Global Warming and prophecies of ‘changing seasons’

  • Question from SL, United Kingdom

    Some would say that we are seeing increasingly changeable weather not typical of the season. I believe there are references to events in both the Old and New Testaments. Can you supply a few of these and comment accordingly. Does global warming fit any of them?

    There is an old saying that ‘the seasons will change’, although the modern translations of Scripture certainly do not seem to have a statement as bald as that. It has, however, become part of the late twentieth century pre-millennial eschatology that global warming or climate change are part of the ‘Last Days’.

    The book of Daniel is one of the best-known Old Testament apocalyptic books, containing the visions of the prophet Daniel/Belteshazzar in Babylon around the time of the Jewish Exile. Daniel, and the genre of apocalyptic literature generally, is hard to translate to our modern mind-set. There is a tendency to over-literalise apocalyptic Scriptures and try and apply modern events to the fantastical visions of these ancient seers.

    In Daniel chapter 2 verse 21, the prophet praises God, saying “He changes times and seasons…” Given the apocalyptic themes that run throughout Daniel, where even in the earlier chapters God’s judgement and the need for the faithful to stand firm under persecution are common elements, this verse could be the source of the inclusion of changing seasons in eschatological events. However, this verse could merely be stating that God is in ultimate control of earthly events – which is, of course, the defining element in apocalyptic literature.

    In the ‘little apocalypse’ found in the gospel of Mark chapter 13, warnings of impending doom are followed by a quote lifted from Isaiah that in the last days “the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light” (verse 24 in Mark / Isaiah chapter 13, verse 10 and chapter 34, verse 4). In Revelation similar portents in the heavens occur regularly as a sign of the imminent end. Such changes in the natural order were widely regarded in Biblical times as having some meaning.

    In using apocalyptic literature today, Christians generally fall into two camps: those who want to ‘interpret it’ in concrete terms by linking various apocalyptic events or figures with what is happening in the news or with certain persons; and those who regard it as having little or no relevance. Without wanting to get into a ‘Late, Great Planet Earth’ mindset, apocalyptic literature is important as much today as ever. It reminds Christians that the last days are real – and have been ever since the time of Christ, that God is in control of history, regardless of whether that is obvious and that Christians need to stand firm in the face of evil.

    In terms of climate change, there are two apocalyptic viewpoints. One would be that the world is going to get burned up anyway, so what’s the point in worrying? The second (and more thoughtful viewpoint) would see the destruction of the planet through the wanton use of limited resources as going against the job description of human beings as stewards of this fragile globe. To recognise climate change as a result of human selfishness and propensity for squander and, therefore, as a physical symptom of spiritual evil, should encourage Christians to do what they can to prevent it.

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