Happy Earth Day! (Or as we evangelicals like to call it, Tuesday).

YouTube Preview Image Evangelicals are known for our skepticism of science. We’re also a tad bit prone toward conspiracy theories. I was a biology major at a state school known for agriculture, so I spent to much time listening to the dynamics of global warming to shrug it off as a hoax. Yet, we still have a fair number of folks in our tribe who deny the idea that climate change is even happening. Many think it’s happening, but humans aren’t contributing to it. Although many evangelicals are waking up to Creation Care and the responsibility we have in regard to taking care of the planet (Genesis 2:15), we’ve still got quite a few who are not so sure about this global warming mumbo-jumbo. It always mystifies me, because it seems to me that Christians should be at the forefront of any conversation about stewardship.

The most basic human vocation is to steward creation so that everything on it can flourish. We are on the hook for what happens to the planet. It’s our responsibility, and we ought to take it seriously. Maybe just the off chance that we might causing global warming with the burning of fossil fuels could be enough to convince us to change.

Creation is God’s first text, the first revelation of God. Wendell Berry thinks that God is teaching us a new lesson via this text, and the lesson is about limits. Here are some great quotes from the video. I hope you’ll watch it. He’s a wise man:

“What I am waiting for is for somebody to come along and say, ‘Look, we’ve got to use less.’ This thing that we’re calling our standard of living can’t be maintained, and so this means that we’ve all got to make a criticism of our lives and of our standard of living.”

“We’re getting the scale wrong… We’re putting too much at stake. Nobody thinks about anything little.”

“Finally we’re coming into a time when the context is beginning to speak back to us very knowledgeably, very loudly. We live in the world, and we’ve been pretending like we don’t. Now we’re hearing from the world.”

“To assume that all experiences like that [Deepwater Horizon] oil well, it can only be handled by experts at great expense, is a mistake I think. What we need to do is to get it to where we can have a say in it, and we can I think. If we don’t then we lose the personal ground of hope. And the next thing is we’re all going around saying things like, ‘it’s inevitable… there’s nothing you can do about it.’ I’m so tired of that word inevitable – that’s part of the vocabulary of very lazy people.”

I think this news report on evangelicals and climate change is a good sign:

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About Tim Suttle

Tim Suttle is a pastor, writer, and musician. He is the author of several books: Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), and An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade Books, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals. Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. He has planted three successful churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.

  • scott stone

    My greatest issue with the climate change debate is the substitution of religious zeal for actual science. And that is on the part of those who purport to be adherents to science in the name of climate change. The science in this particular field is quite new and still developing; it is not “established” or “settled” by any rational stretch. There is no consensus as to exactly what this change will entail, nor any accurate way to predict what will happen given any action or inaction on our part as a species. In other words, nobody can say exactly how warm the planet will be in 10, 50, or 100 years. The last 16 years of data prove that. Nor what might happen should we for example reduce carbon emissions by x. Contrast this to basic physics, where a given problem can be given to scientist the world over, and the exact same answer will be reached. Predictability and repeatability are the hallmarks of established sciences. Those who blindly state that climate change will doom us all, and cutting our carbon emissions is the only path to salvation are no better than religious zealots thumping their chosen texts.

    This is not in any way an attempt to discredit the work currently being done to understand the climate on our planet. Such work is relevant and necessary. But even with the best methods available, the dataset is too incomplete to make anything other than highly educated guesses. We don’t even have accurate temperature or emissions data for more than perhaps 50 years- which is an infinitesimal period of time when talking about the earth’s climate. This also leads to a problem forecasting what the global temperature is “supposed” to be, devoid of human activity. We know the planet is far from the warmest it has ever been. We know it is far from the coolest it has even been. And we know the planet swings between extremes. But we don’t have a “control” to account for lack of human activity, so it becomes nearly impossible to say what the temperature would be should we suddenly cease to exist, let alone make a small reduction in emissions.
    While I am fully in support in emitting less pollution as a general rule, it is also wise to consider that actions do not occur in a vacuum. Should nations cut their emissions, there is a very good chance that economic activity will be harmed as a result. While a small cut in economic growth might not be inherently harmful for developed nations such as the US, developing nations are a different story. In many countries, any cut in economic activity, whether due to local measures or as a result of decreased global trade, could very well lead the local population to resort to measures that are even more harmful. In nations with rain forests, losing jobs on offshore oil platforms could lead to more forest being clearcut for cattle or burned into charcoal for example. So it is wise to carefully consider any actions before implementing them.

    I prefer to do my own thinking and would rather be convinced on the merits rather than be told to follow because of “confidence” levels. Judging from the e-mails that were leaked a few years ago, “scientists” who actively prevent people with different conclusions to be involved in the peer review process also strikes me as a bad way to do real science. If no one is allowed to challenge the conclusions, then I can’t have confidence in the due diligence of the process.

    I am not one who says that climate change isn’t happening. I am just not confident that the reasons for it have been fairly debated. There are alternative explanations and facts that provides alternative conclusions than the currently approved mantra, but they do not seem to get much discussion in my opinion. Mostly, when a possible alternative explanation is mentioned (e.g. solar output, measurement methodologies, etc.), it is swiftly swept under the rug and the discussions swings back to carbon without sufficient explanation.

    If you want an argument as to why, here’s one (but not the only one) that makes me desire more explanation and/or debate. How about the inaccuracies of models being used to predict the new “warmer” temperatures? If the models used to sustain the arguments for climate change cannot accurately predict the climate after feeding them data from a few years ago, then why should I believe them? I don’t think it would be responsible to make major decisions based on such models that aren’t accurate.

    So, I’m not being dismissive just for the sake of being contrary. What I’ve seen of the process does not give me confidence that a solid adherence to the “scientific method” has been allowed so far. The behavior of the climate change activists is what mostly prevents me from believing what they say. The IPCC has admitted that they got 111 of their 114 climate models wrong in the September (2013) AR5 report. That’s a 97% failure rate. Back in their original 1990 report (FAR), they predicted we’d warm by +0.3 C per decade (up to +0.5 C per decade). Actually, we’ve warmed by +0.15 C per decade since 1990, including just +0.03 of warming since the late 1990s. So their 1990 predictions were off by 100%. So why should we have confidence that their current predictions are any more (or less) accurate?

  • Morris V. Fleischer

    John Wesley–”I believe in my heart that faith in Jesus Christ can and will lead us beyond an exclusive concern for the well-being of other human beings to the broader concern for the well-being of the birds in our backyards, the fish in our rivers, and every living creature on the face of the earth.”


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