Global warming, Dr. James Dobson & over-realized eschatology.

Did you know that even though the American population is only 4% of the entire world population, we have contributed over 25% of the dioxide emmissions to the environment?

Despite this fact, Dr. Dobson is criticizing the vice-president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) for taking a stand on global warming as a moral issue.

Bill Mckibben has written a wonderful article which is over at the Gods politics blog to which Jim Wallis contributes.  Here is an excerpt of what he had to say:

Here’s the really sad part: this is one of those moments for which the church was born. It will be hard for society to make the changes it needs to make, but our churches can actually remember some reason for human existence other than accumulation. They can summon up the love, hope, and faith necessary to take difficult steps in the years ahead. And it’s starting to happen: at, we’ve been hearing from faith communities across the religious spectrum, who are organizing rallies for April 14 to demand real carbon reductions.

Now I am not a self-desribed hippie.  However, I am convinced that we need to be proper stewards of the land that God has granted us dominion over.  “How might we do this?” one might ask.  We could start by car-pooling when possible.  Further, one might seek to use building materials that have been recycled or numerous other tactics that are environment friendly.

Yet many evangelicals are swayed by the likes of Dr. Dobson into shirking off our environmental responsibility.  Even despite recent scientific and governmental documents that confirm the reality of this problem, some still have the balls to say that this is a conspiracy.

Others will even contend that because we are on the heels of Christ’s return that it doesn’t matter how we treat the evironment.  Do we have our eschatology so nailed down that we can come to this conclusion?  Even if we did would it be justifiable to say, “to hell with the environment, Christ is going to recreate it anyways?”  Didn’t Paul think that Jesus was coming back in his day (and nearly every generation since)?

Is it right to polarize to moral issues such as abortion (thus pushing environmental ethics to the back burner)?  Do you know that global warming will result in 150,000 refugees by the middle of this century if something is not done fast?  What would be the correct response to result in the fulfillment of us loving our neighbors?  What should be done about this?  How should a faithful Christian respond?


4 Responses to Global warming, Dr. James Dobson & over-realized eschatology.

  1. Hey Clint: Good post – I’ve been following this since the story broke (at least on my RSS reader) over at Colorado Confidential. I wonder if this is a demonstration of FoF being so committed to a conservative political agenda that the bigger picture – and scriptural responsibility – isn’t missing from Dobson’s perspective.

    It occurs to me that the “over-realized eschatology” you’re describing here can be seen by many as an opportunity to cop out on many ethical issues, the environment notwithstanding. I think your point here introduces a related question about the connection between eschatology and ethics – in our total sphere of experience, is there a relationship between eschatology and ethics that best accomodates the demands of both concepts? Richard Hays, in his (monumental, IMHO) text The Moral Vision of the New Testament takes up this “tension” with a robust hermeneutic and “ethical explication.” It’s a profound book, and is challenging in its discussion of scripture and the ways in which our scriptural commitments ought to play out.

    Furthermore, taking polarized positions on ethical issues doesn’t help the people who are affected by the problems we spend time debating. I don’t think this prevents us from having strong (well-informed) opinions on the issues, but if those opinions aren’t motivated by change for the better it starts to sound like a bunch of hot air.

  2. Clint says:


    I think you are right concerning the tendency for evangelicals to miss the forest for the trees on this matter. It seems to me that when you read through the prophets you have a challenge to the social structures of the day to wake up and be faithful (hesed) to God as he is to them. This involves many things. But at least one of those is a certain ethic that is necessarily attached to the mission of God’s people, that is, to be a signpost to YHWH.
    Further, we tend to think about eschatology so much in terms of the future, that we forget how it can inform the present and is fulfillment of the past. Luke understood this well. In his two-volume account of the work of Christ and the growth of the church (Luke-Acts), he traces a theme of the hope of Israel (who is Christ). With George Ladd’s concept of the inaugurated kingdom vs. the future consummated kingdom in mind, Luke further shows us that Christ did not usher in the sort of Davidic authoritarian kingdom that many expected (thus the disciples comments on the Emmaus road, “We thought he was the one that was going to redeem Israel.”). He did come to be the king, but then he ascended and will return in like manner to judge. Therefore, we are to be about the message of repentance-forgiveness, in our own lives and proclaiming it to others. The reason being is b/c this is the greatest way in this age (the church age) to love our neighbors.
    However, loving God and loving neighbors implies necessarily a radical shift in all areas of life. It involves a necessary holistic change (thus the sermon on the mount ethic, among many other examples). The fact that Christ is coming back to judge means that we need to be about his kingdom business. But this mission does not exclude those things that Christ has commanded elsewhere in scripture, things that are inherent to kingdom agency such as being a faithful follower or a proper steward of God’s provision for us (which includes not only money, but the environment, truth, etc.).
    We need modern-day prophets to extol our community to allow their social structures (which more often that not protect their self-indulgent lifestyles, just as they did in the days of the Israelites) to be undercut by a holistic approach to living out the gospel. How are we any different from the ladies that Amos called the “cows of bashan”, who ate and drank in plenty, while the poor were held under their thumbs. Let us realize that perhaps their are some things about our current state of evangelicalism that are not biblical. Your comment– “but if those opinions aren’t motivated by change for the better it starts to sound like a bunch of hot air”–is right on the mark! Thanks for your comment!

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