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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Danger of Being Unequally Yoked

At the close of our last installment, I mentioned that we would examine God’s covenant with Noah in order to ascertain if there are any scriptural lessons Christians can take away from the Bible and bring to the ongoing climate change debate. We have been interacting with the Evangelical Climate Initiative’s article “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action.” We have noted that a number of “name brand” folks, who call themselves Christians, have signed on to this document, including Brian McLaren and Jim Wallis. The question I raised last time had to do with just how far we ought to follow non-Christians in accepting as “gospel truth” a particular position on an issue.

Our issue here is global warming/climate change. Actually, the debate does not focus on whether climate changes or has changed in the past. We agree that it does and it has. In addition, no one is questioning the use of secular sources when debating certain points. Common grace extends far and wide. Simultaneously, we need to be aware that when we quote non-Christian sources, we are dealing with a person with an entirely different life and worldview from the Christian one. Many—most—secular scientists, for example, accept Darwinism as one of their axioms in their investigations. Others are convinced that the earth is millions if not billions of years old. Thus, the argument about using sources outside of the Christian faith is not an issue here, although as a necessary caveat, we should do so with care.

I say all this because the signatories to the ECI document have accepted the claims of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Their opening salvo under Claim 1 (Human-Induced Climate Change is Real), reads, “Since 1995 there has been general agreement among those in the scientific community most seriously engaged with this issue that climate change is happening and is being caused mainly by human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels. Evidence gathered since 1995 has only strengthened this conclusion.” (p. 2.)

In the course of these articles, we intended to investigate this assertion, but for today we want to discuss some matters that separate—or should separate—the Christians from the non-Christians, even though some who call themselves Christians will disagree with some of what I’m about to say. What I’m going to do is to lay down a framework about why God sent the Flood in the first place and then what he promised to Noah and his family after the Flood.

After man’s fall into sin and God’s promise of deliverance (Gen. 3:15), we enter into a new phase of biblical revelation called the covenant of grace. Now man is a sinner and is at enmity with God. As a run up to God’s covenant with Noah we read this in the Bible: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5.) This text speaks of the radical depravity of man and of the sinful nature of sin. Therefore, God sends the Flood and destroys the inhabitants on the earth except Noah and his family. Chapter 9 of Genesis speaks to us about God’s covenant with Noah after the Flood and we are informed of certain “particulars” regarding it. There are many facets to this covenant administration, but allow me to give the following:

First, this covenant is universal in scope, including every living creature (Gen. 9:9-10).

Second, it is unconditional. That is to say, it cannot be annulled by human unfaithfulness.

Third, the (rain)bow in the heavens is a constant reminder that God will be faithful to his promise.

Fourth, it is an everlasting covenant. (Gen. 9:11.)

Finally, it is totally unilateral in nature. God imposes this covenant administration sovereignly and makes it with animate and inanimate objects, with organic and inorganic matter.

After Noah built an altar and sacrificed to the Lord, God gave him this promise: “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creation as I have done. While earth remains. Seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Gen. 9:21-22.)

This is a sure promise, but it seems that many have forgotten this truth. When I was a kid growing up, the threat that hung like a pall over life was the Cold War. People built bomb shelters, stocked them with pork and beans and beer and believed the doomsday scenarios. In the sixth grade, we practiced getting under our wooden desks in the event of a nuclear holocaust. There’s nothing like a wooden desk to protect you from being vaporized. As if that were not enough, Teri Johnson cried in class the day we saw the movie about the earth turning into a meat locker.

As the Cold War progressed, even some of the evangelical churches made hay out of man’s fears. Everything the Soviet Union did was tantamount to Armageddon; Gog and Magog. Some theologians received hefty royalties, scaring God’s people about impending doom. Too bad The Prayer of Jabez hadn’t been written yet. In these predictive, worst-case scenarios, man would destroy the earth and not God—or, God’s version of the Last Day didn’t bother to mention nuclear weapons.

In the 1960s and 1970s, a number of evangelical churches jumped on Paul Ehrlich’s population explosion fad and Christians across the country went on birth control, being convinced that two children were quite enough for them to do their Christian duty to save the planet from overcrowding and famine, not stopping to think that in their glee to limit overpopulation they were taking birth control pills that did not prevent conception, but actually performed a mini-abortion.

Along with Dr. Ehrlich—you know, that expert from Princeton—along came Rachel Carson and her blockbuster book Silent Spring. She convinced the world that DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) was harmful, deadly, even a carcinogenic. We knew better because we used to chase the jeeps around that were spraying to kill mosquitoes. I admit that I am also guilty of being sprayed directly several times, but I did not inhale. At any rate, Carson’s book was widely accepted, and even to this day, a number of evangelicals still believe that DDT is harmful. In point of fact, not spraying with DDT has literally caused the deaths of millions of people, especially those in developing countries. Can you say, “law of unintended consequences”? What did we get from ridding the world of DDT? To quote Paul Driessen, we got sustainable mosquitoes and expendable people.[1] Just how bad is it? “In 2000, say World Health Organization and other studies, malaria infected over 300 million people. It killed nearly 2,000,000—most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Over half the victims are children, who die at the rate of two per minute or 3,000 per day…. Since 1972, over 50 million people have died from this dreaded disease.”[2] The disease costs Africa “$12 billion annually, depleting budgets for other health, environmental, economic and social programs. It particularly afflicts poor families, who must use up to 25 percent or more of their income on prevention and treatment.”[3]

It was during Carson’s reign of misinformation that a phenomenon began that has now come to be called “the precautionary principle.” It is a more technical approach to mom’s advice: “better safe than sorry.” Because of a number of factors, far too many Americans would rather be safe than anything else and that is one factor that leads us down the road to socialism, to serfdom. The way the precautionary principle works is that it eschews “genetically modified foods despite their promise to reduce agriculture’s use of land, water, pesticides, and fertilizers, which could result in net benefits to the world’s environment and biodiversity even as it increases the quantity and nutritional quality of food supplies for a rapidly growing world population that has yet to be free from hunger and malnutrition.”[4]

This same precautionary principle has been used to refuse the use of nuclear or hydroelectric power. It was used in the DDT debate which “was only possible because, in some minds, the principle gives license to cherry pick which public health or environmental risk one wants to focus on. Thus, a global ban makes eminent sense only if one ignores the public health costs of not having access to DDT to reduce malaria (and other insect-borne diseases) in poverty stricken areas.”[5]

I will finally add that in the 1970s, then-President Jimmy Carter predicted that the earth would be out of food by 1980. Apparently, that type of prediction was above his pay grade—at least to make it accurately.

These examples could be multiplied and, Lord willing, in the course of this series will be. For the present I want to point out that none of these ideas were presented from a Christian perspective and yet the plausibility and feasibility quotient seemed reasonable enough for Christians and Christian churches and other organizations to buy into them. It is safe to say that while agreeing that the climate has changed, the jury is still out on whether that change is caused by human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels. For our purposes, it is essential to note that “all the IPCC’s predictions are based on…climate computer model simulations.”[6]

Those using these computer models, who are more concerned about science and not getting the next government grant or telling Al Gore and company what they want to hear, admit a couple of things. First, “Essentially, answering the question about temperature increase from CO2 means predicting the global temperature over the coming centuries.”[7] Most weathermen and –women cannot accurately predict next week’s weather, let alone what’s coming a century down the road.

Second, “The interaction between these five basic elements (the atmosphere, the oceans, the land surface, the ice sheets, and the earth’s biosphere—RG) is enormously complicated, and crucial mechanisms are still unknown or extremely sparsely documented in the scientific literature.”[8] This forces science to rely on simulating the climate on intricate computers, but “computers are number-crunchers and not crystal balls.”[9]

The Christian will rely on God’s providence, of which no man can explain the intricacies. No one wants to be a bad steward of limited resources, but neither do we desire to be credulous about important matters. Looking to the signatories of ECI does not help us, because many of the signers are theologically liberal and embrace social programs, while abusing the scriptures to make them support and defend the indefensible. In the end, what matters most is that God is faithful and trustworthy to all his promises. We’ll continue down this road next time.


[1] See Paul Driessen, Eco-Imperialism. Green Power, Black Death, (Bellevue, WA: Free Enterprise Press, 2003), p. 65.

[2] Ibid., 66.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Indur Goklany, The Improving State of the World. Why We’re Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet, (Washington, D.C.: The Cato Institute, 2007), p. 9.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Bjørn Limborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 266.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.




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19 Comments:

Blogger Anna said...

hi i just started following your blog recently. i have been reading your series on christian environmentalism with agreement. along those same lines, have you ever done a series on the christian neo-naturalism movement ("crunchy con" in some circles i suppose). the belief is that natural = good and manmade = corruption of how god meant us to live on the earth. i have been waiting for someone to vivisect that thought. doug wilson has touched on it a bit before, but i have not seen any other series.

6:17 PM  
Blogger Jeff Kerr said...

I always thought that "crunchy cons" just thought that the government AND big business are both untrustworthy and undeserving of being followed blindly.

6:39 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

perhaps i should clarify what i mean. i mean the christian belief that has been going around, that says that natural is somehow holier than technological advances. these people believe that modern farming methods are evil, modern medicine is evil, and that organic is holy and naturopathic medicine is holy. they pray for god to help them stay away from such evils as propylene glycol and high fructose corn syrup. they often don't believe in vaccinations and use midwives extensively. they think that the evil corporate companies are out to get them.

perhaps that is a caricature but i'm sure you know what i am talking about. i am not a great writer. i read a lot of christian blogs and a huge number of them adhere to the neo-naturalist beliefs to some extent or other. a couple of bloggers have discussed the incorrectness of these beliefs and they tend to get a lot of nasty comments for it.

i hope that explains what i mean better.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

Ron,

While DDT could be used for much good, it is harmful to humans as well. While you may have been sprayed by it several times, the chemical composition of it is harmful.

I have no desire to argue if it is a better option to use it vs. not using it. It is simply necessary to point out that sometimes there isn't a good option. Both have negative effects.

11:46 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Anna,
Thanks for stopping by. In his book "Climate Confusion," former NASA climatologist and research scientist & professor @ the U. of Alabama cites the following concerning DDT: the international bans on DDT were actions based more on emotion than sound science. "DDT, by itself, would greatly alleviate the scourge of malaria in poor African countries, with almost no risk to humans or wildlife" (p. 99.) He adds on p. 144, "I am not claiming that there are no health or environmental risks associated with the use of DDT. I am saying that the use of a small amount of this very effective pesticide has benefits that far outweighs its dangers." In other words, he is not all that impressed with the "precautionary principle" that is used by so many environmentalists.
South African, Richard Tren, President of Africa Fighting Malaria writes, "In the 60 years since DDT was first introduced, not a single scientific paper has been able to replicate even one case of actual human harm from its use."
Another scholarly paper (Ames & Gold) lists the following of significantly greater risk than DDT, in order, in terms of their synthetic pesticide content: Coffee, lettuce, orange juice, mushrooms, apples, cinnamon, carrots, potatoes, and celery.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

We have been eating hybrid foods for a long, long time. In Africa, especially in the sub-Saharan developing countries, many environmentalists refuse to send or allow the farmers there to farm with biofoods, which, next to malaria, causes more of the poor to die. In general, I am convinced that the Al Gore, Rick Warren, & Christian celebrity approach to the environment does more harm than good.
There are better, more prudent, & more reasonable approaches.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Morris Brooks said...

Excellent and well thought out, as usual.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

Another Risk from DDT
by Kathy A. Svitil
From the August 2003 issue of Discover, published online August 1, 2003

Although the United States and Europe banned DDT more than three decades ago, the pesticide lingers in the environment—and in some women's bodies. Toxicologist Corinne Charlier of the Sart Tilman Hospital in Liège, Belgium, and her colleagues recently found that women with breast cancer were five times more likely than healthy women to have DDT residues in their blood.

Previous studies have shown that chemicals derived from DDT can mimic the action of estrogen and related hormones. Excess estrogen promotes breast cancer. Charlier's study of 159 women suggests that traces of DDT carry the same risk. "If it does, it is only one factor, like a genetic mutation. In some women, the pesticide might induce breast cancer, but in other women, it alone is not sufficient," she says. The pesticide remains in the food chain because it can persist in the soil for decades and will eventually turn up in fish and grains. It is still used in developing countries, where it poses a threat not only to the local population but also to people who buy products from those countries.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Blank Slate said...

I wonder how many of those women with breast cancer also had traces of "the pill" in them as well?? Hummm

10:16 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Sister, Brother, Neuter,
Two things: 1) I have not read your blog because I have no clue who you are, which brings me to my second point: 2) The rule is still in place on this blog that we do not deal with anonymous folk. Btw, John Hancock, with an age of 272 in Boston. Nice try. Therefore, either disclosure or you're gone. I don't know why this is so difficult for you to understand.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Anna,
In their book "Ecofascism. Lessons from the German Experience," Janet Biehl & Peter Staudenmaier, two people with no brief for Christianity make the valid points that "Nazi 'ecologists' made organic farming, vegetarianism, nature worship, and related themes into key elements not only in their ideology but in their governmental policies."
So, it depends on who you read. I trust my sources and you'll always find someone who has drunk the Kool-Aid and still believes DDT causes everything from dandruff to flat feet.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Jim W said...

I'm not anonymous. I don't know why you'd accuse me of that. I have entered everything in my profile that it needed. And I don't hide behind a false name with diversionary tactics. Maybe because you're an obvious fraud using false credentials is why you can't access my profile.

5:54 PM  
Blogger Jim W said...

You are a truly obnoxious person, aren't you, "sister"? Grow up.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Russ Reeves said...

Did you hear about this?

In the first case of its kind, an employment tribunal decided that Nicholson, 41, had views amounting to a "philosophical belief in climate change", allowing him the same legal protection against discrimination as religious beliefs.

12:24 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

fyi - there are 2 people named anna who are posting here. i am anna the engineer. she is anna the "profile not available".

5:13 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:13 PM  
Blogger sister said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:17 PM  
Blogger sister said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:47 PM  
Blogger sister said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:49 PM  

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