Monday, October 24, 2016

So what if it's not a gospel issue?

About a month ago, I posted an article that apparently really hit a chord with a lot of people, But is it a gospel issue? I chastised people for using the phrase "gospel issue" too flippantly, where everything and anything related to the good news of Jesus Christ had become a "gospel issue."  The post was inspired by an article from Christianity Today that described environmentalism as a "gospel issue." I want to return to this question of our treatment of our environment, because there's still an important lesson to illustrate and learn: Not being something is not enough.  If our treatment of the environment is not a gospel issue, then what is it?

I was reminded of this question recently when I happened to read an article on climate change by a prominent voice in the skeptical movement.  Climate science is not my expertise nor even an avocational interest for me - origins and evolution take most of my attention - but I guess I was curious to see what this particular article had to say.  I'm not going to link to the article, and I guess that's cowardly.  But I'm not trying to get into the climate debate, nor am I looking to make enemies.

I do however have some things to say.  You see, the article I read went through a lot of effort to discredit climate science.  To be very specific, the author of the article didn't deny climate change, he just disputed the idea that humans are the cause of climate change.  There were references to research articles and mention of big climate words like decadal oscillation.  It sounded very impressive, but the thing that really caught my eye was the punchline.  What does all this fuss about man-made climate change get us?  According to the author of this article, we Christians should not support development of alternative energy or pollution control because man-made climate change is bunk.

Say what?

Back to my big question here: If environmental care is not a gospel issue, then what is it?  Is it just something we can shrug off and ignore?  If climate change is bogus, that's it?

Let's leave aside for a moment the question of climate change and just think for a bit about where we live.  There are plenty of reasons that we as Christians ought to think very carefully about how we treat the world around us.  First of all, it's not our world.  The earth is the Lord's, and we just get to live here for a while.  I wouldn't want people coming into my house and trashing the place, and why should I think that God's OK with me doing the same to His creation?

Second, pollution is real.  Just ask an asthmatic.  Personally, I like breathing.  I'm sure you do too.  Every time I fly into Los Angeles, I'm reminded how bad pollution can be when we fly right through that greasy, greyish-brown layer of smog hanging over the city.  Alternative energy that doesn't burn disgusting fossil fuels and pollute the air sounds pretty good to me.

Third, fossil fuels are a limited, nonrenewable resource.  I don't want to get into the argument about how much oil is left (it's a whole lot), but I can say with confidence that oil is not an infinite resource.  Eventually (decades from now), it will run out.  Personally, I would rather use what oil is left developing better energy sources that won't run out so that when the oil supply does dry up, it won't be such a shock.

I've mentioned before on my blog that debunking is not enough.  Here's a prime example.  Christians, regardless of what you think about climate change, there are good reasons that we ought to think carefully about how we use our natural resources and manage the creation that God has entrusted to us.  Debunking environmental radicals or trying to debunk environmental science doesn't give us a good plan for creation.  We Christians who care about God's creation ought to spend time developing responsible and intelligent ideas for caring for the world God gave us rather than just wasting our time debunking this or that claim.  If there is a need for correcting error, we ought to do so in the light of truth and goodness.  We should point people down the right path not just scare them away from the wrong one.

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