Friday, July 15, 2011

Evangelicals ought to be greener than the Greens

Guest post by Mick Pope

What does the gospel say about caring for creation?
Evangelicals should be at the forefront of creation care, regardless of the issue. The Bible is far greener than the Greens can ever be precisely because we don't "hate humanity" (as the Greens are sometimes accused of doing) but should have a proper biblical anthropology in which humanity is made by God from the good dirt and called by God to the noblest of tasks. However, one of the problems with some strands of Evangelicalism at various points of history is that it hasn't taken biblical anthropology seriously enough. Because we belong with the dust from which we were made and will be bodily resurrected, matter matters, including matter that isn't human.

Genesis 1 makes it clear that the Earth is the divine temple and that humans are the idols/images in that temple (interestingly, the word used for "image" in the ancient Greek translation of Genesis 1.26-27 is the same word elsewhere used for pagan idols), representing God to the rest of creation. This rules out any negative views towards the dominion mandate, since it is in God's image that we are to rule.

Psalm 104 is oft neglected and makes a couple of things clear. Firstly, God cares for creatures that (at the time) lay outside of the human economy, indeed for creatures like lions that were often harmful to the human economy, because he took delight in them for their own sake. It is a Psalm in praise of God's own creative wisdom. Notice too how the Psalmist places human economic activity alongside that of his care of the rest of creation. It is a small step to see that if God cares for and tends the wild places, we have no right to interfere with that, and as we carry out dominion in his name we should be also caring for wilderness, not to our own detriment but not to its neglect either.

The third important passage is Romans 8:19-25, which shows how intimately our future and that of the non-human creation are tied together. Creation groans for its own liberation as it has suffered under human misrule because of our idolatry. Note a solid biblical critique of materialism and paganism - we can't afford to leave creation care to atheists or pantheistic Greens since it is our calling. Still, when those groups take caring for creation more seriously than us they shame us. Note too that if creation waits for liberation we don't "save the Earth" but we do act in hope for the future. Just as when we seek to be more holy we don't save ourselves but live in hope of our final sanctification.

So caring for creation matters for Evangelicals.

What about climate change? Is it disingenuous for Christian organisations like Ethos to support the mainstream scientific view without giving equal time to those who are sceptical? As a meteorologist and a PhD who has followed the debate I'd say the science is pretty sound, and that we at Ethos are following the understanding laid down by one hundred and fifty years of direct observation of temperatures, at least a thousand years of proxy data from various independent sources, the best models of the day that can only reproduce the twentieth century trends with greenhouse gases included in the model, and a whole slew of research based on various observations of temperature extremes, changes in rainfall patterns, melting glaciers, spreading tropical diseases and so on.

Addressing climate change is part of a much larger project. Evangelicalism has much to repent of (in my opinion) and has and continues to miss its mission of creation care and opportunities to live out the gospel.

Dr Mick Pope is a meteorologist and coordinator of Ethos Environment. An earlier version of this post appeared as a comment on the Ethos site.


Juggernaut1981 said...

Should we be 'greener' than the greens? Maybe.
Should we tread lighter on the planet and be better custodians of the planet we've been given? Yes.
Should we shoot ourselves in the foot to do it? Not really, it's why we were given brains to solve these issues.

byron smith said...

What would it look like to shoot ourselves in the foot? (And how bad would the gangrene have to be before we considered not shooting but amputation?)

Anonymous said...

Ha ha! I love the way Byron can take an analogy and push it one step further — it's such clear and concrete writing.

Excellent post Byron, I didn't know about Dr Mick Pope and it was good to hear his thoughts.

@ Juggernaut: shooting ourselves in the foot might be having ignored peak oil for so long. It will take decades to build the infrastructure that might replace oil, and yet the price is still chugging along higher and higher, and we haven't seen production actually begin to decline yet either! It's just flat!

We've already shot ourselves in the foot and bowels, and yet are still in shock, hoping it wasn't really taht serious, hoping against hope that we can call an ambulance before we keel over.

We are already *most probably* going to hit a Greater Depression because the final oil crisis has already begun, ever so softly and quietly while we sleepwalk into the future. We are vaguely talking about Global Warming but are hardly aware of the urgency of both having clean energy (for Global Warming) and *enough* energy (to replace oil).

For example, Australia is fighting itself stupid over the 2 words "Carbon Tax". When our Prime Minister walks through a shopping mall people shout insults like "JuLiar! No Carbon Tax hey!!?" and then a barney nearly breaks out between Carbon Tax supporters who want to see *some* sort of action on climate change, while the Denialists come out screaming.

That's just Global Warming.

What about Peak Oil? I've had people ask me if peak oil is a kind of Olive oil. They still don't know.

And then we face experts like the American Department of Energy's Robert Hirsch — a smart guy who used to design Fusion Reactors — recommend ramping up coal-to-liquids programs to replace oil! I feel like the kid down the back of the classroom with his hand raised.
"Um, but, like, Sir? Isn't the Energy Information Agency warning you that American peak COAL is around 2030?" In other words, they're moving from one vanishing resource to rely on another vanishing resource.

There *are* answers, but many of them will revolve around smarter Urban Design that simply does away with as many cars.

Check out the Sydney TEDx 2009 talk by Claude Lewenz of the Village Town movement. It's 20 minutes and third down on the right hand column.

byron smith said...

ClimateSight: Is there a consensus in climate science?