Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blog Action Day 2009: stewardship

Today is the day. Around the world, bloggers are posting in all kinds of ways about climate change.

What concerns me is the resistance within some Christian circles to take seriously the reported facts and figures about climate change. This complacency seems to arise for a number of reasons:
  1. A strong belief that the world will end soon, and therefore the condition it happens to be in at the moment is of transient importance. A more extreme version seen in 'end timers' in the US is a desire to see world events move towards its destruction, as they would see that it speeds the Lord's return. (I would have thought he will choose his own time!)
  2. People regarding evangelism (in the sense of concentrating on personal conversion) is the only core business of the church, and other things are peripheral.
  3. Disbelief in the science of climate change, or a belief that global warming would be happening at this rate anyway.
The interesting thing about all of these 'objections' is that they disregard the key Christian theological reason to conserve the environment and the earth's resources; namely stewardship.

Christians stewardship understands reality in a fundamentally different way to secular materialism; namely that we own nothing, and everything is, in a sense, on loan or entrusted to us by God for safe-keeping. This theme regularly surfaces in Scripture, eg Psalm 24:1. Even in the story of Creation in Genesis 1, God gives responsibility as well as privileges to the human beings. There is no mandate to go and wreck what has been provided.

This means there is an accountability to God for what has been entrusted, even if the end of the world really is very near. In the parable of the talents (Mt 25:14-30), which is not primarily about material gifts, the three people only have what is entrusted to them temporarily; the issue is what they did in the meantime. The question for climate change is what will God make of our stewardship of the earth which was entrusted to us. Even if you're a climate change doubter, you are not off the hook. Even if the earth isn't warming at all, we still have a responsibility to look after the wonderful gift of creation that God has chosen to share with us.

Stewardship also challenges us about the consequences of our choices and actions for others. If consumption, pollution and environmental degradation is ruining the livelihoods of millions of fellow human-beings, then surely there is a responsibility for Christians to act? Even Christians who only focus on evangelism must surely be concerned that millions of potential hearers and recipients of the gospel might suffer and die. I think our faith gives us a duty to care, regardless, but I'm trying to get inside the head of people who think differently here.

It seems to me that Christian must be good stewards. Whether you believe the world is warming or not, whether that's a result of human activity or not, whether you think evangelism is the only concern for Christians, or even if you think we have only a few years before Jesus returns, that still holds. And if the science is (more or less) right, that stewardship will be an important contribution to all the world's occupants; if it's wrong, then we will have done what we should have been doing anyway. It's very sad that Christians haven't always been at the forefront of environmental protection, as it's there in the heart of our theology.

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