The New Evangelical Left (XVII)
Environmentalism and Its Worldview
Back in the day—1898 to be precise—Abraham Kuyper delivered the Stone Lectures at Princeton. They were entitled, Calvinism. In the lectures, Kuyper spoke about Calvinism and History, Religion, Statesmanship, Science, Art, and the Future. Those lectures have been translated into English under the titles Lectures on Calvinism or Christianity Total World and Life System. What Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, and the other Neo-Calvinists were concerned to do was to instill a biblical life and worldview in Christians. They desired to encompass all of life under the unity of the Word of God so that Christians could and would speak cogently about God, man, society, knowledge, truth, and ethics.
Today, far too few Christians seem interested in developing such a life and worldview. The preaching—or lack thereof—has not been in that direction either. Rather, modern Christians have been given anecdotes, skits, programs, and a host of other surrogates to cause them to believe that they’ve been “fed” on Saturday, Sunday, or whenever they get around to going to “worship.” This fare has left the modern Christian bereft of not only a biblical life and worldview, but also of the necessary discernment in order to judge wisely about both the doctrinal and ethical issues that confront the United States today. The net result is that many Christians are doctrinally illiterate—and some are proud of it as are their pastors—and ethically inept, undiscerning, which leads them to accept rather unreflectively many of the “issues” that are prevalent in our society today.
Since we have been dealing with the matter of global warming, I want to proceed with this topic and ask what evidence evangelicals have given us that global warming comports with scriptural teaching, is economically sound and feasible, is truly scientific and not tendentiously politico-scientific claptrap, politically correct nonsense, and actually aids the poor, especially those in sub-Saharan and other Third World countries. There are other points that could be raised, but I begin with these primarily because I’m convinced global warming alarmism does not pass muster on any of these points.
One organization that takes a Christian life and worldview seriously and that does outstanding work regarding true, biblical stewardship are the people at www.cornwallalliance.org. Dr. E. Calvin Beisner and others are at the forefront of biblical thinking on this ethical issue. Of particular help is an article that can be downloaded from their web site entitled “A Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor. An Evangelical Examination of the Theology, Science, and Economics of Global Warming.” A number of evangelical leaders have bought into the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change’s resolution and have actually placed their signatures on the document(s). One can only wonder how many actually read and tested what was said to the best of their ability. Apart from the bad, pseudo-science, or the politically correct agenda, one has to wonder how something that is so New Age and anti-God could be signed by discerning evangelical leaders.
In order to move the discussion forward, I will agree with all of the conclusions drawn by the Cornwall Alliance that has done more extensive research on this issue. Surmising that global warming alarmism will “destroy millions of jobs, cost trillions of dollars in lost economic production, slow, stop, or reverse economic growth, reduce the standard of living for all but the elite few who are well positioned to benefit from laws that unfairly advantage them at the expense of most businesses and all consumers, endanger liberty by putting vast new powers over private, social, and market life in the hands of national and international governments, and will condemn the poor to generations of continued misery characterized by rampant disease and premature death.”
By way of introduction, I’ll spend a few moments speaking to the last point in the quote above. All of us who are truly Christians desire that the poor be spared suffering and misery. None of us desires for the poor to be hungry, disease-ridden, and to die at an early age. I am rather certain that those who signed the IPCC resolution truly and sincerely desire the same thing. And yet even many well-known and accomplished secular scientists have written about how the best intentions of many people are actually harming the poor in sub-Saharan areas rather than helping them. For example, some environmentalist purists do not want developing and Third World countries eating hybrid bio-foods because they are genetically engineered. Never mind that we have been eating the same “Frankenfoods” for years if not decades, the “greenies” would rather have the poor starve than eat food that is not “kosher.”
Much of this problem is political in nature, but a substantial portion of it is connected to environmental theology. Again, even secularist scientists have lamented that much of the global warming alarmism has morphed into a religion. And it is true that there is a definite religion behind the global warming movement. In fact, as many scientists are well aware, if you do not subscribe to the greenie dogma, you will be excommunicated, ostracized. They broker no heterodoxy. Keeping the developing and Third World countries poor and hungry, these purists and do-gooders condemn, by their good intentions, two billion poor in the world to continue to use wood and dung as their primary cooking and heating fuels. This, in turn, causes millions of premature deaths and hundreds of millions of debilitating respiratory diseases every year.
While we recoil in horror at Hitler’s holocaust and his pogroms that murdered approximately six million Jews in World War II and Stalin’s elimination of around ten times that number of his own countrymen, we hardly blink an eye when it comes to the fifty million or so humans who have died from malaria due to the prohibition to use DDT. The Cornwall Alliance has offered an alternative to the IPCC that is less political, more scientific, and substantially more theological. It is called An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, and it, too, may be downloaded from the web site. A more glaring opposition to the U.N.’s IPCC resolution could not be found. It begs the question: with a well thought through evangelical document available to the Christian community, why will Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Brian McLaren, Dan Kimball, and the other Christian signatories not remove their names and distance themselves from the purely secular IPCC resolution and line up with the EDGW? A summary of the EDGW document goes like this: “In light of all these findings, we conclude that human activity has negligible influence on global temperature, the influence is not dangerous, there is no need to mandate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and environmental and energy policy should remove, not build, obstacles to the abundant, affordable energy necessary to lift the world’s poor out of poverty and sustain prosperity for all.”
More than any of those mentioned above, those at the Cornwall Alliance provide us with valid, biblical reasons why thinking Christians should not sign the IPCC resolution. Cornwall offers us four substantial and substantive reasons why a biblical life and worldview contrasts sharply with the environmentalist worldview. Let’s listen.
First, “Environmentalism sees Earth and its systems as the product of chance and therefore fragile, subject to easy and catastrophic disruption. The Biblical worldview sees Earth and its systems as robust, self-regulating, and self-correcting, not immune to harm, but durable.”
Second, “Environmentalism sees human beings principally as consumers and polluters who are only quantitatively, not qualitatively, different from other species. The Bible sees people as made in God’s image, qualitatively different from all other species, and designed to be producers and stewards who, within a just and free social order, can create more resources than they consume and ensure a clean, healthful, and beautiful environment.”
Third, “Environmentalism tends to view nature untouched by human hands as optimal, while the Bible teaches that it can be improved by wise and holy human action.” A classic example of this is Brian McLaren’s very left-leaning ethics book Everything Must Change. McLaren is a Kool-Aid drinker, who jets all over the world telling everyone who will listen just how bad fossil fuels and greenhouse emissions are.
Finally, “Environmentalism tends to substitute subjective, humanist standards of environmental stewardship for the objective, transcendent standards of divine morality.”
Essentially, what evangelicals have been doing for the longest time is succumbing and acceding to a secular agenda; their repentance seems to be that at least they are concerned about the planet. The short answer is: if Christians are buying into a New Age, nature-worshiping agenda without consulting the Word of God then we are in a world of trouble. This mindless willingness to receive the praises and acclaims of the secularists because we’re accepting their agenda is both short-sighted and dismally wrongheaded. To return to McLaren’s EMC for a moment: to be an evangelical book—and that is what it claims to be—it is short on scriptural references and biblical exegesis of the texts cited is non-existent. Sadly, far too few in the evangelical community either acknowledge that fact or even care.
Where I live in Orange County California, the newspaper to which I subscribe is The Orange County Register. It is a libertarian paper, but virtually every time it carries an article about “religion,” you can count on it being a piece that portrays Christians as mindless, mind-numbed “fundies.” Not having a mind of their own, they tend simply to follow what the secularists are saying and doing, insuring to throw in the word “Jesus” a few times at appropriate places. Rather than opting for Reformation, evangelicals are always pleading for Revival—wrongly. When you mention revival to the secularists, they conjure up some sort of frenzied, ecstatic practices that feature a complete disconnect with the mind, with the rational faculties.
In other words, Christians should be striving for a biblical life and worldview that takes into account sound policymaking, based on solid biblical evidence and exegesis. That evidence is there, it simply needs a strongly Reformed exposition. The Cornwall Alliance rightly states that the welfare of the poor would necessarily be a high priority for the Church, since most of the environmental policies affect them adversely, even the ones that are ostensibly designed to help them. This must be more than a near-apoplectic “Quick! We must do something, anything to help the poor!” For example, the Church should take into account that many policies to reduce global warming suffer from the law of unintended consequences. What I mean is this: reducing fossil fuels, which are abundant and affordable, relegates developing and Third World countries to the continued use of dirty fuels such as wood and dung. Such an agenda, such a choice is neither prudent nor morally right. Throughout the ages, man has been innovative enough to conceive of new ways to solve problems. Today is no different, with the caveat that government needs to get out the way as quickly as possible and to allow free market principles to get to work.
The Cornwall Alliance puts matters into perspective when it states, “Environmental policies the world’s poor most need will aim not at reducing global temperature (over which human action has little control) but at reducing specific risks to the poor regardless of temperature: communicable diseases (especially malaria), malnutrition and hunger, and exclusion from worldwide markets by trade restrictions.” Unfortunately, those gathered in Copenhagen are there more for themselves than those they claim they want to help. To them we say, “Shame on you. Shame on you for your ostentatious lifestyle, for your flights in Lear Jets, your caviar snacks, extravagant meals, limousines, expensive clothing, and the like.” Not that any of that taken by itself is bad. It is simply the pretense that is on glaring display in Copenhagen that is so disgustingly hypocritical.To the evangelical community we also say, “Shame on you.” Shame on you, leaders, for failing to do the requisite biblical exegesis; shame on you for putting your name on a thoroughly pagan, New Age IPCC document that is more political than it is theological; and shame on you for not having the spiritual maturity to remove your name from the signatories of the IPCC resolution and not apologizing for all you led astray merely because your name was on the U.N. document. Have you no principles?
 Abraham Kuyper, Het Calvinisme, (Amsterdam: Höveker & Wormser Boekhandel, 1898).
 Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism, (Grand Rapids: Associated Publishers & Authors, Inc., n.d.) & Idem., Christianity: A Total World and Life System, (Marlborough, NH: Plymouth Rock Foundation, 1996).
 Ibid., 2.
 Ibid., 3. Emphasis added.
 Ibid. Emphasis added.
 Ibid. Emphasis added.
 Ibid., 4.
Labels: Global Warming/Climate Change