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“We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit…” (Rom. 8:22-23a, NRSV)
The last few weeks have been interesting for those who follow what’s happening worldwide. We had a front-row seat to some wild weather events. From a historic hurricane almost slamming the West Coast, biblical proportioned floods across the planet, record-breaking temperatures, and gigantic Atlantic storms, we have seen it all. Please know that I am not a scientist. However, there is compelling evidence that suggests climate change is more than a hoax.
This turn of events reminded me of the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Rome. It is as if our planet groans for its redemption. The problem is these words immediately conjure up images of our eschatological hope for redemption at the Parousia (i.e., Jesus’ second coming). It is hard to see anything else once we enter an end-times mode. However, if we supplement reading the Word of God with reading the book of nature, we see there is more to this seemingly end-of-times reference. What I am trying to say is that we can actively participate in redeeming God’s creation today.
Towards a Better Understanding of Climate Change
It is almost impossible to address this issue without acknowledging the proverbial elephant in the room: political or partisan polarization. At times, it seems both sides of the aisle bring up climate change only to further their agendas and benefit special interest groups. But, as we look at the latest weather-related events, we can conclude something is happening. Hence, the declaration that this is more than a hoax used to score political points. Climate change is an existential threat with the potential of impacting human existence on a global scale.
Simply stated, climate change is the long-term change in global temperatures and weather patterns. The scientific community widely accepts that some of these changes occur naturally (e.g., changes in solar activity or significant volcanic eruptions). However, human activity has become the main driver of climate change since the nineteenth century.
For years, we have heard about how human activity is behind the rapid increase in greenhouse gas emissions and how these gases affect our atmosphere and ecosystems. Greenhouse gases trap the sun’s heat, producing an alarming increase in the earth’s temperature, leading to climate change. Our dependence on burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas to generate the electricity we need to manufacture goods, energize the electric grid that powers our homes and drives the economy are significant contributors to global emissions. Also, deforestation, agriculture, transportation, and beef production are substantial producers of greenhouse gases. In other words, what we consider essential elements to sustain modern human lives directly impact climate change.
In this context, reading Paul’s ideas of a creation that groans for its redemption and incorporating an understanding of the book of nature can help us see the adverse effects of human activity on God’s creation in a new light. It may even suggest a new domain of action where we can become catalytic agents and partners in God’s redemptive impetus.
Partners in God’s Cosmic Redemption
In the article “Created Co-Creators,” Drew used Lutheran theologian Philip Hefner’s ideas to suggest that God created us to be co-creators. Drew explained that the imago Dei enables and empowers us to exercise our agency to create art, technology, relationships, and moments of profound love and joy. Moreover, Hefner’s framework serves as a heuristic to elucidate the needed elements to see how humans can create beneficial technological and scientific advancements to sustain life and improve the world as God-given.
Similarly, we can see ourselves as partners or co-redeemers in God’s plans of cosmic transformation. What am I talking about? I am talking about responsible Christian stewardship. I am talking about leading the way in developing creative and sustainable initiatives that bring about positive environmental change. I am talking about finding ways to teach our constituencies about reducing fossil fuel dependence and curbing unbridled consumption of goods. I am talking about learning how to use science as a tool to show our love and devotion to a God whose ultimate desire includes the complete redemption of the created order.
Additionally, drawing from the Wesleyan side of the aisle, we can spark our communities of faith into action by using social principles to renew God’s creation. In an essay in the collection, “Inward and Outward Health: John Wesley’s Holistic Concept of Medical Science, the Environment, and Holy Living,” biologist and pastor Margaret G. Flowers explains that, even with his rudimentary 18th-century knowledge of environmental sciences, Wesley understood the importance and value of ecosystems. Flowers suggests that Wesley’s approach presents a sort of proto-ecotheology focusing on appreciation and care for both biotic and abiotic components of the natural world, their intricate dynamics and interrelationships, and nature’s value for human life and health.
We can become co-redeemers by organizing our congregations to study and plan what we can do (individually and collectively) to “green” our churches. We can partner with science professionals who understand both the causes and how to take proactive steps to respond to climate change. We can hold political and environmental leaders accountable and pass laws that foster flourishing and sustainable communities. You can partner with SftC to implement The Standard Model as a tool to help you in this process.
The Book of Revelation describes the time of a new heaven and a new earth where there are no more tears, no more pain, and where death is decisively vanquished (Rev. 21:1-4). I know that the primary context of these events is Christ’s return and God’s ultimate redemptive actions. However, I am also convinced that God’s ultimate redemptive purposes can be a reality today. You and I can become partners with God, co-redeemers if you please, in healing and transforming God’s beloved creation, the wonderful planet we call home.
In Nobis Regnat Iesus
Ed Rosado, Engagement Coordinator
Science for the Church
- Check out the BioLogos Creation Groans podcast and their upcoming Creation Care Summit.
- Jessica Moerman suggests innovative ideas for responsible stewardship of God’s creation.
- Don’t forget to check out SftC’s curated creation care collection.
- The Evangelical Environmental Network provides excellent resources on climate change.
- In my recent article “Caring for the Least of These,” I unpack how faith and science can come together to help us address climate change.
- You can check out the UMC’s faith declaration and available resources for a Wesleyan perspective on climate change.