‘Climate Change’: A Leap of Faith?

Christianity isn't a blind-faith religion. But climate change dogma? Its disciples sure behave like it is.

By Calvin Beisner Published on April 5, 2016

Tomorrow night at Duke University there will be a panel discussion titled “Climate Change Not a Leap of Faith.” Among the event hosts is the group Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, an offshoot of the Evangelical Environmental Network.

They and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, the Nicholas School of the Environment, and the Kenan Institute for Ethics are bringing in the Nicholas Institute’s Amy Pickle, the Nicholas School’s Megan Mullin, the Kenan Institute’s David Toole and Katharine Hayhoe, an associate professor of political science and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, to discuss why Christians should care about climate change.

That’s a fine idea in principle, but that title — “Climate Change Not a Leap of Faith” — got me wondering: Is that meant to present “climate change” as somehow in contrast with religious faith in general, or maybe Christian faith in particular?

Nineteenth-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, among the earliest Existentialists, famously taught that Christian commitment is a “leap of faith,” embracing Christian teachings without — and even contrary to — evidence.

Although that understanding of the Christian faith was antithetical to the main body of Christian teaching for the previous eighteen centuries, it caught on, and today many who call themselves evangelicals understand their Christian faith that way. They embrace it by Kierkegaard’s “leap of faith,” sometimes even calling it a “blind leap of faith.”

Such a message would have shocked the Apostle John, who wrote that John the Baptist came to bear witness [which denoted testimony in a trial to establish fact] to Jesus (John 1:6–7) and that “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30–31).

It would have shocked the Apostle Peter, who urged Christians to “regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

And it would have shocked Luke, who began his Gospel, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:1–4).

Likewise, Luke began his second volume, the Book of Acts, “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:1–3).

What lies behind that choice of title for this Wednesday night’s panel discussion? Was it, as I asked above, to present belief in climate change as reasoned and evidence-based, in contrast with the “blind leap of faith” of Christianity? Indeed, do those who devised that title know that the word faith, as used in the Bible, denotes not an emotional but an intellectual response: assenting to the truth of a statement or doctrine, and not just speaking with the lips but believing, honestly, with the mind or heart (the Bible uses the terms interchangeably).

I suppose we may never know.

But this much we do know. The panel’s organizers ensured that those who attend will hear only one side of this subject, though it is a subject characterized by enormous scientific, economic, political and ethical controversy among bona fide experts in all four fields. All four panelists clearly believe in dangerous, manmade global warming and the imperative of seeking to mitigate it by reducing carbon dioxide emissions by reducing fossil fuel use — although doing so would slow or stop economic development in much of the world, trapping billions in poverty and condemning them to short and disease-ridden lives.

The only climate scientist among them — Dr. Hayhoe — has proven unwilling to dialogue with other evangelical climate scientists who disagree with her.

When in 2013 she led a group of 200 evangelical scientists (only five of whom were climate scientists) in issuing an open letter urging Congress to take action on climate change, two Senior Fellows of the Cornwall Alliance, Dr. Roy W. Spencer, Principal Research Scientist in climatology in the University of Alabama’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Science and winner of NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for global temperature monitoring work with satellites, and Dr. David Legates, professor of hydroclimatology, precipitation and climate change, and computational methods in the College of Earth, Ocean, & Environment at the University of Delaware, concluded their critical response:

We challenge them, or other evangelicals of their choice, to a formal public debate — with a scientist, an economist, and a theologian on each side — at an evangelical college of their choice. Up for debate would be the magnitude, causes, and consequences of recent and foreseeable global warming and whether fighting it by reducing CO2 emissions would cause more good than harm to the poor.

To date neither Dr. Hayhoe nor any other evangelical who agrees with her position has ever responded to this challenge — which still stands.

Might belief in dangerous manmade global warming be more like Kierkegaard’s “leap of faith” than skepticism? Why might one think so?

So, to answer the question in this essay’s title — and the panel discussion title notwithstanding — belief in “climate change” (shorthand for dangerous manmade warming that must be mitigated even at the cost of trillions of dollars and potentially trapping billions in poverty) really is a leap of faith.


Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., is Founder and National Spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation and former Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Knox Theological Seminary and of Interdisciplinary Studies at Covenant College.

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  • LenRunciter

    Here is your problem, Calvin. You say that the entire topic is rife with controversy, and yet the reality is its not. The fact that man is warming the earth, and the result is clearly problematic and might just be catastrophic, is accepted by over 90% of climate scientists, every single major science organization, and now every single country. The controversy only exists for a dwindling few, including you.

    Let me ask you a question. Does every conference on Christian topics always insist on having an atheist present, to present an opposite view? The answer is no.

    Here is the reality. The world is moving on to solutions…see the Paris accords. You’ve ceded the solution playing field to others. No one really needs to debate whether or not AGW is happening. No one is waiting for you anymore.

    • Dean Bruckner

      You really need to read more. Anthony Watts’ blog WattsUpWithThat dot c0m would be a good start. The “97% consensus” figure is complete fraud, and was actually 0.3% when the actual data of the “researchers” was obtained. That’s three tenths of one percent believed that CAGW was definitely occurring.

      Wholesale scientific fraud, demonization, Marxism at all costs (Naomi Oreskes, for example), and now calls for imprisonment of so-called “climate deniers” (yes, do an internet search for “20 attorneys general” or “Sheldon Whitehouse”) all lead to one conclusion: CAGW is in fact a quasi-religious/political movement to drive humanity back to the stone age, which will kill off most of the earth’s population. In their view (Holdren and Erlich, for example), that is a feature, not a bug.

      The “solutions” you speak of ask us to embrace green poverty and death by giving government trillions of dollars to supposedly reduce the earth’s temperature what, one half a degree in 100 years?

      None so blind!

    • Dean Bruckner

      “Former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Christiana Figueres put it in the bluntest terms: ‘We are setting ourselves the task of intentionally to change [sic] the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years’ – the free enterprise capitalist system. ‘The next world climate summit is actually an economic summit, during which the distribution of the world’s resources will be negotiated,’ her UN climate crisis cohort Otmar Edendorfer added. ‘We will redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy.'”

      Read the rest at http(colonslashslash)wattsupwiththat(dot)com/2016/04/04/prosecuting-climate-chaos-skeptics-with-rico/

    • Vijay Raj

      Here is your problem, LenRunciter. “You say that the entire topic is NOT controversial”. IF the science is settled and clear, why do the models continue to predict wrong temperatures? 90 percent of the models failed to predict the fluctuation in temperature in the past 18 years.

      “You say 97% Climate scientists agree on AGW”. The 97 percent statistic first appeared prominently in a 2009 study. Even though only 5 percent of respondents, or about 160 scientists, were climate scientists. In fact, the “97 percent” statistic was drawn from an even smaller subset: the 79 respondents who were both self-reported climate scientists and had “published more than 50% of their recent peer-reviewed papers on the subject of climate change.” These 77 scientists agreed that global temperatures had generally risen since 1800, and that human activity is a “significant contributing factor.” An equally pathetic such study was conducted in 2013 by Australian scientist John Cook where he did an analysis of 12,000 abstracts and only 34 percent of the papers Cook examined expressed any opinion about anthropogenic climate change and he used just those 34 percent of papers to conclude on 97% concensus while he omitted the remaining 66 percent of papers. Several scientists whose papers were included in Cook’s initial sample also protested that they had been misinterpreted.

      Contrary to your claims, have a look at the following. A 2012 poll of American Meteorological Society members also reported a diversity of opinion. Of the 1,862 members who responded (a quarter of the organization), 59 percent stated that human activity was the primary cause of global warming, and 11 percent attributed the phenomenon to human activity and natural causes in about equal measure, while just under a quarter (23 percent) said enough is not yet known to make any determination. Seventy-six percent said that warming over the next century would be “very” or “somewhat” harmful, but of those, only 22 percent thought that “all” or a “large” amount of the harm could be prevented “through mitigation and adaptation measures.” Also a study of 1,868 scientists working in climate-related fields, conducted just this year by the PBL Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency, three in ten respondents said that less than half of global warming since 1951 could be attributed to human activity, or
      that they did not know.

      “Does every conference on Christian topics always insist on having an atheist present, to present an opposite view?” Well, if this is the way forward, we should dismantle all peer reviewed journal. Scientific fraternity’s very methodology is to put scientific claims through rigorous scrutiny before it is established as a fact. If opposing views are not present, then you may very well call it Circus! Science needs to be Peer-reviewed. If you think all scientists agree with each other, then you must have never worked in a lab or scientific body with scientists who oppose
      each other’s view on major subjects.

      So Here is the reality. The science is far from settled.

      • Dean Bruckner

        His comment gives away what he thinks of science. He places Christians, who properly study revealed religion with their co-religionists, with scientists. He doesn’t even see the difference in the two enterprises. One realm of knowledge is unlocked by faith and obedience; the other with faith and impartial examination. That he confuses the two speaks volumes about his devotion to the religion of Scientism and obedience to its high priests.

        Acknowledging that the Most High God is the author of life and creation is the foundation in all pursuits of knowledge, and it is God who made the universe comprehensible to those made in his image. Isaac Newton is said to have remarked that every significant scientific discovery he made came as a result of prayer. Only someone who believes the Bible and obeys it is sufficiently freed of superstitions, false dogma, and immoral biases such as CAGW and the sexual revolution to be able to see the universe as it really is, and apply an empirical method in a truly impartial manner.

        LenRunciter has a long ways to go, it seems.

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