Evangelicals and Climate: Bridging a Gulf

A Foreword

This post has endured many fits and starts. It began as a response to an op-ed piece I first read in November, 2019, and was drawn in by what I considered then to be far-fetched: an evangelical Christian climate scientist and her being the author of a New York Times column. I’ve had to rearrange that bias importantly as I’ve investigated further, finding an authentic minority of evangelicals who, with a compelling sense of God’s calling, vocally and energetically support climate science, that commitment seamlessly merged with biblically-based Christian faith

A headline, The Unlikely Environmentalists, in the Foreign Affairs newsletter “Today” grabbed my attention this morning. According to the author, Rebecca Henderson, a Harvard Business School prof, whose expertise is management of technical change, those unlikely environmentalists are wealth management companies with outsize influence and power that mega-billions or trillions of dollars create in the investment world, including Black Rock, the largest of all. We are beginning to hear investment leaders, she writes, taking climate change in such dead seriousness that they threaten to back off from corporations that refuse to do so as well. A powerful incentive to change will come, she infers, when the corporate sector bypasses a fractious public sector. Her final sentence offers more than a glimmer of hope: “For decades, when it came to addressing climate change, large asset holders and big companies acted more as obstacles than as catalysts. Those days may soon be over.”

That gave me awesome reason to cheer out loud, which is also what happened when another headline, The Christian Case for Climate Action, got me to read a NY Times Sunday Review column a few months ago. I fully expected that column to once again be a liberal’s lament about denial of climate science by right-wing evangelicals, but instead I read startling thinking and writing of another prof, this one an atmospheric scientist and it so happens, evangelical Christian, who’s speaking truth to her West Texas neighbors and all of us about why Christians must catch the wave of climate action.

That scientist is Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, whose roots are in Canada, her doctorate in atmospheric science, and her professorship in political science at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Simultaneously, she’s co-director of the Climate Center there and an ubiquitous speaker and writer delivering truth about climate science. Popular examples of her engaging communication are this TED talk and this conversation with Bill Moyers, and she’s the entertaining narrator of PBS’s cartoon series, “Global Weirding .”

Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, in a West Texas setting

She’s also a life-long evangelical believer. With her missionary parents, she spent some early years in Cali, Colombia (and speaks fluent Spanish). Her father has been a career science educator who influenced her eagerness for good science and convinced her that she need not reject the Bible and church. She’s married to Andrew Farley, the pastor of an evangelical church in Lubbock, and with Andrew she has co-authored, “A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions” (after she had convinced him that climate change was an unavoidable fact). They have a son, Gavin.

I was puzzled: Why on earth does Dr. Hayhoe feel compelled to use her much-sought-after and well-received time to work at drawing in fundamentalist evangelicals who persist in the faith vs. science war and the battles of that war about climate science, who agree with preachers like Robert Jeffress debunking Greta Thunberg, telling her to take a good look at a rainbow and remember God’s promise never again to flood the earth, who admire climate science-denying politicians (130 identified in the current Congress by Business Insider) and vote accordingly, who don’t mind that President Trump dismantles environmental protection regulations, all going on while south sea islanders slosh through flooded streets and Venice is under water at higher levels than supposedly-adequate barriers were able to contain, as sea levels rise and warm, coral reefs bleach, and glaciers melt and disappear—all diametrically opposite what Dr. Hayhoe writes, “Being concerned about climate change is a genuine expression of our faith, bringing out attitudes and actions more closely into line with who we already are and what we most want to be” [my emphasis], a bleak claim when set alongside the reality that more than 70% of evangelicals she’s addressing deny any human cause of global climate change and in tandem insist that change is just part of a natural cycle.

Other sources by and about Dr. Hayhoe let me know that, although she laments evangelical scorn for the science she respects, she’s optimistic when it comes to changing attitudes, welcomes conversations with questioning individuals, and constantly speaks and writes to make clear to all who will listen that global warming is real and any activities that harm the planet will “hurt the ones we’re told to love: the poor and the vulnerable.” It’s clear that she knows the stakes are too high for her to go silently about her work inside a laboratory or classroom with the climate-change choir. She is, simply, evangelical about climate action (but she refuses “debates” in which she’s pitted against a supposed scientific expert on denial to avoid conveying the fraudulent impression that there is one-to-one balance of those opposing ideas.)

So, we have then in this strong person an ingrained evangelical faith and at once an expert, forthright climate scientist, an oxymoron I supposed not long ago. Assuredly not so when so aptly integrated in Dr. Katherine Kayhoe. But is she just a lonely prophet crying out loud in the wilderness without much company in American evangelicalism?

I figured that “Christianity Today” would be the go-to source for evidence. CT has since the 1950s intentionally been a journal that demonstrates intellectual quality within conservative Christianity, originally at least with intention to be distinct from moribund fundamentalism. Far as I can tell it continues to be the go-to publication for many evangelical leaders. Surely then it should be representative of commitments toward climate change among thoughtful Christians.

Using CT’s effective search engine, I looked for recent articles directly concerned with climate change. I found many, all, as it turned out, affirming Christians’ responsibility for care of the earth, none advocating denial or resistance. (I suppose, for opposing positions, I ought to have searched for letters to the editors.)

A fairly recent example is an on-line piece from August 14, 2019, “Should Environmental Concerns Be a Major Priority for a Christian Business Owner?” which comprises comments by eight participants in the Lausanne Movement’s Global Workplace Forum last June in Manila. The reporter’s question asked whether concern for climate should be ranked at a level of such characteristic priorities as evangelism and discipleship. With varying levels of enthusiasm, all answered, “Yes,” to that question and gave unambiguous statements about earth care being an inescapable biblical mandate. Here, in part, Ed Brown, Lausanne’s director of Care of Creation, answers:

“Yes! Without question . . . we’re called to be keepers of God’s garden. . . . Economic activity is a root cause of the environmental crisis, and wise businesspeople recognize that environmental collapse threatens their own business’[s] future, as well as the lives of their own grandchildren. . . .”

Another example is Peter Harris’s web-only article from September 8, 2016. Harris, who co-founded the international Christian ecological organization, A Rocha, shows little reserve in his call for evangelicals to act on climate concerns, making these claims:

Until a truly persuasive and coherent way of valuing nature captures the attention of politicians, business people, farmers, and fishermen, we are likely to see the current devastating trends continue. Christians, of course, have exactly such a coherent view available to us. And there are many Christians around the world who are deeply engaged in caring for creation. But we are still just beginning. Our worship and work and witness will be incomplete until our responsibility to conserve the glorious, God-given diversity of earth’s creatures becomes second nature. [emphasis my own]

A July 30, 2010, editorial in CT magazine responds to the Deepwater Horizon oil-spill in the Gulf of Mexico; the title is, “Let the Sea Resound.” The editors leave little wiggle room for Christians to escape responsibility with such words as these:

To destroy the environment is not only an economic problem—it is also a theological problem. More specifically, it sabotages worship, the chief end of man and of creation. . .The ground has shifted. The church—created to glorify God—can no longer pretend that creation care is an issue just for “sea huggers.” We are the sea huggers. We must change our talk to embrace creation care, and eagerly walk that talk.

Looking backward past Y2K, I found a hard-hitting column that appeared in the May 15, 1995, magazine, identified as an editorial with no caveat, “represents the view of the author,” who is Howard Snyder. (Snyder’s two earliest books, from the mid 1970s, “The Problem of Wineskins,” and “The Community of the King,” both calling for church renewal, affected me and my ministry intensely.) His editorial’s title was “Why We Love the Earth.” He answers a standard evangelical question, “Shouldn’t we just stick to saving souls?” thus:

In a word, no. The question is not the motives or politics of others who are concerned about the environment, but where biblically-informed and Jesus-motivated compassion leads us. We ought to do a better job of caring for the environment because “the Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” Nothing in the New Testament suggests that the biblical concern for creation was canceled by the coming of Christ. Quite the opposite. In the risen Jesus Christ we see the first fruits of a renewed creation. So we seek God’s help in being earth-keepers today. Christians ought to be the most active and effective environmentalists in America.

Then, returning to the 21st century, an article draws me into an extremely interesting and expanded investigation that takes me back 50 years.

On April­, 6, 2015, a digital-only article by John Murdock, self-described as an “evangelical tree hugger,” favorably compares the then recent encyclical of Pope Francis Laudato Si’ with Francis Schaeffer and his 1970 book, “Pollution and the Death of Man.” Of Schaeffer, Murdock writes:

Given the present inclination of religious conservatives towards environmental concerns—white evangelicals now consistently poll among the least concerned about such issues—it may strike some as odd that one of the first published works from the godfather of the Religious Right movement would center on matters green. Schaeffer, though, loved spending time outdoors; he mourned over human actions that marred nature’s beauty and he did not own a car for the final 36 years of his life. He was critical of philosophical elements within the then nascent environmental movement, but his solution was not the ostracism that is regularly practiced today. Instead, he called for the church to lead by example and stand as a “pilot plant” that demonstrated the “substantial healing” of creation that is possible in the here and now.

(An extended version of Murdock’s CT piece appears in the spring 2015 issue of Plough Quarterly, https://www.plough.com/en/topics/justice/environment/conservation-is-for-conservatives. It’s good.)

It seemed, then, tremendously important to follow up on this discovery that close on to the first Earth Day in 1970, early in the movement, a foremost evangelical author had pleaded for Christian participation in earth care. Assuming that Schaeffer would have then been well covered by “Christianity Today,” I searched among issues from that period—CT was published bi-weekly then—and to my thrilled surprise, found the issue of April 23, 1971,with TERRACIDE spread across the front cover, fading from green to brown, over a graphic of a green, flourishing earth split from brown devastation.

Christianitiy Today’s April 23, 1971, issue.

Inside is an editorial likely representing the view of then current editor, Harold Lindsell, unequivocal, even somewhat apocalyptic, in its call to evangelical Christians to read their Bible and hear its clear display of human responsibility for earth care. The editorial ends with this paragraph:

The task is staggering. We are talking here of terracide, the stupid, senseless murder of the earth, man’s killing himself by killing the environment on which he depends for physical life. Were Christians of today to take on the challenge of persuading men to change, they would be performing the greatest feat in the Church’s history. And Jesus’ prophecy that his followers would accomplish “greater works” (John 14:12) makes it a distinct possibility.

Again, I marvel at such stark words being written so early in the understanding of global destruction, and I marvel too that in an editorial on November 23, 2018, headlined, “Where We Got It Wrong,” Mark Galli, then editor in chief of CT, reviewing long-past editorials, includes identically the above Lindsell quote as representative of editorials that “ring true today.” (He goes on to identify racism as a topic which some early editorials now “make an editor in chief wince.”)

In the first few pages of that 1971 issue Lindsell writes this over his personal signature as editor, obviously representing his personal views:

The scriptures admonish us to “covet earnestly the best gifts” (I Cor. 12:31) and to “covet to prophesy” (I Cor. 14:39). So let’s covet holiness, liberality, love, and kindness. And in line with the theme of this issue of the magazine, let’s also covet cleaner water and air, better soil, a declining birth rate, and whatever else will promote the restoration of the good, green earth that God created.

The lead article in that issue is an interview with a climate scientist, Dr. Carl Reidel, then a professor at Williams College but soon to begin a 28-year-long professorship at the University of Vermont. The interview is introduced with more near-apocalyptic phrases including these: “ . . . extermination of human life because of environmental deterioration seems certain unless there is a dramatic turnabout in our way of life.” The interviewer’s first question is, “Dr. Reidel, is the environmental crisis as serious as so many make it out to be?” His answer, “Put it this way: Things are much, much worse than most people think.” Later, when questioned about the major cause of the crisis, he names rampant consumption and the desire for affluence, which then leads to the conclusion that Christians must reexamine their values to see where materialism has corrupted those values and make changes that would be examples to the world’s people that change is absolutely necessary.

Until recently, I suppose I’d have been startled to find this long-ago issue hailed in “Christianity Today” 48 years later! Dr. Lindsell was well known at the time for another persisting issue of his own, defense of a verbally inspired Bible, and so proclaimed himself a strict conservative, which to me makes his prophetic, evangelical intensity regarding earth care seem amazing now, and as well, Katharine Hayhoe’s 2019 article nearly 50 years later unique and unexpected. Again I find myself speculating about what has so vehemently changed evangelical thinking.

Havng been recalled to that early 1970s history, I remembered a prominent evangelical event, a meeting at the Wabash Ave. YMCA in Chicago over Thanksgiving, 1973, of mostly a new generation of evangelical leaders concerned about evangelical lack, even defiance, of social action. Out of that meeting came the supremely influential Chicago Statement on Evangelical Social Action. I turned to that statement expecting to find another forthright declaration of ecological concern. Surprisingly, I did not. I can only imagine that environmental care must have been on the agenda, given all the evidence of contemporary evangelical concern. There is confession of several sins, among them racism, oppression of women, materialism, the existence of poverty, of silence toward injustice, but on the sin of environmental degradation, no such confession, Earth Day with its enormous impact a few years before notwithstanding, nor a CT issue about terracide.

In a 20th anniversary commemoration of that 1973 meeting, a diverse group of evangelical leaders, including some of the 1973 signers, gathered again in Chicago and again issued a declaration. The new document, in an interesting weep, dream, and commit mode, reformatted the 1973 statement in large part around the issues that had incited that earlier statement, but this time earth care made its way into the wording.:

We weep over our exploitative practices and consumerist lifestyles that destroy God’s good creation. We dream of a church that leads in caring for creation and calls Christians to serve as faithful partners of God in renewing and sustaining God’s handiwork.

Again, in 2018, another diverse group with many persons of color descended on Chicago, this time in the 45th anniversary year and within the backwash of a 2016 election that had emerged as a product of wholesale “evangelical” support of Donald Trump.

Although “evangelical” was an accepted descriptor of conservative Christianity, it had long since been co-opted by American media to refer to a political grouping at the far right. Those gathering in Chicago on the 45th anniversary of the Chicago Declaration are determined to set a clear demarcation between that now-conspicuous political grouping and the brand of progressive evangelicalism they represented. They restated their determination to care for the people with the least of a world’s goods where wealth and power dominated, the world seemingly now supported by a vast majority of “evangelicals.” Included in the statement, called The Chicago Invitation, signed by a appreciable group of leading lights of the progressive evangelical world, is this rather lonely sentence: “We commit to care for and protect the earth as God’s creation.”

The language witnesses to divine creation as motivation for earth care, but what is missing is a motivation that’s prominent in Katherine Hayhoe’s work and is repeated often by evangelicals who have immersed themselves deeply in the climate care movement, The Invitation clearly denounces oppressions such as racism and poverty without mention of the now obvious fact that climate degradation will add more oppression for those already most oppressed and least able to deal with the changes. Neighbor love has joined stewardship as an inescapable motivator in evangelical thought about climate change.

From the archives: Interview: Sir John Houghton, meteorologist ...
Sir John Houghton (1931-2020). John Houghton was among the first atmospheric scientists to be aware of global climate change and its causes. He went on to be a leader in the science of climate change, working within the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC). He represented the IPCC when it received the Nobel Prize alongside Al Gore in 2007. He was knighted in 1991. He was as well .a devout evangelical Christian who has strongly influenced other Christians to embrace climate science and work for change. He died at his home in Wales of Covid-19 complications on April 15, 2020.

The year 2006 turned out to be a critical year for climate action by evangelicals. Compelled by a desire to move evangelicals toward action on climate change, a concerned group within the National Association of Evangelicals, stirred by strong Christian voices like that of Sir John Houghton, a foremost British climate scientist, prepared a strongly-worded statement, “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action,” that made four claims that were then defended in the document..

  • Claim 1: Human-induced climate change is real.
  • Claim 2: The consequences of climate change will be significant, and will hit the poor the hardest.
  • Claim 3: Christian moral convictions demand our response to the climate change problem.
  • Claim 4: The need to act now is urgent. Governments, businesses, churches, and individuals all have a role to play in addressing climate change–starting now.

The intention was that television ads, lobbying at the Capitol in Washington. D.C., national legislation, and educational materials for churches, would follow up the Call to Action.

The 86 signers of the resolution included presidents of leading evangelical colleges and universities, seminaries, and faith-based organizations, presidents of several denominations, nationally-known pastors of mega-churches, numerous leaders among black evangelicals, and other pastors and church leaders.

Publication of the statement brought an immediate retort from prominent far-right leaders, including leading lights like James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Charles Colson, most noted for founding Prison Fellowship, and Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, who had hurriedly organized themselves into a group they called Interfaith Stewardship Alliance. The group sent a letter with 22 signers to the NAE, asserting that the “Call to Action” did not represent a consensus of evangelical thinking about human-caused climate change. As quoted by an NPR Morning Edition segment, Land said, “. . .[H]uman beings come first in God’s created order, . . .[a]nd that primacy must be given to human beings and for human betterment. If that means that other parts of nature take a back seat, well, then they take a back seat.”

The fissure could not be ignored. Rev. Ted Haggard, then president of the NAE did not sign the “Call to Action,” although he had urged its development, and Richard Cizik, NAE’s chief Washington lobbyist, who had given intensive leadership, removed his name. Later Haggard told the NY Times that his signature would have given an impression that the NAE as such issued the resolution, but went on to say, “There is no doubt about it in my mind that climate change is happening, and there is no doubt about it that it would be wise for us to stop doing the foolish things that could potentially be causing this. In my mind there is no downside to being cautious.”

Haggard resigned his leadership of NAE shortly after this episode, although for other reasons. His replacement was Leith Anderson, a Minneapolis pastor, whose name appears on later lists of signers, as does Cizik’s, who also had resigned from his NAE job. Anderson’s strong support of climate control was featured in the NPR Morning Edition segment (link above) a year before he joined NAE.

The NPR segment also provided a link to a news release from Ellison Research of Phoenix about a poll taken at the same time this controversy was developing. They had studied opinions about climate change of 1,000 born-again evangelicals and reported “Overall, three out of four evangelicals tend to support environmental issues and causes such as reducing global warming or protecting wilderness areas from development, including one out of four who tend to support these issues strongly.” NAE leaders had actually read their public well. The nay-sayers, although powerful and influential, didn’t represent majority evangelical opinion on climate change at that time.

All of which prompts speculation about why the 180 degree shift in evangelicals’ opinions. From 75% favorable in 2006, current polls show nearly that number unfavorable. It’s got to be recognized that there has been no shift during those years in majority scientific opinion, no new contrary discoveries that turned the issue topsy-turvy, only wholesale evangelical desertion.

The year 2006 was on the cusp of gigantic economic collapse. Two years later, the country elected Barack Obama to be their first black president. His favorable views about active climate control had been an important issue of his campaign. Then, Dick Armey and company painted the Tea Party bus, fueled by right-wing billionaires, and set off around the country, creating a constant barrage of resistance to all that was Obama. Since extraction industries, dear to the hearts of Tea Party leaders and investors, were in the bulls-eye of climate science, denial was set front and center, and evangelicals were wooed and won.

By 2010 Republican senators and representatives elbowed past each other to explain away previous support of climate control. Evangelicals had joined the Tea Party in droves. By 2016 evangelicals were groomed to jump onto the rumbling Trump bandwagon. It was a new world, the promising 2006 “Call to Action,” quietly faded into limbo, and working on climate change fell to the 25% of evangelicals left to join the McKibbens and Gores and Thunbergs, and ever-increasing majorities of scientists, keeping the issue very much alive but effectively impotent against the brutal demolition of hard-won climate controls by current White House occupants, backed up by a Republican-dominated Senate stalling any opposition and by the evangelical majority who ratified it all. .

Into this defiant world, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe ventures delicately but confidently. In her Times op-ed piece she recognizes the dominant political face of the opposition she confronts:

It turns out, it’s not where we go to church (or don’t) that determines our opinion on climate. . . . It’s because of the alliance between conservative theology and conservative politics that has been deliberately engineered and fostered over decades of increasingly divisive politics on issues of race, abortion and now climate change, to the point where the best predictor of whether we agree with the science is simply where we fall on the political spectrum.

Which means, probably, that evangelicals haven’t forsaken ingrained theological/ biblical foundations and an opening exists to evoke those, for many evangelicals, much deeper commitments. She describes a conversation with a questioner in the setting of her own church who had asked if she believed in climate science. She replied that she did not. To her puzzled questioner, she explained:

. . . that climate change is not a belief system. We know that the earth’s climate is changing thanks to observations, facts and data about God’s creation that we can see with our eyes and test with the sound minds that God has given us. And still more fundamentally . . . real people are being affected today; and we believe that God’s love has been poured in our hearts to share with our brothers and sisters here and around the world who are suffering. . . Being concerned about climate change is a genuine expression of our faith, bringing our attitudes and actions more closely into line with who we already are and what we most want to be.

It’s interesting to contemplate how Dr. Hayhoe likely felt and her intentions as she wrote this op-ed column for an editorial room and readers who would readily buy into her climate science claims but be put off by clearly-said Christian language and assumptions and/or lack any insight as to why such language is essential to the article—and there’s no Google translation link.

In an evangelical setting, she faces the polar opposite challenge: Listeners hear her biblical language positively, understanding fully what she’s saying. Her climate science claims actuate a wholly different reaction: She meets whole- cloth skepticism or misguided ignorance, yet obviously Dr. Hayhoe sees openings among some who are drawn by bold testimony of Christian faith to listen as well to the science claims and perhaps begin to realize how, for this convincing person, the two are seamlessly joined. Frankly, her faith statements affirm for me an even clearer call to care of the earth.

For sure, she’s not alone in this interesting duality among evangelicals. Alongside her are her friends in Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, for whom she serves as a senior adviser. She has compatriots at A Rocha, the international Christian conservation organization. She can assuredly feel supported by the influential Lausanne Movement, given its commitments that emerged from the 2010 Cape Town Congress in statements like this:

We support Christians whose particular missional calling is to environmental advocacy and action, as well as those committed to godly fulfilment of the mandate to provide for human welfare and needs by exercising responsible dominion and stewardship.

(These words are part of a much larger section of the Cape Town Commitment entitled, “We Love the Earth.”)

She has colleagues in The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion based in Cambridge, U.K. and at the John Fry Initiative, based in Wales, each with explicit aims to relate climate science and faith. (The John Fry Initiative was founded by Sir John Houghton.) Other colleagues work from the World Evangelical Alliance’s Sustainability Center and are closely associated with the related Renew Our World Campaign that seeks to advance decisions of the Paris Agreement (2016) in 14 countries—all fundamentally driven by strong Christian commitments, affirming themselves as evangelicals. Again, one cannot help but by impressed by the facts here that evangelicals who support earth care would not feel nearly as lonely in most of the rest of the world as it seems they must in America.

Living coral
Coral Bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef May Get a Lot Worse in ...
Dying coral

Meanwhile, there are other evangelicals, and surely many about whom I know little or nothing, who are hard at work repairing a broken earth. An August, 2017, CT article, has a title that would have not long ago seemed to be a paradox, “Thoughts on Discipleship from a Marine Conservationist.” The author is Cara Daneel, a South African marine scientist (now Cara Parrett) who gives both good news and bad news. The good news is of her conservation work in coral colonies, first in the Maldives and off Madagascar and later at the Great Barrier Reef off northwest Australia. The story she tells is lyrical at times, particularly in details about night visits to the reefs, and constantly reflects her respect and love for the intricacies of divine creation and concern for the tiniest of creatures who make up the coral colonies. The bad news is not at all news: coral reefs are being mortally impaired by warming and pollution of oceans. Scientists estimate that already two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef is bleached. If water conditions don’t change soon, says Cara Daneel “the coral will starve and die, leaving behind lifeless white skeletons.”

Dr. Daneel closes her article with thoughts about a Christian’s call to discipleship that, for her, directly means stewardship of the earth. She writes that she looks to “. . . Margaret W. Miller as an example of belief in action.” Dr. Miller is another Christian marine biologist who works with coral reefs off the coast of Florida.

With Dr. Daneel, Dr. Miller laments that “much of what we observe them doing in the world is dying.” (In another context, she reveals that seeing bleached coral “was the first time I cried under water.”) But she labors on to care for the reefs she loves which, Cara Danell says, Dr. Miller does “stubbornly.” “Her efforts to help the coral reproduce even go as far as coral midwifery and coral gardening, which involve assisting egg fertilization, nursing young colonies, and spreading fragments to new areas.” Why? Because she sees it all as an extension of her discipleship and is convinced

“ . . .that God loves his creation and wants ecosystems to flourish and function in the way he intended. This idea gives the system an intrinsic value as God’s creation. It also connects us to God’s command to care for the vulnerable and marginalized of his creation—in this case, his coral ecosystems and the human communities who depend upon them.”

I’m painfully struck by the colossal theological gulf that exists between such discipleship and what’s expressed in words used to stigmatize the National Association of Evangelicals 2006 Call to Action, claiming human priority to be God’s plan and “. . .if that means that other parts of nature take a back seat, well, then they take a back seat.”

Yet despite the challenges of bridging that gulf, the thread that runs through the work of Dr. Hayhoe, Dr. Daneel, and Dr. Miller and, as I’ve now happily observed, many, many more, is the desire that their discoveries, their commitment to earth care, alongside and merged with unfailing Christian witness, be communicated in full to a church-going audience that’s at best lethargic about caring for the earth, at worst, antagonistic, in fact, the people with whom, Sunday by Sunday, they worship God as Creator and Sustainer of all.

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