20 May 2021

Climate justice: end of the world or harvest for all?

In the the third in a series of blogs, the Revd Simon Topping argues the way we see the relationship between earth and heaven guides our understanding of climate justice.

If the Bible tells us the world is going to be destroyed, why bother trying to save the planet? In fact, by trying to protect creation from destruction are we hindering God’s salvation plan?

This understanding of God’s intentions for the physical world certainly doesn’t encourage a desire to engage in the struggle for climate justice – quite the opposite! And there are biblical texts which help to sustain this perspective: “the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgement and the destruction of the godless” (2 Peter 3:7b), or: “the earth shall be utterly laid waste and utterly despoiled; for the Lord has spoken this word.” (Isaiah 24:3).

But there are other biblical texts which point to a renewal and restoration of creation, rather than its destruction: “…he has made known to us the mystery of his will… to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:9-10), or “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21).

So, as we read the Bible as people of faith, how do we decide whether God intends to destroy the world or renew the world? I think our decision needs to be guided by what we learn about God’s intentions and purposes for creation elsewhere in the Bible. And elsewhere we learn that God sees all that God has created as “good” (Genesis ch.1), that God loves the world, the “cosmos” (John 3:16), that God’s glory and greatness is revealed in the natural world (Psalm 104), that creation can teach us about dependence on and trust in God (Mat 6:25-33) and that, through Christ, “God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven” (Col 1:20). Is this a world, a creation, that God plans to destroy or renew?

It is also important to remember Jesus’ petition within the Lord’s Prayer that “your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven”. Perhaps it is helpful to understand the relationship between earth and heaven more in spatial rather than temporal terms. So, rather than seeing heaven as the place which follows on after earth has ceased to exist, we see earth and heaven as two co-existing realities which God brings together into one reconciled whole through the saving work of Christ. As Charles Wesley writes: “anticipate your heaven below, and own that love is heaven.”

The Revd Simon Topping is a presbyter working in the Gloucestershire Circuit.

Read the first blog here and the second here

Read our latest news on Climate and Environment issues here.

More about  how to get your Church engaged with a Climate Sunday service and commitments here and find out about what a group of young Methodists from around the world are doing to raise awareness here

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