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The False Dichotomy

A younger cousin has taken me to task “as a devout Christian” on my strong expression of concern about our changing climate. He asks, “do you believe that God has created climate change to spite, challenge or invigorate humanity”?  I am regularly challenged on how we humans like to think in binaries. In so doing we often set up false dichotomies. I like what Augustine of Hippo said about the false dichotomy many make between Scripture and the Natural World (Science) in his Literal Commentary on Genesis.

The Literal Commentary advises a two-step procedure. First, we must evaluate whether the scientific claim has any validity. This must be done by the methods of science, empirical observation and theoretical reasoning. It is not enough to quote the Bible against a scientific theory. If we are unsure about the conclusion, we can consider it false. “The truth is rather in what God reveals than in what groping men surmise.”…/how-augustine-reined-in-science

Like Augustine, I assert, “Christians can be sure that God’s truth in nature does not contradict God’s truth in Scripture.” As for the science of understanding what is happening to Planet Earth, “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.
– Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change”

I encouraged my cousin to read both the NASA document above as well as Genesis 1 for the Old Testament story of creation which begins,

The History of Creation
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.…

And the New Testament version in John 1.

The Eternal Word
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.…

Certainly some scientists and some religious folks like to see a complete separation of science and spirituality. As I wrote earlier, I believe that is a false dichotomy that has brought us to this current chaos. The whole point of the Genesis creation story is that God gifted us with free will. How we choose to exercise that free will makes all the difference. The story of the Old Testament is how we humans, despite our best efforts to follow God’s laws and prophets, use that free will to bring chaos to the world. The story of the New Testament is how God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit seek to redeem us and this world.

Yes, God loved the world so much
that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe
in the name of God’s only Son.
On these grounds is sentence pronounced:
that though the light has come into the world
men have shown they prefer
darkness to the light
because their deeds were evil.
And indeed, everybody who does wrong
hates the light and avoids it,
for fear his actions should be exposed;
but the man who lives by the truth
comes out into the light,
so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.” John 3:16-31

And that eternal life, that Kingdom of God, is meant to start here and now as we humans choose to become the body of Christ. So it is not just Scripture that points to the Way, the Truth and the Life; but also God’s natural creation. As Paul wrote in Romans 8, “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time”.  Science confirms that as we continue to lay waste to Mother Earth and her groans become increasingly more distressed.