Today was Earth Day, 2014. For many, it was a day to celebrate the Earth, to give thanks for its fruitfulness, and to express concern about threats to both the planet and we humans that inhabit it. As a Christian, I also rejoice on Earth Day in the Creator, who has graciously placed us both in and over the creation.
Because we are within the creation–in Genesis it is emphasized that humans are made of the same stuff as the rest of creation–we are subject to the rules of the created order. The planet can be cultivated with care to the benefit of all creatures, including ourselves, or it can be exploited with greed for the benefit of a few people. We can make it better, or we can make it worse. We can live in it as if we are responsible only to ourselves, or as if our ultimate responsibilities are to our Maker.
Being that we humans are embedded in the creation, we have to be concerned about two closely related sciences: ecology and economics. Ecology is all about the relationships between organisms and their surroundings. Economics is concerned with the generation and allocation of wealth among human beings. Human economies would utterly collapse without the resources of the Earth, such as plants, minerals, and fuels, and so economics is dependent on ecology. Ecology, on the other hand, can function without human economics, as it did until sometime in the midst of Day 6 of creation in Genesis 1. But now that people are in the creation, ecology is affected by human economic activities; in some places more strongly than others. There is nothing inherently wrong with this; our influence on ecosystems can be bad, but it was intended in Genesis 1-2 to be good.
One can broadly divide economic systems into capitalist/free market systems, and socialist/communist systems. Many political conservatives–and I am a conservative–like to point out that ecological degradation was more serious and widespread in the communist world than in the capitalist West. I lived in Eastern Europe for over five years, and saw some of this up close. We had to filter our tap water because of its high heavy metal content, and once went through Copşa Mică, the Romanian “black village” infamous for being coated in soot in the communist period due to the production of carbon black.
It is difficult to dispute that communist countries had atrocious environmental records. There were a number of factors involved in this, but I would like to highlight what I think are a few reasons for the ecological catastrophes of the communist bloc:
1. The economy always trumped ecology. The communists had their five-year plans with production goals that had to be met, and “luxuries” like clean air and clean water stood in the way.
2. Short-term goals always trumped long-range goals. Siphoning water out of rivers for massive irrigation projects in Central Asia boosted cotton production, but with grave long-term costs for the Aral Sea, the ecosystems for hundreds of miles around, and the people of the region.
3. The earth was looked at as a commodity or resource for human use, not as God’s good creation that had intrinsic worth.
4. There was no avenue for protest. One didn’t want to stand up to Stalin or Ceaușescu–or to the local party thugs–and say “This is wrong.”
Of these four points, the first three can happen just as easily in a market economy as in a socialist economy.
1. To many “conservatives,” the economy always trumps ecology. This perspective is no different than that of the communist functionaries whose five-year plans ignored environmental issues. If the economy is bad, we need to loosen up on environmental regulations to prompt growth. If the economy is good, we still need to loosen up on environmental restrictions so they won’t drag the economy down.
2. There are plenty of free-market capitalists who are out to earn a quick buck with no thoughts of the consequences for the Earth (or for other people), just as the five-year planners of the U.S.S.R. were eager to meet their quotas. Both are evil.
3. There are plenty of political conservatives–Evangelical Christian conservatives–who effectively deny that the creation has intrisic value, in and of itself. To them, landscapes, ecosystems, or biological communities do not have any true value except in relation to humans. Unmined coal, for example, is worthless, because it is looked at purely from an instrumental (what’s in it for us) viewpoint. Some even go so far as to say that we are insulting God if we don’t use all parts of creation for ourselves. This is an overly-anthropocentric (man-centered) perspective on nature, and ignores the goodness of creation that existed in Genesis 1 even before the appearance of the first humans.
This leaves us with point number four. The main thing we had going for us in the West was the freedom to protest and advocate. Corporations didn’t do anything about the fact that the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland used to catch on fire from the pollutants that were dumped in it until they were forced to, and they weren’t forced to until people raised a stink about it. The same goes for the mining waste at places like Butte, Montana (once called “America’s ugliest city”).
What I want to advocate is a conservativism that is actually interested in conserving the Earth. This includes protecting air, water, land, and biological communities. It means looking for long-term solutions to long-term problems. It also includes a perspective that growth isn’t always a conservative value, and a recognition that limits exist in the world God has placed us in. The key word, in my mind, is “balance.” There are those on the left who have a very unbalanced view of the environment. There are also those on the right who have a very unbalanced view of the environment.
Some of what we see in the conservative movement right now is an over-reaction to some of the pantheist, socialist, and anti-human extremes of the environmental movement. Certainly there are dangerous ideologies on the left, and those need to be assertively resisted. But the solution is not to mine all the coal, shoot all the wolves, eat spotted owls for dinner, drill-baby-drill, or shut down the Environmental Protection Agency.
Grace and Peace
This article is an expansion of a comment I made on my post There is more than one way to be really wrong about the environment, which was about the then-upcoming documentary “Axed: The End of Green” (which has been re-named Blue).
When I refer to “some conservatives,” I am specifically thinking of many Tea Party conservatives (and those who follow the Acton Institute) who advocate things like abolishing the EPA. Does the EPA need reform? Yes. But those who believe it is in our society’s interest to gut or even eliminate environmental regulations are foolish. Cleaner air and cleaner water did not come about in our society by relaxing environmental regulations. I am not really sure what in the natural world some of these conservatives want to conserve.
Calvin Beisner, perhaps Evangelicalism’s best known anti-environmental crusader, is one who claims we insult God if we don’t use the coal God has given us. My thoughts: 1) This is a great example of the anthropocentrism that is pervasive in this sort of conservatism. 2)Maybe God buried the coal for a reason.
I recognize that free markets generate the wealth that we need to combat genuine environmental problems. My point, however, is that it is not unrestrained, laissez-faire capitalism that accomplishes this. Environmental regulation is necessary in order to restrain sin (Romans 13); in this case the sin of wilfully destroying God’s good Earth. We need balance. Free markets, yes. But not completely free.
I started to write a paragraph about the parallels between elements of the conservative movement (the libertarian types) and liberation theology (which was/is an attempt to blend Christianity with Marxism). Basically, as others have pointed out, there is a liberation theology of the left, and there is a liberation theology of the right. Both are wrong.
Since the inception of this blog in 2006, its subtitle has been, “A blog about science, Christianity, and other topics.” Although this is an accurate description of what one will find here on The GeoChristian, it isn’t very catchy. So today I am introducing a new subtitle:
The Earth. Christianity. They go together.
Here’s what I hope to communicate with the new caption:
- The Earth and Christianity go together because God made the entire universe. This idea is completely compatible with science; it is only incompatible with atheistic naturalism, a philosophical position that is not based on science.
- The Earth and Christianity go together because, in Christian theology, the physical world is important. As some have stated it, matter matters. In many eastern religions matter is something to escape from (this viewpoint creeps into Christianity at times, such as in the ancient gnostic heresies). To an atheist, matter and energy have no purpose or inherent reason for existence. Within Christian thought, God created the universe and embedded humanity within it, and then proclaimed that it was all “very good.” The ultimate expression of the importance of the material world to God is that, in the person of Jesus Christ, God became flesh, entering into the physical world to redeem not just our “souls,” but our bodies as well.
- The Earth and Christianity go together because Christ’s redeeming work will one day extend to the entire cosmos. Our eternal existence as God’s people, according to the book of Revelation, is not in some spiritual “heaven,” but in a physical place that is a re-created or renovated New Earth.
- The Earth and Christianity go together because Christianity provides both a reason and a purpose for the Earth. The universe is not a random, inexplicable object; nor is our planet. God may have used processes to get us to this point—the big bang, protoplanet nucleation, speciation, and so forth—but that does not negate “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” or “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” (Gen 1:1, Ps 24:1 ESV)
- The Earth and Christianity go together because—despite the vocal proclamations of both young-Earth creationists and evangelists for atheism such as Richard Dawkins—there is no real contradiction between what the Bible tells us about the creation of Earth and the findings of modern science (e.g. the big bang or antiquity of the Earth).
- The Earth and Christianity go together because humans have been given a command to care for the Earth. In Genesis, God commanded Adam to have dominion over the Earth. This “dominion mandate” does not mean that we should dominate and exploit, but rule and serve with love and wisdom.
- Because the Earth and Christianity go together, Christianity is for geoscientists. We are all in the same boat, created in the image of God but sinful and in need of redemption. Jesus is for geologists! (and geophysicists, meteorologists, hydrologists, oceanographers, and all who study and care for the Earth).
Grace and Peace
In my previous post, I listed the ten most-read articles on The GeoChristian in 2013. They are, I suppose, the reader’s picks. Here are my picks for the most significant blog posts on The GeoChristian for the year.
#10 — A 4th grade quiz on dinosaurs that the teacher would have given me an “F” on — The dark side of science education in Christian schools. Also see More on the Answers in Genesis 4th grade dinosaur quiz.
#9 — A young-Earth creationist magmatic model for the origin of evaporites — The YECs push a lot of bad science as Christian apologetics. Here’s one example.
#8 — Rush is wrong — Analyzing Limbaugh’s statement on God and global warming — Rush’s problem isn’t so much what he believes about man-made global warming, but having a philosophical/theological foundation that says we can’t really screw things up.
#7 — GeoScriptures — Genesis 1:20-22 — The goodness and fruitfulness of the creation — Earth Day 2013 — God created an Earth that teemed with life. Can we find a way to flourish that isn’t at the expense of the rest of creation?
#6 — GeoScriptures — Genesis 2:16-17 — The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the fruit of sin — We got our way. Was it worth it?
#5 — GeoScriptures — Genesis 3:17-18 — Thorns, thistles, cats, dogs, and hyperliteralism — If Genesis said, “And God told Noah, ‘It is going to rain cats and dogs,'” would Christians find a way to explain how cats and dogs could be caught up in waterspouts?
#4 — Days, nights, Jonah, and Jesus — My response to a skeptic who claimed that Jesus couldn’t count.
#3 — GeoScriptures — Genesis 6-9 — Reading the account of Noah’s (local) flood — A few legitimate word substitutions, and the flood account no longer sounds quite so extensive.
#2 — The Pleistocene is not in the Bible — A critique of “When Was the Ice Age in Biblical History?” — Answers in Genesis: giving you “apologetics” that isn’t really based on the Bible, and doesn’t work scientifically.
#1 — GeoScriptures – Psalm 77:16-18 – Deadly beauty and the glory of God — God is glorified in gamma-ray bursts and lightning bolts, and other things that could kill you very quickly.
Grace and Peace
On August 12, 2013, Rush Limbaugh made the following statement on his radio program:
“If you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in manmade global warming.”
This, of course, is utter nonsense. Unfortunately, millions of American political conservatives and Evangelicals believe Rush is right on just about everything, but Limbaugh is clearly wrong this time. The error of his statement is not in whether or not climate change is occurring, nor in whether or not observed changes are due to human activities, but in making a false connection between belief in God and whether or not human activities can affect the climate.
To start with, there is no connection between “believing in God”—or even more specifically being a Christian—and having a certain position on a scientific issue such as climate change. The Bible does say that the creation groans because of human sin (Romans 8:22), so we should expect there to be environmental consequences for our actions, but the Bible does not say what those consequences will be. Ascertaining the ramifications of our actions is part of the human task of understanding the creation, expressed in our age through science. Limbaugh’s statement is the theological equivalent of saying, “If you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in genetics” (or chemical bonding theory, or plate tectonics, or general relativity, etc.).
Second, there are sincere and intelligent believers on both sides of this issue—scientists, Bible scholars, and laypersons. All of these have intellectual reasons—biblical and scientific—for holding their positions.
And finally and most importantly, the theological basis of Limbaugh’s statement is flawed. When I’ve heard this sort of statement before, it has been based on the premise that God has built sufficient robustness into his creation to offset or minimize the damage caused by humans. An illustration of this from climate science is the concept of a negative feedback. A good example of negative feedback is how the atmosphere responds to a global temperature increase. If the temperature of Earth were to increase, evaporation of water from oceans and other bodies of water would also increase, which would lead to greater global cloud cover, which would increase the albedo (reflectivity) of Earth’s atmosphere in regards to visible light, which would result in more solar energy being reflected back into space, which would result in a lowering of global temperatures which would offset the initial warming. This is all good and true, but it isn’t easy to measure or predict the degree to which the increased albedo would offset the initial increase in temperature. But that is a scientific issue, not something to be decided by unsubstantiated theological pronouncements.
If we apply the same sort of reasoning to the human body—another part of God’s creation—the error becomes obvious. The human body uses negative feedbacks as well. If someone smokes a cigarette, the body responds in ways to offset the introduction of foreign material. If a person smokes just one cigarette in their lifetime, the chances that there will be long-term negative consequences, such as emphysema or lung cancer, are negligible. If a person smokes a pack of cigarettes a day over a period of decades, the odds become virtually certain that there will be negative health consequences. This is despite the fact that most of the air that enters a heavy smoker’s lungs in the course of those decades is the ordinary nitrogen-oxygen-argon mix of the atmosphere.
The Genesis creation account states that the Earth God made was good, and that he intended its occupants—human and non-human—to flourish. Once sin entered the picture, human management of the creation could still maintain (or even enhance) that flourishing to some degree, but now the possibility also exists that we can cause serious damage to the creation. It is clear that our activities can all too easily lead in the direction of harming the creation—its water, land, air, and organisms—rather than healing it. The “global warming couldn’t happen” position ignores the reality and disastrous consequences of human sin, and leads many to bury their heads in the sand in the face of potential environmental consequences of that sin.
When Christians enter into the climate change debate (or any other environmental or natural resources discussion) with an attitude of “humans can’t mess up the Earth all that much,” it is inevitable that they will come to conclusions like “global warming, if it is happening, couldn’t be caused by humans.” This is analogous to atheists starting with the assumption that there is no God, and then coming to a “scientific” conclusion that God is not necessary for the origin of the universe.
My short response to Rush Limbaugh’s statement would be:
“If you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe that human activities have no environmental consequences.”
One who accepts Limbaugh’s philosophy towards the environment will automatically conclude that the idea of human-caused global warming is wrong at best and an evil Satanic hoax at worst. Scientific evidence will be deemed “good” if it supports their side, and “bad” if it does not. But there is no Biblical support for having this “it simply cannot happen” approach to the scientific question of climate change.
On the other hand, if one adopts what I consider to be a more biblically accurate approach—acknowledging that we do not know the limits to the consequences of our actions—then they can follow the evidence where it leads. Most scientists who are actually involved in climate change research, including Christian scientists, are presently convinced that the evidence points towards a significant human impact on Earth’s climate. That is not the end of the matter, but objectively, that is where things stand right now.
Grace and Peace
The Christian Post has printed at least three guest columns which discuss Rush Limbaugh’s statement. The first and third of these are critical of Limbaugh; the second is in agreement. Here are some excerpts:
1. Climate Change: Evangelical Scientists Say Limbaugh Wrong, Faith and Science Complement One Another — by Katharine Hayhoe and Thomas Ackerman, Evangelicals, and meteorology/climatology professors at Texas Tech and the University of Washington.
Rush Limbaugh doesn’t think we exist. In other words that evangelical scientists cannot subscribe to the evidence of global warming.
Talk radio personalities often make hyperbolic statements. It is what their listeners expect and want to hear. But in this instance, Rush’s uninformed rhetoric is demeaning to Christians who care deeply about what humans are doing to God’s Creation and ignorant of the consequences that future generations will face if we don’t respond quickly to the challenge of climate change.
We are both atmospheric scientists who study climate change, having earned advanced degrees in our respective fields and having devoted our lives to increasing knowledge through scientific research. We know climate change is real, that most of it is human-caused, and that it is a threat to future generations that must be addressed by the global community. We are also evangelical Christians who believe that God created the world in which we live.
We were appalled at the ignorance behind Rush Limbaugh’s statement but we weren’t surprised. One of us had previously been dismissed by him as a “climate babe.”
This isn’t meant to invoke pity, but rather to highlight the absurdity of our public debate around faith and climate change. Rush Limbaugh has a very big megaphone but no expertise or formal credentials to be considered an expert on the changes in climate occurring all around us. He has no theological training or record of leadership within a faith community. He’s simply a radio show host willing to say controversial things, regardless of whether they are true or not.
2. God, Rush, and Global Warming — by Calvin Beisner, founder and national spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation
Ironically, these climate scientists-Katharine Hayhoe and Thomas Ackerman-acknowledged at the outset, “Talk radio personalities often make hyperbolic statements ….” Why is that ironic? Because, having acknowledged that, they then took Limbaugh literally-precisely what one must not do with hyperbole-and castigated him for meaning something they acknowledge he didn’t.
So, what was Limbaugh’s point when he said, “If you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in manmade warming”? Not that no theist can believe that human emissions of greenhouse gases can contribute positively to earth’s temperature. Rather, that it is difficult to reconcile belief in the infinitely wise, infinitely powerful, and infinitely faithful God of the Bible with belief that a minuscule change in atmospheric chemistry-raising CO2 from 27 thousandths of 1 percent to 54 thousandths of 1 percent of the atmosphere-is likely to cause catastrophic harm to human and other ecosystems. It’s that latter belief that’s encompassed by the shorthand “global warming.”
Now I ask you, does an infinitely wise designer plan something to be so fragile that a proportionately tiny stress will cause it to collapse? Does a good architect, for instance, design a building so that if you lean against a wall, the rest of the building reacts by magnifying the stress of your weight until the building collapses?
But that’s what’s assumed in the theory of catastrophic, anthropogenic (manmade) global warming (CAGW): that a proportionately tiny stress can cause catastrophic consequences. The theory is that CO2’s rising from 27 thousandths of 1 percent to 54 thousandths of 1 percent of the atmosphere-which itself is a relatively tiny part of the entire climate system, which includes the oceans, land masses, all living things, and even energy from the sun and cosmic rays from stars in distant galaxies-will raise earth’s temperature so much as to threaten catastrophic harm to human and other life.
Such a result would come only from a design that made positive feedbacks vastly outweigh negative feedbacks. In other words, it would make the rest of the climate system magnify rather than offset the warming effect of CO2. Yet natural systems are dominated by negative rather than positive feedbacks-otherwise they’d all have collapsed long ago.
So God’s wisdom in designing earth’s climate system is hard to reconcile with belief in CAGW [Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming].
So, does belief in God make belief in CAGW utterly impossible? No. But it’s very difficult to reconcile the two beliefs.
3. Are Climate Skeptics Ignoring God’s Design? — by David Jenkins, president of ConservAmerica Education Fund (ConservAmerica used to be called Republicans for Environmental Protection).
Beisner writes “The Bible teaches that earth and all its subsystems – including the climate system – are the product of a God who is an infinitely wise Designer.” Nothing to quibble with there, but he then concludes – as Limbaugh has – that an infinitely wise designer would not create something so fragile that mankind can mess it up.
That view is at odds with both Biblical scripture and physical evidence.
Just as God has charged us with the responsibility to care for His creation, he has also granted us the ability to harm it. Man has demonstrated the capacity to level mountains, foul the air and water, drive animal species to extinction, develop weapons capable of mass destruction, acidify rain and damage the earth’s ozone layer.
While nature is resilient over time, it is also intricate and fragile. The smallest bacteria or virus can kill the largest person or animal. A minute amount of airborne mercury can travel up the food chain and ultimately harm an unborn child.
Another climate-related viewpoint Beisner and others have expressed is that fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, are gifts that God wants us to dig up and use without limitation.
One must be careful when ascribing intent to God, especially when the claim appears to run counter to His design.
Does it not then stand to reason that God, after designing the earth’s processes to sequester excess carbon, might prefer that we respect His design and look for other ways to heat our homes and power our cars?
Beisner and Limbaugh, in peddling the notion that God designed the earth and its atmosphere to be immune from mankind’s actions, are also implying that we can do anything we want to it without serious consequence.
Does that sound like something God would say?
Actually, it sounds a lot more like something the snake in the Garden of Eden would say.
I was alerted to Rush Limbaugh’s statement by Climate Conservative: Are Climate Skeptics Ignoring God’s Design?
One cannot have a complete biblical doctrine of creation without incorporating what one believes about the future of creation. Some Christians believe in the utter annihilation of the present world when Christ returns; that God will completely destroy Earth before establishing the eternal order. This doctrine can, unfortunately, lead to what some have called “disposable earth theology.” In the perspective of some Christians, it really doesn’t matter what happens to planet Earth because it is going to be destroyed anyway.
I believe the disposable earth teaching is biblically wrong for a number of reasons. It is more gnostic than Christian in that it teaches that only what is “spiritual” goes on to eternity, while everything physical gets wiped out. It is more biblical to say that there is a good amount of continuity between the present world and the eternal world. For example, our bodies will somehow be changed when we are resurrected, but we will still be ourselves. I will still be recognizable as Kevin Nelstead, though with some much-needed improvements. Likewise, planet Earth will still be planet Earth.
Two talented men in my local church have started producing a web tv program called Dead Reckoning TV, which I highly recommend. In episode 17 for their first year, Dr. Brian Mattson and Jay Friesen focus on the future aspect of the doctrine of creation and how that should effect our day-to-day living in the present age. For the core part of his argument, Dr. Mattson states:
When you have a robust doctrine of creation in your Christianity, when you realize that the God who made all things good is restoring this good world that’s been corrupted and destroyed by sin, it’s actually quite impossible to be so heavenly-minded you’re no earthly good. You know, our eternal hope of the new heavens and the new earth empowers—is the engine that drives—our current living. In Romans chapter 8, which is one of the greatest chapters in the Bible, when Paul talks about how our present sufferings aren’t worth being compared to the glory that is going to be revealed in us; it is in that very context, when he is talking about future glory and the liberation of creation that he talks about us presently having the resurrection spirit so that we don’t follow the old way of doing things, we follow the new way of doing things. The kingdom of God, by the Holy Spirit, is breaking into the world as it is right now, and enabling us not to be slaves of sin but to be slaves of righteousness. It’s that future day; it’s that next world that is actually empowering us in the present world.
You know, the idea of a new creation—not going to heaven, not life after death like I said a couple episodes ago, but life after life after death, the restoration of all things, the new heavens and the new earth, as the Bible puts it—it means that the present world matters. I mean, think about that, a renewed creation means that creation matters. It’s not an ejection seat, we’re not just piling into a lifeboat to bail out of this place. God still loves his world, it’s the world he made. A renewed creation means creation matters. How can we be “heavenly minded and no earthly good” if that’s true?
I encourage you to watch the entire episode: Ep. 17: Making All Things New. The Future.
Around the web 7/13/2013 — No response on salt magma hypothesis, nature deficit disorder, thou shalt not criticize Ken Ham, and more
It has been a while time since my last “Around the web” post, and I have bookmarked more articles than I can reasonably make brief comments on. Here are a few…
THE DEATH OF GOOGLE READER — Since the untimely demise of Google Reader a couple weeks ago, I haven’t been keeping up on the fifty or so blogs I followed somewhat regularly. Somehow I have survived. I will have to choose a new RSS agreggator. Any suggestions for one that works somewhat like Google Reader did?
SEASONED WITH SALT — A few months ago I blogged about the latest failed young-Earth creationist attempt to explain evaporite deposits (such as halite, or rock salt): A young-Earth creationist magmatic model for the origin of evaporites. This “salt magma” hypothesis was being promoted on Tas Walker’s Biblical Geology Blog. I was hoping for some sort of response from the YECs, so I placed a comment on Walker’s blog post:
It has been almost two months, so either my critique was devastating and unanswerable, or not even worthy of a response. Or Tas might just have gotten behind on his blog responses, which I have been guilty of far too often.
NATURE DEFICIT DISORDER — Anyone who cares about the environment should be concerned about what author Richard Louv called the “nature-deficit disorder” in his 2008 book Last Child in the Woods. Al Mohler has a good summary of the book: Nature Deficit Disorder — Is Your Child at Risk? Mohler concludes with:
Last Child in the Woods is a fascinating book, though at times, Louv leans toward a form of nature mysticism. Nevertheless, Christians will read this book to great profit, remembering that the biblical worldview presents an affirmation of the goodness of creation. After all, Christians know that every atom and molecule of creation testifies of the glory of God.
This is our Father’s world, and we would do well to receive this world and enjoy it, while giving praise and glory to God for the beauty and bounty it contains. We understand that nature is not an end to itself, and we affirm that the creation exists as the theater of God’s glory for the drama of redemption. All this should help Christians to remember that we honor God most faithfully when we receive His good gifts most gratefully.
Christians should take the lead in reconnecting with nature and disconnecting from machines. Taking the kids for a long walk in the woods would be a great start.
KEN HAM AND SONLIGHT CURRICULUM — We homeschooled our children in their early elementary years, and used a lot of material from the excellent company Sonlight Curriculum. A co-founder of Sonlight had the nerve to criticize Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham for his if-you-don’t-agree-with-Ham-you-are-a-compromiser approach to Christian ministry. I guess he didn’t know that Thou Shalt Not Criticize Ken Ham.
John Holzmann of Sonlight: The conservative (evangelical/fundamentalist) Christian homeschool pope
John Holzman has apologized to Ken Ham for using the phrase “Pope Ham.” I would like to see Ken Ham apologize for his divisive my-way-or-the-highway attitude that causes many of his followers to look at old-Earth Christians as compromisers at best and not Christians at all at the worst.
CHRISTIANS SHOULD BE ENVIRONMENTALISTS — Matthew Tuininga at the Christian in America blog asks the question: Should Christians Be Environmentalists? The answer, of course, is “yes.” But you would never know it from the anti-environmental political positions taken by many Christians and the politicians they support. Tuininga writes:
If there is any area in which a rapprochement would be for the benefit of all, this is it. Eliminating the left’s grip on the environmental movement, and especially on government bureaucracies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), would give it more credibility among the American public, and broaden its influence. It would mitigate the statist impulse that so often informs its political campaigns by encouraging the sort of market oriented strategies that often work best. It would curb conservatives’ tendency to oppose environmental regulation in the name of free enterprise no matter how necessary that regulation in a particular case might be. In short, it would help liberals and conservatives alike to see that Christianity, care for the environment, and commitment to a free market economy need not be, and never should have been, rivals in a zero-sum game.
ZOOMING IN ON PLUTO — The New Horizons probe is still 550 million miles from Pluto, which it will fly by two years from tomorrow (on July 14, 2015), but its cameras are already aimed at the dwarf planet and its moons: NASA Spacecraft Photographs Pluto’s Largest Moon Charon. I have been excited about this mission since it was launched in 2006, back when Pluto was still a planet.
A NATIONAL PARK ON THE MOON? — There is a proposal in Congress to create a National Historical Park on the moon to commemorate and protect the six Apollo landing sites: Moon Bill Would Create National Park to Protect Apollo Landing Sites. Given the historical significance of these sites, I think this is a good idea, even though the sites are not in the sovereign territories of the United States. However, given human nature, I predict that artifacts at these sites will be disturbed and/or stolen by the end of this century.
THE RAT ON MARS — In case you missed it, this may have been a bigger cover-up than the Face on Mars. NASA has completely ignored clear evidence of mammalian life on Mars: Curiosity Rover leaving ‘Mars rat’ behind.
NOT A GOOD TIME TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN THE MIDDLE EAST — For obvious reasons, Christians in countries such as Egypt and Syria tend to be wary of “Islamist” governments. The Islamist response tends to be rather harsh: Egypt’s Christians face backlash for Morsi ouster.
Grace and Peace
Around the web 5/17/2013 — A Christian leader who is really a Baal worshiper, Old-Earth Christian homeschooling, and more…
TO REJECT YEC IS LIKE BAAL WORSHIP? — If you don’t agree with Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham, you are a compromiser. You might even be a closet Baal worshiper. Mr. Ham recently singled out Hank Hanegraff (who is “The Bible Answer Man” on the radio) as a compromiser because he doesn’t believe that leviathan and behemoth (in Job 40-41) were something like a plesiosaur and a brachiosaurus, respectively. Ham equates Hanegraff’s “compromise” with the Israelite’s worship of Baal, and states that The Bible Answer Man is attacking and undermining the authority of God’s infallible word by accepting an old Earth and rejecting the YEC reading of dinosaurs into the Bible.
I’m not making this up. If you don’t believe that dinosaurs are in the Bible, you are a compromiser.
I’ve written about the YEC “dinosaurs in the Bible” invention previously: The ESV Study Bible on creation — Dinosaurs in Job?
THE NEED FOR OLD-EARTH HOMESCHOOLING — From Christianity Today: A New Creation Story: Why do more homeschoolers want evolution in their textbooks?
“Many homeschool parents contact me or show up at my office and quietly say, ‘Is there anything besides [YEC]?’ ” said Kenneth Turner, a theology professor at the traditionally YEC [Bryan] college who homeschools.
(It is interesting that Bryan College is a YEC school, while William Jennings Bryan was an old-Earther).
GLOBAL WARMING AND JESUS’ SECOND COMING — Climate Change Study: Religious Belief In Second Coming Of Christ Could Slow Global Warming Action. This doesn’t surprise me, given the “disposable Earth” attitude toward the environment of many conservative Evangelicals. Like young-Earth creationism, this attitude towards the Earth is neither Biblically correct nor scientifically valid.
SAUDI ARABIA ON MY DOORSTEP — The Bakken is booming. Companies line up to drill after survey shows Dakota oil, gas fields far bigger than believed.
“These world-class formations contain even more energy resource potential than previously understood, which is important information as we continue to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign sources of oil,” newly confirmed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Tuesday in a statement.
The new U.S. Geological Survey estimates there are 7.4 billion barrels of oil, 6.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 0.53 billion barrels of natural gas liquids in the Bakken and Three Forks Formations in the Williston Basin Province of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.
For an Earth Day post—Christians and the Environment—Christian blogger Tim Challies drew from Francis Schaeffer’s foundational book on the environment, Pollution and the Death of Man:
Schaeffer begins with the reassurance that as Christians we are able to acknowledge what today’s secular humanists cannot: That mankind has been called by God to exercise dominion over the earth. We are not here by chance and we are not here by mistake. We were placed here by God to care for this planet and have been called to be faithful stewards of it. But like everything else in this world, our ability to exercise this kind of stewardship has been affected by our sinful state. “By creation man has dominion, but as a fallen creature he has used that dominion wrongly. Because he is fallen, he exploits created things as thought they were nothing in themselves, and as though he has an autonomous right to them.” We no longer consistently tend the world in love, but instead ravage and pillage it. Though we may not believe in all of the dire claims being made about the state of our planet and its perilous future, we must at least acknowledge that we have not cared for the world as God has called us to.
The Bible offers us a far better and far higher view of ourselves, our planet, and our responsibility toward it. Schaeffer affirms that our understanding must begin with God’s act of creation through which he created things that have an objective existence in themselves. Despite the claims of pantheism, creation is not an extension of God’s essence. It is only the biblical view that gives worth to man and to all that God has created. How? Because we understand both ourselves and nature when we see that, though we are separate from nature, we are related to it as something God has created. “So the Christian treats ‘things’ with integrity because we do not believe they are autonomous. Modern man has fallen into a dilemma because he has made things autonomous from God.” Because we love the Creator, we love the creation. As we love the creation, we express love to the Creator.
Even in the 1970’s Schaeffer was saying “We must confess that we missed our opportunity. We have spoken loudly against materialistic science, but we have done little to show that in practice we ourselves as Christians are not dominated by a technological orientation in regard either to man or nature.” He warned that “if we treat nature as having no intrinsic value, our own value is diminished.” Ultimately, he calls upon us to treat nature well because we are all products of the loving Creator; we are all creatures together.
While acknowledging that sin and its effects will not be eradicated until the Lord returns, Schaeffer believed there can and should be “a substantial healing,” of the planet and its environment. He says, “we should be looking now, on the basis of the work of Christ, for substantial healing in every area affected by the Fall.” As Christians we of all people are the ones who ought to be treating creation now as it will be treated in eternity. And this, I think, is our challenge: to treat the planet today as we will treat the new earth, exercising dominion without pillaging, exploiting without destroying, faithfully stewarding God’s great gift.
Schaeffer acknowledged that we face an ecological crisis, that human sin has a big part to do with it, and that Christians in particular are often part of the problem rather than part of the solution. This is a far cry from the anti-environmental rhetoric that comes out of much of conservative Evangelical Christianity.
Read Challies’ entire blog post: Christians and the Environment.
Or even better, read Pollution and the Death of Man.
Grace and Peace
HT: Glenn Brooke
Is Earth Day an opportunity for Christians to serve and witness, or a pagan and secular holiday that is inherently anti-Christian?
Many Evangelical Christians are highly suspicious of the environmental movement. Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham wrote about Earth Day on his blog today, calling it “Eliminating All References To Him Day.” To many Christians such as Ham, Earth Day is a pagan, anti-Christian holiday, and an example of humans putting the creation over the Creator.
On the other hand, there is a growing “creation care” movement within Evangelicalism, with groups such as the Evangelical Environmental Network advocating for various environmental issues.
Here are some questions:
- Is Earth Day an opportunity for Christians to serve and witness, or a pagan and secular holiday that is inherently anti-Christian?
- Is the creation out there just for our good, or are we here for the creation’s good as well?
- A central YEC teaching is that Adam’s fall into sin brought radical changes to the Earth. How does this influence YEC perspectives on environmental issues?
- How can Christians advocate creation care without putting the creation over the creator?
- What are ways that a Christian could participate in a community Earth Day fair?
- Can a Christian be a member of the Sierra Club?
- Is it a sin to pollute?
- Is wilderness a good thing, or something to be brought actively under human dominion?
- Is the only good animal a tamed animal?
- Is the only good resource an exploited resource?
- Can humans really harm the Earth, or is it resilient enough to take whatever we can do to it?
- What is our responsibility to our children in regards to natural resources?
- What is our responsibility to people who might live 1000 years from now in regards to natural resources?
- Will the Earth be destroyed or renewed when Christ returns?
- What would Jesus drive?
- Is consumerism and materialism consistent with Jesus’ teachings on wealth?
- Are there limits to economic growth? Is more always better?
- Is it true that only wealthy societies have the resources and leisure to be concerned about the environment?
- If a sparrow falls to the ground, does God care?
- If the global temperature were to rise by 8°C by 2100, and sea level were to rise by a couple meters, displacing millions, how would this impact Evangelical Christianity?
Grace and Peace
And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” — Genesis 1:20-22 NIV 1984
Today (April 22nd) is Earth Day. For a variety of reasons, I believe that Christianity offers both the best foundation for proper care of the world’s ecosystems and the only hope for the future of our planet. Those are topics for another time; for now, I want to draw our attention to three things from this passage in Genesis.
The first of these is the inherent goodness of the creation. Here in the opening chapter of the Bible, we see God creating the universe and preparing the Earth—land, sea, and sky—for the vast variety of life that would soon inhabit it. He then commanded the Earth to bring forth vegetation, sea life, birds, and land animals. With all of this in place, God pronounced that the creation was “good.” Being good, the creation is not something to escape from, nor is it something that is somehow less important than the “spiritual.” The biblical teaching is that the creation—rocks, water, plants, and animals—has inherent value, apart from its usefulness to humanity.
The second thing we can learn from this passage is that the living world was created to be fruitful. On the fifth day, starting with Genesis 1:20, God created the sea life and birds, and the earth “teemed” with them. To teem is “to become filled to overflowing,” to “abound,” and “to be present in large quantity.” When reading this, I think of the abundance of bison that populated the American Great Plains before the 1800s, or the diversity of life that is found in tropical rainforests. We sometimes forget that it wasn’t just to humans that God issued the command, “Be fruitful and multiply.” He also gave this command to sea life and birds, and it is later stated (Gen 8:17) that God created the land animals to be fruitful and increase in number as well.
Thirdly, the goodness and teemingness of creation should guide how we think about our responsibility towards nature. God placed Adam and Eve over the creation to “rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air…” (v. 26). It has been pointed out that this dominion is not meant to be domination, but rather a stewardship or vice-regency over the creation, with the responsibility to tend it as God’s representatives on Earth. If the creation has inherent goodness apart from the resources it supplies to us, and if God created the living world to be abundant and fruitful, then it follows that an important part of our responsibility is to act in such a way as to preserve, protect, and enhance that fruitfulness. This means that the world is not here just for us. It is also here for sea urchins, red-winged blackbirds, polar bears, and giant Palouse earthworms. I believe that the thriving of humans and the thriving of the rest of the living world must go hand in hand. Our challenge is to figure out how to make this work.
Grace and Peace
For some reasons why Christianity offers the best foundation for environmentalism, see my summaries of For the Beauty of the Earth by Steven Bouma-Prediger and Pollution and the Death of Man by Francis Schaeffer. These books have shaped how I think about our responsibility towards the creation.
The definitions of “teem” are from http://www.merriam-webster.com/. “Teemingness” is indeed a word.
In saying that the material world is just as important in Christianity as the spiritual, I am saying that all of our good works—acts of love to our neighbors—are done in the physical realm. Even much of what we consider to be “spiritual,” has physical components: prayer, communion, baptism, evangelism. At times Christians have had an unbiblical picture of a future life of escaping from the material world and floating in the clouds, but the biblical affirmation of the goodness of creation is really one of the strengths of Christianity. In many Eastern philosophies and religions, the material is an illusion or something to escape from. An example of this is the moksha or nirvana of Indian religions. In atheistic naturalism there is no absolute reason outside of ourselves to value plants and animals. In other words, there is no reason to judge Eden as a better place than Coruscant, the completely urbanized capital of the Star Wars galaxy. Ultimately, we can choose which type of world—Eden or Coruscant—that we think is best for our purposes. I am not saying that Buddhists and atheists do not care about the creation; many of them do care very much, and are active in what I would call creation care. It is just that they do not have an adequate philosophical foundation for doing so.
I first thought seriously about the teeming of the living world in Genesis 1 while reading The Creation by biologist E.O. Wilson. Wilson is not a Christian, but the book is written to Christians as “an appeal to save life on Earth.”
Around the web 3/22/2013 — The ice age only lasted 250 years, evaporites formed from magma, environmentalism is bad for us, and more
THE ICE AGE (SINGULAR) OCCURRED BETWEEN 2250 AND 2000 B.C. — Answers in Genesis posted an article in February by Andrew Snelling and Mike Matthews entitled When Was the Ice Age in Biblical History? As usual, none of this is necessary Biblically, or workable scientifically.
Here is everything they want to squeeze into 250 years after their date for Noah’s flood (2350 B.C. on the accompanying map with timeline):
- 2350 to 2250 B.C. — Antarctica becomes covered by forests, then gets covered by its ice cap.
- 2250 to 2000 B.C. — Ice age on the rest of Earth.
- approx. 2300 B.C. — First mastadons.
- 2250 B.C. — first human tools in archeological record.
- approx 2200 B.C. — First woolly mammoths.
- approx 2200 to 2100 B.C. — Age of the Neanderthals.
- approx 2150 B.C. — Humans migrate into Australia.
- approx 2100 B.C. — Humans migrate into North America.
- 2000 B.C. — End of Ice age. Abram born.
Again, the Bible says none of this! When Abram is born, he is born into a stable civilization on a stable Mesopotamian plain that isn’t much different than how it is described in Genesis 2. There has been no massive transformation of the Tigris-Euphrates valley!
But the geological problems with the YEC picture dwarf the biblical problems. Not only do they have to squeeze Antarctic glaciation, Neanderthals, the ice ages (there is plenty of evidence that glaciation happened multiple times), and human migration into Australia and the Americas into 250 years, one would have to throw in things like multiple eruptions of a number of “supervolcanoes” (e.g. Yellowstone, Toba, Long Valley), growth of other volcanoes (e.g. Cascade Range), growth of modern coral reefs, and deposition of in some cases many hundreds of meters of ice age sediments around the world. Add in a few biological marvels as well — hyperevolutionary adaptive radiation going from “elephant kind” to mastodons, woolly mammoths, and modern elephants; as well as dispersion of animals and humans throughout the globe.
Don’t teach this to the church or our youth as biblical truth or scientific apologetics!!!!
EVAPORITES (SUCH AS SALT) FORMED FROM MAGMA — YEC geologist Tas Walker has endorsed Stef Heerema’s magmatic model for for the origin of large salt formations. Heerema’s Journal of Creation article is here, and a more recent YouTube video is here. I am writing a longer response to this one, but for now I’ll say that this all shows that, despite YEC claims to the contrary, the Journal of Creation cannot possibly be a peer-reviewed journal.
ENVIRONMENTALISM IS A THREAT TO CIVILIZATION — So says Evangelical writer Cal Beisner, a spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance. There are some good things in the Cornwall Alliance’s Declaration on Environmental Stewardship, but…
Here’s what Beisner recently said about why humans could not be doing any catastrophic harm to the Earth by adding excess greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, as reported at Huff Post Green:
“That doesn’t fit well with the biblical teaching that the earth is the result of the omniscient design, the omnipotent creation and the faithful sustaining of the God of the Bible. So it really is an insult to God,” Beisner said.
Isn’t that sort of like saying that it doesn’t matter what we do to our bodies—smoking, excess alcohol and drug use, etc.—because God has designed us in such a way that the things we do could not possible cause us catastrophic harm?
THE DOCTRINE OF CREATION — The biblical doctrine of creation isn’t primarily about how old the Earth is. See Bigger Than We Think by David Wilkinson.
PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANITY CONTINUES — Iran puts five Christians on trial for their faith, Christian protesters decry Muslim mob’s arson spree following blasphemy charge, Christians, churches dwindling in Iraq since start of war 10 years ago.
I want to write, write, write, but can’t keep up with it all.
Grace and Peace
I’m enjoying a good thundersnow (or some call it a snunderstorm); the first blizzard thunderstorm I have experienced in Montana (I have seen it happen in Utah, Colorado, and I think Missouri). The temperature dropped from 59°F to 32° in less than thirty minutes, and it started to snow and blow really hard. I love Montana.
The Billings Gazette has some good pictures of the storm as it approached Billings.
What’s going on in the wider world of the world wide web?
JUST MAYBE PERHAPS THERE COULD POSSIBLY BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOUNG-EARTH CREATIONISM — Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis is concerned that much of the criticism of his young-Earth ministry comes from Christians. Count me in — there are plenty of good reasons why Bible-believing Christians criticize Answers in Genesis. YEC organizations like AiG teach secondary doctrines as primary, take a my-way-or-the-highway approach to these secondary issues, insist on a hyper-literal reading of the inspired Word of God, publish massive amounts of really bad science, and set our young people up for a fall. YEC isn’t Biblically necessary, nor is it scientifically feasible.
“Ham has made it clear that AiG’s main thrust is not “young Earth” but simply biblical authority.”
No, it is not about biblical authority. I, like many old-Earth Christians, do believe the Bible. I just don’t believe much of what comes out of the YEC community. And there is a big difference.
JUST MAYBE PERHAPS THERE COULD POSSIBLY BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE TEA PARTY WING OF THE G.O.P. — On top of the radical anti-environmentalism and xenophobia that pervades the Tea Party, there are plenty of Tea Partiers like the chairwoman of the Yellowstone County Republican Party, who posted what most of us would view as a racist anti-Obama picture on her Facebook page. From the Billings Gazette: Local GOP leader criticized for Facebook post. A screenshot can be seen at Daily Kos and MT Cowgirl (left wing equivalents of the right wing Tea Party).
THE BIBLE AS REALITY TV — A new Bible miniseries is coming to the History Channel. One of their consultants appears to be TV prosperity preacher Joel Osteen:
Osteen said much of his work was confirming if the extrabiblical material stayed true to the Bible.
Ummmmm, I’d prefer if he go back to some of his books to double-check how well they stayed true to the Bible. The message of Christianity is not salvation from unhappiness by doing our best.
DOMINION IS THE OPPOSITE OF DOMINATION — The Ecologist has an article about the growth of the “Creation Care” movement, especially among younger Evangelicals.
“As Christians we’re called to care for creation, because God created it, and saw it was good, and loved it,” [Wheaton biology student Erik Swanson] explains. “Also I think we have a responsibility to care for all of God’s people, and I don’t think you can say you love people if you’re destroying the environment they depend on.”
WALKING AWAY FROM CHRISTIANITY — From Marc5Solas — Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church.
The statistics are jaw-droppingly horrific: 70% of youth stop attending church when they graduate from High School. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church.
Let’s just be honest, most of our churches are sending youth into the world embarrassingly ignorant of our faith. How could we not? We’ve jettisoned catechesis, sold them on “deeds not creeds” and encouraged them to start the quest to find “God’s plan for their life”.
The solution, however, is not to give them more young-Earth creationism, as Answers in Genesis is pushing in their Already Gone book. YEC is part of the problem, not part of the solution. I would put it in the “They got smart” category of the top 10 reasons. When they see that it just doesn’t work, our young people throw away their Christianity along with their Dr. Dino DVDs.
EKALAKASAURUS — The Carter County Museum (in the GeoChristian ancestral home of Ekalaka, Montana) has an excellent fossil collection, and is getting some help from Montana State University (The GeoChristian alma mater). From the Billings Gazette: A FOSSIL MECCA – MSU students revitalizing Carter County Museum.
I haven’t been to Ekalaka for a few decades; it might be time for a road trip. I hope they still have the two-headed calf.
A WORLD OF PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS — In Egypt: Islam or death? Egypt’s Christians targeted by new terror group. In Saudi Arabia: Saudi religious police arrest Ethiopian workers for practicing Christianity. In the Middle East as a whole: Religious Change in the Middle East.
In my previous “Around the Web” post, I linked to a story in Christianity Today about the persecution of house churches in China. CT has two followup stories: China Isn’t Trying to Wipe Out Christianity and Persecution in China Is Very Real.
And to be fair: Atheists around world suffer persecution, discrimination (though the report could not point to a single person who had been executed in the world in the past year for being an atheist).
A GOOD PLACE — The Today Show lists my home town, Billings, Montana, as the third best place in the United States to raise a family. If only we had a Chick-fil-A.
Well, that took two hours. The thundersnow has ended and it has all turned to slush, which will turn to ice. I blame it on global warming.
I have updated the “Best of the GeoChristian” link up at the top of the page.
There is a good variety: posts on Christianity, geology, creationism, the environment, atheism, apologetics, and more.
I would be interested to hear if there is a post that has been especially meaningful or helpful to you, or one that you think is the best of the best of The GeoChristian.
Thanks for reading,
Grace and Peace
|The following item was originally posted in October 2010. I have added it to my blog recycling program. Because I have new readers of The GeoChristian, I will occasionally go back and re-use some of my favorite blog entries (sometimes with a little editing).
This “Creation Creeds” post is a statement of what I, as an old-Earth, theologically conservative, confessional, “Evangelical/Presbyterian (PCA)/with a big dose of Lutheran theology” Christian believe regarding the biblical doctrine of creation.
Creation creed — short version
As an old-Earth creationist
I believe that the universe was created by the triune God of the Bible
I believe that the Bible does not dictate when this creation took place
I believe in a real Adam
in a real garden
in a real fall into sin
in real consequences for that sin
and in Jesus Christ as the only solution for sin
Creation creed — long version
As an old-Earth creationist
I believe that the universe—all that is seen and unseen—was created from nothing by the triune God of the Bible: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
I believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God
I believe that the Bible does not dictate when the creation took place, nor does it state the extent or work of Noah’s flood
I believe in a real Adam and Eve as individuals—the first humans in the image of God—and that we are all descendants of this family
I believe that all humans retain the image of God, and are therefore of very high value
I believe in a real Garden of Eden, which was at a specific location in Mesopotamia, and that the Edenic paradise did not cover the entire Earth
I believe that the natural world has inherent value, and that humans are called to be good stewards of the creation that God has given us, for the glory of God, for the good of all humanity, and for the sake of the creation itself
I believe in a real fall into sin through Adam’s disobedience to God’s command, and in real consequences for that sin that continue to this day: human physical and spiritual death
I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only solution for sin, and that those who put their faith in him as their savior will spend eternity with him and with each other in the New Heavens and the New Earth
“In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.” — Proverbs 21:20 (NIV 1984)
This proverb condemns the fool who consumes all he has with no regard for the future.
As a Christian who believes that it is as much a sin to be a poor steward of the Earth as it is to be a poor steward of anything else God has given us, I see this wisdom from Solomon as being highly relevant in our age of consumption, greed, and inherent limitations in the world in which God has placed us.
Our society uses many natural resources—energy resources, water, air, soil, forests, fisheries—in a way that violates Proverbs 21:20. One can point to local examples where this is not the case, such as the increase of forested acres in the eastern United States or the cleaner air that exists as a result of the Clean Air Act, but overall these instances are the exception rather than the rule.
Proverbs 21:20 could be used as part of a Biblical case for the sustainable use of natural resources. All “sustainability” means, in terms of ecology, is that we use the resources God has given us in the creation in a way that ensures that we do not devour all we have. It means that we do not live just for today or for ourselves, but for tomorrow and those who will follow after us.
The alternative to sustainability is unsustainability. If we consume all we have, then what future generations will be left with won’t be sufficient to feed and power a world whose human population is predicted to peak at roughly ten billion around the mid-21st century.
Grace and Peace
In between sessions at the young-Earth creation seminar I attended last month, there was a promotion for an upcoming anti-environmentalist documentary entitled “Axed: The End of Green,” created by Montana filmmaker J.D. King. According to the promotional video, the objective of the documentary will be to expose “the dark side of the green movement for what it really is.”
I can tell that Mr. King likes nature; there are plenty of shots of him hiking or driving in the mountains of Montana. This is a very good thing, and actually a point of common ground between him and those in the environmental movement. Here’s the video (less than three minutes long):
The video begins with film clips from radical environmental groups such as this: Earth First! mourning the loss of a tree. When I watch a video like this, my first response is that I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I have a little bit of common ground with the Earth Firsters—I like trees—but their biocentric/ecocentric philosophy has a number of problems, and is seriously out of balance in regards to the place of humans in the creation. If all environmentalists were like this, it would be rather easy for most people to dismiss the entire movement. But a strong majority of environmentalists are not like this.
Like Mr. King, I am convinced that there are potential dangers in the environmental movement, such as threats to individual liberty, property rights, and free markets. I would add that the pantheistic underpinnings of much environmental philosophy are not only wrong, but are actually inadequate as a foundation for a robust ecological understanding.
The shots of Mr. King splashing through mountain streams alternate with clips of mining, oil tankers, and closed logging roads; along with short statements from citizens who are concerned about jobs and the economy.
It would have been nice if the video, at this point, had presented a plea for balance: Not just wilderness, not just development, but a sustainable balance in which the environment is protected for the glory of God, the good of people, and the fruitfulness of the creation, which are all aspects of a Biblically-informed environmental ethic. Instead, there was an urgent call: “We demand that green be removed from the political platform!”
The jaw-dropping quote from the video was this:
“…The farmer, the miner, the foresters; their freedom must be returned to them to manage their affairs the way they know is best, because they are wiser than any bureaucrat…”
Farmers and foresters often take very good care of the land, and can also—even if they own the land and know what is right—sacrifice long-term health of soil and ecosystems for the sake of short-term profit.
It was the inclusion of “the miner” that I found astonishing. I am not opposed to mining, but it was rather incredulous that the speaker would say that mining companies would take better care of the land if they didn’t have bureaucratic regulators blocking their way. As my Sunday School teacher said when I told him this, “Has this guy ever been to Butte?”
This is libertarianism run amok. This is conservatism—and I am a conservative—at its worst. What is it that this let-the-miners-mine-the-earth-unhindered type of conservatism actually seeks to conserve? Land? Resources? I don’t know.
The basic problem with this laissez-faire anti-environmentalism is that it, like Marxism and liberation theology, grossly underestimates human sin. Many conservatives have no difficulty seeing the dangers of big government, or the moral decay in our society, but somehow give a free pass to large corporations, forgetting that these too are run by sinful people. Because of this sin, and the Biblical role of government to restrain sin, sufficient regulation of industry, including mining, is necessary in order to ensure the long-term health and flourishing of both humans and the natural world. To say that either people or nature would be better off if government bureaucracy would just get out of the way is neither Biblical nor conservative.
The environmentalists on the left often err by being overly biocentric or ecocentric; leaving God and people out of the picture. The anti-environmentalists on the right often err by being overly anthropocentric; too centered on humans with their individual rights and needs. A more Biblical approach is a theocentric environmental philosophy that acknowledges God as Creator and Lord of all, humans as responsible stewards of the creation, and nature as God’s handiwork: glorifying its Maker, providing for human needs, and worth being protected for its own sake. There is nothing Biblical or good in a conservatism that facilitates abuse of nature rather than seeking to conserve and protect it.
Grace and Peace
P.S. There is no connection intended between the teaching of Nathaniel Jeanson of ICR and the documentary “Axed: The End of Green.”
Additional blog posts on the environment can be found at http://geochristian.wordpress.com/category/environment/
Mitt Romney’s Environmental Platform — Ummm, Mitt Romney doesn’t seem to have an environmental platform. The menu at mittromney.com doesn’t have “Environment” as an option.
There isn’t anything substantial about the environment that I could find on the site. I am a conservative, and will vote for Romney in November. But why can’t we have a conservative presidential candidate who would actually be interested in conserving?
Richard Dawkins’ sloppy scholarship — Jay Wile does a good job of exposing militant atheist Richard Dawkins’ poor use of quotations. “This situation is very interesting, because creationists are often accused of quote mining, but here is a clear case where one of the greatest evolutionary evangelists of our time is doing it.”
The “Planet Debate” renewed? — A few years back, Pluto was demoted, so now we have only eight planets in the solar system. The debate is certain to be renewed at same point, not only about Pluto, but also about a couple of asteroids. The NASA article NASA Dawn Spacecraft Reveals Secrets of Large Asteroid refers a number of times to the planet-like qualities of the asteroid Vesta, such as having an interior differentiated into layers, including an iron core.
N.T. Wright sings about Genesis — sung to the tune of “Yesterday” by the Beatles. Watch it at the Internet Monk. Wright isn’t the world’s greatest musician, but he inserts a lot of theological issues into a few verses.
Why they had to fall, I don’t know, it doesn’t say
They did something wrong, and we’ve longed for God’s new day-ay-ay-ay
Grace and Peace
Ronald Reagan was the antichrist.
Barack Obama is conducting a war against Christianity.
Anyone who believes humans are causing global warming is a left-wing, socialist, environmental wacko.
Anyone who doesn’t believe humans are causing global warming is an ignoramus.
Christians who accept an old Earth or evolution are either dangerous compromisors, or maybe not Christians at all.
Young-Earth creationists are just plain stupid.
I’ve heard all of these, and much more, from Christians.
I get weary of the “culture wars” that pervade much of our society and the Christian church, whether in politics, the environment, origins (creation and evolution), or even theology.
What I get tired of is not the debate—I have strong thoughts on some of these issues—but the level of acrimony and demonization that characterizes much of the debate, even among Christians.
It is good to be passionate and zealous, as long as we are passionate and zealous about things that are primary, rather than secondary or tertiary in importance, and that we play by Biblical rules of integrity, love, and humility.
C. John Collins has a good section on “culture wars” in Chapter 20 of Science & Faith: Friends or Foes:
It’s pretty common to hear that we’re in a culture war—the traditionalists and the secularists are fighting over who will control the culture. There is a sense in which the image is right: as we will see in the next chapter, there are worldviews that are at odds with each other, and therefore it’s no surprise that we find conflict. The image is a dangerous one, though, because it can lead us to look at everything in combatant terms: people who disagree with us become our enemies, and we have to defeat them. If you are my enemy, and I am a Christian, then—even if you’re a Christian too—you must be morally defective.
Three further dangers follow from this warfare imagery. The first is that we can forget that worldviews involve not just philosophical positions but also moral commitments; and that back behind unbelief there lies a demonic enslaver. As Paul put it in Ephesians 6,
12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm… 18[Pray] at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…
There is a spiritual component to this battle; and therefore, all our intellectual efforts must express our faithfulness to Christ and must be bathed in prayer. We must never use the weapons of unbelief—dishonesty, slander, name-calling, and so on. The second danger, related to the first, is that we can forget that the unbeliever is not the person we’re fighting against; rather, he is the person we are fighting for: that is, the purpose of all this is to free people from their slavery to the Devil. The third danger that arises is that we can forget that any Christian—and any Christian church—always has only a partial grasp of a fully Christian worldview; and even those parts that we grasp rightly, we practice only partly. So some of our “warfare” ought to be against our own imperfections!
The warfare image is a biblical one, to be sure; but we will do well to be careful how we use it.
[bold emphasis added]
I will be passionate and zealous about things that I believe are both true and of supreme importance, such as the existence of God, the sinfulness of Man, and in Jesus Christ as the only bridge between man and God. Many of these “primary” things of life are expressed in the ancient creeds of the Church.
I will also be passionate and zealous about some secondary issues—such as the age of the Earth, the importance of good stewardship of the Earth, political conservatism that embraces things worth conserving (Earth, family) rather than propping up greed—though my level of enthusiasm will vary from topic to topic.
I will try to discern what is primary, and what is secondary. I will fail at this sometimes.
I will not demonize you or hate you if you differ from me. In fact, I cherish diversity in these areas, and am enriched not only by those with whom I agree, but also by those with whom I differ.
Grace and Peace.