I am a born-again Christian. I am also a science teacher with a Masters degree in Physics.
And I believe that there are some very good reasons why every Christian should take the climate catastrophe extremely seriously.
What I have experienced recently, is that a lot of Christians I encounter online has developed a hardcore anti-science perspective, willing to believe any conspiracy about lying scientists and obviously bogus alternative theories. And it scares me.
So here are my arguments, in headlines:
We Christians should not be anti-science. Protecting the communities at risk is more important than our wealth. And climate change is in no way a hoax.
First off, I would like to remind you of a few great men of science like Blaise Pascal (hydrodynamics), Isaac Newton (classical mechanics and optics), Leibnitz (calculus) and Einstein (relativity). They all held a deep faith in God. While the details of their faith were not always “conservative” (Einstein was Jewish), they all believed that God was the ruler who set the physical laws of the universe.
By the way, they shared this perspective with the Christian monks, who would work hard to preserve and advance science and technology throughout the medieval era. All for the glory of God.
So being a Christian does not require you to be anti-science. Rather, science can be an exploration of the wonders of creation.
Big Bang versus Flat Earth
Is it strange that many conservative Christians (not politically conservative, but conservative in the sense of believing in God as revealed in the Scriptures) are now straight up hostile to science?
Have we not always been so, you might ask? After all, creationism seem to contradict two major scientific theories, the Big Bang and Evolution.
No, you can be a creationist without being anti-science. Flat-earth is an anti-science belief. Why is that? Well, we can distinguish between different types of scientific theories:
Big Bang and Evolution are a different category of theories than the theories of Round Earth (Heliocentrism), Climate Change and Vaccine safety.
The first two theories can only ever be tested through indirect evidence, never through real-time experiments. They also touch upon existential questions, core to the story of how humans came into existence.
The last three are all directly observable, and does not claim to answer existential questions. They also have very practical implications in technology and health.
Some might say that evolution can indeed be observed in real-time experiments. What those experiments show is species slightly adjusting to environmental changes. Like a species of bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics. Or the exchange of plasmids between bacteria.
But evolution is not an existential theory because species can change slightly. The existential claim is that every order of organisms has arisen through natural selection from a common ancestor.
So what it means to observe evolution directly is to watch a new order of organisms arise through natural selection. Evolution predict that this would take far more than a human lifespan. That is why it can never be observed in real-time.
The “existential and indirect” theories makes a lot of sense to question, as they are not testable in the usual scientific sense (cannot be falsified) and they actually pose a challenge to faith.
On the other hand, we should trust in the directly observable theories.
When there is a strong scientific consensus on technical issues like Climate Change, we need to act on that information. Especially when human lives, misery and even the well-being of nature itself are at stake.
Challenging scientists on issues that can be observed in real-time is a fools errand, and not a worthy past-time of Christians.
I have a lot more to say on the science ground rules for Christians, but let’s focus on climate change for now. I’ll discuss whether it “is real” further down the page, let’s first ask:
Does the Bible really require us to do something about climate change?
Wealth for the faithful?
It seems inevitable that reducing carbon emissions, especially at the rate that scientists recommend, will come with a cost. Most likely our personal wealth will be affected.
So should we sacrifice (a small part of) our wealth to combat the global warming catastrophe? Does Christianity allow us to cling on to our wealth when doing so will hurt others? Or in other words: is the Bible OK with being greedy?
Some would think of the role that greed play in society. Most nations of the world are capitalist economies, with the idea that “greed drives progress” and “greed provides wealth for everyone”. Is it even necessary to ask whether greed is good?
Although the bible name a large number of sinful actions or attitudes, some get a more powerful condemnation than others. Take a look at this passage:
Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money”.
How strong language is this, exactly?
First of, the word translated “money” is really “Mammon”, the name of an idol of wealth. The implication being that if you live a life of greed you are actually an idolator, and not a faithful Christian.
Ant this is not the only instance of utter condemnation of greed. Which the Bible call “the love of money” or “the desire to be rich”.
1 Timothy 6: 9But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
11But as for you, O man of God, flee these things.
So when greed is something we cannot serve, which is an idol, which has caused Christians to wander away from faith, and that we should flee from – should we build our society on a foundation of greed?
And should we defend our greedy way of life when it is put into question by the need to protect nature and human lives?
It seems like the position of the Bible is extremely clear, and the only “anti-alarmist” voice is raised by the temptations of the flesh. The temptation of choosing a comfortable life rather than obeying the commands of Jesus.
The God of redistribution
Sometimes the right to private property is described as inalienable, even a God-given right, and for that reason all effords to redistribute wealth – usually through taxation – is resisted in principle.
Would it surprise you that redistribution is not a foreign concept in the Bible?
Leviticus 25:39-43: ‘If a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to you that he sells himself to you, you shall not subject him to a slave’s service. ‘He shall be with you as a hired man, as if he were a sojourner; he shall serve with you until the year of jubilee. ‘He shall then go out from you, he and his sons with him, and shall go back to his family, that he may return to the property of his forefathers.
The concept of the year of jubilee is such a radical redistribution policy that only communist politics compare. Every 49 years, all (major) debt is wiped out, and all property rights are reset. With no debt, and the right to their ancestral lands returned, every poor citizen suddently have a bright future. And the rich are reminded that the land and people they had commanded is the property of God.
Even though there is no mention in the Bible of the year of jubilee ever being upheld, the idea of radical redistribution show up in the New Testament:
Acts 4:34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.
While the next passage confirm that no believer was obligated to give up their personal property, it goes to show that generosity to those in need was an integral part of the Christian lifestyle. Even to the point of giving up one’s personal wealth entirely.
When your neighbor depend on the climate
In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbour as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”
We in the western world have distanced ourselves from nature, and depend a lot more on our job situation than the weather. But in the less industrialized world, a drought can easily spell disaster.
The vulnerability of these societies stem from their economic situation: the cost of production of food staples are cheap, but transportation is expensive.
With a national drought, food staples will have to be imported from far away, and prices goes way up.
Allowing climate change to happen at it’s full force would bring the suffering of massive drought, poverty and hunger to many. This would be equal to putting yourself and your greed above the well-being of your neighbour.
In conclusion, taking action to fight against climate change is i line with Christianity. And doing nothing is going against the instructions of Jesus.
Climate sceptic arguments
So there is a lot of ways to explain away that human activity has caused global warming at a rate unprecedented at any time in human history.
Some sceptics might argue that the climate is not actually changing. It most definitely is. A way to create a fake argument for “no-change” is looking at a regional variable instead of the global temperature. And on top of that, to creatively select the year range. Or it could be a completely bogus data set.
To give an example, here are the data of the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. It clearly show that out of the last 4 years, in half of them the ice has melted dramatically more than the 1981-2010 average. And the other half has been typical, close to the average.
But a sneaky sceptic would crop this data, and show only the 2012-2018 data. “Look! Greenland is not melting! I guess global warming isn’t real after all”.
You have to look for the most recent data, and sometimes also for data in the past to get the full picture.
And even then, remember that a regional temperature anomaly does not prove anything about global temperature.