The outlook for a world disrupted by too much climate pollution is grim. Researchers speak freely these days of a sixth “mass extinction event,” like the one that doomed the dinosaurs. Others depict a world awash with climate refugees, fleeing from drought, famine, resource conflicts and rising sea levels. Military commanders warn of political instability and conflict on an unmanageable scale.
Most of us shy away from these nightmares, not because we necessarily discount the risks, but because the nearly inevitable human reaction is a numbed sense of avoidance and paralysis. It simply must not be true, and if it is, there must be something less depressing to occupy my thoughts at this moment.
But for Christians, we have to ask: What about God? Where is he in all this? We sing and believe that “his eye is on the sparrow” – surely the future of his creation is in his hands, not ours? God would not allow us to destroy his creation, would he?
A remarkable answer to this question comes from Rev. Ed Brown, author of the excellent book, “Our Father’s World: Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation.” In fact, the question posed above is framed by Brown himself. Here’s a bit of his answer:
“If we choose to destroy our home, God will not stop us.
“Unless, that is, God were to step into history the way he usually does, through human beings who have aligned their lives with him and who are committed to accomplishing his purposes in their own small histories. Remember God’s invitation to Moses in Exodus? God said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out … and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them’ (3:7-8).
“And then the clincher: ‘So now go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.’ When God wants to do something in the world, he does step in, but he does it through people.”
Christians wrestle long and hard with the meaning of God’s sovereignty in his world, and meaningful answers can hardly be reduced to short sound bites. But surely Brown is on to something. And for those addicted to New Yorker cartoons (like me), maybe here the theological debate is best framed with a chuckle, and then a renewed commitment to learn, pray and act.
And if you’re wondering about ways to do that, you might want to take a look here.