There is growing evidence that the world’s climate is changing rapidly and that the most likely reason is human activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels.
This set of studies for personal or group use is designed to help you explore what the Bible has to say about our connection with our environment and the particular responsibility we have to ensure that the poorest have access to a fair share of the earth’s resources.
This study could run over several sessions; how many will depend on how long you have for each session and the length and depth of your discussion.
Study One: God’s Glory in Creation
Recent floods in Australia and snowstorms in North America have demonstrated that even in relatively wealthy nations climate events can have a big impact on the lives of ordinary people. In poorer nations, where people are more exposed to the impact of the climate on their livelihoods, both rapid and gradual changes in climate can be devastating. Think for example of the impact of cyclones on the people of Bangladesh or rising temperatures for the people of Burkina Faso and Niger.
In pairs or small groups discuss:
What climate related events (eg snow storms, floods, hurricanes, droughts) have been in the news recently and what impact did they have on the people affected?
Who were best equipped to cope? What enabled some people to cope better than others? Who suffered the most?
In northern Kenya, Abdullahi Abdi, executive officer with Christian Aid partner Northern Aid, has witnessed the impact of a changing climate first hand: ‘The pastoralists’ way of life is under serious threat,’ he says. ‘Climate change has turned people’s lives into a nightmare; the drought cycle that used to recur every 11 years now happens every second year.’
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the earth’s climate which helps sustain all of life is changing as a direct result of human activity, in particular due to global warming caused by increased amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
These changes pose a threat to the balance of nature and could have serious consequences for many human communities. Those with most to lose are those who have contributed least to the causes of climate change and who have least resilience to deal with its consequences, namely the poor.
For example, if carbon emissions keep increasing at the current rate and global warming continues:
In parts of Africa, the area suitable for agriculture, the length of the growing season and crop yields would all be reduced;
In Latin America, drier areas will experience a significant drop in crop and livestock yields;
In central and south Asia, crop yields could drop by 30 per cent by 2050
Discuss as a group
Why do you think the poor are most likely to suffer if these changes take place over the next decades?
These five studies seek to help you gain a biblical perspective on the topic of climate change.
Throughout the Bible, the close relationship between human beings and their environment is spelled out. In Genesis, Adam and Eve are formed along with the rest of creation and then given responsibility for tending the Garden in Eden (see study 2).
In Numbers the Promised Land is carefully divided so that each family has sufficient productive land to provide for itself (see for example Numbers 33.54). In Deuteronomy, Israel is required to exercise wise rule of the natural world (see for example Deuteronomy 20.19; 22.6,7).
Many of the psalms celebrate the wonder and beauty of the natural world and call all of creation to praise its Maker (eg Psalms 147 and 148). Some of Jesus’ sayings emphasise God’s care of his creation (eg Matthew 6.26,27; 10.29) while his miracles demonstrate his power over nature (eg the stilling of the storm, Luke 8.22-24).
Paul links the redemption of the rest of the creation with the redemption of God’s people (Romans 8.18-25; see study 4). This series of studies will help you explore those relationships and reflect on how important it is that we do all we can to ensure that the earth’s resources are well stewarded and justly shared.
Read Psalm 104. 1-35 (or 1-18 if time is limited)
In this psalm the writer celebrates God’s work both in creating and sustaining the world in which we live. The God who is worshipped is not a distant figure but one who is intimately involved in all he has made.
What may appear to be natural processes, animals seeking food, for example (see verse 21), or rivers carving out their valleys (verse 10), are in fact determined by God himself. Even things that we would regard as human products, like wine and bread (15), are ultimately attributed to him. Although distinct from God the whole universe is dependent on him for its existence and sustenance.
Questions for reflection and discussion:
What different aspects of the natural world do you find referred to in this psalm? What interconnections between different parts of creation are celebrated?
What does this psalm tell us about God’s relationship with his creation? And what does it tell us of our relationship as humans with the rest of creation?
In what ways does the psalmist respond to what he observes? What particular qualities does the psalmist ascribe to God?
How can this psalm inform our understanding of the world in which we live and our place in it? How should we respond?
Spend a short time responding to what you have discovered, either in silent meditation or in words of praise and prayer. You may want to use verses 31-34 as a stimulus for prayers of praise.
For next time: collect together and bring along pictures or items that illustrate aspects of this Psalm.