The atmosphere is warming up, they say. We are in for some dramatic changes in weather in the years ahead. As a result, once fertile growing areas may become deserts. Plant life will shift toward the poles. Food shortages may bring hunger and starvation. Ocean currents will change, bringing disruption in ocean life and further climate change to different areas of the world. The melting ice on the poles will flow into the oceans raising their levels, sending the great cities of the coasts fleeing inland. Disease may thrive in the warmer climate and pandemics may devastate civilization, as we know it. Monster storms will result in billions of dollars in damage. Economic collapse may bring chaos, the collapse of nations, and the rise of new nations.
But, they say, there is hope, because we know why the atmosphere is warming, and we can do something about it. The reason for this warming is directly related to the activity of man and his unprecedented consumption of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels come from oil and coal which at one time were plants. You may remember that plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow. This abundance of carbon dioxide has been buried in the ground in the dead plants, and now as we use these fuels for our life, we are releasing the carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. This carbon dioxide in the atmosphere acts like a blanket which keeps heat from radiating out into space. As a result, the earth is growing warmer. The solution to global warming, then, is quite obvious. Stop burning so much coal and oil.
Global warming could also be slowed down if we could restrain our gluttonous consumption of beef. You see, carbon dioxide is not the only gas that tends to thicken the atmospheric blanket. Methane is another gas that does the same thing, and cows generate a lot of methane gas with their digestive systems. As the demand for beef continues to skyrocket, so does the production of methane from the millions of cows that are raised for this purpose. So in addition to reducing our consumption of fossil fuels, we can slow down global warming, and thus world destruction, by changing our diets to include less meat and more plant based foods.
At this point, many will laugh, snort in disgust, or cry “conspiracy.” First of all, we’ve heard these predictions of gloom and doom before. In the second place, how do “they” know we are not in some sort of natural cycle of warming and cooling? And in the third place, what solid proof do they have that carbon dioxide and cow gas are at fault? It’s just the wild-eyed environmentalists and third-world countries that are jealous of the American way of life and are trying to scare me away from my fat juicy steak and my gas guzzling SUV. Many Christians who hold to one view or another that our world is being Christianized for the establishment of His kingdom on this earth scoff at the predictions as well because it comes into conflict with their theology.
So how should the Christian respond? We cannot deny that our consumption of energy pumps millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every day. We cannot deny that this consumption of fossil fuels supports the wonderful economy and high standards of living that we enjoy and have never before been enjoyed by so many people at one time in the history of the world. We cannot deny that this consumption is more than a mere hiccup in the whole natural workings of forest fires, volcanoes, swamp gas etc. Man is opening a box that has been closed since God changed the world at the Flood. I think it is quite clear that the tremendous vegetation that flourished in the world before the flood, was buried by the flood. All that carbon dioxide that was in circulation before the flood, and that helped make that world what it was, is now being put back into circulation. The point I am trying to make is that it is not so far fetched to think that the release of all this carbon dioxide will have dramatic effects upon our earth.
Does this mean we as Christians ought to be on the front lines of the battle against global warming? Not really, but as Christians who strive to be good stewards of what God has given to us, we do not feel comfortable in the camp of wasteful gluttony and pleasure seeking either. We need to remember that the fossil fuel that propels the economy and civilization we enjoy, is also used by God to propel the gathering of the church. And here again we are certain of one thing: as we near the end of time, we can expect upheavals in the world. Consider the following portions of Scripture from the book of Revelation 8 and 16:
And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up. And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed. And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter. (Rev. 8:5-11)
Hoeksema in Behold He Cometh interprets this as representing “some poisonous influence in the atmosphere, affecting the waters from which men and beasts drink.” (527)
And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth. And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image. And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea. And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments. And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds. And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. (Rev. 16:1-12)
Nobody knows for sure if cows and cars will be used by God to bring about the upheavals that are sure to come. It would seem to be fitting that the very upheavals became a punishment for man’s greediness. The greedy demand of Israel for flesh to eat brought death to many of them even as they ate. It is very likely that God will use many things different things. Recently the astronomers also have gotten rather excited about a giant meteor that seems to have earth in its crosshairs. We ought to think carefully about how we respond to the cry of global warming or other perceived threats. Ungodly man shows some measure of wisdom in being nervous. We may not join the wasteful consumerism in their jeers against those who warn them of the dire effects of their life. Even so, we do not join the battle against global warming in an effort to save the earth. The Christian response will make neither camp happy. To the one we could say, “You may be right about global warming, in fact, God’s revelation of the days ahead make your predictions seem minor. But I have work to do as I train up my children and support the causes of the kingdom of heaven, and therefore I don’t have much time for your cause.” And to the culture in which we live we could say, “You are but the husk of the kernel. You are necessary and I will use whatever I need. You serve the church, but you will soon be destroyed.”