A Tale of Two Christian Views on Global Climate Change

In the wake of the publication of the latest two IPCC reports on Global Climate Change (2001 and 2007), the evangelical Christian community seems to be dividing, as CNN reports. This is becoming one of the three issues where I have noticed the most conflict between Christians and scientists. The other two are, of course, Biological Evolution and the age of Earth. The conflict about global climate change is beginning to cause a split among prominent evangelical Christian leaders in the United States. This split is visible in two competing statements on the issue.

The Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship is signed by Dr. James Dobson (founder of Focus on the Family), Rev. Dr. D. James Kennedy, and Dr. William R. Bright (founder of Campus Crusade for Christ), among others. It is a product of the Interfaith Council for Environmental Stewardship (ICES).

The other statement is Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action, which is signed by Rev. Dr. Rick Warren (author of The Purpose Driven Life), Andy Crouch, and Rev. Dr. Leith Anderson (President of the National Association of Evangelicals), among others. It is a product of the Evangelical Climate Initiative. Similar statements can be found in my other entires on Creation Care and a recent InterVarsity blog entry.

I observe two striking differences between these two statements. The Cornwall declaration seems primarily concerned with economic liberty and technological progress. The Call to Action seems primarily concerned with the morally correct response to global climate change. While the Cornwall declaration makes many theological and scientific claims, it does not quote or cite any scriptural or scientific sources. The Call To Action cites numerous scientific sources and quotes or cites multiple scripture passages.

The ICES website claims that the conference that produced the Cornwall declaration included “leading theologians, economists, environmental scientists and policy experts.” However, when I looked, the list of the notable signers did not include any environmental scientists, except possibly Dr. Charles W. Rovey, who is Associate Professor of Geoscience at Southwest Missouri State University. However, no climatologists or meteorologists were on the list. The Call to Action claims only to be signed by “American evangelical Christian leaders.”

Both statements agree that Christians have a duty to love the poor and that we are stewards of God’s Creation. They disagree over the best methods for that stewardship and over the existence of anthropogenic global climate change.

This may seem strange coming from me, but I agree with Newt Gingrich about what are some of the true fundamental concerns of skeptics of anthropogenic global climate change. During a debate with John Kerry, the former Speaker of the House agreed that anthropogenic global climate change is real. I think he captured the economic concerns of skeptics succinctly when he said, “For most of the last 30 years, the environment has a been a powerful emotional tool for bigger government and higher taxes. And therefore if you’re a conservative, if you hear these arguments, you know what’s coming next.”

These concerns are echoed by a review of the film The Great Global Warming Swindle that claims, “when the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended, many ‘peace-niks’ and political activists moved over to environmental activism, bringing their ‘neo-Marxist’ political philosophy with them….environmentalism became the ‘new guise for anti-capitalism.'” In the Cornwall declaration, these concerns can be seen in the fourth “aspiration” or goal, “We aspire to a world in which liberty as a condition of moral action is preferred over government-initiated management of the environment as a means to common goals.”

Note: This is not my full response to Darius. That will be much longer and directly respond to his words.

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2 Responses to A Tale of Two Christian Views on Global Climate Change

  1. Gabriele says:

    Hi Luke,
    These days I’m reading more about environmental problems and I’m trying to make my behaviors as responsibile towards creation as possible. I’m also listening to a daily podcast that you might like too, at http://www.pray-as-you-go.org, and today’s podcast (May 1st 2007) really touched me as a way of the Spirit to inspire me. I suggest you listen to it (you can do so on a computer or mp3 player).

  2. Luke, I have put another GW post on my blog which might be beneficial to you and your response.


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