Jo and I have thought a lot about God and the first ten words of the Bible. It came about because of our week-long visits to northern Arizona and southern Utah. We were overwhelmed with God’s creative work exposed for human beings to see in the Grand Canyon, Zion Canyon and Bryce Canyon.
The Scientists’ Prediction
When we returned home, the first newscast we had seen for a month told us that eleven-thousand scientists had signed a declaration saying that the climate change we have noticed in the last few years is man-made and will devastate life on earth unless authorities take drastic action. For one thing, coastal cities such as New York will be inundated and made uninhabitable as polar ice caps melt and sea levels rise.
The scientist’s declaration came on the heels of the high-profile visit of climate activist, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg whose scowling face and condemning message is now familiar to every television viewer on earth.
Climate Change: God’s Creation Tool
I thought of God and how for multi-millions of years He used climate change to create the earth whose thousands of layers we saw in those incredible Grand Canyon scenes. We spent a full day trying to absorb the information as we looked down into and across those chasms. Another day we drove beside the river that had carved out narrow Zion Canyon, looking up at yet more multi-layered cliffs.
Then the day at Bryce Canyon blew us away. The evidence of 60 million years of repeated floods and retreats, and land rising from sea-level to 8,000 feet, all the thousands of layers of sediment shown by relentless erosion over all this time. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Planet Earth went through a lot to get to its present state.
It reminded me also of God’s question of Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 38:4). We weren’t there either, but, unlike Job, we could see the evidence of those foundations, layer upon layer of sediment and volcanic ash as God laid the foundations.
A Tranquil Scene
Strangely, these scenes evidencing massive upheavals and unremitting erosion reminded me of a different, much more tranquil scene that Jo and I visited several decades earlier. In the mid-1990s, we were preparing for a major leadership role in Wycliffe Canada, and we visited several other large Wycliffe home organizations.
One trip took us to England, and after collecting advice from leaders at head office, Jo and I visited some British missionary friends who had been our neighbours in Brazil. They took us around the countryside to see the sights and at lunchtime stopped at a restaurant called Harbour Inn, a very old inn, continuously inhabited and used for who knows how many centuries. After lunch we walked around admiring the old stonework, but I was also looking for something else.
“So why is this place called Harbour Inn?” I said, “I don’t see any harbour.”
Our friend took me a few yards to one side where there was a long stone quay with a drop-off of several metres to a grassy field.
“This was the harbour,” he said, “and ships came here to dock and unload their cargo and passengers. But that was many centuries ago.”
I stood on the quay and looked seaward. There was nothing to be seen except ongoing meadows with cows grazing in them. Not a sign of the sea, the shore was kilometres away.
Major Climate Change in Historical Times
That’s the memory that popped into my mind when I heard of the polar ice caps melting because of man-made climate change and drowning coastal cities like New York. Scientists are studying historical climate changes through all sorts of esoteric means, glacier ice cores, tree rings, archaeological digs and historical documents. They all show there have been many major and minor fluctuations in temperatures, rainfall and sea levels in historic times.
The figures and charts are confusing to an ordinary layman like me. But this one thing I know, once in historic times, this harbour had at least three metres of water, enough to float sea-going ships, but now, for who knows how many centuries, it is all dry land with cows grazing on it.
So, climate change is real; of course it is! But it is by no means a new development. There have been climatic upheavals throughout the ages, long, long before seven billion people depended on fossil fuels for energy.
So, what natural phenomena caused those rises and falls in temperatures and sea levels back then? Could these same natural occurrences be causing the current level of climate change? Could it be fluctuations in the sun’s heat? After all, it is 1.3 million times larger than Earth, and only eight light-minutes away.
Failed Doomsday Prophecies
A doomsday prophecy, even one signed by ten-thousand scientists, reminds me of scientist Thomas Malthus, famous for predicting the Malthusian Catastrophe, who more than two centuries ago foresaw inevitable worldwide famine because the world would not be able to produce enough food for the exploding population.
The total world population at that time was 1 billion, it is now 7 billion. And there has been no worldwide famine. The prophet/scientist, Malthus, was wrong. It makes me wonder about the current doomsday prophecy.
In the End, as in the Beginning, God is in Charge
Students of the Bible know that this world will not last forever in its current state. God Himself forecast its end in 2 Peter 3:10, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
It may well be that God is using this “fervent heat” not to destroy His creation, but to cleanse it, much as He cleansed the earth of sinful humanity through a world-wide flood of water back in the days of Noah. As in the beginning, so in the end, God is in charge.