Christianity: Doctrine and Ethics

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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, January 21, 2010

Environmentalism and Its Worldview (III)

Many of us “more mature” theologians (read: older), cut our teeth on Henry Van Til’s seminal work The Calvinistic Concept of Culture.[1] Among other important truths, Van Til reminded us that “culture is simply the service of God in our lives; it is religion externalized.”[2] Culture and cultural norms were never meant to be neutral or adiaphorous. John Frame puts it quite well when he states, “It is interesting that that Latin term colere, from which we get the word culture, also refers to religious service, and comes into English as cult, cultic, and so on. Culture and cult go together.”[3]

Therefore, if Christians are to enter the arena of ideas and ideologies they should possess an accurate and biblical view of God, man, society, truth, knowledge, and ethics—at the very least. Not to do so could easily entail getting run over, mutilated, and eventually thrown under the bus of secular totalitarianism. I’m suggesting, in fact, that that is precisely what has occurred with those Christian celebs who found it necessary to sign on to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and now refuse to remove their names from that document, even in light of much of the discredit that the environmentalists have experienced.

Far too many Christians have been followers of secular ideology when it comes to environmentalism, global warming, or climate change—whatever the going descriptions are. In other words, there has been no concerted effort on the part of the signatories to explain what their own worldview is, although I guess we are to suppose that it is Christian. There are no elucidations of where they disagree with the IPCC or with the worldview and presuppositions driving it. Are we to suppose, then, that each culture and worldview is neutral when it comes to God? I certainly hope we are not that naïve! Frame’s comments are quite helpful at this point. “Every worldview, every philosophy, even if it professes to be nonreligious, has [a] totalitarian influence on human life, and, followed consistently, will dictate a certain kind of culture. Culture, therefore, is never religiously neutral. Everything in culture expresses and communicates a religious conviction: either faith in the true God or denial of him.”[4]

Each worldview, Christian or otherwise, encompasses every aspect and facet of life. In that sense, each worldview is “totalitarian” in that it is meant to govern everything we say, do, and think. Certainly, most Christians are familiar with the scriptural texts that address this point I’m making here, but just to be on the safe side, let me give you a few to help us understand better. Probably the first text that comes to your mind is the same one that comes to mine: 1 Corinthians 10:31. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This is, indeed, an all-encompassing verse of Scripture isn’t it? It is not so much what we eat or drink, although that is most certainly addressed. Rather, whatever we do is to be done consciously to the glory of God. How can you and I, sinners that we are, glorify God? The short answer is that we glorify him by thinking his thoughts after him. How can we think his thoughts after him? By going to the Bible, reading it, studying it, meditating upon it, praying for wisdom and power to apply it, and, as the psalmist says, hiding or storing it in our heart (Ps. 119:11).

A very similar text is found in Colossians 3:17, where Paul instructs the Church this way: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” We observe here a repetition of the same general categories that Paul referred to in 1 Corinthians 10:31. The intent is to draw the Christian’s attention to the truth that God is Lord of the entirety of life and not merely of a few segments or compartments. “So everything we do in culture will reflect our faith in some way.”[5]

Since this is truth, it begs the question: Why, then, did a number of Christian celebrities sign a document where many, if not all, of those involved with creating this document are non-believers? Much of the so-called “science” contained in the IPCC resolution has been debunked as bogus, including many of the specious arguments about CO2. It seems like a number of the Christian signatories were too eager to get their names on the (distinguished) list, but now that so much of what they asserted to be true has been shown to be false and based on ideology and not science, these same people are inexplicably slow about removing their names as supporters.

On a very simple level, it would seem that the Great Commission would have some important bearing on these signatories. How, one might legitimately ask, is keeping one’s name on a bogus document fulfilling the mandate to disciple God’s people? Doesn’t it seem plausible, feasible that if I’m truly concerned about making disciples for the Lord Jesus that I would not shirk my responsibility to recant if necessary? Jesus’ words to his disciples in the Great Commission include comprehensive teaching regarding what Jesus has commanded us. This teaching is to include everything God has commanded. That being the case, why are we not presented with a biblical view of the environment by the signatories instead of their signing a secular document? Can Christians not do better—a lot better—than the IPCC resolution? I believe we can.

[1] Henry Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture, (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1959).

[2] Ibid., 200.

[3] John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2008), p. 858.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

The latest Gleason grandchild (number 13) arrived Saturday morning, January 16th at around 9:00am, Central Time.
He is a big boy, tipping the scales at a hefty 10 lbs. 8 oz. His name is Harris Ronald Elliot and is child number 9 for the proud parents, Geoff and Lisa.
Geoff is studying for the pastoral ministry at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS. I filled out the paperwork for Harris's provisional appointment to The Citadel this afternoon.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Environmentalism and Its Worldview (II)

I am arguing that in general and by and large, evangelicals should be very suspicious of modern environmentalism and its life and worldview. All this notwithstanding, a number of high profile Christian celebs have put their signatures on the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change’s resolution concerning global warming and its attendant dogmas. Even the secularists are admitting that in its current state, environmentalism is a “religion.” I concur, if for no other reason than linguistic ones. Our English word “religion” is derived from the Latin word religere, which means “to bind [back].” In other words, anything that is taught as settled and binding is in some sense a “religious” statement.

For example, pro-choice abortion advocates are very religious people. Evolutionists are quite religious as well as are the New Age environmentalists. All of these issues—and more—are highly religious and the adherents and those initiated into the flock by means of the sacrament of drinking the ideological Kool-Aid might not attend church or synagogue, but they are, nonetheless, some of the most fanatically religious zealots on the planet. If you don’t believe me, object to what they say and watch them shift into “fundamentalistic” mode. They grow hair on their teeth and preach a version of fire and brimstone known only to a few Baptists. Make no mistake about it: global warming or climate change is a religion with an established set of dogmas. Deviate from those infallible dicta and you are vilified, marginalized, demonized, and accused of not caring a whit about Mother Earth.

In case you missed Earth Day last year, barring a substantial rise in ocean levels and the extinction of the polar bear, you may be able to don your thermal underwear and attend some summit somewhere where there’s two feet of snow and the temperatures have plummeted to several degrees below zero to protest global warming. All kidding aside—and only part of what I just said was kidding—one has to wonder why our Christian celebs who are so cutting edge that they placed their signatures on the IPCC resolutions and explanation, haven’t been equally quick to ask to have their names removed. Apart from the East Anglia University debacle, there are a number of biblical considerations that, you’d think, might give them pause to reflect on what they did and then to inform the general public, their congregations, and their Christian “groupies” that they were wrong and now want to recant. Don’t hold your breath, though.

In order to locate the first major objection that environmentalism has with the Christian faith, you need go no further than Genesis 1:1. In other words, from the outset, from the get-go, Christianity and New Age environmentalism are at odds. As soon as Scripture states, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” environmentalists have a major problem and that problem is precisely God. If you are prepared to bow at the shrine of the great god of Green, you must first jettison your Christian faith and then acknowledge that the word “god” in “the great god of Green” doesn’t really mean “god,” it means idol.

Creation by the personal, true God of Scripture is an inappropriate hypothesis for a large number of environmentalists. For them, “Earth and its systems” are “the product(s) of chance…”[1] The Christian life and worldview, on the other hand, sees the created order as coming from the hand of omnipotent Lord God Almighty and under his providential care and control. The Heidelberg Catechism (Lord’s Day 10, Q/A 27) speaks of God’s providence in this manner: “Q. What do you understand by the Providence of God? A. Providence is the almighty and ever-present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rule them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty—all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but from his fatherly hand.”

The Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter V, Of Providence) says this in section I: “God the great Creator of all things upholds, directs, disposes, and governs all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.”

Both of these biblical descriptions fly in the face of the desired autonomy of many environmentalists precisely because it decimates their secular and godless agenda. Unfortunately, far, far too many Christians are not cognizant of how much of this secularism they’ve assimilated into their support of global warming. I hate to keep pounding the same drum, but why is it that so many Christian celebs, who signed the UN’s IPCC resolution have not recanted? Why do they insist on continuing to cling tenaciously to flawed, faulty information?

The new intelligentsia environmentalist often fails to have an ounce of common sense in his or her globally warmed (or cooled) body. They appear to be students of the renowned Dr. Arrogant Blowhard, who discovered the infinitely expanding research grant—at taxpayer expense, of course! A more pedestrian author, Mark Twain, once quipped that everybody complains about the weather, but hardly anyone ever does anything about it. The point here is simply this: “Once we elevate the concerns of nature above those of people, we abdicate our authority to do the things that are necessary to improve the human condition.”[2]

Let me ask you this: where do you get your information about global warming? Time? Newsweek? Do you just hear it from friends or glean something about it from the major news networks? Spencer warns, “No one does a better job at keeping you misinformed on environmental issues than the mainstream news media, which increasingly tried to entertain you, and the entertainment industry, which increasingly tries to tell you what to believe about the newsworthy event. A large part of the public’s concern about the environment can be traced to editorial bias that exists in the major media sources.”[3] For example, the media has created a scare concerning the amount of CO2 humans are putting into the atmosphere. In point of fact, the total of all global emissions is running about 30 billion tons per year. That might seem like a lot, but when you compare it to the total weight of the atmosphere, there is less cause for concern. That total weight is 5 quadrillion tons. “What or how much is a quadrillion?” you might ask. Good question. Besides being the size of the national debt of the United States at the end of the Obama administration, it is quite a sizeable number. It is the measure after a trillion, so 5 quadrillion would be 5,000,000,000,000,000 tons. When we single out CO2, we discover that for every 100,000 molecules of air, 38 of them are carbon dioxide.[4]

Concretely and in terms of common sense we are led to conclude that the fatal flaw of global warming alarmism is that “there is not scientific evidence indicating that carbon dioxide, much less manmade carbon dioxide emissions, control or even measurably impact global climate. This is true whether you look at data going back 650,000 years, data from the twentieth century, or even data from the past ten years.”[5] This same type of global warming alarmism “exaggerates the harms of global warming and ignores or underestimates the benefits not only from warming but also from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide.”[6] Rahm Emanuel and Saul Alinsky never saw a “crisis” they couldn’t exploit. The propaganda surrounding global warming has been so effective that many today believe the pseudo-“facts” about it without question.

What I cannot understand is why the Christian celebs will not remove their names from the IPCC list and why the Christian community at large is not outraged that men like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Brian McLaren, Richard Mouw, and Dan Kimball remain so intractable. When the “Tea Party” adherents lament the pitiful job Congress is doing, those among those citizens, who are Christians, ought to have an even greater, more vociferous, and more insistent response to those who are supposed to be leading them spiritually. What will it take to awaken the evangelical community and its leaders?

[1], “A Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor. An Evangelical Examination of the Theology, Science, and Economics of Global Warming,” p. 3.

[2] Roy W. Spencer, Climate Confusion, How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies That Hurt the Poor, (NY: Encounter Books, 2008), p. 5.

[3] Ibid., 25.

[4] Ibid., 63.

[5] Steve Milloy, Green Hell, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2009), p. 5.