An Inconvenient Purpose

Linking Godly Stewardship and Alternative Energy

Captives of Climate Change

by Richard Gasaway

from the February 2010 edition of the

Creation Care For Pastors Newsletter

"What does your pastor say about climate change?"

I have gotten that question a few times. Maybe you are the pastor that has been on the receiving end of climate change questions. Global warming and climate change questions will not go away anytime soon. In fact, they will likely grow in prominence. Regardless of the ebb and flow of public opinion, scientific reports and political posturing, Christian leaders need to be prepared. Pastors must address the message of biblical stewardship of our environment from the pulpit. They have a captive audience that needs to hear environmental messages somewhere other than secular media.

But some pastors are reluctant; a common concern is the polarizing effect on the congregation, which often contains "tree hugger" progressives and "climate skeptic" conservatives. Many climate change skeptics see global warming issues as championed by left-wing radical environmentalists. You know, those tree huggers like Al Gore, always trying to nail the skeptics to a cross with the "climate hammer."

The tree hugger congregants in the opposite pew see the denial of climate change as the industrial complex plot to destroy the earth for monetary gain. You know, those stone-hearted capitalists, always crying "no new taxes," to anything the tree huggers want that would cost a nickel more.

The topic remains steeped in turmoil. The problem is the perceived hijacking of "environmental" issues by both progressives and conservatives. Both see themselves as captives to the other's agenda. Is it worth it for "the church" to get into the middle of it?

If the Bible is used to seek the Lord's will, then the answer is yes. We need to look to biblical stewardship and beyond the stereotypes that captivate and ensnare us. We can and should tackle environmental issues- if we keep the focus on the cross of Jesus Christ. I talk about this at length in my book An Inconvenient Purpose - Linking Godly Stewardship and Alternative Energy.

However, as Christian leaders, we understand that we are dealing with "climate change captives" on both sides of the wall. Captives cannot see past the walls around them. Without Scripture and Christian leadership, captives on both sides will fail to break down the walls that divide them from each other, and from God's plan. 2 Timothy 2:23-26 (New International Version) states our mission as God's servants clearly:

"Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will."

The captives are on both sides of the climate change debate. Whether dealing with the liberal progressives who sometimes go to far or the staunch conservatives who sometimes don't go far enough, we are all captive to sin. Worshiping the creation rather than the creator is a sin (Romans 1: 25), but so is ignoring God's command to care for our fellow man and God's creation (Genesis 2:15, Luke 12:47-48 and Rev 11:18).

No matter the general persuasion of the congregation, the focus should be on commands God gave long before there were conservative or progressive stereotypes.

In Genesis 1:28 we were told to populate the earth and subdue it. This command existed before Adam and Eve fell into sin. The timing means that the term "subdue" does not mean harsh or overbearing rule, but to govern wisely.

The discussions about climate change will crescendo in government, boardrooms, and at the water cooler. The church needs to focus the discussion squarely on Christ, while remembering there are climate change captives in both the left pews and right pews.