Global-warming deniers argue that science is unsettled about whether human beings are the driving cause of climate change. Some say human begins are too insignificant to change climate patterns; that climate change results from natural fluctuations, not human actions. That human begins cannot change earth–earth is too massive.
Besides, God is in control, say the Christians who deny human responsibility for global warming. After all, God has established the climate cycles and the rotation of the earth. Humans cannot alter these forces, because Genesis 8:22 assures us: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
They then cite another biblical passage as a proof-text, such as Psalm 24:1. It says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”
Of course, that text speaks theologically, not scientifically. It says nothing about the inability of human begins to change radically earth’s nature. It speaks rather to the Creator’s ownership of creation.
The Creator has always owned creation and has entrusted human beings with its stewardship. The human record of stewardship is a marred one, even from the earliest pages of the biblical witness.
The Bible has two accounts of how human beings did radically alter the earth’s nature.
When human beings resided in the Garden of Eden, they occupied a flawless creation. The Creator saw the handiwork of creation and deemed it good. When human sin entered the world, the Garden of Eden was radically altered, forever changing earth’s nature.
“Cursed is the ground because of you,” God said to Adam (Gen. 3:17), after he disobeyed the divine command to abstain from eating of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:17).
Two insignificant human beings changed the earth, forever. Earth moved from a pristine Edenic state to a fallen one.
Apostle Paul recognized the radical human impact of the earth. He wrote that “the whole creation has been groaning in travail” (Rom. 8:22). He said that creation longs to be “set free from its bondage to decay” (vs. 21).
Another Genesis story recalls the Flood.
Looking upon the “wickedness of man” (Gen. 6:5), God determined to destroy human beings along with the earth (vs. 13). The Flood lasted 40 days, and the waters covered the earth for 150 days (7:24) until every living thing was “blotted out” (vs. 23).
Human beings have a record of radically altering earth, not once but twice, according to the biblical witness.
So, why now would Christian global-warming deniers argue that earth is secure from radical human defacement and degradation?
Those who use the proof-text method probably haven’t connected the biblical dots. They have not thought about the Fall and the Flood. Instead, they have selected texts to proof their political agenda. When they overlook other texts that challenge their ideology, they get trapped in old ways of thinking that steer them away from reality.
Fortunately, the proof-text method works against those who cherry-pick passages to buttress their reactive, ideological positions.
In a sinful world, we have the capacity to cause grave harm. That is surely the theological warning found in the accounts of the fall of Adam and Eve and Noah’s Flood.
The biblical witness tells us that once warned we are responsible to correct our ways. And that we must do on the global warming front.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.