Against my better judgment

Long post – in summary some “pastor” thinks I’m ignorant because I think we should be preaching the gospel rather than caring about the environment. 

So, Amy was so annoyed by my theological viewpoint on the environment in this post that she called in an “expert”. He responded with a particularly long critique of my position, my post, and at times in a way I would consider an affront and pretty insulting – like where he compares being a climate change agnostic to being Pontius Pilate. Which I guess kind of backs up my point that climate change is essentially being considered as a salvation issue by some people.

I also like the part where he compares climate change to slavery and suggests that I’ll never amount to anything like Wilberforce or Newton.

Oh, and the bit where he suggested that God is not in control of the weather. So I guess he doesn’t pray for rain, and he probably ignores that awkward bit in the Bible where God brings a flood, and the bit where he brings a seven year famine, and the bit where he makes it dark when Jesus is being crucified… 

And who can forget the bit where he suggests that Jesus saw feeding the 5000 some lunch was as important as the teaching he was doing that lead them to being hungry – you know, the teaching about the kingdom of God being near. The teaching about how they should turn to him or face death and judgment. Oh yeah, that’s right. Jesus was all about temporal needs. That’s why when he told the paralysed man to get up and walk he did it AFTER forgiving his sins. That is the first and only time I will use block caps here to voice my displeasure. 

But he went to the time and effort of responding so here is his unabridged essay (it’s very long) below. 

I feel like I need to mount defences on some of these points but have not figured out the best way to do that. While I figure that out feel free to read this and jump in with your own critique – I’m sure Amy will either direct him here to respond or pass on our responses – because that seems only fair. 

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This will be a long post – responses to all of this topic by a Pastor friend of mine (also studies economics before Nathan starts critiquing credentials to argue about economics). This is transcribed as is from a word doc so I have copied out what para was referenced in italics, and his response normally. Hopefully all will be clear (and that the Hebrew actually comes through).

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Firstly, he would like to point out to Nathan that disparaging companies that have a triple bottom line is a bit rich when you buy coffee from http://store.ministrygrounds.net.au/ (who support “Rainforest Alliance”).

Also, that isn’t labelling yourself as a climate change agnostic the same as ‘washing your hands of responsibility’ a la a certain other individual 2000 years ago?

And, finally, that you are quite happy to travel NZ and admire the beauty of nature and post photos of such on your site – but not visit industrial sites and other sites of human achievements.

*****

Okay, in response to comments:

1.Amy:
1. I am of the mind to think that when God gave us this planet to look after, it was sort of a house-sitting arrangement. He isn’t going to be too happy to come back and find we’ve trashed the joint, is He?

Hmmm – not a house sitting arrangement as such but still His creation that we have been entrusted with to be good stewards of. Gen 2:15 tells us that man(kind) was given the task of working the garden to provide food but to also take care of it.

According to the Strong’s Bible Dictionary:
The word Work (NIV) in Hebrew means: עָבַד
‛âbad
aw-bad’
A primitive root; to work (in any sense); by implication to serve, till, (causatively) enslave, etc.:— X be, keep in bondage, be bondmen, bond-service, compel, do, dress, ear, execute, + husbandman, keep, labour (-ing man), bring to pass, (cause to, make to) serve (-ing, self), (be, become) servant (-s), do (use) service, till (-er), transgress [from margin], (set a) work, be wrought, worshipper.

Then the word Take Care (NIV) in Hebrew means:
שָׁמַר
shâmar
shaw-mar’
A primitive root; properly to hedge about (as with thorns), that is, guard; generally to protect, attend to, etc.:—beware, be circumspect, take heed (to self), keep (-er, self), mark, look narrowly, observe, preserve, regard, reserve, save (self), sure, (that lay) wait (for), watch (-man).

So there is both a sense of tilling the soil and labouring in the garden (yep even in a perfect world there was work!!) but also to be protective and preserve it.

See also Gen 6:19, 30:31,
The first 5 books (the Pentateuch) give this latter word a meaning of ‘preservation’ for the future. Along with the commandments and laws where the same word is used in Leviticus (18:4-5) gives the clear indication that this act of preservation is not passive but active.

The other side of this is Revelation 21:1 tells us that at the end of this age this current earth will pass away – be concluded with.

Subsequent to the Genesis 2 account, I am not aware of any revoking of our responsibilities that were given to us by God. The only addition is that the ground is now cursed because of our sin (Gen 3:17-19a) and the work and care we engage in will be more difficult.

So the upshot in a snap shot is that while we do not know when God will wrap things up in the future, He has given us a clear responsibility to take care of things until He (destroys/renews) it and makes us a new earth.

2. Nathan
The worst kind of green evangelist is the prosperity preacher – the ones spruiking environmentalism as an opportunity to grow your business through “triple bottom line sustainability” – seriously that’s such a corporate sell out.

See initial comments above

3. Nathan re Romans 8:20-22
We should expect creation and vis a vis nature to be frustrated, to be broken, to be falling apart. This is pretty much why I’m not overly concerned that the ice caps are melting.

Interesting point. But what was the point of Paul raising this – it was as evidence to the fall of mankind. So are we carry a similar level of concern about mankind? I realise they are not the same. Humans are the only aspect of creation which were created in the image of God. But also like us, creation longs to be liberated from the consequences of sin.

We do not sit on our hands and do nothing about the liberating of humans – we seek to introduce them to Jesus, disciple others and also work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

So yes there is to be a higher level of responsibility towards seeing people come to faith, but that does not mean we can abdicate responsibility for the ‘ice caps’.

4. Nathan re Genesis 3:17
“Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;…

The same word ‘curse’ is used against people 1 Sam 14:24 & 28.

5. Nathan:
Not only are our lives insignificant in terms of the lifespan of creation – we can, and should, expect life to be hard work. We should be expecting the climate to change in a frustrating way. That’s what I reckon anyway. So I’m ambivalent about carbon trading, carbon offsets, carbon sequestration, and taxing businesses on the basis of their carbon emissions.

Perhaps Nathan takes more of His theology from Billy Joel’s ‘We didn’t start the fire’ than from verses such as James 4:17

6. Nathan:
Trying to tackle climate change is like urinating into a pedestal fan – pretty pointless. That is a crude analogy. But sums up my thoughts on anyone who’d rather pursue “pie in the sky” carbon taxes that will cost people jobs. It seems the Federal Government is going to backpedal away from that policy faster than an off balance unicyclist, which in my mind can only be a good thing.

Such a fatalist and sad position to take. It is too hard so I won’t try. I would not expect Nathan to be a John Newton or a Wilberforce:

“Among his (Newton’s) greatest contributions to history was encouraging William Wilberforce, a Member of Parliament for Hull, to stay in Parliament and “serve God where he was”, rather than enter the ministry. Wilberforce heeded the ex-slaveship captain’s advice, and spent the next twenty years successfully working for the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Newton

Or a Nathan – his namesake who was prepared to confront the King 2 Samuel 12:1-12

Or a Jonathan 1 Samuel 14:6-15

Or the list could go on of God honouring people who were prepared to take a stand against impossible odds!

7. Nathan:
Really, from Australia’s perspective, we’re a microbe in a sea of whales when it comes to pollution. Any stance we take will only be on principle – and it will be a phyrric victory that comes at the cost of Australian jobs and we’ll all end up drowning when sea levels rise anyway. Thanks to our propensity for coastal living. Now, onto proposition number two.

Yep – Kinda like a David against a Goliath hey!!

But also don’t we have a responsibility as a nation to do something about the effects of our exports? That would be like us flushing the toilet and saying it is the beach goer’s responsibility to clean up our mess.

Actually economists suggest that it is well within our GDP ability to nationally absorb the increase due to the environmental recommendations.

8. Nathan re Genesis 1:28
We are called on to “subdue” the earth and to excercise dominion over the animal kingdom. I would argue theologically that the idea of subdugation here is referring to bringing order to disorder – to ploughing fields in order to grow crops, to production, to using natural resources in order to cater for the prescribed “multiplication” in numbers. I would argue that the proverbial “paving paradise to put up a parking lot” fits into the category of “bringing order”. Particularly if the development is designed with obsessive compulsive people in mind.

Great point. It is interesting then that we have people starving to death because of our inability to subdue the earth appropriately!

Paving paradise is like paving the veggie patch – when it really comes down to it, it doesn’t make much sense. We take some of the most productive food producing and grazing land and build houses on it. Where is the logic in that?

9. Leah:
Problem #1 exists but no matter what we as humans do (especially we as Australians), we’re not going to change it. Not significantly. Like you said, the bible predicts it and it’s always happened and is going to continue to happen.

See my comments above DT6-8
(Amy’s note: Not sure on the reference here – hoping someone else can work it out – Deut perhaps?)

10. Amy:
Theologically yes we should expect life to be hard. But the point is we are not making it so hard for ourselves, but the most vulnerable in the world. The poorest people are those who can least afford to suffer

Jesus in Matt 26:7; Mark 14:7 and John 12:7 talks about the poor. It was a comm. On saying that all the hearers would be able to finish the rest of the Deut 15:10-11 passage that Jesus was quoting.

11. Amy
A far better strategy is to invest in green technologies that will create jobs – solar plants, geo-thermal power, biodegradable plastics, hydrogen fuels, vertical farming etc. The ideas are all there, just dying from lack of funding.

Absolutely. Australians have invented amazing things like black box flight recorders. We could become an international innovator by creating Green Collar workers who build green technology when everyone else are saying it is too hard. The attitude that says we won’t move until everyone else does is nonsensical.

12. Nathan:
. Believing in God’s total sovereignty, as I do, means that I think God ultimately controls the weather. And thus that any change in the climate is ultimately his responsibility.

Sovereignty and control are too different things and are not synonymous. To say God controls the weather would also suggest that God causes the weather to do what it does. Yep God can intervene and so can we at times. But that sort of logic suggest that God is also in control of the gunman that shoots up the kids at school etc.

Sorry that sort of argument is rubbish!

Yes ultimately nothing happens without God allowing it, but that also does not mean we can abdicate our responsibility either.

Free will??? Where have I heard of that before? We choose – and God holds us accountable and responsible for our choices. Otherwise, on the basis of Nathan’s argument we can blame God for allowing sin to enter into the world and He is a mongrel for punishing us for something that we have no responsibility for – after all isn’t God in control???

13. Amy:
But was the fall the whole planet or humanity? You could argue that it was specifically referring to humans. There are also theological standpoints that say Jesus superceded/overruled the fall as the fulfillment of the law. But I don’t have the training to argue that at this point.

The fall affected all of creation – the planet and mankind.

Hmmm not really. Yep we were the ones that stuffed up – but the results affected the planet and animals etc.

14. Amy
I do think businesses should be looking at changing the way they operate to become more sustainable, and I guess the Government figures the best way to cause this is to hit them where it hurts.

It is seen that taxing is the best/fairest way to bring about change in business. A user pay system rather than levies and one off payments. If an industry pays money to reduce their carbon emissions, then they pay less tax. If they choose not to for economic reasons, that is OK as long as the tax goes towards other mitigation measures. So yep it should be put back into sustainability issues – not to prop up the budget bottom line. But that is a government policy decision. Once again, when governments do not take responsibility for the decisions and the past decisions, we end up perpetuating the problem rather than working towards better management.

15. Nathan:
. Preventing building of new houses because a finch might have to pack its bags and move elsewhere.

But would Nathan be a prepared to say – grandma, you have to move because they are resuming your house for a highway – take one for the progress team! Yep a bit of a jump, but when do we say the cost is too much?

16. Nathan
And if my coffee machine consumes onerous amounts of energy and emits tonnes of toxic carbon – I’ll pay for it to do so. I’m not going to stop so that a hippy somewhere can unchain themselves from the gates of a coal mine.

But the problem is that we don’t pay for it. The true cost of the impact on the environment is not worked through. It is an external cost that is not recognised and therefore not passed on to the consumer. As a result the purchase price for so many things are artificially lower because the cost on the environment is not recognised or factored in to the costs of production.

17. Nathan:
I’d much rather put my time and energy into meeting people’s spiritual needs than their temporal.

Wooow – That flies in the face of what Jesus and James stood against. James 2:14-26. Jesus would never had feed the 4,000/5,000 healed the sick etc. When we became Christians we would be zapped off the earth. Nup sorry that does not wash at all. We have a responsibility to care for the whole person, not just their spiritual needs. Whatever you did to the least of these…. (Matt 25:31-46).

18. Nathan:
I agree that we’ve probably played some part in changing the climate – you’d be an idiot to think that changing the finely balanced conditions in the world would have no effect. And I agree we have to face the consequences and adapt. I just don’t think adaptation necessarily looks like the Greens suggest it does.

But what if rather than throwing up our hands in the air we actually tried to reverse some of what we have done. Our bodies have the ability to reverse some of the damage of smoking if we stop soon enough. The planet has the ability to rebound if we act. It will not get back to Eden, but to say it is all too late is a cop out as well.

19. Queenstuss:
If climate change actually mattered, the various governments would be putting money and effort into sustainable developments: renewable energies rather than coal power, public transport rather than expressways etc.

Call me a cynic, but climate change will only matter if the people say it does. The democratic governments are elected by the people and we ultimately are responsible for what the governments do. If we shout enough, the governments will act.

20. Leah:
Living so that we make less emissions so that the earth stops warming up so that the icecaps don’t melt: not good. Because we *can’t*. Nothing we do will stop the earth warming up.

On what basis is this argument made? My understanding is the jury is still out on that. So we can either say until we have conclusive proof we will do nothing – or we can say, let us do the best we can, even if it costs us financially and in changing our behaviours to have a better way of life. And if it helps great. If not – have we really lost anything?

21. Alison:
. Christians always jump straight to comparing the environment to the gospel in a way that they don’t with other ideas. Why is that? Isn’t it also more important to share the gospel than fix pot holes, fiddle about with coffee ;), design clothing etc…

I guess the thing is that Jesus wants us to live life to the full (John 10:10) and a part of that is how we worship God. That is more than going to church but in our vocations – is the gospel more important that building safe houses? In a lot of ways yes. What good is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul (Mark 8:36). But what is the gospel – it is good news. If someone is homeless and hungry – to see them become a Christian but then starve to death or die of exposure does not fulfil the James 2:14-17. It was never meant to be an either/or but a both/and.

22. Alison:
Also, our bodies are also subject to decay. If we help someone live a little longer, they will still die one day. I think the bible also makes it clear that the poor will always be with us, and that “make poverty history” will not ultimately be successful

This is such an inaccurate interpretation of the text. Jesus expected his audience to finish off the Deut passage themselves. Not use it as an excuse to say it is all too hard Deut 15:10-11. Part of the reason for us being in the situation we are is because people misquote either out of convenience or ignorance. Once ignorance is corrected – it is a question of obedience or disobedience!

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Okay, that’s it. Phew!

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

44 thoughts on “Against my better judgment”

  1. More defenses of myself…

    1. I buy Ministry Grounds coffee for a few reasons – and I generally steer clear of the Rainforest Alliance stuff because I prefer the flavour of others. Ministry Grounds is cheap, it allows me to support ministry (if I buy particular types of beans), and the cheapness of the coffee frees up my finances for other things and allows me to be generous with my coffee and my money. If I was paying $40 for a kilo of coffee there’d be no way I’d be donating my time, expertise and machine to Christian events as readily as I do.

    3. I go to plenty of man made attractions, and did in New Zealand – Every night we stayed in a man made attraction, we drove around in a fuel guzzling man made climate killer. I celebrate the industrial revolution every time I turn on a light. And sure, I appreciate God’s creation – I like to look at it. I hope future generations will to – but I’d rather they know Jesus. So that is where I’ll devote my time and attention.

    Half the comments he makes I fail to see any relevancy for. Like the one about the curse being extended to men too? Well, let me see, that’s kind of the whole point of my argument. We need to worry about people being cursed before we worry about men being cursed.

    He also points out that God will eventually destroy creation – which I would have thought lends itself to the idea that trying to keep it is a secondary concern to those things that won’t be annihilated – like people’s souls.

    Given that I don’t think carbon trading is “good” I don’t see how James 4:17 applies.

  2. Right Nathan – that was helpful.

    If you are going to use scripture to argue certain points – which you did – I wanted to see what others who have studied the Bible had to say. This ‘pastor’ as you say, has studied and worked as a pastor for many, many years – I wouldn’t be casting aspersions on his qualifications at this point.

    His notes were rough and a bit rude yes, but I have transcribed exactly to make sure I didn’t change the meaning of what he said. But they are NOTES – meant for discussion, not to be insulting. And reacting to insult by insulting someone probably isn’t the way to go.

    I will address a few of your points in a second.

    I will res

    1. Not casting aspersions at his qualifications just his scant disregard to context. The context of those posts was on my blog. I don’t think climate change is a theological issue of significance – I think scripturally we should be expecting creation to feel certain human induced frustrations.

      I think Jesus commands us to love him and love our neighbours – I think the best way to love our neighbours is to preach the gospel. This pastor friend of yours may be in the wrong profession if he thinks the environment is the fundamental challenge that we should be addressing.

      He also doesn’t know me, to my knowledge has never met me, and made all sorts of judgements about me – including that I’m ignorant.

      How did you expect me to react to that?

  3. So, Amy was so annoyed by my theological viewpoint on the environment in this post that she called in an “expert”. He responded with a particularly long critique of my position, my post, and at times in a way I would consider an affront and pretty insulting – like where he compares being a climate change agnostic to being Pontius Pilate. Which I guess kind of backs up my point that climate change is essentially being considered as a salvation issue by some people.

    As said, not so much annoyed as wanting another opinion from someone who has studied scripture at great depth.

    The Pontius Pilate reference is to people saying – I don’t think it is true therefore I absolve myself. His point was that if you are saying I am not convinced, therefore I will do nothing, you are removing responsibilty for yourself.

    I also like the part where he compares climate change to slavery and suggests that I’ll never amount to anything like Wilberforce or Newton.

    No, what he was saying is that these people stood up for something big against what the prevailing opinion was at the time. In a similiar way you could argue that being for the environment in this materialistic world perhaps is a similar thing.

    You are making the point here I think that slavery is a bigger issue than this – I would disagree – in the sense that it will cause extreme poverty / more poverty amongst parts of the world’s population.

    Oh, and the bit where he suggested that God is not in control of the weather. So I guess he doesn’t pray for rain, and he probably ignores that awkward bit in the Bible where God brings a flood, and the bit where he brings a seven year famine, and the bit where he makes it dark when Jesus is being crucified…

    That is not what he said at all. He said He rules over it yes, but He doesn’t have to intervene. I think you deliberately misunderstood him.

    And who can forget the bit where he suggests that Jesus saw feeding the 5000 some lunch was as important as the teaching he was doing that lead them to being hungry – you know, the teaching about the kingdom of God being near. The teaching about how they should turn to him or face death and judgment. Oh yeah, that’s right. Jesus was all about temporal needs. That’s why when he told the paralysed man to get up and walk he did it AFTER forgiving his sins. That is the first and only time I will use block caps here to voice my displeasure.

    THe point he was making was that you can bring people to God, but you also have a responsibility to provide for their other needs. God didn’t say convert them then ignore them. He said, treat the least of them like you would me. That means, I would presume, that you would FEED them.

    But he went to the time and effort of responding so here is his unabridged essay (it’s very long) below.

    He did, and I don’t think he deserves the treatment you have given out.

    I feel like I need to mount defences on some of these points but have not figured out the best way to do that. While I figure that out feel free to read this and jump in with your own critique – I’m sure Amy will either direct him here to respond or pass on our responses – because that seems only fair.

    I probably won’t direct him here, because I think you have been really offensive. He gave me permission to post his responses so I am sure he wouldn’t mind debating with you, but he does not have a huge amount of time available. I will ask him if he wants me to pass on his email address.

    1. I think you’re being far too generous to him – and not extending any of that generosity to me.

      Surely comparing a Christian to Pontius Pilate is the equivalent of comparing a Jew to Hitler. In fact using Pilate in an argument is almost reductio ad pontiusium – and should be seen as the theological equivalent of breaking Godwin’s Law.

      In saying that those people stood up against the prevailing social orthodoxy he purposefully drawing a direct comparison between their actions and my failure to act. I couldn’t argue that the environment is a similar thing because I don’t think it is. I think the most similar thing to slavery in our current climate is abortion. But that’s my opinion.

      There are so many people who are not “agnostic” but “atheist” when it comes to the great idol of climate change that I’m pretty comfortable disagreeing with his assessment.

      1. “I think you’re being far too generous to him – and not extending any of that generosity to me.”

        Actually, that’s probably harsh. You do know both of us afterall.

        But I would like to think that in your description of the content you were asking him to respond to you would have suggested that I’m not some ignorant theological hack out to justify my own theories by misinterpreting scripture.

  4. 1. I buy Ministry Grounds coffee for a few reasons – and I generally steer clear of the Rainforest Alliance stuff because I prefer the flavour of others. Ministry Grounds is cheap, it allows me to support ministry (if I buy particular types of beans), and the cheapness of the coffee frees up my finances for other things and allows me to be generous with my coffee and my money. If I was paying $40 for a kilo of coffee there’d be no way I’d be donating my time, expertise and machine to Christian events as readily as I do.

    His point here was that this is a Christian organisation who obviously value the triple bottom line that you criticise.

    1. He did that without doing any research though. I don’t buy Rainforest Alliance. The fact that the proprietor of Ministry Grounds offers that option is neither here nor there as far as I am concerned.

      His point is not well made. None of them are. He’s throwing spears at strawmen. It’s a poor attempt to engage with the source material and ends up coming across as trite and insulting.

      What point was he trying to make about my New Zealand holiday? Sure, I visited a glacier. A glacier that the guide told us was growing not shrinking. I appreciate nature – that’s normal, I think creation is beautiful – that’s not going to stop me suggesting that we should harness the things in creation that make life better (like coal) to enjoy creation more fully – and to provide power to developing countries – although perhaps he’d argue the average person in China was better off prior to its new found prosperity? How do you solve poverty without creating conditions in which the impoverished can work?

      He’s arguing against a caricature – and has done so unfairly.

  5. Surely comparing a Christian to Pontius Pilate is the equivalent of comparing a Jew to Hitler. In fact using Pilate in an argument is almost reductio ad pontiusium – and should be seen as the theological equivalent of breaking Godwin’s Law.

    Really? I guess I don’t see him that way – I always felt that his actions were reasonably understandable – if you want to do this it is on your own back. That’s me.

    I think perhaps he was just trying to shake you up a bit – make the point that it maybe isn’t good to be complacent on this (or say that God has me for higher things, so I don’t have to worry about this). I don’t know, I don’t want to put words in his mouth. Just know he likes to stir the pot just as much as you do.

    In saying that those people stood up against the prevailing social orthodoxy he purposefully drawing a direct comparison between their actions and my failure to act. I couldn’t argue that the environment is a similar thing because I don’t think it is. I think the most similar thing to slavery in our current climate is abortion. But that’s my opinion.

    Not to you it isn’t yes, but it might be to some. Certainly in my mind it is the equivalent scale of an issue in this day and age. Again, he likes to challenge people – make sure they are thinking about why they do things.

    There are so many people who are not “agnostic” but “atheist” when it comes to the great idol of climate change that I’m pretty comfortable disagreeing with his assessment.

    I think it is the agnosticism here – the failure to fully back up a position one way or another. Perhaps he is suggesting that agnosticism in this case is the same as for faith itself – an easy way out of not having to actually think through what you truly believe.

    His point is not well made. None of them are. He’s throwing spears at strawmen. It’s a poor attempt to engage with the source material and ends up coming across as trite and insulting.

    I couldn’t put the full document up there (I only put up the sentence he is referring to-otherwise this would have been a really long post), or the links where he is referring to specific word in a sentence etc – so that is probably more my fault than his. Also, given that I asked a favour of a busy person, he was responding in short note form – it was meant as an aid to discussion.

    What point was he trying to make about my New Zealand holiday?
    Just that you have shown on other occasions that you appreciate and admire God’s creation. So obviously it has a value to you that doesn’t show through in your words. The impression you get from your posts is that you are totally indifferent to this world and gain little pleasure from it because it is fallen. Whereas he wants to point out that while it is fallen, it isn’t not valuable – we are fallen and we are still valuable to God.

    “I think you’re being far too generous to him – and not extending any of that generosity to me.”

    Actually, that’s probably harsh. You do know both of us afterall.

    Yes, actually. It is a very hard position to be in in the middle of two very opinionated people whose opinions you value. Especially when you know that what they are saying and trying to say are not quite the same thing.

    Put you in a room together and I am sure you would have great fun debating.

    I asked him to look at it because I know that scripture is not my strong point. I haven’t been doing this my whole life like some people. I haven’t been to Bible College. I wanted another opinion and faith-based response, especially from someone who wasn’t caught up in the middle of the existing discussion, who could look at it with an outside perspective. Keep in mind he has only responded to words on a page – they can’t show the whole story. You let Ben’s response stand on its own, so I think you should have allowed this to, without the intro.

    Anyway, that is all. I think I have upset myself quite enough for the morning.

    1. “I think it is the agnosticism here – the failure to fully back up a position one way or another. ”

      Yeah – except that I made it pretty clear that my agnosticism is driven by the fact that I think the science itself is still up in the air and I think we’ve got bigger things to worry about than the environment.

      If God calls an end to everything tomorrow, next month or next year I’d much rather have spent my time pointing people towards him than planting trees. And the timbre of biblical exhortation is that we should be living as though God could well do that – because nobody knows the time or the place.

      Pilate’s actions understandable? Sending a man he knew was innocent to his execution because of peer pressure and “washing his hands of it” – I don’t know about that.

      Also – I think the economics point (about GDP being able to absorb the costs) was made by Garnaut prior to the fall out of the sub prime mortgage thing being truly understood. I’m not sure when we’ve got a GDP going backwards that the case is the same.

  6. I would be interested to see someone else’s opinion as to your reading of I’d Nathan. I’m not unbiased so potentially knowing the pastor means I’m used to his descriptive style and can tell the exagerated examples from the points. But I don’t think it deserved the very vitriolic opener. Disagreement sure. But outright attack? I don’t think so.
    Do you two think so differently that you can’t see what the other is saying? I can see the points both are making and don’t understand your misunderstanding and (over)reaction.

    1. “But I don’t think it deserved the very vitriolic opener. Disagreement sure. But outright attack? I don’t think so.”

      I’m not sure how I could justify posting someone’s vehement disagreement with me without first defending myself. It is my blog afterall. So I should get to defend myself in the bit people are going to read.

      I admit I may have sensationalised my response in order to encourage people to read right to the end of the 2,800 word post he sent me.

  7. This pastor bloke needs to check out http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/a-scarier-colder-vision-of-the-climate-change-future-20090424-ahz4.html?page=-1

    There is definitely nothing we can do to stop global warming.

    He really was ridiculously over-the-top. Since when did the belief that humans can’t do much about climate change equal hating the environment? (Which is what he suggested by pointing out that Nathan visited New Zealand and admired the environment. Oooh, look out, appreciating the environment might make you a hippy!)

    In reference to both Amy and Pastor – why should Nathan, or anybody else, take responsibility for something they don’t believe is their fault?? That’s just stupid. I don’t believe humans are making a significant contribution to global warming either, and I’m sure not going to stick my hand up and say “oh yes, it’s all my fault!”

    Nathan’s spot-on. The science is still up in the air and we have bigger things to worry about. In fact, the science is beginning to do a 180-turn and say that the earth has been warming up for centuries and our pollution has actually slowed down the warming process, and that once we clean up our act, the warming will increase in severity and then plunge us into an ice age. (see above link).

    As my friend Joel said in his comment on my blog about the same issue –
    “I’ve lost all respect for the debate now. The evidence that the climate change side has been spurting for the last 15 years has been proven wrong, so instead of changing their theory to suit the evidence, they’re changing the interpretation of the evidence to suit their theory.

    If Antarctica is melting, it’s because we have polluted causing a rise in temperature of the Earth. Woops, now Antarctica is growing. Well that must be due to our pollution making the Earth colder, which will then result in the Earth getting warmer when we stop polluting.

    Right. I’ve never really bought into the argument – I’ve always thought the climate change theory to be a bit dramatised and based on quite dodgy science. Articles like this just confirm my disdain for that whole side of the debate.”

  8. Pilate’s actions understandable? Sending a man he knew was innocent to his execution because of peer pressure and “washing his hands of it” – I don’t know about that.
    My words, not his, just remember that.
    I am not sure if any of us were in his position at the time that we would do differently. That’s what I meant.

  9. Maybe a new angle.

    To many Christians, caring for the environment and looking after it are acts of worship. They are doing so in an attempt to love and honour God.

    1. The problem is the blurry line between “act of worship to God” and “act of worshiping the creation”. We’re clearly called to do one but not the other.

  10. This pastor bloke needs to check out http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/a-scarier-colder-vision-of-the-climate-change-future-20090424-ahz4.html?page=-1

    There is definitely nothing we can do to stop global warming.

    Want to point out here that within the link of that article it states OPINION. This position is an opinion.

    Definitely nothing we can do is an opinion as well.

    If we see a kid get hit by a car which isn’t our fault we don’t go on by and ignore it because it isn’t our fault. We help, because that is the right thing to do.

    It isn’t our fault is a cop out.

  11. And also, the conversation has again been hijacked by climate change yes or no.
    This is also about just living sustainably and not polluting. I don’t think people can argue that that isn’t a good idea.

    1. Here’s an economic disagreement from BlueScope Steel Chairman and Reserve Bank Board Director Graham Kraehe. The economics don’t stack up.

      The Reserve Bank of Australia board director and chairman of Bluescope Steel said the Government seemed insistent on introducing the tax by July 1 next year when the rest of the world’s major economies, including the US, had serious concerns about carbon-reduction schemes.

      “Why, on the one hand, a government would inject massive fiscal stimulus (more than $50 billion) into the economy to soften the downturn and help save jobs and then, on the other hand, potentially destroy employment for many thousands of Australian workers with a carbon tax that will have a serious destabilising effect on industry and regional Australia,” he said.

  12. Hehehe. Ok then, sensationalism away. I know you and your sensationalist ways. That’s why I thought that one went over the top. Your sensationalism is what makes your writing interesting. No problems with that. Anyway I then found your apology so I’ll leave it at that.
    Hmm climate change stuff is annoying because you need a phd in climate science to comment but you needed funding to get that phd and potentially to keep working so you’re automatically biased/limited in your crdibikty.
    Bored with climate stuff now. We need another 20 years of data to know for sure what’s happening and by then it will have happened. Our carbon offset tax thing doesn’t help/appease any camp so it’s essentially useless. So I’ll stick with the basic sustainability/working towards less waste/pollution in every sense not just carbon dioxide. I’m all for less burning of coal etc but there are a lot of other things that we can achieve aside from just lowering carbon emissions.

  13. As long as you know that he was sensationalising as well.

    That is some of the best iphone typing I’ve ever seen… crdibikty

    And having a phd doesn’t stop anyone commenting. This blog should be evidence of that.

  14. I would appreciate if you would take pastor out of quotation marks in the first sentence though. That is misleading. He is a pastor with qualifications so it makes him look non-credible. Whether you agree with him or not his qualifications and occupation are not under question as far as I can see.

  15. But I don’t know who he is, and the comment is not “pastoral” in nature. Nor do I know where his qualifications are from. He could be Bahai, Mormon… etc. The fact that he works in some form of ministry does not make him instantly more qualified to comment about biblical interpretation. If he’s from a different school of theological thought to me it probably makes him less qualified.

    And I hate the word “pastor”. I always have. It sounds like an Italian food. I always told people who called me a PK that the P stood for Preacher.

  16. Sure – so it seems just and fair that I should respond in kind.

    Your original post was sensationalist – you said yourself you went more extreme than usual to create drama (words to that effect.

    But I don’t know who he is, and the comment is not “pastoral” in nature. Nor do I know where his qualifications are from. He could be Bahai, Mormon… etc. The fact that he works in some form of ministry does not make him instantly more qualified to comment about biblical interpretation.

    Shall I get him to submit a resume?

    If he’s from a different school of theological thought to me it probably makes him less qualified.

    Now there’s a statement!
    Do you really want to start a ‘my brand is better than your brand’ debate here?

    And I hate the word “pastor”. I always have. It sounds like an Italian food. I always told people who called me a PK that the P stood for Preacher.

    So? Minister sounds like a politician with all the associated corruption. This isn’t a good reason to mock ministers of the religious kind.

    You would like it if people referred to you as ‘journalist’ Nathan, or ‘media advisor’ Nathan? It implies far more than you are giving credit for here.

  17. It was my intro not my original post that I described as being sensationalism.

    Sure. Get him to submit a resume. Context is nice. Or just provide a more thorough description.

    My brand is my brand and this is my blog – therefore I will promote my brand. I will also, when arguing, give preference to “my brand”. I’m not talking denomination either – I’m talking approach to the Bible.

    I didn’t mock him. Just his statements.

    I refer to myself as “spin doctor”.

  18. I have just reread the whole thing.

    Apart from the first three comments (Which I have dealt with as best I can above), I would interested in seeing your response to some of it upon rereading (in a calmer fashion), the scripturally related ones at least (arguing economics and whether or not there is climate change back and forth has been done already).

    I am not sure are as fundamentally opposed as you think.

    For example, he quite clearly says that bringing people to God is the priority, but you have not interpreted it that way.

  19. It was my intro not my original post that I described as being sensationalism.

    You made a comment at some point in the original green is the new bleak posts that you were deliberately playing to the extreme to help generate comment.

    A more thorough description?

    Okay, Pastor, Christian denomination. Bible College trained. Associate Pastor. Coordinated/ran/supported denomination’s Youth Ministry for Qld (not sure on exact title). Currently Senior Pastor at a reasonably large regional church.

  20. I didn’t mock him. Just his statements.

    You did, (your initial sentence, some “pastor”, is mocking) but anyway.

  21. Perhaps I was simply using the only terminology I’d been given to describe the guy. And pointing out the irony of the title given that I didn’t think his take on me was pastoral or loving.

  22. For him, challenging you to justify your position is a loving and pastoral act. It is part of spiritual growth, to make sure you are not just going along with things.

    Shall we just call him Pastor Dave then?

  23. Amy – the thread got ‘hijacked’ by climate change yes or no because your pastor friend asked where I got my argument from.

    And it’s not just opinion. It’s an opinion column that references research.

  24. Amy – the thread got ‘hijacked’ by climate change yes or no because your pastor friend asked where I got my argument from.

    I am just wary of the whole sustainability/environmental responsibility concept being dismissed along with climate change – and he was talking about our responsibility to the environment in general, not just climate change.

    Even if you don’t think climate change is happening, or that it isn’t humanity’s fault, a lot of the steps taken to combat it are the same as those taken to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly in general.

    Don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water.

    And it’s not just opinion. It’s an opinion column that references research.

    Yes, but so is the opinion the other way. As Tim said, it will probably take another 20 years of research before everything can be proven conclusively one way or another – and if that is that it is the worst case scenario, it will already be too late.

    So can I take it, that whether or not we think climate change is real, that we all think that living in a more sustainable way is the right thing to do?

    In which case we are all arguing in circles and just annoying each other for no reason.

  25. And I guess that at the very least, the whole climate change debate has got people thinking about living in a cleaner way and minding their impact.

  26. As Tim said, it will probably take another 20 years of research before everything can be proven conclusively one way or another – and if that is that it is the worst case scenario, it will already be too late.

    Except of course if we are all dead from swine flu instead.

  27. Yeah – but my point is that the whole sustainability choice – without a moral imperative – is just a lifestyle choice. And therefore I should not feel morally compelled to turn my coffee machine off, or morally compelled to eat organic vegetables – and then the whole chicken and egg debate was raised.

    My fundamental point is that Christians should feel much more compelled towards the salvation of humanity than the salvation of the planet. And that priority should work itself out in every decision we make. Do I buy free range eggs or sponsor a child? How many chicken’s rights equal one human’s?

  28. Yeah – but my point is that the whole sustainability choice – without a moral imperative – is just a lifestyle choice.

    Which is why I asked Pastor to discuss – ie reference and meanings of Gen 2:15 in the first section above. So as far as we see it, we do have a moral imperative.

    Also in the sense of ‘do to others’ in the sense of equality in the world, so avoiding causing of poverty/harm. Ie if the cadmium mine here that is good for the local economy is harming others by the dumping of waste for it, then that is a moral problem (that should override the economy).

    For all that you say you have concerns about the environment being set up as a god, I find that the economy is the one that is treated as almighty in our society.

    My fundamental point is that Christians should feel much more compelled towards the salvation of humanity than the salvation of the planet.

    And again, as shown above, we see these points as being linked.

    ***

    And again, we go around in circles.

  29. “And again, as shown above, we see these points as being linked.”

    Yes, but I don’t think the Bible does. I don’t think “work” is the same as live sustainably. I think it’s toil with the expectation of frustration from a cursed ground (Genesis 3). Why struggle with an earth that’s broken beyond redemption when we can struggle with people who can be redeemed? One’s an avenue for frustration, the other for true satisfaction.

  30. Yes, but I don’t think the Bible does. I don’t think “work” is the same as live sustainably. I think it’s toil with the expectation of frustration from a cursed ground (Genesis 3).

    Disagree. See original comments.

    Why struggle with an earth that’s broken beyond redemption when we can struggle with people who can be redeemed? One’s an avenue for frustration, the other for true satisfaction.

    1. Because part of our task here is to be caretakers of it
    2. Because you don’t know when the end is coming, and maybe you might want to leave a few resources for your children
    3. Because you don’t have to just do one – these ideas are not mutually exclusive

  31. “Disagree. See original comments.”

    Disagree. See subsequent comments.

    But you’ll never actually achieve environmental perfection this side of the new earth – and there’s actually no promise of improvement. No promise that creation, through our toil, will come closer to the “new earth” – humans are different. The spirit is not at work in the trees and oceans – but does work in lives of people.

    All we are promised regarding creation is frustration and eventual renewal – but renewal will be God driven and not us driven.

    “Because you don’t know when the end is coming”

    Exactly. So why waste time farting around with the environment when I can be tackling the much more urgent task of spreading the gospel. I trust that God will eventually end the earth – and is unlikely to allow the planet to become unlivable before that time – unless it’s to demonstrate just how fundamentally messed up humanity is.

  32. I feel like 42 is a good number of comments for me to weigh in to this little discussion.

    For those who read Leah’s comment, I’m the guy who has a healthy amount of disdain for the whole climate change debate. I know climate change isn’t the total object of this discussion, but there does seem to be an element of inseparability about it.

    It seems to me like we’re talking about a prophylactic Earth saver. We aren’t sure that the Earth is going south from an environmental point of view (theological points aside). Furthermore, we aren’t sure that our actions as human beings are the cause of that possible environmental harm.

    I understand Amy’s point that we should err on the side of caution – our actions may be effecting our planet’s environment, and it may cause a really big problem in the future.

    I also understand Nathan’s point – why put so many of our eggs in the ‘may’ basket when there are so many more certain things that should demand our time and attention?

    I guess it comes down to the concept of Risk. In Medicine we do our little epidemiological 2×2 tables that calculate risk in a population. The essence is this – What is the benefit of acting compared to the benefit of not acting, and what is the risk of acting compared to the risk of not acting?

    I submit that the benefit of acting is that we may lessen potential environmental disaster (though I think Leah’s point about our questionable ability to do so is well made). The benefit of not acting is that we have free time and resources to put into other things.

    The risk of acting is that we commit a whole manner of time and resource to something that was or wasn’t going to happen regardless – that can have very real consequences, and not just to big business. The risk of not acting is that we run head long into an environmental catastophe and the world goes to hell.

    Now, if I put all those things together and calculate my likelihood and risk, I must say that I’m thoroughly unconvinced that I should dramatically change the way I’m living with regard to the environment. I think the risk of throwing all our resources into something as a prophylactic measure when there is no good evidence that it is going to happen anyway is a sorely unappreciated one.

    I will gladly do things that benefit both myself and the environment. For example, switching off lights etc or using long-lasting bulbs (also a bit of a fallacy, because the electricity is produced anyway, but I might somehow decrease the demand). It requires minimal effort and saves my electricity bill as an added bonus.

    For what it’s worth, I’m reasonably glad that groups like greenpeace exist – I like whales and it would be a great tragedy if they were hunted to extinction. But the world has bigger problems, and I think loving the poor and preaching the gospel trumps whales every time.

    I want to be a good steward of God’s creation – but I don’t think being ‘green’ in the contemporary sense is either a wise or godly way to go about that.

    1. Thanks Joel – always good to have your thoughts. Does the medical concept of Risk help with the boardgame?

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