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Understanding Evangelical Climate Denial What are key arguments unique to evangelicals?

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Presentation on theme: "Understanding Evangelical Climate Denial What are key arguments unique to evangelicals?"— Presentation transcript:

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2 Understanding Evangelical Climate Denial What are key arguments unique to evangelicals?

3 Understanding Evangelical Climate Denial: #1 God’s Sovereignty  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” - Isaiah 55:9  “Religiously unenlightened hubris” to believe humans can influence climate system  “It does not seem likely to me that God would set up the world to work in such a way that human beings would eventually destroy the earth by doing such ordinary and morally good and necessary things as breathing, building a fire to cook or keep warm, burning fuel to travel, or using energy for a refrigerator to preserve food.” - Wayne Grudem, Cornwall Alliance (2006)  Argument: Climate change is simply not possible Brian Webb

4 Understanding Evangelical Climate Denial: #2 Our Special Status  Imago Dei  “So God created humankind in his own image…” Gen 1:27  “Dominion” theology  “God blessed them and said to them, ‘be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” Genesis 1:28  Anthropocentrism – our needs/wants trump ecological considerations  Argument: If real, climate change doesn’t matter because we are more important than trees. Brian Webb

5 Understanding Evangelical Climate Denial: #3 End-Times Thinking (Eschatology)  Premillenial dispensationalism  “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed with fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.” – 2 Peter 3:10  Temporality of the earth  Argument: Climate change is of no concern since the earth will be destroyed anyway Brian Webb

6 Understanding Evangelical Climate Denial: #4 Fear of Pantheism  Christian exceptionalism – unique and extraordinary  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me” - John 14:6  Environmental movement can have strong religious overtones (ex. Avatar)  Argument: Climate change is a tool to get us to worship nature Brian Webb

7 Understanding Evangelical Climate Denial: #5 Distrust Scientists  Climate change is a matter of trust  Politicized atmosphere between faith and science communities, largely on account of the creation-evolution debate  “But perhaps no result of the creation-evolution stalemate is as potentially disastrous as the way it has stymied courageous action on climate change.” – Andy Crouch, Christianity Today (2005)  Evangelicals segment out (disbelieve) scientific claims that are perceived to conflict with religious beliefs (Evans, 2011; Carr 2012)  Argument: Scientists are not trustworthy, so I can’t believe what they say about climate change. Brian Webb

8 Responding to Evangelical Climate Denial How can we engage evangelicals on climate change?

9 Responding to Evangelical Climate Denial: #1 Seek Common Ground  Listen  Look for areas of agreement  Common interests/background/etc.  Faith  Shared “environmental” views  Avoid arguments (not productive)  Find allies; embrace evangelical efforts Brian Webb

10 Responding to Evangelical Climate Denial: #2 Consider their Worldview  Evangelicals are a subculture  Climate change is risky  Use language strategically  Good: creation care, stewardship  Bad: mother earth, spirituality, Gaia  Share your environmental “testimony” Brian Webb

11 Responding to Evangelical Climate Denial: #3 Make it a Moral Issue  Focus on people and poverty  Highlight humanitarian impacts  Use specific examples/stories (narrative is powerful) Brian Webb

12 Responding to Evangelical Climate Denial: #4 Talk about the Science  Promote dialogue (not debate)  Explain why science is convincing to you and refer to experts (scientific consensus, NOAA, NASA, etc.)  Initiate Faith-Science partnerships/forums/etc.  Remember, evangelicals are not anti-science, but they are skeptical/hostile when there is a perceived conflict Brian Webb

13 Responding to Evangelical Climate Denial: #5 Engage the Theology  When conversations turn political, divert back to theology or ethics  Gain a basic understanding of key evangelical theological barriers & responses Brian Webb

14 Theological Responses to Evangelical Climate Denial  Our Special Status counterargument:  Biblical model of leadership (Phil 2:5-8)  Earth belongs to God (Psalm 24:1); We are stewards (Gen 2:15)  God called earth “good” (Gen 1); Do we want to destroy something he called good? Brian Webb

15 Theological Responses to Evangelical Climate Denial  God’s Sovereignty counterargument:  Does God control everything? Or are there decisions we can make on our own? And if so, might those decisions have consequences?  Isn’t it possible that God might allow us to suffer the consequences of our own addictive patterns of consumption?  Fear of Pantheism counterargument:  This represents a tiny minority of those concerned with environmental issues Brian Webb

16 Theological Responses to Evangelical Climate Denial  End-Times counterargument:  Many theological interpretations that do not hold to a belief in a destroyed earth  Even if the earth is destroyed, would it be our place to destroy it? Or should we leave it to God’s timing and methods?  With extremists you may just have to concede this argument  Distrust of Scientists:  Where is the theological conflict with the scientific evidence of climate change? Brian Webb

17 Thank youThank you Brian Webb:  Resources:  Young Evangelicals for Climate Action Young Evangelicals for Climate Action  Evangelical Environmental Network Evangelical Environmental Network  A Climate for Change by Katherine Hayhoe A Climate for Change  Between God & Green by Katharine Wilkinson Between God & Green  Global Warming & the Risen Lord by Jim Ball Global Warming & the Risen Lord  Resisting the Green Dragon Resisting the Green Dragon  Cornwall Alliance Cornwall Alliance Brian Webb


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