Need We Fear Another Ice Age? A Review of Following Jesus in a Warming World
The title of this review may be confusing considering that it is an assessment of the book Following Jesus in a Warming World: A Christian Call to Climate Action by Kyle Meyaard-Schaap (IVP, Downers Grove, IL, February 2023). However, “Need We Fear Another Ice Age?” is the title of a Christian tract written by Walter Lang and Vic Lockman to comfort Christians and witness to others at a time in the 1970s when scientists and the public were expecting the return of a planetary freeze.
I was a meteorology undergraduate student at Penn State in the mid-70s and can confirm some angst in academia and the public over the potential for a coming ice age. Based on scientific research, books for adults and children were written to spread the chilling message. A book titled, Our Changing Weather: Forecast of Disaster?, warned that “Northern Hemisphere temperatures have been falling steadily since the 1940s. Glaciers are advancing once again. Scientists no longer debate the coming of the next ice age: the question now is when?” And Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock in the original Star Trek television series, even did a broadcast segment on In Search of the Coming Ice Age seen here:
Although the Christian tract “Need We Fear Another Ice Age?” contained a mix of good and bad science and theology, the pamphlet’s message was overall hopeful and even referred to coal and oil as a blessing.
Alternatively, with its mix of good and bad science and theology, the book Following Jesus in a Warming World takes a more somber view and portrays coal in a much more ominous light. In a section titled “Coal and the Greatest Commandment” and elsewhere, the book somewhat downplays the relative benefits of fossil fuels, which have been key to raising billions of people out of poverty and into healthier living conditions.
Over time, the use of exceptionally dirty coal has been replaced by cleaner fuel oil and cleaner still natural gas. In every case though, improved pollution control practices and technology have greatly reduced the impact of emissions from all fossil fuels, even coal.
“Don’t be Conformed to the Patterns of this World”
But, instead of looking at these conditions as a blessing, Following Jesus in a Warming World seems to view it as a curse. So much so, that instead of preaching “Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” as per the apostle Paul, Following Jesus seems committed to preaching “Jesus Christ and him calling for climate action.” This belies Paul’s caution to “not be conformed to this world.”
The sad part is that the theology espoused in Chapter 3 of Following Jesus, “Recovering the Big Story,” is for the most part solid, describing God’s love for all of creation and His plan for its restoration, not destruction, as per appropriate application of Paul’s and John’s writings. However, Paul’s warning in Galatians 1:6-9 must be heeded relative to preaching a gospel other than the one Paul proclaimed. And so, the truly good-news (gospel) insights of this chapter are marred with a blatant admixing of the gospel with religious-left concoctions.
The Global Poor Would Benefit From Greater Access to Fossil Fuels
Throughout Following Jesus there is an honest concern for the world’s poor. But limiting access to abundant fossil fuels may be a sadly ineffective solution to solving poverty, since energy costs are directly related to personal wealth. Furthermore, as Dr. Judith Curry, former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, observes, “people are considerably less exposed to weather and climate shocks if they aren’t poor.”
As I noted in my Washington Times review of Dr. Curry’s recent book, Climate Uncertainty and Risk: Rethinking Our Response, Dr. Curry delivers this poignant quote from Kenyan activist and materials scientist Rose Mutiso: “Working in global energy and development, I often hear people say, ‘Because of climate, we just can’t afford for everyone to live our lifestyles.’ That viewpoint is worse than patronizing. It’s a form of racism, and it’s creating a two-tier global energy system, with energy abundance for the rich and tiny solar lamps for Africans.”
More than a billion people still live in poverty with many cooking food indoors using dried dung and wood exposing families to toxic indoor air pollutants. Access to low-cost, abundant, readily available, God-given natural resources including fossil fuels to generate electricity would greatly help alleviate this real-world crisis. Yet rather than trusting God to sustain His environment so that the liberating word of Christ can go forth, many Following Jesus Christians have apparently put their trust in their own imaginations of a dire future boosted by dubious left-wing religious, academic, and political talking points.
This untoward trust forebodes the coming of a spiritual ice age worse than any imagined disastrous global warming.
Anthony J. Sadar is a Certified Consulting Meteorologist and adjunct associate professor of science at Geneva College, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. He is also author of In Global Warming We Trust: Too Big To Fail (Stairway Press).