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FIRST-PERSON: Revisiting ‘climate change denialism’

WASHINGTON (BP)–Six years ago Richard Cizik, former vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), called “climate change denialism” a “heresy committed against all of creation, nothing less than a monstrous wrong.”

If he was right, then in the intervening years Protestant pastors, especially evangelicals, have been jumping on the heresy bandwagon in droves.

A LifeWay Research poll from October, 2010, and reported April 18, just in time for Earth Day (April 22), shows a major shift among Protestant pastors away from belief in manmade global warming.

Five months ago, according to the poll, 41 percent of Protestant pastors randomly polled “strongly disagreed” with the statement “I believe global warming is real and manmade.” That was a jump of over 50 percent from the 27 percent who gave that answer in 2008.

Those who “strongly disagreed” or “somewhat disagreed” (19 percent) last October totaled 60 percent, while those who “strongly agreed” (23 percent) or “somewhat agreed” (13 percent) totaled only 36 percent.

According to LifeWay’s report on the poll, “Evangelical and mainline pastors are divided on global warming. A majority of evangelicals (68 percent) disagree strongly (44 percent) or somewhat (24 percent) that global warming is real and manmade, compared with 45 percent of mainline pastors.”

It’s doubly ironic that Cizik — who lost his position with the NAE after he publicly embraced same-sex unions — should call “climate change denialism” a “heresy.”

First, real “climate change denialism” exists not among those who deny catastrophic, manmade global warming but among the alarmists who affirm it. They’re the ones who, contrary to all evidence from geologic history, think earth’s climate would be unchanging were it not for human emission of greenhouse gases. The critics recognize that, as climatologist David Legates put it in his lecture for the “Resisting the Green Dragon” video series, climate is always changing.

Second, while the Bible has multiple, clear and emphatic denunciations of homosexual practice (e.g., Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Deuteronomy 23:17; Romans 1:24, 27; 1 Corinthians 6:9), which same-sex unions would codify as lawful and good, it says nothing from which we might infer belief in manmade global warming. On the contrary, the Bible’s teaching that God’s creation is “very good” (Genesis 1:31) and His promise after the Flood to sustain earth’s climate cycles (Genesis 8:21–22) both suggest that the fragile-earth hypothesis at the root of belief in catastrophic, manmade global warming is anti-biblical.

Indeed, if anything in this controversy might deserve to be called heretical — indeed blasphemous — it is the notion that God so designed His world that a minuscule change in atmospheric chemistry (carbon dioxide rising from 27 thousandths of a percent to 54 thousandths of a percent) would bring about catastrophic warming that would threaten human civilization and indeed all life on earth.

There are strong theological and scientific reasons to deny catastrophic, manmade global warming, and powerful ethical and economic reasons to reject the energy policies promoted to fight it. To see how nine natural scientists, 11 theologians and 11 economists make the case, read the Cornwall Alliance’s “A Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Examination of the Theology, Science, and Economics of Global Warming” at http://www.cornwallalliance.org/docs/a-renewed-call-to-truth-prudence-and-protection-of-the-poor.pdf.
E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., is founder and national spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation and author of several books on the interface of Christian worldview, theology and ethics with environmental science, economics and policy.

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  • E. Calvin Beisner