Bill McKibben on the book of Job and Climate Change

At first, it may not seem like the book of Job has much to say about climate change. But Bill McKibben, Scholar-in-Residence in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and founder of made a very insightful observation in his recent interview with Krista Tippett on the Speaking of Faith segment on NPR:

The message seems to be “Job, you’re not the center of things. You are a small part of something very large and beautiful and that should be enough,” and for Job it appears to be enough. So the shocking part in reading it now is realizing that for the first time in human history, we’re no longer in the position that Job was in. So now we spit back at God. “Can you tell the proud waves where to break? “Hell yes! We think we are going to raise the level of the ocean a couple of meters in the course of this century.” “Do you know where the storms are kept?” “Yeah, were pushing cyclones one after another across the Pacific.” In a very short order we got very, very big. Human being have always been in Job’s position–small. And our job is to figure out how to get smaller again. And I think it is essentially a theological task.

Often we discuss the roles of science and faith and how they should interact. This is, I believe, an excellent example of science and faith working together. Here you have a scientist asking how theology can understand, articulate, and help us to move forward in light of an environmental catastrophe. He is not ignoring the scientific answers to the questions as his website makes clear, but he recognizes that science is not the only voice that can or should be contributing to the discussion. Indeed, he claims the “essence” of this discussion is “theological.”

I agree. I hope to incorporate more of my environmental concerns and proposals in future posts with a characteristically theological spin.


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