Thinking about the climate :: Part Final


In light of all the discussion that the recent statement on the environment and climate change has created, I think it is appropriate for me to clarify a few things concerning my personal position.

There has been some speculation that this statement means that those who signed it are endorsing the existence of Global Warming. I can assure you, from my perspective anyhow, that this is not the case. I am not a scientist. I do not have the ability to argue along scientific lines as to the existence of Global Warming or not. I am not trying, by supporting this initiative, to claim that Global Warming is true or not. There are, however, two specific reasons that I think this is an important issue to consider and address as conservative Evangelicals.

First, the issue of creation care is a biblical issue. For far too long those who have been the significant voices urging in the protection of the creation are those who will most often stand in opposition to biblical truth. This is shameful. Those of us in the Evangelical community have often been known as the ones who laughingly refer to our responsibility to “have dominion over the earth” as if that is some biblical principle that allows us to avoid our responsibility to manage what God has given us. This is no way necesitates the need to assume that the earth and its resources should be cared for to a greater extent than humanity, but rather it is an admission that although we are to use the resources the creation provides to care for humanity, we must not be careless or wasteful in that process. I support this initiative as a step in the right direction of recognizing that biblical Christianity and creation care should go hand in hand.

Secondly, this issue of Global Warming, climate change and creation care may or may not be true. As I stated before, I’m not a scientist and I will defer to their judgment on the issue. Since they are decidedly split in this area, it’s only fair to say we collectively do not know for certain what is occuring in the atmosphere and in our climate. Having said that, there is no denying that the topic of Global Warming is a partcularly significant topic, particularly among younger generations. Going one step further, it would also appear to be a biblical and moral issue. While I do not know if Global Warming, as popularly defined, is accurate or not, I do think it is safe to say that there is damage to the environment that is the result of irresonsible human behavior. That kind of behavior should be controlled by a biblical response of creation care. Due to the significant influence of popular culture promoting Global Warming, among other things, I think it is only appropriate that the Evangelical community address it as we would any moral issue that is known as a significant culutral issue of our day rather than try to dodge or deny the issue. It is important that the Evangelical community have some voice instead of simply allowing those in the mainstream who do not share our biblical value system to be the only voices of influence.

So, in conclusion, this statement is not an endorsement, on my behalf anyway, of Global Warming. It is, however, a recognition of the Evangelical community’s need to take a more prominent role in the advance of faithful, biblical stewardship of creation. I hope that we can all unite under that banner.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

30 thoughts on “Thinking about the climate :: Part Final

  1. I think sometimes my statements on here are taken in a much more harsh tone than they were ever intended. So please don’t hear what I am saying in a harsh manner.

    What does “we resolve to engage this issue without any further lingering over the basic reality of the problem” from the Declaration mean? Despite “not being a scientist” and disputes among scientist and disputes among evangelicals, the Declaration says that we (the signers) are going to treat “this issue” (global warming) as real whether it is or not (no “further lingering”). So it would seem to me that one would have to redefine the Declaration to not say what it says in order to sign it and still say that they are not in some significant way endorsing the idea of global warming.

    I think an important question is, if one doesn’t accept or is agnostic about global warming, why would this Declaration be more appropriate than the 2007 resolution?

  2. Dennis-

    First of all, I have never claimed that the 2007 resolution was less appropriate than this initiative.

    I think the basic premise of the statement that you referenced, from my perspective, obviously does not affirm the absolute existence of Global Warming but rather confirms that it is simply possible that it exists and then reaffirms the biblical responsibility to encourage creation care. These encouragements are placed up against the reality that if Global Warming exists, we have a responsibility to take care for the planet. As the statement clarifies, due to the significant number of scientific authorities who are convinced of the damage being done by human efforts, it is prudent, in the absence of absolute knowledge, to move with caution as we steward the creation.

    It would seem to me that the principles of caution, prudence and stewardship would only be affirmed from a biblical perspective.

  3. Kent-

    If you are going to address the blog, please do so with some sort of substantive statement. The way you throw around innuendos and unsubstantiated statements is ironically reflective of your own claim of “double speak”.

  4. But, Micah, the statement I am referencing does not merely acknowledge the possibility of global warming, it says we (the signers) are going to do something (“engage”) about global warming. That action must presume to treat global warming as if it were real. It is reckless to commit to action unless it is certain that action is necessary, and (correct me if I’m wrong) you seem to characterize this Declaration as anything but reckless.

    The implication of my question about the appropriateness of the 2007 resolution is the uselessness of this Declaration. Unless in some way this Declaration is more appropriate (i.e. says more) than the resolution, then it is at best redundant. And it does seem to say more – that global warming should be treated as real. That is what I think this whole thing boils down to – either this Declaration is recommending to treat global warming as real (despite all disclaimers) or it is redundant and useless.

  5. Dennis-

    I disagree with your estimation of the statement. It merely says that the majority of scientists give credence to its existence and in the absence of perfect knowledge we should move forward, guided with what knowledge we have, and attempt to live judisciously in regards to creation. I simply do not see how this can be seen as an affirmation in the absolute existence of Global Warming.

    I think the difference between the two statements is that this one recommends that we treat Global Warming as not necessarily real, but as a real possibility, which a significant amount of science gives credence to. While I remain unconvinced as to theabsolute existence of it I think it better to move forward in prudence than in any other fashion until its existence can be proven or disproven with absolute certainty.

  6. Micah,

    You are right, the Declaration does not affirm the absolute existence of Global Warming. That’s not what my estimation of the statement is. The Declaration is saying we should treat global warming as if it absolutely exists, even against reasonable doubt.

    Where global warming is concerned, the Declaration says we should “engage” and you say we should “move forward”. What does that mean? We can do things that express our care for God’s creation without having to reference global warming at all. But this Declaration is encouraging action specifically in reference to global warming. What action would that be?

    If we are arguing about whether there is a chair directly behind you, I say there’s not, and you say there is no way of knowing whether there is or there is not, but then you take the action of trying to sit down, you are acting as if the chair is there. That is what I’m saying this Declaration is doing – it is encouraging us to stop worrying about whether the chair is there or not and just sit down. And wouldn’t it be wiser, wouldn’t we look less foolish, if we quietly did a little more checking for the chair instead of announcing to the whole world that we will be sitting down now and letting them watch while our feet fly up above our head?

    Keep in mind that “a significant amount of science gives credence to” evolution as well.

  7. All this symantic arguing looks unnecessary.

    Are Christians supposed to take care of the environment as good stewards? Yes.

    Do many Christians blow off taking care of the environment, and thusly allow the supporters of taking care of the environment to be mainly non-Christians? Yes.

    Does this have to be taken to the extent of meaning that supporting taking care of the environment gives credence to unsubstantiated global warming? No.

    I am an Earth Science teacher. I teach that we should take care of the environment, AND I teach that global warming is an debatable claim; but this is irrelevant to what I should be doing as a Chrstian – and that is being a good steward of the environment.

  8. Dennis-

    I should clarify that I sincerely appreciate you engaging this question in an honorable manner. Having said that, let me try to clarify.

    “Moving forward” is a reference to reaffirming our need for creation care in light of the possibility that Global Warming exists while also acknowledging that the perception among a significant number of our population is that it does exist. Whether it does or it doesn’t, which we’ve already confirmed that we do not know, the perception among a significant number of our population is that it does exist and therefore it seems to me that we have a moral responsibility to respond to the perception of its existence.

    In other words, this is a significant issue of our day and as a result of that cultural prominence, we would be remiss, it seems to me, if we do not address it and at a minimum encourage creation care in light of the possibility of its existence.

  9. Micah,

    Thanks for the follow up. While I am not a man made global warming believer, I do think that for far to long many christians have looked at creation care as a foolish thing. I think that this statment call us to honor God by honoring his creation. This is something that I can support. I am having a hard time understanding all the cotroversy. It seems like some have made the global warming crowd the enemy and stances like taht always seem to cloud vision and thought. Thanks again for your posts on this issue.

    Richard Williamson

  10. Micah –

    I think your thoughts in this post are right on, and reflect my own thoughts as well. I too have no scientific background, and with the discussion as charged as it is, I don’t rightly know what to think about Global Warming. For me (and I believe for the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative as well), the issue isn’t Global Warming, it is responsible stewardship.

    I think of it in financial terms. My family lives on a budget. We keep to a budget when times are tough, and we keep to a budget when we are well paid – that is just a responsible stewardship of the finances that God has given us. Do we keep a budget because there is a financial emergency? No, we keep a budget to avoid financial emergencies.

    In the same way, we should take steps to preserve our environment now. Not because there is an emergency, but to avoid an environmental emergency in the future. That is just a responsible stewardship of the creation that God has give to us.

  11. I’ve not gone back and verified, but I think it could safely be said that most if not all who have posted here are in favor of good stewardship of God’s physical creation, that we individually have a duty to do things like not litter, not be wasteful, recycle, etc. But that has been addressed by Southern Baptists in official resolutions on multiple occasions. So what makes this Declaration necessary? The only additional thing it brings to the table is an encouragement to react to global warming, even if it isn’t true. If we want to cheer on creation care, let’s rally behind the 2007 SBC resolution. But rallying around this Declaration is giving acknowledgement to something that very well may not exist. That is simply not wise.

    Let’s say that in your town there is a respectable woman, and word begins to creep around town that she is a prostitute. Soon more and more people are saying it, people from all walks, even leaders of the community. The local paper begins to publish commentaries about how we need to rid the town of prostitution. The eyes of your congregation, in fact the eyes of the community begin to turn to you as a pastor, to see what you will do and say. Obviously God is against prostitution. What is the wise thing to do? The wise thing to do is to stay silent and encourage the same until the truth is known.

  12. Dennis-

    I don’t know that there is anything else I can add to this other than to say this. Whether GW is accurate or not, public perception believes it is (as your comment above references) and a preponderance of scientific experts affirm it as well. (Which would be the glaring difference between your anology) and in this case, it is wise to encourage our population to proceed with appropriate caution in regards to the enviornment until certain evidence is attained.

    It would be unwise, however, to simply write of GW as if there was no possibility of it being true and act in a manner that would cause additional harm if it were someday proven to be true. It only seems prudent to encourage people, in light of the percieved threat of GW, to proceed with biblical caution until we know for sure.

    Blessings!

  13. Micah,

    So my analogy needs scientists to come in and say she looks like a prostitute? But remember, that “preponderance” of scientific experts also believes in evolution. When will we have a declaration on that?

    You’re right, we need to be encouraging people to proceed with caution. We need to be warning them to not make any major decisions until more is known about global warming. We need to be warning them that there is more information coming out that may totally discount this whole notion. We need to be informed and not be afraid to even maybe be considered anti-environmental as we stand for the truth. How important is truth to God’s character?

    If human-induced global warming is someday shown to be true, then just as if the woman in my analogy were shown to truly be a prostitute, we Christians have a responsibility to step in in a way that brings glory to God. Until then, if we perpetuate something that may turn out to be a lie, will we then be seen as bringing glory to God?

    Here’s a good commentary from a Christian on the outside of Southern Baptist life looking in: http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php/index.php?pageId=58531. It references a news article about scientists who are gathering to show the evidence against and the lack of consensus around the idea of global warming.

    Thanks for the healthy discussion, Micah. God’s blessings on you as well.

  14. Dennis-

    I appreciate the continued discussion. I think it has been healthy.

    I would argue, again, that you analogy does not hold up. We wouldn’t be asking, in this instance, for the scientists to prove that the woman “looks like” a prostitute, but rather to show, through every means available to them, that she is engaging in said activity. That is a different classification altogether.

    Having said that, remember that we’re not arguing for the existence of GW. We are arguing for prudence in the face of the the potential existence of GW. This isn’t perpetuating a lie but rather responding to scientific evidence that strongly allows for the possibility.

    I also think, by the way, that your connection to evolution is faulty. In that instance we have strong biblical data that refutes the teaching of classic natural selection and evolution. We have no such textual support in this area. Thus our desire to proceed with caution until we can fully understand what we’re dealing with.

  15. When the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, He said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, even though man’s inclination is evil from his youth. And I will never again strike down every living thing as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night will not cease.” – Genesis 8:21-22

    He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation; because by Him everything was created, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together. – Colossians 1:15-17

    In these last days, He has spoken to us by [His] Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things and through whom He made the universe. He is the radiance of His glory, the exact expression of His nature, and He sustains all things by His powerful word. – Hebrews 1:2-3

  16. Wow… look at the fun I’ve missed!

    Micah, you know we agree that environmental stewardship is a Biblical concept. Yet I disagree with this initiative and you think it’s great. Weird, huh?

    Anyway, I have to ask… what is the practical application of this initiative, given the following statement from it?

    “Therefore, in the face of intense concern and guided by the biblical principle of creation stewardship, we resolve to engage this issue without any further lingering over the basic reality of the problem or our responsibility to address it. Humans must be proactive and take responsibility for our contributions to climate change — however great or small.”

    Given that you agree with and signed the initiative, I’m curious how you, personally, will be “proactive and will take responsibility for [your] contributions to climate change — however great or small”… when by your own admission you don’t even know whether it’s real or not?

    I’m not trying to beat you up, Micah (you know me better than that). But can you see my frustration with this initiative? It seems to be as worthless as, well… the small amount of electricity generated by greenhouse gas emitting power plants used to display it on my laptop screen.

  17. I’m not a scientist either. But it’s kinda weird to question the “existence of global warming.” Except for a very very small number of people that issue is settled. Temperatures on land and sea have risen. The Earth is warming. Real facts back up that reality. Most who get dubbed as “Global Warming Deniers” have accepted that the climate is changing and the planet is warming. However, the “Deniers” argue that human emissions aren’t the cause of recent climate change and therefore reducing emissions is pointless.

    You’ll notice Micah that the Declaration even accepts my point. They write: “We recognize that Christians are not united around either the scientific explanations for global warming or policies designed to slow it down.” This sentence acknowledges that global warming is REAL, IT EXISTS! But the same sentence also recognizes that folks (particularly in the conservative movement) are divided as to whether human emissions (“ANTHROPOGENIC nature of Climate Change”) are the cause of climate change.

    I admit it’s somewhat confusing for folks who just aren’t that interested generally in science. I’m not a science-kinda-guy. But global warming does exist that seems undeniable (a point affirmed by the Declaration itself).

    I am thankful for those in the Evangelical Community who have stepped up on this issue, specifically the National Association of Evangelicals and the 67 or so denominations that she represents.

  18. Big Daddy Weave,

    No, I don’t think the issue of the existence of global warming is as settled as you state. There is concern over the scientific validity of the temperature measuring. It’s kind of like driving down a street that has three or four banks with those time and temperature displays and noticing the displays vary widely on what the temperature is, and the problem has to do with where their thermometer is actually placed. Some of the thermometers that scientists have been checking aren’t necessarily in the best places. And wasn’t it actually warmer in the 1930’s?

    But if we are experiencing global warming (boy, am I ready for winter to be over), it is far from proven that mankind contributed to it or can do anything about it. And if those things are not true, then of what value is a declaration or statement?

    Just as we are better for not responding to the global cooling of the 1970’s, we would be better to wait before responding to this global warming issue.

  19. Speaking of Al Mohler – he is a prime example of the type of person I am talking about: one who affirms that Climate Change is a reality but is unsure as to whether or how much human beings actually contribute to Climate Change.

    Dennis, your questioning of the scientific measuring of temperature validity lumps you into a camp of your own. The argument has moved past (as the Declaration and Mohler himself implies) from whether Climate Change actually exists to a debate over the role of human beings in the warming of the Earth.

    As a side note, both Mohler and the ERLC (according to Merritt) acknowledge that human beings are likely a contributor to Climate Change, they are just unsure as to the extent of our contribution.

  20. Big Daddy Weave,

    Not my questioning, but the results of a survey in process you can read about here: http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=44629.

    If all you are looking for is affirmation that we might be experiencing global warming, I’m still looking at the information, but I might be able to affirm it as do Mohler and the ERLC. You’ll notice that I acknowledge that possibility whenever I preface “global warming” with “human-induced” in my comments here, limiting my criticisms to that concept.

    I would suggest that mankind is exhibiting the same kind of arrogance that led to the eating of the fruit and the building of the Tower of Babel to think that we rather than God have that much influence on the global weather.

  21. Hi Micah,
    I am a scientist (although I’m thinking I’ll refrain from expressing my own personal opinions about global warming on your blog…:)), and I wanted to let you know that I applauad your willingness to sign the document and to make that choice public via your blog. The president of the SBC university at which I teach also signed the document and let us, the faculty, know about it. I could not be more thrilled at any effort that believers make to honor the creation that has been entrusted to us. We, of all people, ought to be involved in that!

  22. John-

    I think the answer to your question is a fairly simple one but one that will be personal and different to each invididual involved. Tracy and I already are committed to the reduction of electricity, practicing recycling, etc. As a parent this involves teaching my daughters to appreciate and care for God’s creation in appropriate ways. If and when we can afford it I’d love to move to a hybrid vehicle as well, but that will have to be later down the road. Beyond that, however, I think it’s important in my role as a pastor to encourage proper creation care and/or conservation when the topic comes up among the people in our church.

    John, this isn’t a crusade for me (you know that I’m sure) but rather is reflective of a desire to live prudently and honor God with the manner in which we steward creation. This will not be a major issue for me. In fact it has already been far more significant than I would have ever imagined, unfortunately. Is this an important issue? Yes. Is it important enough to consume as much time and energy as it has in light of more significant issues? No, not in my opinion anyway.

  23. Okay, those things are all well and good. Studies show that we can achieve, at maximum, about a 10% reduction in electricity use through conservation programs and energy efficiency initiatives. If everyone did that in U.S., we’d reduce CO2 emissions by 1% worldwide (we output 40% of the CO2 that comes from electricity generation, with 25% of world CO2 output coming from generation as a whole).

    That 1% won’t even put a dent in the problem.

    What’s our next step? To quit running all fossil-fueled electric generation in the U.S.? We’re up to 10%. Still not much of a dent… unless you’re talking about the financial crater this will create for everyone (such a change is anything but cheap).

    So we do it worldwide. That’s a 25% reduction in what’s being emitted. We’re getting there. But some studies by climate activists say we need to halt output completely.

    Do you see my point? Taking the actions necessary to reduce CO2 output has major consequences. In this light, advocating action without being certain of the absolute reality of the problem is just plain foolish.

    Again… I’m NOT saying that environmental stewardship is not necessary, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t do things that make sense to accomplish this goal. We should! We’d just better be absolutely certain that the problem is real and that we’re prepared to accept the consequences of the changes necessary to REALLY make a difference.

  24. I was surprised to watch the results of your last survey, Micah. I guess it reflects how powerfully effective the Mainstream Media has been at defining this issue of global warming (kind of like that old Nazi propaganda axiom – if you say it long enough and loud enough…). As I said earlier, I am still looking at the information to see if there even is such a thing as global warming (let alone man-induced or man-controllable), which I hope all Christians would do. Here is an article I just read that will help to inform us (and I would think would lead us away from this new initiative): http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23411799-7583,00.html.

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