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

From: Tjalle T Vandergraaf <>
Date: Wed Feb 15 2006 - 18:30:56 EST

Rather than respond to each of George's comments, it seems to me that our
differences may stem from differences in our traditions.

I think we can agree that Christians have the duty to comment on all human
activities and on the created world. Where we differ is on how this should
be done. I favour doing this outside organized denominational structures.
The danger with linking a denomination with a particular view on
environmental matters is that this view then becomes intertwined with that
denomination's theology. Let me give a few examples:

Some years ago, the United Church in Canada came out in opposition to
uranium mining in Saskatchewan and to nuclear power in general. This begs
the question: if I were a member of this denomination, would I have to
change my view on nuclear energy? Could I still support this denomination
financially or would any money I donate be used to put my job in jeopardy?
Would I feel ostracized? Would the pronouncement by the UCC drive an
unnecessary wedge between proponents and opponents to nuclear industry?

Some denominations have voiced their opposition to such things as
genetically modified foods and the killing of seals. Not that I'm all that
keen on killing seals but one has to wonder how a denomination can bring the
Good News to seal hunters whose livelihood depends on this type of hunting.
To me, it's all a matter or priorities. If a denomination runs the risk of
having its message of salvation obscured by a declared stance on an
environmental topic, what is gained in the process?

To me, it seems far better if a group of Christians formulated a position
outside the organized denominational structure.

Chuck Vandergraaf

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of George Murphy
Sent: Tuesday, February 14, 2006 5:02 PM
Subject: Re: Jerry Falwell -- global warming is "junk science"

----- 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 Wed Feb 15 18:35:15 2006

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