Evangelizing Climate Change?

By Timothy Timothy | Posted at 22:30

Last year, a number of prominent Evangelicals gathered together to release a statement of concern about global warming, Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action. Some parts of the media, as well as individuals, have been misled to believe this was an “official” Evangelical position on the matter and the confusion has led some of those people to judge Evangelical groups by whether or not they are resisting their “leaders” rather than if they are actually being, well, Evangelical and preaching the Gospel.

For the leaders of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) to try to pigeonhole Evangelicals into a single position on a divisive issue that is not clearly tied to the Bible is about as absurd as someone claiming to speak for all Americans on any complex issue. Most Americans may agree on the greatness of the Founding Fathers and the tastiness of apple pie, but few would expect such a consensus on present politicians. Similarly among Evangelicals, there is consensus only on “core issues” such as the supreme authority of the Bible. Other issues, such as support for pro-life causes, are not additional areas of agreement, but are seen as stemming from that central core.

Evangelicals are called to be concerned about the world based on Biblical commands for good stewardship, but it does not follow from this point that a stand on climate change is necessary or that a consensus exists. In some ways, support for climate change legislation could even undermine support for those people that Christians are called to help. Dr. Kenneth Chilton, director of the Institute for the Study of Economics and the Environment at Lindenwood University, and an advisory board member of the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, remarks concerning global warming legislation, “The ‘least among us’ would inevitably suffer the most from laws to limit fossil fuel use because they can ill afford artificially high energy bills.”

The point is that climate change policies do have costs that impact other important goals beyond stewardship of the Earth and this makes support for new regulations something that must be carefully weighed. If the threat of global warming and an effective solution were entirely clear, the importance of the situation might override other priorities. However, Chilton points to a U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research study that suggests even the gold standard of environmental regulation, the Kyoto Protocol, if fully adopted, would reduce temperature increases by a mere one fifth of one degree through the first half of this century.

Not unexpectedly, then, Evangelicals do not hold a single perspective on this issue such as the “call to action” authors may want to suggest. The statement lists many major Evangelicals signing on, including best selling author and pastor Rick Warren and the highest-ranking Salvation Army official in the U.S. But a statement from the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance expressing the view that climate change is not an Evangelical issue at all has a similarly impressive list of signers, including Focus on the Family’s James Dobson along with Prison Fellowship Ministry founder Chuck Colson.

The prominent “call to action,” and “me too” announcements that have come over the past year, serve mostly to confuse those who are trying to understand the mission of Evangelicals. While the EEN statement that Evangelicals are not a “single-issue movement” is true, it is only true for issues that are clearly raised by God’s Word. Outside of these issues, Evangelicals are regular Americans with wide ranging opinions. Attempts by self-appointed representatives to speak for all Evangelicals on controversial issues have only managed to muddle the core message of Evangelicals – is it really worth that?

Timothy R. Butler is editor-in-chief of Open for Business.

Re: Evangelizing Climate Change?

Thanks for your article. It is right on target not only in pointing out that there are serious weaknesses to the agenda of fighting climate change (with costs outrunning benefits) rather than adapting it (with benefits outrunning costs) but also in pointing out that evangelicals are by no means all aligned behind the EEN. Readers who want to see thoroughly documented evidence against the catastrophic human-induced global warming dogma can find it at http://www.interfaithstewardship.org/pdf/CalltoTruth.pdf.

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