By Pastor Dr. Karl BöhmerThank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
“The earth is boiling with rage – and so are we!” These are the words on a recent poster by climate activists in Vienna. They were protesting against a climate summit of all things – Arnold Schwarzenegger convened the “Austrian World Summit”, to which high-ranking European politicians turned up to discuss environmental pollution and the declared climate crisis. For many years now, and especially more recently, the topics of global warming, climate crisis, environmental protection have been on the political agenda. Some of these activists protested against Schwarzenegger’s initiative because they think it is all talk and no action.
Long before Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Lord called all of us humans to care for the environment. Not just to talk about it, but to do it. In this respect, we Christians share many of the concerns of the climate movement, and rightly so. After God had completed the whole of creation, he finally created man as a steward, a caretaker over creation: Fill the earth, he said; subdue it and rule over it. In this respect, we can indeed also call pollution sin, because polluting the environment, polluting the seas with plastic waste or crude oil, polluting the land with poisons, irradiating the world with radioactivity, polluting it with rubbish, all this is against God’s commandment, because it is an abuse of the earth and of creation for selfish purposes.
Much of the environmental policy that climate activists advocate for, we also advocate for. Not only from farmers, but from all of us, God demands sustainable use and stewardship of the earth and its resources. But the climate movement does not stop there. Many, even the majority today, are calling for more radical consequences. Over the last 20 years, the discussion about environmental protection and the climate crisis has not only taken on religious undertones, but one can often even speak of a substitute religion. Environmentalism as a religion? How so? Where Christianity and the Christian faith have been displaced, a substitute has been found in many places in the form of climate religion. In many cases, environmental protection has become a cult; the idea is that the earth is actually our goddess, that our “salvation” lies in stabilising the earth and sustainable environmental protection is necessary; instead of faith in the redemption of humanity through Christ, the new climate religion demands redemption through ecology. We must serve the earth so that we can live, and our goal in life is an earth that is content with us. Climate information and climate studies and their interpretation and principles of interpretation serve as holy scriptures with more than 10 commandments to maintain the stability of the earth. Anyone who violates these commandments by flying, driving or having too large a “carbon footprint” is a “climate sinner” and must be punished. Anyone who does not give in to the pressure and does not fully agree with the majority opinion of the Western countries is considered a climate denier. Instead of the indulgence letters of the past, today there are CO2 climate certificates that declare you righteous.
If you listen to environmentalists who talk like this, it’s all about driving panic into people. We are supposed to be afraid; we are supposed to be frightened. Otto von Bismarck used to be able to say: “We Germans fear God, and nothing else in the world.” “Today”, Martin Grichting writes, “it seems the other way round: people no longer fear God, but pretty much everything else in the world. Fear is the big driver in our day.” If you look into the young face of Greta Thunberg, who looks indignant and annoyed at the world, you listen to her rant, “How dare you?” then she says coarsely, “I want you to fear, I want you to panic.” Why? The fear she wants has nothing to do with fear of God, it’s about fear of the future in this world and fear of doom and death – because the earth is getting so warm that nothing will last, because this generation is messing everything up for the generations to come. Visions of horror are painted on the wall. It is sad that so many churches are mindlessly running after this climate faith. In many places you hardly hear about Jesus Christ and his salvation in the churches anymore, but almost exclusively climate religion, and quite happily without Jesus Christ.
But that is just it, dearly beloved: Without Jesus Christ and the Scriptures, we cannot think about the climate and stewardship of this world. For the Bible tells us that it is precisely through the sin of Adam and Eve that the world is in trouble, that through the sin of man not only thorns and thistles have come into the field and must be fought by the sweat of the face, but: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time… For the creation was subjected to frustration” (Romans 8). So the real problem is not that there are too many people in the world and it is imperative that there be fewer, but that man is a sinner and that has consequences. The environment and the climate are polluted by man’s sin. Yes, and this will increase more and more, there will be more and more natural disasters, says Christ, and Revelation attests that we must reckon more and more with famines, plagues, pestilences, earthquakes, meteorite impacts, storms, forest fires, water contamination, extinction of species, global warming and high temperatures. But our hope and salvation lie precisely not in us saving the world and putting it in order. The Bible tells us what has happened and what will happen: Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah has triumphed. Therefore, history does not lead to final destruction, as Greta implores, but to the eternal kingdom of God. Our purpose and goal on earth is not to bring back paradise on earth. Rather, in Jesus Christ, God has already accomplished everything, and he will soon also make creation new and free.
Dearly beloved, on the one hand let us therefore ensure that we treat creation as sustainably and responsibly as possible and treat the earth well; in doing so we honour the Creator. But the earth is not God and we are not to worship it or expect salvation and eternal life from it. It is healthy and wholesome to know that we have limits, that our salvation is not in this world, but we do what we can, and the rest we may confidently and calmly leave to God. We do not live in panic and fear, but in right fear of God. So we Christians may bring children into the world, baptise them, and be bearers of hope with a clear conscience. After all, despite all the warnings, the Lord also gives us the firm comforting promise: As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease. (Genesis 8:22)