TO mark the arrival of COP26 in Glasgow, a local church hung a small banner on its railings. Within 48 hours, it had been stolen. Its message was seemingly so offensive that someone decided it needed removing. What terrible heresy was expressed, in just one sentence, such that it warranted cancelling?
The message read: ‘The world’s most urgent need is churches preaching Christ crucified, not climate change.’
To orthodox Christians, there is nothing controversial in that statement. It highlights the priorities of the Church, whereby rescue from the impending judgment of God is more urgent than rescue from any conceivable consequence of climate change.
For, even if the worst case scenario of the climate change prophets is realised, and we all die from extreme heat or under an extra two inches of water, we will still ultimately face the judgment seat of Christ.
Furthermore, no amount of recycling, carbon offsetting or electric car driving is going to make us fit to stand before a holy, righteous God. The only solution to that (actual emergency) is going to be faith in Christ crucified. Hence, for Bible-believing Christians, the preaching of this message is the world’s most urgent need.
So why the offence? Well, it’s true that the Christian message often offends. It’s why so few churches now speak of sin and judgment. I don’t think that’s what’s going on here though.
If the banner had proposed that preaching the gospel was more important than, say, preaching the benefits of eating one’s greens, it would still be hanging on the railings. It is not the gospel, per se, that has caused upset but rather, its juxtaposition to the gospel of Greta.
For there must be no suggestion that anything is more important than climate change; to do so is heresy. The banner represents a challenge to the new orthodoxy, to what has essentially become a new religion.
In the gospel according to Greta, righteousness is acquired through environmentally friendly deeds and sacrifice: Switch your petrol car for an electric one; eat fewer hamburgers and more tofu; endure a soggy paper straw rather than a plastic one; swop the Maldives for the Malverns; take the train instead of the plane; sort your plastics from your paper.
The list is endless, and all the while there is the nagging doubt, ‘will it ever be enough?’. This was exemplified by a schoolgirl’s question to Boris Johnson ahead of COP26. Having detailed her use of a recyclable toothbrush and water bottle, she asks what more she can do. Before an answer is given, her deeds of righteousness are quickly rubbished as Johnson warns: ‘Recycling doesn’t begin to address the problem.’
This censorious attitude isn’t just reserved for underling schoolgirls. Even the great and good are subject to it. As the world’s leaders meet to discuss how they will bring righteousness to a fallen world, up pops prophet Greta to simply tell them to ‘shove it up your a**e’.
Don’t ever relax. Don’t ever imagine that you’ve done your bit to save the planet. By all means, impoverish yourself with that electric car purchase; commit to never again allowing your kids to enjoy the warmth of a Mediterranean sun; undergo the expense and mess of having your perfectly good gas boiler replaced with a heat pump. But know this, your green deeds of righteousness will never be enough. Even if you reduce your carbon footprint to the size of fingerprint, it can always be smaller.
As with all pseudo-religions, the climate change cult is, in fact, a counterfeit version of Christianity. It is a sad, miserable shadow of the Truth.
Whilst Christianity agrees that our deeds (green or otherwise) will never make us righteous, it takes no pleasure in our predicament. God is not quick to condemn us and does not hold us in contempt.
Instead, He provides a radical solution that is costly only to Himself: ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’.
All our failings are transferred to his son, in exchange for His righteousness. We are left in no doubt that we’ll make the grade. This free gift is appropriated by faith in Christ crucified. This is the message of orthodox Christianity. It is a gospel of grace and beats the enslaving gospel of Greta. It is the only message that should be proclaimed in our churches.
It doesn’t help, of course, that the Archbishop of Canterbury is the latest convert to the climate change cult. He has somehow been enticed by this adulterated version of the Truth.
Steeped as he is in good Christian theology, Justin Welby rightly understands that the world needs to be remade. He knows that, ‘nature was subject to frustration’ upon the first act of disobedience in the Garden of Eden. Welby is not wrong to note the need ‘to build a new world that leads to the flourishing of all beings and Creation’.
Where he diverges from the Christian gospel is in his proposal that we, mere mortals, are the solution. He amusingly imagines that ‘we can make it happen. It is within our grasp’.
The Bible is very clear that only Christ can make it happen. He’s the only one qualified to reverse the effects of sin on our world, for He’s the only one to have defeated sin and death. Christ crucified is absolutely key to any vision of a world remade. Frankly, to imagine ourselves as alternative saviours is risible.
Is this to say that Christians have nothing to say about the care of our environment? Are we at liberty to assume a nihilistic approach? On the contrary, we have been commanded to ‘fill the Earth and subdue it’. We have been given the role of stewards and, since Creation is the theatre of God’s glory, we would wish to see it thrive.
The point is, there is a limit to what we can achieve. We certainly can’t usher in a ‘new heaven and a new Earth’. There’s a reason why only Christ proclaims: ‘Behold, I make all things new.’
The reality is, we can no more save our planet than we can save ourselves. The gospel of Greta is a false gospel. The message of Christ crucified is, indeed, our only hope. It is why the apostle Paul ‘resolved to know nothing … except Jesus Christ and him crucified’.
The banner in Glasgow was an honest statement of fact and not the embarrassment that some Christians claimed it to be. Would that all churches understood this and stopped diluting the precious message with which they have been entrusted. For the world’s most urgent need is indeed churches preaching Christ crucified, not climate change.