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CT Editorial on Creation Care

posted by Scot McKnight
The Editors at CT affirm creation care in this editorial:

The problem with the Gulf oil spill is not just that human lives were lost and that the Gulf economy is destroyed and that pelicans and turtles and other animal populations will be wiped out. All of that is bad enough. But worse is this: A sea hemorrhaging black oil now suffocates life instead of nurturing it. The sea does not resound with the glory of God but instead has become a sign of human hubris and greed.

To destroy the environment is not only an economic problem–it is also a theological problem. More specifically, it sabotages worship, the chief end of man and of creation….

Churches can no longer be indifferent to those matters that signal–to our members and to the world we long to reach for Christ–whether or not the Earth can resound to God’s glory. At a very practical level, it means not just preaching and teaching but also being faithful in small things: taking concern for how efficiently we heat and cool our buildings, encouraging recycling at church gatherings, starting a community garden, and doing a hundred other things that signal our commitment to living in a way that exemplifies God’s intentions for his Earth.

The ground has shifted. The church–created to glorify God–can no longer pretend that creation care is an issue just for “sea huggers.” We are the sea huggers. We must change our talk to embrace creation care, and eagerly walk that talk.



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Adam Shields

posted August 4, 2010 at 2:22 pm


Clearly, from the comments their are many that have not noticed that “the ground has shifted.” I actually think that pointing to these big events is bad strategy. If you focus on the event and not the reason that we should care for creation, then people focus on arguing about the results and/or the meaning of the event instead of dealing with the actual reasons that you should or should not be involved in creation care.



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Justin

posted August 4, 2010 at 2:37 pm


I don’t buy it. It is not that Christians don’t believe in “creation care”. It is that pagans are always looking for a new idol to worship. Environmentalism is just another example of worshiping the creature, not the creator.
I’m assuming global warming is the 800 pound gorilla in the “creation care” debate. The models for global warming have been consistently falsified, so proponents consistently made new models on new assumptions until they backdate properly, only to have them falsified. How do they work now? They rely on aerosols (aerosols, you know, the things we stopped using because of the hole in ozone layer) creating a cooling effect, which explains the flat global temperatures for the past 12 years now.
The proxies (read: a handful of bristlecone pine trees in Siberia), have not tracked global temperature since the 1960′s (the notorious “hide the decline” in the climategate email), but we trust them for measurements of global temperature from back before we had a temperature record to corroborate. In fact, we even use these absurd proxies to overturn the previously settled wisdom that there was a medieval warm period! And the global temperature records were not put together with anything remotely resembling good experimental design (e.g. a prospectively determined procedure for how to handle things like moving a weather station or updating its equipment). This makes it easy to do all sorts of post-hoc modifications that don’t properly eliminate urban heat effects and other non-global phenomenon. Ocean temperature records suggest that the rise is only about half as much.
If true, this would be nearly fatal to the global warming movement. Everyone agrees that carbon causes global warming, but its effect is modest and levels off with increasing concentrations. Catastrophic models rely on carbon regulating water vapor which creates a positive feedback cycle leading to much higher temperatures. The smaller the rise so far, the less room there is for forcing.
Again, this goes back to my previous point. Liberal Christianity is a stalking horse for a worldly worldview.



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kevin s.

posted August 4, 2010 at 3:09 pm


While I aim to practice creation care, this editorial is the victim of poor timing, on account this weekend’s revelations. Some of the more strident language about an environmental 9/11 and wholesale loss of animal populations appears to be quite overblown.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t learn from this event. Specifically, we should hold BP responsible for any and all oversights that led to the disaster. But if the threat of the destruction of an entire region was the impetus for changing attitudes toward the environment, we can expect a backlash when that destruction does not come about.
We have a responsibility to care for God’s creation, but we also have a responsibility to present the case in a forthright manner.



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Randy G.

posted August 4, 2010 at 4:08 pm


My main difficult here is the term “theological.” To an untrained eye/ear that could be a problem with God.
I would almost prefer “human” if that could be communicated in such a way as to include all of our “imago dei” humanness.
For me, the main point, particularly in light of the BP spill, has been our own personal roles in expecting cheap and readily available fuel. Part of my daily prayer is prayer for people around the globe who are displaced or oppressed by the extraction of oil, coal, crops, metals, minerals, jewels.
Congo: Jewels
Congo: Minerals for Cell Phones
South Africa: Jewels
Nigeria: Oil
Iran, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia: Oil
Columbia: Displacement of indigenous farmers for palm oil plantations
Displacement of indigenous miners by trans-national mining
Brazil: Soybeans, Palm Oil, other crops
Argentina: Cattle
Alberta: Oil
Ontario, Alberta, BC, Lumber
Appalachia Mountain Top Removal Mining
SW United States: Coal, Uranium
Venezuela: Oil
Bolivia: Oil
Industrial Agriculture
I do rejoice to see the effort that CT is making though.
Peace,
Randy G.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 4, 2010 at 6:04 pm


I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. I’m not subscribing to all the following put rather attempting to press at some difficult issues.
The earth is billions of years old. Life is at least a billion years old. Over the course of eons we have seen multiple massive changes to the earths climate. We have seen the rise and fall of many different species and echo systems, sometimes with stunning abruptness. Only from the exceedingly narrow sliver of human experience does the climate and echo system seem stable.
Therefore, why is this particular climate and eco-system sacred? The article says, “But worse is this: A sea hemorrhaging black oil now suffocates life instead of nurturing it. The sea does not resound with the glory of God but instead has become a sign of human hubris and greed.” When God allows an asteroid to slam into the earth, wiping out a global eco-system, or allows a massive volcano to send clouds of ash that destroys eco-systems across massive regions, what is this? Are these events evidence of God’s resounding glory or are they something else? Why are our occasional missteps with damaging the eco-system so heinous by comparison? Why is this eco-system so sacred from all the others God has created and destroyed?
To press a little further. Can it be said that eco-systems really aren’t that sacred. The fact is that if the eco-system changed significantly it would be a major challenge for us and a threat to OUR survival. In that case, isn’t environmentalism, at its core, really all about us … we see ourselves as sacred and so the environment that gives us life is extended a sacred aura as well?
I’m curious how folks would address these issues.
captcha: resurface existences Hmmm…



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:mic

posted August 4, 2010 at 7:15 pm


Much of the Christianized environmentalism is built in the notion that we need a cause to fight in order of our faith to “feel” effective, that it is making a difference. This is a big deal in modern politics as well, and since environmentalism has much more in common with politics than actual science we should not be surprised. It is sad that the editors at CT have decided that one of the most public voices for evangelical Christianity will make its greatest impact by kowtowing to the popular (and often financially profitable) environmental movement. This article isn’t so much about caring for creation as it is appeasing the media majority and the skeptical minority that Christians can be likable.
Once again, however, the facts seem to get in the way of our sentiment. Even the NYTimes (no skeptic of anything green) has today reported that this is not an ecological crisis . . . something some of us have been saying for the duration of the event. We are still under the assumption that all of our achievements (even those throughout history) can remove the earth from its appointed foundations. Why is this not considered a theological problem?
The issue here is CT’s decision to run this editorial. It was a poor choice, and I doubt that I will be the only one who turns away in disgust. The greatest need for this generation is not that we play a politically popular game of pseudo-science, but that we live in such a way as to change hearts and minds with the redemptive power of gospel. (Does anyone else remember when ‘gospel’ meant the good news of Jesus the enthroned Messiah and not fatalistic predictions of the impending global doomsday?)



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Ozarksboy

posted August 4, 2010 at 10:27 pm


Does this mean to be a good Christian (I mean, Christ follower, as all the trendy folks now say) I am going to have to support a moratorium on oil drilling, borrow money to buy an electric car, support tax increases on all fossil fuels that I use, oppose agriculture and mining, quit grilling, remove my fireplace, stop using fertilizer on my garden, etc., etc.?
We don’t have anything of value unless we take it out of the earth by growing it or mining it or drilling for it. We need to clean up after ourselves, but people who make their living in offices, sitting at computers or shuffling papers, ought not do too much to harm the livelihoods of the people who grow crops, raise production animals, mine minerals or drill oil.



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Jonah

posted August 5, 2010 at 11:23 am


“Everyone agrees that carbon causes global warming, but its effect is modest and levels off with increasing concentrations.”
No, it increases as the sea warms and frozen methane under the sea is released. It is a self-reinforcing cycle, not a self-dampening cycle.



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Ben

posted August 5, 2010 at 1:18 pm


“We don’t have anything of value unless we take it out of the earth by growing it or mining it or drilling for it”
Your sense of value is coming from the world, not from God.
“We need to clean up after ourselves, but people who make their living in offices, sitting at computers or shuffling papers, ought not do too much to harm the livelihoods of the people who grow crops, raise production animals, mine minerals or drill oil.”
So, as long as it’s providing someone a living, any other costs or ills are to be ignored? Again, I think your sense of value is coming from the world, not from God.



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kevin s.

posted August 5, 2010 at 2:01 pm


One of the challenges facing Christians who want to practice creation care is that environmentalism means so many things to so many different people.
Many, likely a plurality, see it is an appeal to good citizenship. Recycling programs, organic food, and cleanup programs are ways to engage the community. If it stops global warming and saves a species of salmon or two, so much the better.
Utilitarians see environmentalism as a necessary activity to thwart the extinction of mankind. They are engaged by issues related to global warming, overpopulation, nutrition etc… The civic and salmon-related arguments hold no appeal for this group.
Activists fall into two broad camps. The first sees humans as overstepping our role within nature, unfairly dominating other creatures, and stealing our resources from future generations of humans and animals alike. They have a standard for how people should behave, and aim to hold society to that standard.
The second are those who deify the Earth. The Earth and it’s resources are to be elevated, to human detriment if necessary. The anti-DDT movement, for example, was the handiwork of these activists.
Where would a Christian environmental movement fit in? I would like to see it reflect the first category, insofar as it appeals to my conservative civic sensibilities and has the broadest appeal for non-Christians. The downside to this is that civic environmental engagement fails to address key spheres of environmental impact.
The second group leaves us vulnerable to Michael Kruse’s charge of enviro-narcissism.
If we follow the arguments made by creation care advocates, we are led to one of the activism camps. The risk here is that pollution and environmental degradation become yet another thing Christians are “anti-”.
There is also the greatest risk of political co-option, which will require us to advocate on behalf of disastrous policies (like carbon taxes) that will be extremely unpopular if enacted. You can draw a comparison to Christian support of the Iraq war, if you like.
On the other hand, if environmental degradation stifles worship, it’s hard to argue that we should not advocate for political solutions to the problem. So, do we need to become more prominent activists, or do we need better rhetoric?
I would argue that we should discuss creation care in terms of our personal relationship with God. I disagree that the oil spill stifled worship of any kind. Windmills kill more birds than the oil spill did. They are also unsightly. Is the worship of God stifled by their existence?
We need rhetoric that is more specific to action before we can expect more people to adopt a pose in favor of creation care.



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kevin s.

posted August 5, 2010 at 2:11 pm


@Ben
“Your sense of value is coming from the world, not from God.”
This isn’t helpful. If we are granted dominion over the Earth’s resources, which God, in his infinite wisdom, made useful to us, it stands to reason we should be able to mine and extract them. If you disagree, please offer more than raw assertion.
“So, as long as it’s providing someone a living, any other costs or ills are to be ignored?”
You miss the point. The biggest economic fallout from the oil spill has resulted from the moratorium on oil drilling, which was enacted without ANY assessment of the costs and benefits. It was a politically opportunistic response to the crisis, and it cost jobs.
We should think hard and long before calling for such action.



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Nah

posted August 5, 2010 at 6:07 pm


“The biggest economic fallout from the oil spill has resulted from the moratorium on oil drilling”
I don’t believe that.
And even if I did, I’m not sure I care. If your job is drilling wells that are going to spill billions of gallons of oil in the ocean and kill untold numbers of God’s creatures, maybe you should find a different, more moral, line of work.
And stay off unemployment, because would just encourages one not to work, right?



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kevin s.

posted August 6, 2010 at 2:29 am


“I don’t believe that.”
Well, it’s reality, whether you believe it or not. It is unlikely (though not impossible) the federal government is going to use part of the $20 billion pseudo-settlement to reimburse oil well workers who lost their jobs. Those employees will have a hard time persuading BP that they should be compensated for a federally mandated moratorium.
“And even if I did, I’m not sure I care.”
Lovely.
“If your job is drilling wells that are going to spill billions of gallons of oil in the ocean and kill untold numbers of God’s creatures, maybe you should find a different, more moral, line of work.”
Aside from domestic cats, the leading killer of birds (aka “God’s creatures”) is power lines. The espousal of your ill-considered opinion required electric power from at least two sources, and I’m reasonably certain you didn’t earn a dime writing it.
This sort of argument is precisely why I fear for the consequences of a Christian environmental movement. The last thing we need is more smug Christians on their high horse over a very complex issue.
“And stay off unemployment, because would just encourages one not to work, right?”
Um, what?



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