Science & Evangelicals Unite
scientists & evangelicals unite to protect creation: Ken's commentary
I was honored to attend the recent meetings between scientists and evangelicals to consider how we could work together to address the global environmental crisis. Fourteen top-flight scientists in the field of environmental science were present including E.O. Wilson (the most prominent biologist in the country) Jim Hansen (head of the NASA climate group) and Gus Speth (the first scientist to advise a U.S. president on climate change.) A diverse group of fourteen evangelical leaders invited by National Association of Evangelicals leader, Richard Cizik, were present, including academics, pastors and scientists. I was present to represent Vineyard at the request of Bert Waggoner, our national director.
I was impressed with the humility of the scientists present. Gus Speth, dean of the Yale School of Forestry, openly acknowledged that it's not been enough to throw good science at issues like climate change. Speth is convinced we need something like a "spiritual and cultural transformation" to address the crisis as it requires dealing with moral issues like greed and selfishness. I was also impressed by the work many evangelicals (like Jim Ball and Cal DeWitt) have done to integrate biblical faith with concern for the environment. These leaders have been calling their work for the environment "creation care."
One of the key outcomes of the retreat was the willingness of the scientists present to begin to refer to the environment as "the creation" regardless of their own religious views. E. O. Wilson, a reknowned biologist who describes himself as a "secular humanist" has written a book entitled, The Creation, calling for people of faith to work together with scientists for the sake of the creation.
Since the retreat I have been working with Joel Hunter, a mega-church pastor from Florida, and a group of other leaders to gather materials to provide to pastors who are interested in learning more about "creation care." In short, creation care refers to the biblical responsibility we have to "tend the garden" of God's good earth. This necessarily calls for us to learn about the condition of the environment (including global concerns like pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss) and work together with our fellow human beings to care for it well. Within Vineyard nationally, Tri Robinson, senior pastor of the Boise Vineyard Church has been a pioneer in Creation Care. Tri is the co-author of Saving God's Green Earth .
I am personally thrilled to be involved in this effort. For too long, the church in the United States has presented the gospel as if it were nothing more than a personal therapeutic agent: something aimed merely at personal wholeness through salvation, or even worse, as yet another program for what Dallas Willard calls, "sin management."
In fact the gospel is personal, social and global in scope. The center of the gospel is reconciled relationship: with God, other humans, and the whole creation.
I've also been concerned that large sections of the church in the United States have adopted a reactionary posture toward mainstream science. As a human enterprise, science has its limits, of course. But largely through the influence of fundamentalism, American Christianity has too often ignored the findings of science owing to a suspicion of science as a whole. This a hindrance to the ospel and to doing our part as good stewards of the creation.
Informed by the gospel, Christians should be on the forefront of concern for the environment. If anything we should err on the side of considerate use, not abuse of the creation; we should err on the side of protecting the environment, not exploiting it. This has not been our legacy in recent years, and it's high time for us to make amends. The Jesus brand has sufferred a trademark infringement in the United States; whereas the gospel transcends liberal and conservative politics, too often we've been co-opted by the existing power blocks. Fortunately, there are signs of a growing discontent with this state of affairs, and the creation care movement is one of many hopeful signs.