Original sin and global warming: a biblical perspective

Image by Christopher Cudworth

Snake Under Water

Anyone familiar with the Christian Bible and especially the Book of Genesis knows how the story goes when it comes to the temptation of Eve and the Fall of Man.

The serpent in Genesis is shown tempting Eve by putting thoughts in her mind that question the authority and verity of God. Genesis 3:1 The Fall ] Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

This piques Eve’s curiosity, and the serpent is free to play with her mind even further, challenging God’s promise that if Adam and Eve eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, they will die. Genesis 3:4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.”

This promise empowers Eve to expand her thoughts into action. She takes a bite of the fruit of knowledge.

Her fallibility to this manipulation by the serpent is discovered, however. Genesis 3:13 “Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

From there, God takes action, punishing the serpent and banishing Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Christians refer to these events simply as The Fall, which symbolize the weakness of human nature and the human propensity for destroying that which is perfect and holy.

Is original sin still in effect?

Given the supposed permanent effects of Original Sin, it is somewhat surprising that many Christians seem to have developed the rather humanistic belief that the reach and impact of human sin has somehow gotten weaker over time. This is particularly evident in the current debates over climate change and global warming, where many Christian conservatives side with Republican political conservatives, insisting that the world is simply too big for human beings to affect it with their actions.

What a surprise this would be to God…if we were given an audience to make that claim!

Don’t worry God! We’ve got everything under control! Nothing we are doing is causing creation any harm! Just go back where you came from, up in heaven or whatever! We’ll call you if we see any real problems.

The arrogance of people who say that global warming isn’t possible because mankind is simply not capable of affecting something so big as the earth directly denies the biblical account of the Fall of Man and Original Sin.

We know from Genesis that the Lord engages Adam and Eve directly, telling them they have literally ruined the Garden of Eden with their actions. Then he casts them out and puts flaming swords up to guard the entrance. See ya later, kids. Have fun in the real world. Now you’ll have to toil for your food, and women will groan in childbirth.

And the serpent? His kind is sentenced to crawling on their belly for eternity.

A coalition of denial

So it is somewhat shocking to hear biblical literalists, fundamentalists and creationists band together to deny climate change and the science behind it. The reason why this collective of bible-thumping believers is so adamant has much to do with a denial of science in general, especially evolutionary science, which they accuse of all sorts of malfeasance, but especially contradiction of the literal creation account as shown in Genesis.

Well, let’s put that aside for a moment and give consideration to something that will make sense to biblical literalists and creationists. It starts like this: If human beings caused original sin and a fallen world, why are they not just as capable of harming the planet at a level that would produce global climate change? It doesn’t make scriptural sense to not connect the two.

One one hand biblical literalists claim that human beings are responsible for all sorts of corruption and evil in the world. But when it comes to pointing out a specific result of those actions, such as anthropgenic (human-caused) climate change, creationists and their ilk run for cover like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, hoping like hell God won’t find out what they’ve been supporting.

It’s just as bad denying human sin today as it was eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge back in the so-called Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve ran and hid because they didn’t want to accept responsibility or face the consequences for their actions. It was more convenient, they thought, to escape into their pre-imagined world of naive innocence than to accept that they had failed God by listening to someone who twisted God’s words to make them think they were more special than they were.

The serpent of unregulated exploitation

The same dynamic is occurring today. Savvy politicians and industry leaders have crawled up to conservative Christianity like a serpent, whispering in the ear of latter-day Adam and Eve who cling to a literal brand of faith, just as did the original Adam and Eve.

Today’s serpent of exploitation make promises that siding with industry is the right thing to do, insisting that they too are on the side of God because after all, didn’t God promise human beings a right to “dominion” over the earth? Oooh, they are crafty, aren’t they?

We should recall that this is the same sort of manipulative argument the serpent makes to Eve. First the serpent tries tricking her into thinking she is as smart as God, then uses compliments and half-true statements (“You will not surely die…) to win her over completely. Eve is easily taken in by the power and promise of what the serpent has to tell her.

The power of denial

Climate change deniers from and industrial and economic standpoint want to avoid the difficulty of living by rules that restrict their activities, and may indeed cut into their profits. But all those claims are unproven, actually. Their arguments and the atmosphere of fear they create in society are sufficient enough to cause doubt in the minds of millions of people clinging to a fixed worldview that says God is in complete control of the earth. And why would God let things go wrong?

Yet there is the serpent of exploitation whispering into the ear of modern day Adam and Eve, “Nothing you can do will affect the earth. God has given you dominion over it.”

The serpent preys on the desires of people whose comprehension of the need for self-limits and discipline is overwhelmed by their desire for material security and alliance with powerful interests here on earth. Adam and Eve were greedy then. And they’re blindly greedy now. They conspire with Satan to deny global climate change is possible. “You will not surely die…” whispers the serpent.

Let us speak plainly: Climate change and global warming caused by human beings can be directly interpreted as the product of a sinful and fallen world. Our ravenous consumption of resources has been like raping the Garden of Eden not just of its fruits, but of every green thing we can lay our eyes on.

We’ve dug into the earth and extracted a form of fuel that pumps out excessive amounts of natural compounds that normally exist in a natural balance in our atmosphere. But when that atmosphere is overloaded with those same gasses by the activities of man, even God’s creation can’t handle it. Then we get climate change. Global warming. And if we don’t do something about our abusive ways, all hell may break loose. Even an apocalypse is possible. Here comes Revelation. Don’t get Left Behind.

Equally chilling prospects

It could easily switch and go the other way, too. Some aspect of the climate may snap and send us into an Ice Age just as well. But to deny the fact that the activities of human beings have an effect on the climate of the earth is at this point both scientifically and biblically unsound.

Currently there exists a direct correlation between Christian believers and creationists who deny global warming. But they are denying the very fact of human sin in doing so. Apparently these deniers like to think they are smarter than those humanistic scientists claiming there is all sorts of evidence and data supporting the notion of anthropogenic climate change. Some deniers go so far as to say they aren’t worried about climate change because Jesus is coming soon. He won’t like what he sees if he does.

All we need is ignorance and confidence, and success is sure–Mark Twain

This so-called Christian confidence comes from a belief that the Bible knows more about creation than do scientists. But as Genesis shows, human hubris makes people susceptible to corruptions of the very faith and wisdom they hold dear. All it takes for human beings to go astray is a gentle appeal to their desires and their vanity. In our case, American politicians have been smart enough, like Satan himself, to craftily link our currently unsustainable industrial lifestyle to the biblical notion of human dominion over the earth.

It is a crafty move indeed. But it explains why so many fundamental Christians and creationists are so adamant in their contentions that God is on their side. To admit differently is to confess being a party of Satan himself. But that is exactly what has happened. The question is whether today’s Adam and Eve can see through the ruse of their own self-deception. The world’s future may depend on their repentance.

3 thoughts on “Original sin and global warming: a biblical perspective

  1. “We’ve dug into the earth and extracted a form of fuel that pumps out excessive amounts of natural compounds that normally exist in a natural balance in our atmosphere.”

    Um normally exist in a natural balance? I’m curious how you define this. This balance you refer to, it must be whatever amounts existed before the arrival of humanity I suppose. Keeping in mind that balance is never steady over time, concentrations move up and down over millennial long periods. And of course, only one molecule qualifies as excessive, not to scientists of course, only to God.

    I think when it comes down to it, people have this belief that humanity is somehow evil. That whatever we do it is sinful, that the earth god Gaia will exact climatic apocalypse upon us due to our sinful CO2 emissions. Its laughable.

    Part of the reason why so many Republican AND Democrats reject climate alarmism is because they recognize it as a pagan religion, a competing religion. And they are correct. They already have a religion thank you, they aren’t interested in a new one.

    You seem to be though.

    • The balance to which I refer in this essay is one that does exist, if you abide by the theory that the earth evolved through random processes. So the balance does include what appear to be extremes, such as the Ice Age or long periods of natural warming. But what we are addressing here is the stasis on which human existence has been dependent, in general, the last 15,000 years or so, since the last great ice age. And from the period in which the events of the bible occurred. That is the point at which the creationist narrative begins, of course. There has been relatively little major shift in global climate over that period of time, other than eruptions of volcanoes that affected summer weather for instance. So modern civilisation has enjoyed the “balance” upon which our perceptions of global climate depend. And the argument here is twofold: that the fundamental, literalistic biblical account of climate as unchanging (due to the relatively short timeframe a literal interpretation says the earth has existed) as well as secular history. Because we’ve built our societies on grand assumptions of climate that clearly are not static. And that brings us to the issue of anthropgenic climate change. Where our arrogance over the perceived stasis of our climate is favored by conservatives and climate deniers. While the idea that the earth’s climate can be affected by human influence is favored by scientists who have studied the subject. Therefore what I am proposing is not that we SHOULD believe in a religiously founded theory of manmade climate change, but that religiously-driven believers who adhere to the original sin notion of the bible should have no problem comprehending the fact that human beings could cause ill change in the world. Scientists who study climate change do not adhere to any religion of a sort, nor do I, on this subject. But the evidence showing that global temperatures have radically, unnaturally peaked suggests that something different than earth-driven climate change is afoot. There is no religion in that, only difficult challenges on whether human beings can or should do something about it. The final component here is both religious and scientific prudence. To err on the side of caution is a well-known maxim, and that is all climate scientists are proposing, while religious types are saying “Let God take care of it, he’s the only one who can do anything about it.” But the Bible suggests that’s a bad course of action.

      • I quite like this comment:

        “Therefore what I am proposing is not that we SHOULD believe in a religiously founded theory of manmade climate change, but that religiously-driven believers who adhere to the original sin notion of the bible should have no problem comprehending the fact that human beings could cause ill change in the world.”

        I think unfortunately some may dismiss the whole notion of creation care because of the politically- or otherwise-motivated agenda of others. Loving one’s neighbour as oneself surely must include some component of caring for the environment in which we both live (and if we love the things that God loves and makes.), regardless of who or what is causing climate change.

        To add to the worldview discussion, a Greenpeace activist had a T-shirt on saying “Extinction is forever” and my immediate reaction was – so what? isn’t that how naturalism “works”? The progress afforded to us by naturalism will be celebrated on the one hand, but the same naturalism has no objective basis of human worth to drive the need to solve these problems anyway.

        Anyway, my 2c worth.

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