Climate change. It’s a hot topic (sorry, I couldn’t help that one). All over mainstream media lately, we’ve seen thousands, even hundreds of thousands of predominantly young people around the world calling for a change in how the environment is being treated.
Even as the movement gains momentum, there is mounting resistance. And the reaction from Christians has been, in many cases, underwhelming.
This will be a controversial statement for some but here it goes: Adventists need to stand up and defend the environment.
It makes my heart sick to see the exploitation and destruction of the beautiful planet God has gifted us. If we cannot be good stewards here on Earth, as we were called to be (Genesis 1), then what makes us think we are fit for that same work in the New Earth?
Our first step needs to be to develop (maybe rediscover) good theology around creation care. It needs a “Theocentric” approach, an area in which we can contribute—placing God in the middle.
The first angel flying through heaven in Revelation 14 proclaims: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgement has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
Did you catch that? Worship God who is Creator. It is hard to worship God while trashing His creation. Placing high regard on His creation then includes uplifting those who are made in His image.
". . . care for creation should be a healthy part of our own Jesus-centred, Sabbath-sealed, hope-filled faith."
“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). Many environmental problems could be solved by alleviating poverty, which forces people into environmentally destructive behaviours.
And then there’s this: “The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small—and for destroying those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18).
Destroying those who destroy the earth? I often wonder if that includes me. I wonder if buying a new smartphone with a chip taken from ravaged ground in a process using child labour makes me complicit; if buying cheap cotton products with cotton grown in land not meant for growing that crop means I’m destroying a river system somewhere; if my superannuation, which is on “set and forget” mode, is contributing to an open cut mining company or a palm oil company that is destroying pristine rainforest.
Are the products that ensure my comfort and accessibility to the world I live in contributing to pollution or poverty or crime somewhere across the face of the globe? The reality is they probably are.
Our choices and our actions matter.
Yes, environmentalism does have the potential to become a religion. Perhaps there are hidden agendas. It could even be used as justification for end-time religious restrictions. But that should not scare us, not if we are centred in our Creator.
If we don’t develop our own robust theology and action plan then we will drive our young people, our best and brightest, into the very arms of that religion.
For us, care for creation should be a healthy part of our own Jesus-centred, Sabbath-sealed, hope-filled faith. We can have a nuanced, balanced view of the importance of the world around us without selling our souls.
We should not fear our children developing a passion for environmental care. We can foster and support that while teaching them about God who made the environment and how we’re called to protect it.
People will only listen to our unique, end-time message if we care about them and the here and now, not just the prophetic future. When the Church sets itself up as a fortress against these sorts of social movements, it prompts our young people to leave. Yet our theology has room in it to love and care for the environment and still be a disciple of Jesus and an ambassador of the Advent hope and message. Creation Sabbath is October 26.