Join Cara Parrett, a Christian conservationist, on her journey of facing climate change and wrestling with the questions it raises.
I was born, raised and educated in South Africa, before leaving to put my knowledge, and love for, marine biology into practice in the ‘real world’. Embedded within communities in Madagascar and the Republic of Maldives, I experienced a way of life which was highly reliant on weather systems, the ocean and its produce – and vulnerable to any of these changing. These experiences transformed my academic ‘head knowledge’ to ‘heart knowledge’, and I found myself starting to ask questions beyond the science – ethical questions about how we should think about, and respond to, the world, suffering and injustice.
As someone who believes that the world belongs to the one Creator God, I find it helpful to place Him at the centre of my questions. Questions like:
I have been encouraged, and personally challenged, by what the Bible has to say in response to these questions. Encouraged because I believe we have a clear theological mandate to care for creation and those who suffer. Challenged because scripture lays before us the responsibility to reflect God’s perfect ruling image in almost the same breath as it lays out our weakness and broken relationships with God, with the rest of creation and with each other. But God does not leave us in our inadequacy and brokenness. By his grace, love and sacrifice he pulls us near, and gives us a new heart and spirit to seek relationship with him, and restored relationships with His creation, and each other. We may still struggle with it, but our new hearts feel the call to show the world the true humanity God created us for – grateful people enjoying relationship with our Father God, caring for His creation, and showing true love for all.
Our call to seek justice and care for creation and humankind is recognised by formal responses across Christian denominations, by joint statements across church traditions and by environmental organisations inspired by their Christian faith. But is this enough? When I chat to children in schools, they don’t recognise the links between religion and environmental concerns, except to say that they think faith hinders action, as religious people ‘just wait for God to do something’. If this is our reputation when it comes to ethical issues and suffering, it leaves me wondering about how we’re representing God’s heart in the world today.
Our resistance to connect with climate change and the physical challenges of our neighbours has been noticed, and our silence is speaking for us.
Resistance may take the guise of, often unspoken, theological concerns about creation care. For example:
These ideas might elicit different natural responses for different people, but I hope we can humbly pray and seek God’s wisdom over them. Often ideas like this are quietly assumed rather than voiced and examined with deep Biblical reference, so I put them out there in the hopes that they enrich our discussions with our brothers and sisters, as we gently check ourselves and any boundaries we may be adding to our vision of love, purpose and image-bearing.
Church resistance may also be emotional (i.e. it feels overwhelming) or practical (to do with perceived sacrifices and commitments of time, finances etc.). Here we can reassure our churches that engaging in these issues doesn’t mean an overhaul of church life, values or priorities. Loving and protecting God’s beloved planet and people is a central aspect of seeking his kingdom and will, on Earth as in Heaven. It is something we are all on board with. So, let’s talk about it, pray about it, act on it*, so it naturally takes its place as part of the fabric of our discipleship – another strand in our lifelong journey trying to align with God’s vision.
A crucial part of this lifelong journey is working out how to face the scale of this issue without becoming overwhelmed by fear, heaviness, guilt and shame. Here again, the Bible is our guide and fortress. We have Christian wisdom and a message of hope to share in how we choose to respond as we face (and fight against) brokenness, while also holding on to the truth that we have a God of limitless patience and forgiveness, who promises to be with us, and strengthen us for his good works, as we try our best to live in love, in our unique situations. Let us model a deep reliance on, and hope in, God’s power and purposes while practising love, lament, and a practical, active outworking of our faith in a world that desperately needs to see it.
This is a very short summary of a talk I was honoured to give at the 2023 Christians in Science Connect conference. (Recordings of these talks will be publically available in June on the CiS YouTube channel)
CiS has a short leaflet on Creation Care – click here
Cara Parrett grew up in South Africa, earning an honours degree in marine biology and oceanography from the University of Cape Town. After contributing to research and conservation projects across several different countries she came to the UK to work at The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, where she now works on the Youth and Schools Programme. Motivated by a desire to create opportunities for young people to pause, think and discuss their big questions about science and religion, she is often found presenting in schools and religious settings, and sometimes also talking to adults. She was the CiS Oliver Barclay lecture prize winner in 2019.
To assist our members and the general public, CiS is listing new blogs regularly on different science topics.
Disclaimer: We will be asking top scientists in their fields to author the blogs, but the thoughts expressed are the author’s.
 E.g. Genesis 2:15
 E.g. Matthew 22:36 – 40; Jeremiah 22:16; Isaiah 1:11-17
 References include my own experiences, experiences of others I have spoken to, a report ‘Is the UK Baptist creation care response appropriate for the current global environmental crisis?’ (2020) by Hannah Gray and ‘Climate action is faith-inspired’ (2021) by Tearfund