Is There a Biblical Case for Climate Change?
The ongoing discussion (if it can be called that) on climate change is almost entirely political. Or at least, it is here in the US. This means that most people, instead of evaluating perspectives and theories and data, make up their mind in accordance with their political beliefs and ignore or dismiss information that runs counter to their political perspective. Worse than that and consistent with a political discussion, tribalism is an ingrained part of the exchange and thus insults and twisted information are mostly what the two sides trade. The entire situation is disappointing.
Happily, I do not offer any political discussion on climate change. Instead, I want to explore what the Bible says about climate change (or global warming or whatever) being a part of the end-times. Lets also look at what the Bible doesn’t say on the subject, which is just as important. Before we dive in, please allow me to articulate my logic structure on the issue of our global systems (like our climate, but also our oceanic, atmospheric, and fresh water system) being in a state of rapid and accelerating decline as laid out it in my book, Planet in Distress. My approach goes like this:
1. God created the world in perfect balance and harmony
2. When man sinned, Satan became the “prince” or “god” of this world (John 12:31 & II Corinthians 4:3,4). By conquering us, he took the dominion of this world that God gave us.
3. Sin causes separation from God. This, combined with Satan’s dominion of the world, was to have a horrible impact.
4. When creation was separated by sin from its Creator, the result was death (James 1:15, Romans 6: 23)
5. Sin and death did not just affect people and animals and plants, it affected and poisoned the whole world – all of creation (Romans 8:21,22)
6. In poisoning the whole world, even the massive and perfectly balanced systems that God created to underpin His creation – our oceanic system, our atmospheric system, our food production system, our fresh water system, our climate system and others – began to decay and die. (For a detailed post that looks into cause-and-effect more closely, read this and for a good overview of how all this is driving the fulfillment of prophecy in our age, read this).
Boiled down, the thesis of my book is that sin has caused the accelerating decay of the systems that support life on earth and with this decay becoming more and more evident, the confluence of the effects of this decay are in part bringing about in our age the fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy in Matthew 24:6-8.
Now, with that background in place lets turn back to climate change and the Bible and lets start with a simple question: Where in the Bible does it talk about climate change? Lets set the bar quite high – climate change has to be either specifically evident or strongly implied in the referenced text. This immediately eliminates most references in Revelation. Sure, it is possible to read many parts of Revelation and say, “that sure sounds like some of the more dramatic effects of climate change.” But is climate change specifically identified as being the cause of what is predicted to come? Or is it simply the results of sin? Consider these texts, starting with Isaiah 24:4-6 which seems to strongly affirm the above logic model, with sin as the cause of physical decay in the earth.
Isaiah 24:4-6 – The earth mourns and fades away, the world languishes and fades away; the haughty people of the earth languish. The earth is defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned and few are left.
Matthew 24:7 (note second half) – For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.
Luke 21:25(note second half) – And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring.
Revelation 16:8,9 – And then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they plasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.
Revelation 16:21 – And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.
All of these texts indicate things happening that are consistent with what is thought will happen under climate-change scenarios, at least in an extreme sense. But that is not the question. The question is whether or not the Bible specifically indicates climate change takes place. After all, all of the things happening in the above texts (especially in Revelation, where plagues from God are specifically indicated as causing the events) could be caused by something besides climate change. That being the case, we cannot use these texts to either prove or disprove from the Bible the existence of climate change during these last days. It is a gray area.
The only proof of climate change in the Bible that I know of is in fact found at the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis. We are told in Genesis that the earth was created with a very different climate from the one that it has now. In fact, it did not rain on the earth, but instead “a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.” (Genesis 2:6). The coming of the flood brought a profound change in climate.
The flood caused a massive and sudden change in climate, or, possibly, God altered the climate to cause the flood. Either way, it is not possible to wring trillions and trillions of tons of water from the atmosphere, forever changing the world from a non-raining state to a raining state, and not also change the climate. Thus, the one concrete example of climate change that we have in the Bible is in Genesis at the advent of the flood. And note that God brought the flood – and climate change – in response to sin.
So there you have it: To my knowledge, it is not possible to point to a text or texts in the Bible and conclusively prove that climate change will be or will not be one of the signs of the last days on earth. But using the Bible we can point to a strong link between sin and the one provable case of climate change in the Bible. We can also point to the many texts in the Bible that talk of events of the last days that are very, very similar to the impacts of climate change that we are already seeing. For me, the preponderance of evidence is enough: I believe that our climate system is one of the many earth systems that, as a result of the accumulated effect of sin, is in the process of rapidly declining in these, the last days of the earth. This does not lead me to conclude that we have to “save the earth”. On the contrary – there is no saving the earth, for it will be destroyed and created anew, without stain or trace of sin. What is needed, then, is for more faithful followers of Christ to see and consider the signs of the times and dedicate themselves to urgently spreading the Gospel in the brief amount of time that we have left.