Friday, January 8, 2010

Inconsistent responses to global warming and to the Gospel

I want to explore certain parallels and inconsistencies between how people respond to the issue of climate change and how they respond to the Gospel. First, what does it take to convince you that something is true? To what extent will you be influenced by the opinion of experts who have spent years studying an issue? What influences you the most: the media, anecdotal evidence and arguments, popular opinion, political leaders, church leaders, scientists, environmental groups, your friends or family?

I think there may be some inconsistencies between how both liberals and conservatives (both loosely defined socially, politically, and theologically)
evaluate the evidence for climate change and how they respond to it. Some "conservatives" exercise a populist skepticism to climate change that they don't exercise on theological matters. On the other hand, some "liberals" exercise a populist skepticism towards the Gospel (e.g. believing what they read in Dan Brown novels!) but seem to "believe" in climate change without being able to tell you what the evidence is. In all cases it is not clear to me that the strength of the convictions held is
correlated with how well informed the person is.

What do we learn from this? We tend to believe what we want to believe. Instead we should soberly and humbly examine the evidence, with a willingness to change both what we believe and how we live. We should have consistent standards of skepticism and trust whether it relates to the resurrection of Jesus or to global warming.

Both climate change and the future presented by the Gospel (God's impending judgement and the Second coming of Christ) demand a change in how we live now.
Both require life style changes. Unfortunately, the possibility of that life style change may lead us to "rationalise" our response to the evidence.

It is fascinating to me how environmental activists sometimes claim moral absolutes, demand legislation, and condemn those who won't change their lifestyle, and are self-righteous about their own lifestyle changes [e.g. "What! How could you drive an SUV"]. It is ironic because some would be moral relativists in other areas of life.
Some Christian conservatives have a parallel response to the Gospel: legislating, condemning, and self-righteous.
Do these parallel responses also tell us something about human nature?
Perhaps that we are all have an innate tendency to be like the Pharisees?

Aside: If you are not familiar with the images above they are satellite images of the break up of a section of the Larsen B Ice Shelf in Antarctica. The top left image was taken January 31, 2002, and the bottom right image was taken March 5, 2002.


  1. Hi Ross,

    I'm enjoying your thoughts on the climate change debate.

    I tried to explore some similar, but tangential responses to climate change a while back. In this post.

  2. Great insights on this subject. Thanks. You've given me something to chew on.

  3. The gospel and climate change eh? The only similarity would be they both represent means for the usual power hungry to seize control and impose their will on others in the name of whatever they deem 'right'. Now as the only benefit of Industrialism/Capitalism and the cooping up of us all in cities is material enrichment then the argument that people should abandon that luxury which is itself the result of political struggle (the Unions didn't want to change anything just get their members more for servicing the corporate totem pole) isn't going to fly. Which means that those who do 'believe' like our Vegans will represent disenfranchised extremists who meet only ridicule the moral dimension of their position obliterated by the very extremism their perception of the need for action demands. A situation that the economic demands made upon democratic nations by their electorate serve only to enforce. As does the very notion of a last judgement and then new heavens and earth, this being so how can a consistent Christian actually worry about this earth. This earth is subject to vanity until the sons of God are liberated so why would a Christian worry if all you describe is but hastening that longed for (by those lucky, lucky, lucky elect) Day of the Lord.

  4. I have difficulty with the global warming alarmism for a couple of reasons: 1). I distinctly remember the global cooling alarmism in the 1970s. 2). Even if the earth is going through a period of warming (or cooling), it has done so in the past, before man could have had any significant impact. The ice age was a period of global cooling, and man didn't cause it. The end of the ice age was a period of global warming, and again, man didn't cause it. There have been less extreme cooling and warming periods since then that man did not cause. History indicates that the earth goes through these cycles regardless of man.