resurrection, so to speak, just as Jesus did. The apostle Paul tells us in Romans chapter 8 that it may seem painful right now, and things may look broken and beyond repair. But don’t lose hope, because this is just the beginning.”
In this section of the episode, Peterson Toscano also creates a fictional persona called Tony Buffusio to explore the question “What does the Bible say about climate change?” He tells the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis, who lives in Egypt during a time of temporary regional shifts in the climate. Not only does he predict changes in weather patterns, he develops a plan of how to look after the people. Peterson is a Bible scholar with a passion for looking after the welfare of people who are affected by extreme weather events.
This month, we hear from Jay Greene in Salisbury, England. She tells us what her faith has to do with climate change. Since this is such a rich question, we want to keep it open another month. Here’s the puzzler:
Louis, someone you know from your faith community, asks why are you involved in climate change work. You say, “Lots of reasons, but a big part is because of my faith.” Louis looks puzzled. He asks, “Climate change? What’s faith got to do with it?” What do you say to Louis? How is climate change connected to your faith or religion or spiritual practice? What do you have to add to this topic?
Send Peterson your answers by December 10, 2018, along with your name, contact info, and where you are from. You can email your answers to radio @ citizensclimate.org or leave a voicemail of 3 minutes or less at (518) 595-9414 (+1 if calling from outside the USA).
- Here is a list of the various Bible passages referenced in the episode. You can look up these verses at BibleGateway: Genesis 1:26, Genesis 2:15, Leviticus 25:4, Psalm 24:1,2, Psalm 104:10-15, Colossians 1:15, Revelation 21, Matthew 25:31-46, Romans 8:19-21
- Stopping Climate Change is Part of Following Jesus by Kyle Meyaard-Schaap (Relevant Magazine)
- YECA resource list of books for Christians interested in learning more about climate change and creation care.
- Evangelical Christians’ Call-to-Action on Climate Change
- Operation Noah, a Christian charity working with the church to inspire action on climate change
- The Christian Climate Professor Bridging the Gap Between Faith and Science. (Quartz)
- Citizens Climate Lobby Faith Outreach
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