Russell Moore, dean of the school of theology for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the executive director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement, testified last week about global warming before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
Moore spoke about the beliefs of Southern Baptists at Thursday’s hearing entitled “An Examination of the Views of Religious Organizations Regarding Global Warming.”
“The first area of concern is that the biblical text not be used as a vehicle for a political agenda–no matter how commendable the agenda might be,” Moore stated. “To tie the authority of the Bible to the shifting and revisable scientific and public-policy proposals of one’s global warming agenda is unhelpful to the debate at best and trivializing of Christian faith at worst.”
Southern Baptists “are not opposed to environmental protection,” Moore argued, but they are “concerned about the ways in which religious arguments are used in this debate, possibly with harmful consequences both for public policy and for the mission of the church.”
Moore complained that the media presents the issue of global warming “as a seismic shift in evangelical political engagement–away from concern with the so-called ‘Religious Right’ issues such as abortion and marriage and toward a ‘broader’ agenda more compatible with the platform of the Democratic Party.”
“This hyper-politicization of the gospel is a key reason why conservative Protestants in the 20th century distanced themselves from the liberal bureaucracies of the National Council of Churches and the mainline denominations,” Moore claimed. (He did not criticize conservative Christians for political involvement.) “The partisan political dynamic further impedes the conversation among evangelicals,” he said.
Moore also argued that proposals of many environmentalists were the result of “utopianism” and “apocalyptic scenarios” that ignore the evangelical “understanding of the narrative of history as outlined in Scripture.”
“And, ultimately, God will redeem his creation by freeing nature from [sin’s] curse,” Moore argued. “In our care for creation, we must maintain the limits of environmental action, knowing that the ultimate liberation of creation has everything to do with our resurrection and the resumption of human rule through Christ over this universe.”
As a result, Moore dismissed “global government action on climate change” as a flawed attempt to “reverse the curse of the Fall.”
He said Southern Baptists will not support programs that do not recognize “the limitations of such human endeavors, especially since so much of the language of the secular environmentalist movement often veers into techno-idolatrous triumphalism that is closer, in the minds of evangelical Christians, to the Tower of Babel than the Ark of Noah.”
During his testimony, Moore cited Calvin Beisner, spokesman of the Cornwall Alliance (formerly known as the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance), and concluded with his testimony by endorsing the organization’s 2006 document “A Call to Truth.”
As EthicsDaily.com reported last year, several signers and one of the writers of that document work for organizations that have received money from ExxonMobil.
Other religious leaders at the hearing also cited the “A Call to Truth,” or scientists who work for organizations that have received money from ExxonMobil, in order to argue against actions to prevent global warming.
David Barton, president of Wall Builders and an advisory member of the ISA, pointed to the “Cornwall Declaration” as evidence that global warming is not a serious threat. He called the Declaration “a very accurate rendering of [evangelicals’] theological position.”
Barton claimed that because of the evidence presented in the “A Call to Truth” document that “Evangelicals will oppose placing the theoretical needs of the environment over the actual needs of the poor.”
He also cited research by Paul Driessen of the Congress for Racial Equality, an organization that has received money from ExxonMobil.
James Tonkowich, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, also spoke against claims of global warming. He justified his arguments by referring to individuals who work for organizations that have received monetary support from ExxonMobil, including Jay Richards of the Acton Institute and Paul Driessen of the Congress for Racial Equality. Richards signed the “A Call to Truth” statement and Driessen was one of its writers.
Republican Senator James Inhofe, the ranking minority member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, cited the “Cornwall Declaration” during his remarks at the hearing. He argued that the statement “provides a biblically based interpretation of God’s calling to us to be stewards.”
Inhofe also attacked Richard Cizik, a vice-president of the National Association of Evangelicals who has spoken out for taking action to prevent climate change. Inhofe called Cizik “a global warming alarmist” and claimed that “Cizik does not represent the views of most evangelicals.”
Other religious leaders testified at the hearing in support of greater efforts to stop global warming: Episcopal Church presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, Jim Ball of the Evangelical Environmental Network, and John Carr of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The committee’s chairman, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, also spoke at the hearing.
Brian Kaylor is communications specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Missouri. He is on a communications committee for the New Baptist Covenant Celebration.
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Brian Kaylor is editor and president of Word&Way, associate director of Churchnet, and a contributing editor for EthicsDaily.com.