In this edition of Evangelical Times, Alan Thomas has some strong things to say about ‘The gospel of Greta’ (p.21). He is surely right to highlight the dangers of presenting anyone other than Christ as a messiah figure. And he is also surely right to say that we as evangelicals should have ‘environmental instincts’ because we are to be good stewards of creation.
Our duty to be good stewards should not be easily dismissed. However, nor should we overlook our duty to subdue the world. Adam was told to have dominion over the earth and ‘subdue’ it. In part, that means we are to discover the resources that were placed on earth by God and use them.
Is it wrong to chop down a tree and make beautiful furniture from the wood? To quarry stone and build a safe, sturdy bridge over a river? To mine precious gems from the earth? To smelt metal and fashion tools? No, of themselves these things are part of what it means to subdue the earth. Chopping down trees, quarrying, mining, and manufacturing are not intrinsically evil.
But the doctrine of total depravity – which includes the truth that the corruption of sin has spread to every facet of life – tells us that people everywhere will distort the command to ‘subdue’ the earth. Because of greed, selfishness, laziness, and carelessness people are likely to pollute and abuse the created environment while they ‘subdue’ it. That is self-evidently true.
The difficulty with parts of the modern-day environmental movement is that it has become so politically radical and so manic. It’s very difficult for the ordinary man and woman to discern the truth from the hysteria. Worse still, it has become a religion for some people. The church of climatology – with apocalyptic prophesies of the future and messiah figures like Greta Thunberg – is something evangelicals should be rightly wary of.
There’s room for Christian liberty when it comes to various aspects of the environmental movement. Should the whole environmental movement be dismissed wholesale? No. Should we swallow everything the environmental lobby has to say? No. We need discernment. But one thing we know for sure. There is only one messiah, only one gospel, and only one hope for this world.