Posted by: Kenn Hermann | February 17, 2006

Christians, Climate Change, and Stewardship

Kudos to the newly-formed coalition of the Evangelical Climate Initiative. “After years of indecision and inaction, these leaders decided that environmental degradation causing, and caused by, climate change was real, that human activity played a strong role in climate change, and that the issue is a Christian responsibility.”

This is a great opportunity to relay a point that Cal De Witt made some years ago at a meeting on how Christians ought to deal with the troubling topic of creation. After lots of wrangling, Cal asked: “What do you think the first question will be that the Lord will ask us? Will it be how old is the earth or what did you do with the earth that I entrusted to your care?” The room fell dead-silent, as well it should have.

As important as it is to have the numbers staring us in the face about the degradation to the creation caused by climate change, should these numbers make any difference in how we understand our stewardship responsibilities? Is this debate really about the science? Is it really about numbers? Do we trim our sails depending on which way the science is blowing? I think not. Our Call to care for that with which we have been entrusted is independent of the harm our carelessness has caused. Christians are not consequentialists in this regard; we do not become stewards only when the situation becomes dire. Our stewardship responsibilities are rather constitutive of who we are as image-bearers of the Lord. We ought to be moving toward a clean and sustainable energy economy whether or not fossil fuels cause any harm to the climate simply because that is what a good and faithful steward would do.

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Responses

  1. A few years ago I wrote the following for the Evangelical Environmental Net’s listserv:
    It bears repeating and adding to the what you have written:

    I wonder why are we having such a debate about the scientific evidence for global warming. There are a multitude of other reasons for reducing fossil fuel consumption besides the accuracy of climate change forecasts. Although I share the concerns about global warming, the necessary responses to the problem are already well-known and necessary for many other reasons.

    In fact, I would suggest that the other reasons have much more convincing power than the relatively abstract conclusion of several degree changes in the earth’s temperature.

    For example, when I see the brown skies around Toronto each summer, I don’t need evidence for global warming to convince me that we have a huge problem. We know that we need to dramatically improve the fuel efficiency of cars and reduce their numbers on the roads. We also know that we need to stop the destruction of agricultural lands and wildlife habitat that planning for suburban sprawl creates. Other examples are emissions produced by industrial fossil fuel use, the perils of oil tanker traffic, and the impact on wildlife habitat of oil drilling. And as believers in God’s providing hand, we need to address the materialistic assumptions of our consumer culture that motivate this massive destruction of the earth’s resources.

  2. Thank you Mr. Hermann for a patient reminder of priciple and calling in the midst of the politicization of environmental (creation) degradation. What you point to is a general need to change the climate in our churches about who we serve and the responsibilities therein. The Lordship of Christ, the soveriegnty of the one who was nailed to a stake, ought to cause us to put our own stake in the ground. Needed- economic action based on principle rather than stock market returns. Churches need to become communities of care rather than consumer clubs that meet on Sunday to compare their gear and get ups.


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