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Foxholes and Forums

In case you haven’t been keeping up with the Christian environmental blogosphere (and let’s be honest, who has the time for that except nerds like me?), let me get you up to speed. In August, the Christian Post hosted a bit of a microcosmic “debate in the public square” recently between passionate Christians who find themselves on opposite sides of the climate change question--and it all started with Rush Limbaugh...

In a segment of his talk radio show last August, Rush claimed that belief in an all-sovereign Creator God and in the almost universally-accepted premise of anthropogenic climate change are mutually exclusive. In his words, “If you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in manmade global warming.” While this tantalizing straw man argument begs to be deconstructed, we must resist, for others have already done so. Renowned climatologists, Tom Ackerman and Katharine Hayhoe, responded with an op-ed at the end of August telling Rush that, contrary to his assumption, Christians who believe in the existence of climate change do exist. Indeed, far from between antithetical, a Christian ethic of concern for the well-being of creation is smack-dab in the middle of Christian orthodoxy. Doesn’t God, already in the very first chapters of Scripture and in one of His first divine acts with humankind, put his image-bearers “in the garden of Eden to serve it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15)? It would seem that, at the very heart of what it means to be human, is a connection to creation that moves us to cultivate and to serve it; to facilitate its flourishing, which in turn leads to our own well-being.

Enter Calvin Beisner, national spokesman of the Cornwall Alliance and prominent climate skeptic. Ackerman and Hayhoe have it wrong, claims Beisner. The Bible is chock full of evidences of God’s faithful sustaining of his creation; of his wisdom; of his unsurpassed, sovereign creativity, and of his faithfulness. How can we affirm all of these scriptures as true, and then turn around and ostensibly contradict them by confessing belief in catastrophic, anthropogenic climate change? Is God a faithful sustainer of his creation or not?

Right on cue, David Jenkins, a prominent conservative evangelical and climate change believer, steps up to the mic to offer his rebuttal. Yes, of course, all orthodox Christians can affirm that God is an infinitely wise and good creator, but is it unorthodox to claim that God, in his infinite wisdom, chose to create and faithfully sustain his creation through the mechanisms of a design? Is it completely incompatible with Christian teaching to claim that God has placed an order in creation by which he faithfully governs it, and that we are able to study, observe, and affirm this design? Designs like the carbon cycle, the water cycle, the climate system—are these simply unnecessary anomalies in creation, or creation itself? Jenkins persuasively argues for the latter, simultaneously affirming God’s wise sovereignty and humanity’s responsibility to participate obediently within the design of creation in order to properly serve and keep it.

This whole interchange in the global public square of the interwebs has me thinking: How is the church supposed to faithfully engage an issue as massive and as polarizing as climate change? Do we hunker down deeper into our foxholes, clutching in our sweaty hands a fistful of prooftexts ready to hurl at the other side, or do we offer grace, humility, and love to our brothers and sisters as we strive toward faithful discernment together? Is it possible to “depoliticize” and to “re-biblicize” this issue? Are we too far gone? I hope not—the stakes are too high.

I could continue to muse, but I’d rather you mused along with me. If you have the time, the articles are worth a read. We cannot afford to ignore an issue so fundamental to our discipleship, but neither can we afford to engage it combatively and maliciously. These pieces are a good start toward productive dialogue. I pray the church can reach even greater heights of biblical literacy, deeper concern for creation, and more sincere  and constructive dialogue. There’s just too much at stake not to.

[Image: Flickr user Torbakhopper]

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