I was asked to reflect on this interesting question. Maybe a better question is: ‘Would Jesus drive any car if he were living in our world today?’ Or would he campaign for more public transport and a consideration of the poorest members of the community, for whom any car would be a luxury.
The key issue is not only about emissions, although consideration of clean air in our cities is important. It is more importantly about our increasing use of fossil fuels and the effect of the greenhouse gases produced on the climate of our world.
When UN Secretary-General, António Guterres visited the storm ravaged Caribbean in early October he spoke about the scientific evidence that indicated that global warming is leading to more frequent and more intense weather events such as hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria or locally we might add storms like Ophelia and Brian. He urged political leaders to implement the Paris agreement on climate change with greater vigour, stating that ‘we know that the world has the tools, the technologies and the wealth to address climate change, but we must show more determination in moving towards a green, clean, sustainable energy future.’
The science is unequivocal and the situation the world faces is urgent. 2014 was the warmest year on record until 2015, and 2016 was warmer still; in fact 15 of the top 16 warmest years since records began have occurred since 2000. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has exceeded 400ppm (up from 250ppm in 1750) and the average global surface temperature has risen to 1.010C above the pre-Industrial temperature c.1750.
The scientific evidence is undisputed and humanitarian impacts are devastating – especially for the poorer communities in our world – but the political will is overshadowed by the profit motives of global corporations and the desire of political leaders to hold onto power.
It is here that our Christian worldview should come into play with increased concerns for the care of God’s creation, and the marks of justice and fairness in our treatment of the world’s poor. I believe that care of creation is a central part of our Christian discipleship. The following passages from scripture should inform our thinking:
- The creation command is to care for creation (Genesis 2:15)
- God’s first covenant is with the whole of creation (Genesis 9:9-11)
- There is damage to creation and to people’s lives when we break the covenant (Isaiah 24:4-6)
- God’s intervention in this world in Christ was to redeem the whole cosmos (John 3:16)
- The call for our discipleship is: to deny self, take up the cross-shaped life of sacrificial love, and follow Christ (Mark 8:34)
- Creation groans as it waits for human beings to become Christ-like in their lives (Romans 8:18-25)
- Our hope is in Christ who is creator and redeemer and who holds the whole of creation together and reconciles all things through the cross (Colossians 1:15-20)
A world-view that places Christ at the heart of creation gives us a distinctive set of values. The intrinsic value of the whole of creation comes from being created and valued by God. Christ as the redeemer of creation, and the promise that he holds all things together provides a context of hope for the future of the world and affirms that all of creation is interconnected. Christ’s roles as supreme over all things and head of the church challenge us to make his Kingdom visible on earth as in heaven.
So, would Jesus drive a diesel? Or more relevantly should we be concerned about our modes of transport and the source of our energy consumption? How do we decide about how and where we travel? Is our journey necessary? If the distance is short and we are physically able we can walk or cycle if there are cycle routes or use public transport, where this is available. If we do need to drive a car we can look for one with the lowest emissions, maybe a hybrid or electric vehicle.
It is encouraging that in August 2017 the Belfast Telegraph reported that Greenhouse gas emissions in Northern Ireland fell by 29% per person between 1990 and 2015. The decline in emissions was driven by the growth of renewable power generation, a shift away from coal use towards gas for electricity generation, and improvements in energy efficiency.
For Christians, all decisions we make should be guided by our Christian faith, founded on our ultimate hope, which is in God and is eternal, while human hope is temporal and uncertain.
Therefore in our use of earth’s God-given resources and our care of God’s planet, we should be looking for churches to be a prophetic voice in their communities, where radical Christian discipleship embodies an alternative narrative, which offers hope – expressing an alternative model for all in our society as we pray: ‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as in heaven’.
John Weaver is a Baptist minister, chair of the International Baptist Theological Studies Centre, Amsterdam, formerly a tutor at Regent’s Park College Oxford, principal of the South Wales Baptist College and Dean of the Faculty of Theology, Cardiff University, and a former president of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. He is chair of the John Ray Initiative: connecting Environment, Science and Christianity, and his main areas of interest are practical and pastoral theology, and the dialogue between science and faith.
Please note that the statements and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Contemporary Christianity.
Two statements stick out in your article: ‘The science is unequivocal’ and ‘ The science is undisputed’. Sadly, both are incorrect. If a Nobel prize winner in Physics can question the science then it is clearly not unequivocal and obviously not undisputed. Unfortunately, these kinds of statements close down scientific discussion. If we are talking about whether Hooke’s Law is unequivocal or undisputed then we might find some agreement. This is observable, repeatable science. But climate change science is a vastly different beast and the main components of its arguments can most certainly be questioned scientifically. NASA, who holds the data for average global data says that average global temperatures have been measured from 1880 so how you can imply they have been measured from 1750? However, in 1880 far fewer temperatures were actually taken than in, say, 1980 and in different locations. And yet these average temperatures (obtained in vastly different ways) are put on the same graph with hardly a twitch of scientific conscience. Unequivocal? And when we get to the nub of the climate change argument, namely, that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are the cause of the increase in global temperatures there is much which is equivocal and disputed. Whilst there may be correlation between the rise of CO2 levels and the rise in global temperatures, this does not in itself prove causality, indeed, there is a supportable argument that causality is working the other way round. i.e. Rising temperatures are causing the increase in CO2 levels.
What I am trying to say, probably poorly, is that the science of both global warming and causality in such a vast system where there are a multitude of acting factors will never be unequivocal or undisputed.
A Response to “Would Jesus drive a diesel?”
I thank Rev John Weaver for bringing to our attention one of the most important and urgent issues facing not only the human race but also the whole animal kingdom. His outline of the biblical worldview can hardly be disputed and, in the light of that, his conclusion that “Therefore in our use of earth’s God given resources and our care of God’s planet, we should be looking for churches to be a prophetic voice in the communities, where radical Christian discipleship embodies an aletrnative, which offers hope—-expressing an alternative model for all in our society as we pary…..” should also be beyond dispute.
If so, then it is understandable but grossly, irresponsible, why Rob Hodges’s response concentrates on the minority voice in the scientific community that question the “truth” about the climate change. In response to Hodges, let me make the following observations.
1. There are many areas of our world and our place in it where science as currently practiced cannot provide conclusions which are beyond dispute and accepatble to all. Given that, many judgements and decisions have to be made on the basis of the majority view and higher probability. If we had waited for the unanimity of conclusion that smoking causes cancer, then no decision would have been taken to, say, prohibit smoking in public places and to promote measures to discourage people from smoking. One can still find “scietintists” who are willing to argue that there is no conclusive evidence to show the link between smoking and any kind of cancer.
2. It also needs to be borne in mind that in everyday life we take preacustionary mesures against certain events even though the probability of those events taking place may be very small. I live in a house that was built roughly 60 years ago and have lived there for nearly 25 years. To the best of my knowledge, the house has never caught fire and or have been subjected too subsrtantial damage of any kind throughout is history. Yet I take out an insurance plocy every year against such eventualities. Am I being paranoid or irrational or both in doing so? Should I wait for conclusive reasons and/or arguments to show me that my house is likely to be subject to fire in the near or forseeable future before spending my hard earned money on annual insurance policy? And what those reasons and/or arguments would be?
3. I grant Hodges that Rev. Weaver was a bit careless in using phrases like “unequivocal and “undisputed” in the context of scientific eveidence for global warming. And he could also have pointed out that there are a minority of reputable scientists who dispute the basic tenets of global warning. Yet the fact remains that the overwhelming scientific consensus is that global warming is real and that if no necessary remedial measures are undertaken, then the tipping point will be reached within next 30 or so years. If that happens, and given the unimaginanble consequences that could result for our planet, is it wise to do nothing until a scientific consensus is reached?