Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Evangelicals and the environment

J.W. Richards at NRO argues that Evangelicals who take stands on public issues "have a moral obligation to distinguish their theological principles from how they apply them in any given instance" and, furthermore, that they haven't done so while taking positions on environmental issues.
The big publicity started in February 2006 ... when several major media outlets reported the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI). The brief document was signed by 86 Evangelical leaders, who announced their support for what The New York Times called “a major initiative to fight global warming.” As part of the Evangelical Climate Initiative, they called for “federal legislation that would require reductions in carbon dioxide emissions through ‘cost-effective, market-based mechanisms.’ ” Similar stories have followed the views of Richard Cizik, of the National Association of Evangelicals, who is a strong believer in catastrophic, human-induced global warming. ....

With respect to the environment, the theological principles are uncontroversial: human beings, as image bearers of God, are placed as stewards over the created order. We bear a responsibility for how we treat and use it. We are part of the creation, as well as its crowning achievement. God intends for us to use and transform the natural world around us for good purposes. Proper use is not misuse. But as fallen creatures, we can mess things up. No serious Evangelical thinker questions these basic principles.

Prudential judgments are another thing entirely. When it comes to global warming, for instance, there are at least four separate questions.
  1. Is the planet warming?
  2. If the planet is warming, is human activity (like CO2 emissions) causing it?
  3. If the planet is warming, is it bad overall?
  4. If the planet is warming, we’re causing it, and it’s bad, would the policies commonly advocated (e.g., the Kyoto Protocol, legislative restrictions on CO2 emissions) make any difference and, if so, would their cost exceed their benefit?
Tough questions all, and theology doesn’t provide much help in answering them. ....

The problem with the chief defenders of the Evangelical Climate Initiative is that they haven’t thought through these four questions, at least not publicly. What they have done is label their position as the authentically Evangelical one. ....
Jay W. Richards on Evangelicals & Energy Policy on National Review Online

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