NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–“God is sovereign” is more than a slogan, it’s a fundamental truth that transcends our mortal existence but is evident in it, too.
He is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-present, and no other being has even one of these Godhead qualities.
During creation, He simply said “Let there be” and whatever He spoke came into existence. In the end, He simply will speak and vanquish His foes.
He is sovereign even within the design of His creation, such that no man can claim not to know there is a God (Romans 1:20).
I’ve always accepted the truth of God’s sovereignty over all creation; I just hadn’t much considered the significance of this truth until while serving as a naval aviator I visited Nagasaki, one of two cities leveled by nuclear bombs in the effort to end the war with Japan.
I’m not sure what I expected to find.
I do recall thinking surely they had to rebuild the city at some distance from the original site of what had been destroyed. And I remember being stunned by the bustling port city thriving in shipbuilding, fishing and tourism — and by the fact it had been rebuilt on the same ground which had been scorched by the nuclear blast.
It was especially remarkable to me after I visited the Peace Park built at the hypocenter of the explosion and read the extent of the human toll: 73,884 killed immediately and 74,909 injured (several hundred thousand became diseased or died later due to radiation exposure). Yet there I stood a mere 44 years or so later on the very site where the power of the nuclear detonation was first felt.
It caused a shift in my thinking about war and about taking an enemy’s life — even acting under orders of the authorities ordained by God, it is not a thing to take lightly. I can only imagine President Truman’s struggle with the decision to unleash what remains the most powerful manmade force used in such an intentionally destructive way.
My visit also helped me develop a greater understanding about the sovereignty of God displayed in His design of creation. After absorbing the most destructive power man could generate at the time, God’s handiwork recovered and flourished — it is not so fragile that man can destroy it.
Physician and Christian Takashi Nagai (a Nagasaki resident who was wounded; his home, only hundreds of feet from ground zero, destroyed; and his wife burned instantly to ashes by the bomb) wrote about the destruction and aftermath, and the will of God.
He also chronicled the recovery of the city.
After the devastation, the government warned those who remained that no plants would grow in Nagasaki for at least 70 years and urged survivors to leave. However, Nagai refused to go and instead watched for signs of recovery, and soon learned the limits of the experts’ understanding about God’s design in creation.
“After three weeks, we found a swarm of ants,” he wrote in “The Bells of Nagasaki.”
But he also discovered other creatures.
“After a month, we found worms in large numbers. Then we found rats running around.”
“The” experts had been wrong. Life was bustling at ground zero only weeks after the nuclear detonation. Nagai had discovered just how robustly God has designed creation to support mankind, the crown of His creation.
There is some critical theology about creation that reveals God’s purpose in His design.
First, all creation glorifies God, and all of nature points to Him (Colossians 1:16-17). Psalm 19:1 says “the heavens declare the glory of God” and Romans 1:20 adds that “His eternal power and divine nature” are evident “in the things that have been made.”
Second, mankind is the crown of God’s creation: Only man and woman were created in His image (Genesis 1:27), and salvation is for mankind alone (1 John 2:2), not any other of His creations; not even angels share in this gift (1 Peter 1:12).
Third, God is faithful to keep His promises (e.g. Deuteronomy 7:9, 1 Corinthians 1:9): Specifically, He was purposeful in designing creation to support the existence of man (Genesis 1:26) until His judgment (2 Peter 3:7).
It’s not that the Bible doesn’t require man to provide good stewardship of creation. One of the most profound statements of environmental conservation is God’s prohibition against using fruit trees in a siege war (Deuteronomy 20:20) — in essence, protecting man from harming himself.
Science gives evidence of the protection God has designed into the ecosystem.
Much has been made about man’s contribution to global warming and climate change. The most frequently cited statistics involve manmade (anthropogenic) contributions to the concentrations of greenhouse gases (which “trap” heat) such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and miscellaneous gases like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Human activities have been documented as producing about 5.53 percent concentration of these gases combined, resulting in a claimed anthropogenic contribution (through these four source gases) to global warming of about 3.3 percent (not all gases contribute the same to global warming).
However, these four gases compose only a small portion of greenhouse gases. WATER VAPOR — which is 99.999 percent of natural origin — actually constitutes earth’s most significant greenhouse gas and accounts for about 95 percent of the greenhouse effect. Thus, balanced against all greenhouse gases, including water vapor, anthropogenic contributions — what man adds — to natural sources of global warming amount to just 0.28 percent, or twenty-eight hundredths of one percent, of the greenhouse effect.
Although this information confirms the limitations on man’s ability to disrupt God’s system design, it does not deny that climate change occurs. In fact, the one constant about the climate is change. Ice cores show a longterm pattern of a 1,500-year climate cycle of moderate warming and cooling swings associated with sun activity and not anthropogenic causes.
However, mankind can have a negative environmental impact, even a severe one. Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Love Canal show humans are capable of imperiling at least for a while the paradise God has provided to support life.
Yet, it is a leap — scientifically or scripturally — to suggest man can shortcut God’s sovereignty represented in His creation design.
There are good reasons for adopting sensible practices for limiting pollution and environmental change. Biblical principles of stewardship like Deuteronomy 20:20 instruct us to protect the natural provisions He has created for man to use to sustain life. Also, as a practical matter most people don’t like to taste, smell, touch, see or hear pollution. In context of biblical mandates to treat neighbors with dignity and respect (e.g. Romans 13:9-10), believers likewise should be considerate enough not to create pollution that others must endure.
Unfortunately, the creation care movement of the evangelical left appears guided more by political, philosophical and emotional satisfaction and less by theological conviction. Indeed, in arguing their position, proponents tend to lean heavily on adages about environmental stewardship only to leap to conclusions that man is responsible for global warming and climate change. Doctrine seems secondary — with some offering little more than melodramatic clichés like “When we destroy creation, it is no different than tearing a page out of the Bible.”
Moreover, God’s design in creation points to His glory, power and majesty, especially in the face of harmful anthropogenic activity. Mankind can burn forests, remove mountaintops and even scorch the world with nuclear weapons. But “the” experts’ direst predictions of irreversibility continue to fall well short of what is claimed.
Few Americans seem to recall Carl Sagan’s forecast of a “nuclear winter” he said would result from Saddam Hussein’s then-threatened scorched earth strategy for Kuwaiti’s oilfields.
In an op-ed piece penned for the Baltimore Sun and published Jan. 31, 1991, Sagan was adamant “the consequences could be dire.”
“Quickly capping 363 oil well fires in a war zone is impossible,” he wrote with Robert Turco.
“The fires would burn out of control until they put themselves out,” he offered, suggesting the resulting soot would stretch across all of South Asia and be carried around the world.
“Beneath such a pall sunlight would be dimmed, temperatures lowered and droughts more frequent,” endangering food supplies, he claimed in advocating that war should be averted.
However, God’s creation showed more resiliency than Sagan gave it credit. The soot from nearly 600 oil well fires dissipated and although the region experienced a relatively short-term and small rise in temperature, the weather patterns recovered rather quickly.
In the end, the revelatory nature of creation is not altered by human activities. God said man is without excuse because His power is evident in creation (Romans 1:20). That implies creation will continue to declare the glory of God right up to the day His plan is fulfilled. A creation destroyed by human sinfulness could hardly be said to reveal God’s eternal power and divine nature.
God is sovereign and His design in creation manifests it. Suggesting otherwise ignores God’s revelation of truth in His Word and also rejects the evidence in creation of what He has done to fulfill His promise to provide for mankind’s existence.
Will Hall is executive editor of Baptist Press.