Hurricane season is almost over, and this year’s season was particularly eventful with Harvey, Irma, and Maria all causing significant damage. Consequently, there is a worldwide clamor about the sustainability of our world. In particular, a major focus is on a heightened fear over “man-made” climate change. Governments and private industries are spending billions on research in hopes of discovering cleaner energies that are renewable, but neither has garnered much for this investment. Sure, our cell phone batteries are smaller and last longer, but that’s about it. Don’t get me wrong. If someone discovered how to turn seawater into clean affordable energy, then I would be one of the first to sign up. However, our planet’s greatest threat has nothing to do with the energies we currently consume.
Before explaining what this threat is, a quick theology about our planet is in order. God designed Earth to support human life. At the beginning of human history he commissioned the first two people to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the Earth, while also properly managing it (Gen 1.26-28). The only creatures that God commissioned to inhabit this entire planet are humans, and we are daily succeeding in making it smaller and less foreign. You don’t find penguins on the Serengeti nor gazelles at Antarctica. There aren’t any camels in the oceans and you don’t find whales in the Sahara. Turtles are not found high in the Himalayas and mountain goats don’t do so well in the bayous of Louisiana (probably because of the gators). While every other animal has its designed habitation, man can be found all over the face of the globe—even in the most inhospitable places. We even live for months at a time in mobile cities scattered across the world’s oceans. They are called aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines. Although apes have not mastered the skies, we have. It is now possible to take a non-stop commercial fight of more than 9000 miles, all within about 16 or 17 hours—there’s no bird that can do that. Also, lest we forget, the only footprints on the moon don’t belong to cows. They are human. God created and designed this planet for human population. Psalm 104.5 states, God “established the Earth upon its foundations so that it will not totter forever and ever.” Throughout the Psalm, the author described how God engineered this world to be beautifully durable. God made us in his image and called us to inhabit this entire planet, and he created it to sustain us as we set about fulfilling his will for humanity. The Earth is our “safe space,” but instead of coloring books, God gave us a water park and it’s called the Pacific Ocean. Instead of dolls and teddy bears, He gave us a real rock-climbing wall we call Mt. Everest.
Nevertheless, there is one real and very great threat to humanity and our planet, and it has nothing to do with fossil fuels or the misuse of natural resources. Instead, it has everything to do with humanity’s attitude towards the one true God. God promises fruitful lives for those who devoutly obey him. Near his death, Moses explained that if Israel wholeheartedly obeyed God then he would cause them to prosper in the land (cf. Deut 28.1-14). Even the Lord directed us to look to God for our daily provisions as we obey his will (Matt 6.8-13, 6.25-34). Moreover, should anyone assume that the promises of prosperity in Malachi 3.10-12 are reserved only for Israel? Will not God also bless any nation that sincerely loves and obeys him? The problem is not with the availability of the resources on this planet, it is with humanity’s attitude towards God. If something doesn’t begin to change and change quickly, then things will only get worse for planet Earth.
It will get worse because we will continue experiencing more and more environmental catastrophes such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and plagues. These disasters won’t come because we don’t drive enough hybrid cars or ride bicycles. For example, if by tomorrow we discover how to turn sand into clean energy so that we never again have to use another ounce of fossil fuels, it will still not prevent the ecological Armageddon that awaits the human race. The apostle John prophesied of the plagues, earthquakes, famines, droughts, and pestilences that will someday befall humanity in the book of Revelation (Rev 6.7-8; 16.1-12). We don’t know when these disasters will happen, but if we don’t take seriously the church’s responsibility to spread the gospel to every tribe and nation on earth, then they will certainly occur a lot sooner than we think. And for the record, hurricanes and tornados are natural weather phenomenon. Generally speaking, they are not signs of God’s judgment; they occur every year. Moreover, the scriptures do not specifically name these regularly occurring weather events as indicators of God’s displeasure. Can God use them as an instrument of judgment? Of course he can. That being said, however, the scriptures never point to these specific normal weather events as signs of God’s wrath. They happen all the time. Therefore, if God did use them to enact judgment, it would be a very ineffective way to communicate his displeasure simply because they regularly occur. Consequently, no one would “get the memo” concerning what specifically God wanted us to stop doing.
Nevertheless, if we could turn our world into a new Garden of Eden by using environmentally friendly policies and ecologically neutral cars, trains, planes, industry, and cities, it will not matter a single iota if humanity continues to reject the Lord Jesus Christ and blaspheme God. Jesus explained all this during his earthly ministry (Matt 24.4-42). The ironic thing about what he said was that no matter how hard humanity tries to live in peace or find ways to responsibly manage our planet, it will not stop the coming global strife and natural disasters that are merely “the beginning of birth pangs” (Matt 24.6-8). These catastrophes await our planet not because we don’t enforce ecologically friendly policies or provide universal healthcare, but because humanity is losing interest in the concept of being accountable to a personal God, while also displaying abject hatred for the name of Jesus Christ, who is Savior and Lord over all (Matt. 24.9; 2 Thes. 1.6-10). And therein is the greatest tragedy. God sometimes uses geological catastrophes and ecological disasters to turn us back to him. Atheists and human secularists are brainwashing us into believing that not only is this planet fragile, but, if we aren’t careful, then we will inevitably make it uninhabitable. Therein lays the big lie. They want us to believe that the only important issue facing humanity is how we treat this planet instead of how we relate to our Creator. For example, if tomorrow we awaken to discover that Mount Vesuvius suddenly wiped out Naples, and then next week the “big earthquake” occurred and San Francisco fell into the Pacific Ocean, and then the day after a freakishly large hail storm wiped out all of the crops of the Ukraine, and then a couple of days later a tsunami engulfed Sydney, what do you think the media would report? Would we be blasted with how we are harming the planet or would they suggest our need to repent before a holy God that we have ignored for far too long? Ironically, our world will not experience environmental disasters because we have mistreated it, but because we have irreversibly rejected the very God that literally rained down manna from heaven. God is powerful enough to provide for our every need; the issue is do we believe that he exists, and if so are we humble enough to worship him through the Lord Jesus Christ.
If we truly want our world to flourish or if we are concerned about our families, friends, and neighbors, then the first thing we should do is commit ourselves to sharing the gospel. Jesus died not only to save us from this decaying sinful world, but ultimately from eternal separation from God and the inevitable judgment that awaits all who have rejected him. Can man inevitably save our planet while continually rejecting God? Jesus said no (Matt 24.22). Someday, Earth will experience global catastrophe and judgment, and it will happen because humanity hates Jesus. But if we commit ourselves anew to proclaiming His gospel, then there is the possibility that more and more people will receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. As more people begin to live for Christ, then our planet will become healthier and a more prosperous place, making sudden universal judgment less likely. Therefore, if you are primarily worried about rescuing our planet from ecological disasters through using only sustainable resources, then you are focused on the wrong thing. I’m not saying you shouldn’t guard against oil spills, nuclear waste, and toxic dumpsites—that would be irresponsible. If you call yourself a Christian, then your primary goal should be to achieve that for which Jesus is most passionate, which is the salvation of souls. Jesus died and rose again to provide eternal life for all. Consequently, he wants us to be his witnesses for him and his gospel (Acts 1.8; 2 Cor. 5.17-21), and to create true worshipers (John 4.23-26), and to make authentic disciples from all of the nations across this globe (Matt. 28.18-20). Proclamation of the gospel should be our primary concern, for only with that focus can we truly fulfill the Lord’s will for humanity and our planet.
Monte Shanks, Ph.D. © November 11, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.