Scripture, Science and Biblical Responsibility
On September 28, 2017, Transform Minnesota held their second Transform Ideas Forum. The topic was Creation Care: Exploring the Effects of a Changing Environment on Resources and Vulnerable Populations. Pastor Paul Olson and Elim Church hosted this event. The focus was to consider our biblical responsibility to care for the poor and vulnerable who often suffer the most from weather extremes. Over two hundred and twenty people from the Metro and St. Cloud area attended to learn how they might become better stewards of creation, be equipped as thoughtful citizens of the Kingdom, and love their brothers and sisters in need around the world.
President of Transform Minnesota and a member at Elim Church, Carl Nelson opened the evening with the organization’s mission: “We exist to connect Christian leaders, develop biblical solutions and equip churches that will transform communities.” Transform Minnesota invited four speakers to join in presentation and panel discussion: Joel Light: Ph.D Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Northwestern St. Paul; Emily Pahl: Global Teams Leader at River Valley Church; Andy Carr: VP of Marketing and Development at Feed My Starving Children, and Paul Douglas: National Meteorologist and Author of Caring for Creation.
And the Lord God Planted a Garden in Eden
Dr. Joel Light, specializes in the intersection of the Church and environmental issues with a focus on how evangelicals view climate change and what impedes our climate change literacy. Joel spoke on some Minnesota environmental issues like mercury levels in our lakes, polluted air quality, and the quarter of our agricultural land now considered degraded. He moved on to depict situations of extreme poverty in which those most affected are those most limited in resources and ability to adapt. They carry more of the burden from environmental issues, and are implicated in more suffering. He challenged us to see the injustice in a narrative reading: “The vulnerable become more vulnerable” and to recognize the rise we are seeing in both environmental refugees from environmental issues and civil unrest from environmental degradation.
Joel believes we are “called to live out sacrificial care for God’s creation” and dispelled the notion of a dichotomy between evangelism and social justice. He argues that each are essential to the Gospel and are interrelated: “We are going to be held accountable for how well we have cared for creation and the vulnerable and how well we have been committed to justice.” Dr. Light spoke from a creation narrative detailing scripture and science from beginning to end. In Genesis 2:15, “we are given a job”; we are called to “till” – to care for and bring into fullness, and to “keep” – to protect creation.
We can be better. We have to try to be better.
Dr. Light shared two examples of his own convictions with sacrificially loving his global neighbors in Appalachia and Peru. Joel asks himself and challenged the audience to ask: “Am I fulfilling the call to care for the vulnerable? I have to understand that what I do to the land matters. When Jesus first told the story of loving your neighbor, it was a more simple answer. But now my neighbor is global. We can be better. We have to try to be better.”
Lord, Break my Heart…
Emily Pahl, shared stories of how the changing environment impacts real people in their day-to-day lives. She depicted her trip to Haiti and the thousands living in homes made of corrugated iron sheets or similar limited materials. She then asked us to imagine how those people were affected when the same area suffered an earthquake reaching 8.8 on the Richter scale in 2010. She explained the reality of Haitian bodies trapped underneath the rubble, the smell from no toilets or running water, and the desperate and bleak scene in which parents broke into orphanages to find formula for their own children. She shared photos of her Global Trip to Swaziland, where families were bathing, drinking, and relieving themselves in the same source of water, and how one drought can lead to a lifetime of suffering. She painted a picture for us of Kibera, Kenya—the largest urban slum in Africa. According to locals, four million people inhabit the single square mile making up the slum. Due to the slum conditions, when there is torrential downpour, human waste runs through the neighborhoods and into people’s homes. She added: “We know what breaks our Father’s heart. We know what He’s asked us to do. He’s asked us to care for the hurting of the world, the vulnerable, the widows, the orphans, the lost, and the forgotten.”
We know what breaks our Father’s heart. We know what He’s asked us to do.
Emily closed by challenging everybody with the following questions: “Who does God have right in front of you? Where can you go? Where can you serve? Who can you pray for? Would you dare to pray, ‘Lord break my heart for what breaks yours?’”
For I Was Hungry and You Gave Me Food
Andy Carr, shared about Feed My Starving Children and how Christians are called to respond to the needs of a broken world by asking “What Can I do?” Andy admits that he and those at FMSC do not have all the answers, nor are they scientists, economists or in the military. “But we are responders. We are people who see a need and are called into action.”
Andy outlined the organization’s staple meal option: the MannaPack, and used a Relief Continuum to highlight the multiple stages in which the meal can reach people in need: Relief, Rehabilitation, Development, and Self-Reliance. He also mentioned that due to the ongoing refugee crisis, currently estimated at 65 million refugees worldwide, hunger is once more on the rise. He read from the most recent United Nations Agricultural Office Report: “Climate related events, especially droughts, tend to jeopardize food security in terms of availability and access, which has been found to increase the risk of conflict. This is particularly the case where deep divisions exist among population groups or where coping mechanisms are lacking.”
In our country if somebody starves to death, frankly somebody is going to jail.
Andy explained that upheaval, conflict, and oppression are all exacerbated by climate change. We see this with our Somali neighbors in Minnesota. FMSC held a Love Somalia event this past June at which fifteen thousand Minnesotans volunteered and packed five million meals for Somalia. “In our country, nutrition is an issue. Starvation is not. In our country if somebody starves to death, frankly somebody is going to jail.” he said. We do have an issue with “comfort, self-centeredness, and abundance. In many ways Satan has lulled us to sleep in our abundance.” Rededicated to Christ in 2003, FMSC is called to respond to multiple events each year, including but not limited to: hurricanes, flooding, droughts, earthquakes, tsunamis, famines, and viruses.
Waves and Wind Still Know Him
Paul Douglas spoke on weather trends and subsequent convictions he has experienced over the past forty years. He began with “Science is essential, but incomplete…we should all care about climate volatility and disruption. I happen to identify with Teddy Roosevelt who said that ‘conservation is a great moral issue, it involves the patriotic duty of ensuring the safety and continuance of this great nation’.” To this he added, “A tenant of conservatism is to clean up your mess. Don’t kick the can down the road.”
A tenant of conservatism is to clean up your mess. Don’t kick the can down the road.
As a businessman and weatherman, Paul explained that “if you ignore data that makes you uncomfortable, you will go out of business, and symptoms [of climate volatility] will become harder to deny and to dismiss overtime.” He went on to say: “I’m here to tell you the atmosphere doesn’t really care what you believe. The atmosphere responds to physics.” He reminded us that we are tending what is left of Eden, and that the world is not ending yet—it’s warming, which presents threats and opportunities. Paul referenced Luke 16:2 and Matthew 25:45, and challenged the audience: “We all live in our bubbles, how many times does your bubble have to get impacted? Clean air, water, stable environment, stable climate—none of these should be open for debate.” Paul is very optimistic about solar power and believes that the arch of technology and falling prices both point to a day where energy freedom will soon be a no brainer. “As a Christian, I think there are smarter ways to keep the lights on. And it’s happening. We are in the midst of a true energy revolution.”
- Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment / Paul Douglas & Mitch Hescox
- Global Warming and the Risen Lord: Christian Discipleship and Climate Change / Jim Ball
- Redeeming Creation: The Biblical Basis for Environmental Stewardship / Fred Dyke
- Let Creation Rejoice: Biblical Hope and Ecological Crisis / Jonathan Moo
- Global Weirding Videos with Katherin Hayhoe
- NOAA: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- National Academy of Sciences
- NCDC: National Climatic Data Center