Re: Jerry Falwell -- global warming is "junk science"

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Tue Feb 14 2006 - 18:01:36 EST

----- Original Message -----
From: "Tjalle T Vandergraaf" <>
To: "'George Murphy'" <>; <>; "'Carol or John
Burgeson'" <>
Sent: Tuesday, February 14, 2006 5:32 PM
Subject: RE: Jerry Falwell -- global warming is "junk science"

>I wonder, if denominations would speak on _theological_ issues, they would
> even have the time or the resources to deal with environmental issues.

You're missing the point: The environment _is_ a theological issue. Of
course I don't mean that it's _only_ a theological issue - people quite
appropriately study it from the standpoints of science, economics, politics
&c. But the Bible & the Christian tradition have a good deal to say about
the natural world as God's creation, about God's relationship with the
world, & the role that God intends for humans to have in the world - i.e.,
theology. & there has been for at least 25 years now a recognized area of
environmental theology

> I think usually happens is that a denomination will hop on the next
> available bandwagon, with mainline denominations favouring liberal
> bandwagons and more conservative denominations looking for conservative
> ones.

True - which is one reason among many for ecumenical dialogue.

> Another problem I see with denominations getting involved in
> "non-theological issues" is that they tend not to understand the
> robustness
> of a theory or lack thereof (I cannot think, offhand, of a better way to
> put
> this).

I can speak to this from my own experience as a member of the task force
that developed the ELCA environmental statement "Caring for Creation." That
task force included not just "pure" theologians & biblical scholars but also
scientists in several areas & people familiar with various aspects of
environmental concern.
& I think most responsible church bodies proceed in a similar way.

> Increased CO2 emissions and global warming is one example. Common
> wisdom has it that there is a link but my guess is that atmospheric
> scientists will acknowledge that there is still some uncertainty and that
> other factors may play a role. For a denomination to take the link
> between
> CO2 emission and global warming as "gospel truth," it may not recognize
> this
> uncertainty or know to convey it.

As I said below, when a church makes recommendations about a particular
issue it out to be in the form ""If X is true - as
scientific evidence presently indicates - then we should do Y & not Z."

> The impact of a proposed change is often ignored as well. It's easy for a
> denomination to advocate a change in lifestyle without considering how
> this
> change will impact on society. I will cite the opposition by some
> denominations to nuclear power as an example. If some denominations had
> their wish, nuclear power plants would be shut down. However, other than
> some vague hand waving, no alternatives to nuclear power plants are
> presented other than to "reduce consumption."

You seem to think that people who develop social statements for churches are
rather naive. Of course there also needs to be a concern for human welfare
along with that for other creatures - which means that decisions are
sometimes difficult: "Owls or jobs?" Leviticus 25 links those 2 concerns
closely. & to return again to the ELCA statement, we were quite aware of
the justice dimensions of environmental issues - of things like the siting
of hazardous waste sites &c in minority or economically depressed
communities, impacts of environmental regulations on jobs &c. The full
title of the statement is "Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and _Justice_"
(emphasis added).

> When a denomination becomes identified with a particular non-theological
> issue, and it turns out that the premise on which this issue was based is
> wrong, where does that leave the integrity of that denomination and how
> will
> its message of the Evangel then be received?

> My experience with some denominations (and some clergy!) has been that
> beating the environmental drum or the social drum is easier than to work
> on
> theological issues. One thing that annoys me to no end is to go to church
> and, instead of a sermon expounding God's Word, to get a lecture on the
> environment or on some social issue from a non-expert.

Again, your assumption that the environment is not a theological issue is
wrong. But there are different levels of theology. The gospel is more
fundamental than a theological analysis of specific environmental problems.
As I've said, it should be made clear that such analysis is contingent upon
scientific evidence as well as specifically theological input.

> <snip>
> A responsibility for churches that is even more fundamental than speaking
> about ethical issues connected with the environment is speaking about
> _theological_ issues: Our ethics should grow out of our theology. &
> churches should deal with the task of environmmental theology whether or
> not
> global warming is actually occurring & whether or not it (if real) is
> anthropogenic. I.e., our environmental theologies ought not be just
> superficial responses to the most recent scientific data but should be
> explications of what the Christian faith implies about the natural world &
> our place in, & responsibilities for, it.
> But that shouldn't be left at the level of generalities. We also need to
> be
> able to speak to specific real concerns. & when scientific evidence
> becomes
> very strong then churches should be prepared to say

Received on Tue Feb 14 18:03:13 2006

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