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Pollutants or Prayer? What changes the climate?

Ok, I'll get off the subject soon enough.  Just a little test for us all, inspired by Heather's comment.

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My Name humble themselves, and pray and seek My Face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. ” 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

"Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops."  James 5:17-18

So what causes climate change, pollutants or prayer?

Cue howls of disbelief.  Choruses of "medieval superstition!"  Derisive laughter...

Yeah, yeah.  Get it out of your system.  But seriously...  Which is it?  Pollutants or prayer?

And of course you say, 'It's not an either-or.'

Well... even when it is a both-and, it's by no means a symmetrical 'both-and' is it?  Prayer can change the climate quite apart from the levels of Co2 in the atmosphere.

And really - who's running this show?  Christ or carbon?

Cue more mocking and incredulity.  I hear your protests: 'Don't be ridiculous Glen, typical overstatement!  The sovereign Lord still works via means and agents.  He might well say to the waters 'This far and no further' but He uses gravity to do the job.  Same with climate.  He's Lord of climate change, but He oversees it according to cycles and seasons and constants and laws.'

Mmmm fine.  That's what I thought you were going to say.  I just wanted to see how quickly you said it.  As a matter of interest, how immediate was your 'Yeah, but...'?

I'll probably agree with your 'Yeah, but...'  I just want to know how quickly it snapped into place.  I want to know how strongly it rose to the surface.  Because in my heart and mind it springs like a steel trap.

And the place it springs from is not my training in historic reformed Christianity.  Oh I can happily use Calvinism to justify it (secondary causes and all that).  But I'm pretty sure it springs from enlightenment sources, not reformational ones.

You see I read 2 Chronicles 7, lodge its truths in some cerebral filing cabinet under 'theology', and then return to the real world where principles and programmes and professors and pollutants rule the roost.  In the real world iron laws grind out our predicatable fate.  And the only difference between us and the 'enlightened' secularist is that we know the name of the One pulling the levers.  Right?

Sheesh... Of course by the time you've made peace with this view - the name of the One pulling the levers is so immaterial to the discussion you can afford to drop it entirely.  And nothing really changes.  Because, let's face it, we we basically reckon the levers pull themselves.  Right?

And so here's my little test.  Can you say this sentence out loud and for ten minutes refuse every urge in you to clamp down with your 'Yeah, but...':

Ultimately, prayer changes the climate, not pollutants.

Can you linger on this for a full ten minutes?  Can you mull over all its radical implications?

Christ not carbon is the determining factor

Here's the deal - if you can remove yourself from the deistic clockwork universe for ten minutes and feel the immediacy and Personality of the biblical universe, I'll let you go to Copenhagen.


Ok, off you go.  But I warn you, it's a lot harder than it sounds.


0 thoughts on “Pollutants or Prayer? What changes the climate?

  1. codepoke

    This has been a long journey for me. You'll recall our conversations regarding evolutionary science, and possibly wonder that I have no doubt prayer is the only thing that will clear our atmosphere. Does a city fall and Yahweh didn't bring it to pass? No.

    This is a great use of theology, and a great focus of activity.

    Of course, I grew up in the horrid '70's, the decade of Christians trying to change politics by quoting Chronicles, so just thinking these words gives me awful flashbacks. Still, I'm confident you won't go there. :-)

  2. Dev

    Actually... it's pollutants too..
    but just one kind...

    Hosea 4:1-3 Hear the word of the LORD, O children of Israel, for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; 2 there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

    3 Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens, and even the fish of the sea are taken away.

  3. pgjackson

    "the decade of Christians trying to change politics by quoting Chronicles"

    I'd far rather we try changing politics by praying Chronicles. ;0)

  4. pgjackson

    More seriously, I think the point you make in this post is something that many of us struggle with. It's taking a long time for the spirit of rationalism to really die isn't it?

    And it has broader implications and applications than just this issue of the climate. Maybe a series of posts on all those 'yeah buts of the enlightenment'?

  5. Glen

    Great comments all of you.

    And Dev, those Hosea verses are such a radical overturning of our mindset. We naturally think we're important enough to the future of the planet that our carbon footprint is the determining factor. But, in a sense, we don't have a high enough view of ourselves. We affect the climate in our *sin*. That's our true importance. And that's the true responsibility the LORD holds us to.

    Praying Chronicles sounds a very good idea.

    And yeah - this is only peripherally about Copenhagen. For me it's the one thing that makes or breaks my prayer life. Do I think the world operates according to principles or according to prayer? When I think the former I stop praying, it's as simple as that.


  6. Josh

    Check out some of the prayers in the BCP

    The prayer for fair weather says this:
    We humbly beseech thee, that although we for our iniquities have worthily deserved a plague of rain and waters, yet upon our true repentance thou wilt send us such weather, as that we may receive the fruits of the earth in due season.

    Leithart has a really helpul way of making us thing about science. He uses the example of manna and says that those of that generation could have made natural laws to describe what was happening day by day, yet we see it as the work of the direct unmediated hand of God. Makes you think about how we should view other natural laws...

  7. pgjackson

    '...we for our iniquities have worthily deserved a plague of rain and waters'


    Didn't some Bishop get in trouble over saying that sort of thing when Carlisle flooded a few years ago?

  8. Heather

    It's easy to point a finger at an "obvious" culprit like physical pollution. Anyone can do it and it is an inborn tendency of fallen humanity to look for "natural" answers to our problems.

    It takes a miraculous brokenness of heart for any of us to receive "eyes to see" and admit that the problem is "me". *My* rebellious attitude. *My* grasping at godness. *My* lack of trust in my Savior and obedience to His direction.

    I've often wondered how much of our trouble is due to God's people simply mouthing a belief *in* His sovereignty rather than living the belief that His sovereignty is good.

  9. cath

    On how to view natural laws - I read something a while ago, of which the only bit that sticks with me was the forthright statement that it's only in the Lord's providence "that bread is more nourishing than stones" (or words to that effect). Ie, if even food does us good when we eat it, it's not so much thanks to the automatic outworking of natural principles, although thankfully the world is indeed ordered so that things do tend to work out regularly and predictably most of the time, but it's all due to the moment-by-moment active sustaining and upholding power of the Lord in his providence.

  10. Heather

    Hey Cath,

    Your comment reminded me of:

    Deuteronomy 8:3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.

  11. codepoke

    Truth be told, as I read the comments and think about what I've agreed to, those flashbacks flash really brightly. Let me clarify where I won't go.

    It is prayer that's the good idea, the call to holy conversation with God. Holiness of affection, holiness of offering, holiness of life. I'm happy to entertain the idea that the Lord is doing something miraculously negative to the climate, but I don't believe He is.

    There are two main reasons I don't believe God's working this. The first is I'm not sure anything negative is happening to the climate, and God never leaves anyone unsure about whether He is acting. When He acts, His enemies and friends tremble alike and call Him Lord of Lords. The second is that no prophets have declared He is going to act. God doesn't act silently. He "calls the pocket" before He takes His shot.

    I can't think of any time since 30AD a prophet stood up to declare the kind of global catastrophe we'd be talking about. I'd say that's no coincidence, either. Since His Messiah took all victory at the cross, the church has been in the business of establishing and enforcing the kingdom of God on Earth.

    Where the kingdom is established, you see the fruit of the kingdom. Where the kingdom is not established, you see the fruits of darkness. Go to Africa, and you'll see witchdoctors with verifiable power. Stay in Europe and you'll see a world that follows the stable cause and effect that enabled rationalism. Credit the kingdom of God for that discrepancy.

    Prayer is the fuel of the kingdom, and the confusion of our prayers is hindering the fire of God's kingdom. George Orwell taught us that a great enemy can be used to unite a people inappropriately, and that's surely happening with warming. Using those verses to open people's minds is a good thing, but if all we get people to pray about is comfortable sea-levels we've accomplished nothing. Whether we are quoting Chronicles or praying it, if our focus is Western politics and science we're not praying at all. It's when our prayers are turned to the priorities of God that they begin to move mountains.

    Our Father, which art in heaven
    Hallowed by Thy Name
    Thy kingdom come
    Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven
    ... now ...
    Give us this day a cooler atmosphere
    ... but then back to ...
    Forgive us our sins
    As we forgive those who sin against us
    And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

    We need to pray the first petition much more than the second, and the second more than the third, and the third more than the fourth. I rather suspect we need the fifth less often than the fourth, the sixth less often than the fifth and the seventh less often than the sixth, but I'm already way over my wild-guess quota for the day so I'll stop.

  12. Heather

    I don't believe with certainty that God is negatively affecting the atmosphere, either.

    Regardless, God isn't totally hands-off, and His repeated historical pattern has been to direct nature and/or nations to apply the necessary pressure either to get His people to repent of something or to further the spread of the Gospel. It's worth considering.

    Praying "Lord, please fix our pollution problem" certainly is pointless if we have no intention of actually obeying Him in our daily lives. James specifically addresses the foolishness of selfish requests. When we reject God's direction, He tends to leave us to wallow around in our own mess. I can personally attest to this truth.
    But, we can be sure that if we are seeking His kingdom first, then He will direct us as we speak with Him.

    What if there isn't a climate issue and/or God doesn't intend to intervene? My thoughts have tended more along the path of how arrogant it is for the majority of people (Christians included) to brazenly say "We broke it, so we need to (possibly) fix it" while simultaneously continuing the active attitude of rebellion that put us all in this messed up system in the first place.

    Repentance takes precedence over climate control every time.

  13. Glen

    The thing I want us to do is revolutionize our thinking. Just step inside the strange new world of the bible and take a long hard look. Notice the strangeness. Feel the disparity with everything you've learnt in your (presumably) western upbringing.

    Then go to Copenhagen. Or call a prayer meeting. Or do whatever. You'd be a blessing doing either. But first realize that the bible describes a different world to the one that seeps in through every pore in our western experience.

  14. Heather

    And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

    ???? :)

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