The Bible v. Sen. Inhofe, on climate change

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Noah's Thanksoffering (c.1803) by Joseph Anton Koch

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Noah's Thanksoffering (c.1803) by Joseph Anton Koch

Noah's Thanksoffering (c.1803) by Joseph Anton Koch

Noah’s Thanksoffering (c.1803) by Joseph Anton Koch

James Inhofe (R-OK), the new chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, delivered something of a surprise last week when he joined 97 of his colleagues in voting that climate change exists (eppur si muove). The author of The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future (2012) allowed as how the “hoax” did not concern the existence of climate change — for which, he said, there is archeological and biblical and historical evidence — but “that there are some people that are so arrogant to think that they are so powerful that they can change climate. Man can’t change climate.”

That denial was easy to make fun of, and many did, but rationalizing doing nothing about carbon emissions on religious grounds is no laughing matter, not when it results in the Senate’s inability to go on and acknowledge even a modest degree of human responsibility for global warming. Under the circumstances, it behooves us to try to engage Inhofe and his fellow disbelievers on their own terms, and try to persuade them to rethink their understanding of what the Bible says about the Earth and its climate. For in fact, their inerrantist approach to reading Scripture does not warrant the position they take.

Inhofe believes that God will keep climate change at bay on the basis of Genesis 8:22: “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” This verse comes after the Flood, where, in a series of statements, God promises not to inundate the earth again, making the rainbow a reminder of the promise.

Nor is Oklahoma’s senior senator alone. In its enunciation of a “Biblical Perspective of Environmental Stewardship,” the Cornwall Alliance, an evangelical organization dedicated to combatting climate change activism, declares:

We deny, due to God’s faithfulness to His covenant, in which He proclaimed, after the Flood, that He would sustain the cycles on which terrestrial life depends for as long as the Earth endures (Genesis 8:22), that God’s curse on the Earth negates either the dominion mandate (Genesis 1:28) or the robustness and self-correcting resilience of the God-sustained Earth.

God’s curse refers to one of the punishments for Adam and Eve’s original sin: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life,” etc. (Genesis 3:17-19) But notice where the proof-texting stops. That business about the Earth’s “robustness and self-correcting resilience” is interpretive license, not biblical perspective. As for Genesis 8:22, it hardly constitutes a claim that human beings can do nothing to change the climate.

In fact, biblical inerrancy as understood over the past century does not preclude human agency on so grand a scale. To the contrary, apocalyptic prognostication is full of it. Not only are normal wars and rumors of wars taken to presage the End Times, but the invention of nuclear weapons has provided practitioners of Prophecy with ample fuel. “Every second of every day, nuclear bombs are aimed at U.S. by Russia and China,” declares one. “Soon the giant nuclear sword will be unleashed upon a wicked world.”

To be sure, the traditional Christian view, derived from the Second Epistle of Peter along with the story of Noah, takes the position advanced in the old spiritual: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign, / No more water, the fire next time.” If global warming is allowed to continue, next time we can look forward to both.


  • samuel Johnston

    Hi Mark,
    In matters like this, we see the limitation of representative government (populism). We have powerful elected officials who are so ignorant/brainwashed that they decide environmental policy based on ancient stories written by sheep herders.
    At the other end of the spectrum, we have those who apparently think that the earth was better off without men, so that impediment should be eliminated.
    Until a rational and affordable environmental plan is put forward, and supported by the majority, perhaps we are better off with no plan, dangerous and irrational as that is.

  • Glenn Harrell

    Your kindness to their absurdities is notable and admirable.

    Climate change for this diminutive crowd is best understood in their own language.

    Hell, like climate change, exists whether we believe it or not.
    It is here as stated and never once asked for our belief or approval
    as proof of reality.
    Our arrogance and unbelief to the contrary is precursor to potential

    That being said, deliverance from one and or the other appears to have strong potential, requiring humility,trust, and perhaps a bit of faith at the core.

  • It’s “easy to make fun of” if you live in the Monovox subculture of the arts and sciences faculty, not if you observe the behavior of ‘climate scientists’ and participate in discussions.

    You do a jim dandy job of adding more evidence to the file that the worth of the arts and sciences faculty to the rest of humanity is trending towards zero.

  • Karla

    The part where you say God gave the rainbow sign shows that God means
    what He says about not flooding the earth again so if God means what He
    says we need to Repent because so many people today want to skip over
    the tough parts of the Bible. Hell is real yet many today try to say that hell
    is not real. Ephesians 5:18 says don’t get drunk and in 1 Corinthians 6:10
    it says that all drunkards go to hell including the people who get drunk with
    wine because the wine that Jesus made was diluted and plus the Bible says
    don’t get drunk with strong wine yet many people still get drunk cause most
    only want to talk about abortion/homosexuals and gay marriage so that they
    don’t have to face their own sin. 1 Corinthians 6:9-12 lists many,many sins
    right along with the homosexuals so all sin is bad. The Bible says that if you
    have a sharp tongue your religion is worthless yet many today don’t bridle
    their mean/sharp tongue,are jealous,covet,gossip,have premarital sex and
    gamble/live no different from non-Christians. Luke 13 says Repent or perish!
    Bible says Repent and believe the Gospel to be saved! We all must Repent!

  • Chaplain Martin

    The Bible is not a science book.
    I was never taught in seminary that the Bible is a science book. I was taught against taking verses out of context to prove a point I wanted to make. Taking verses out of the context of which they were written is exactly what the “climate deniers” are doing. Such people hurt the cause of Christianity every day by such nonsense.

    When I pastored in the 1970’s each year the church would receive bulletin covers as they are called. The front had a farm scene and the back a message of conservation as a way to protect the land/environment. The inside was blank so the churches order of service could be printed. No one objected, it just made good sense.

    The cause of Christianity is hurt every day by such nonsense as the argument over climate change.

  • samuel Johnston

    Hi Art,
    It might be helpful if you actually made an argument and stated supporting reasons, rather than just hurling insults that play well with those who already agree with you.
    P.S. Monovox is not in my dictionary.

  • samuel Johnston

    Hi Chaplin Martin,
    If a young minister preaches to the pews as if he were still in seminary, he will be promptly reminded of the gap between the his seminary curriculum and the beliefs of his audience. If he stubbornly continues down that path he will, in all likelihood, be invited to go elsewhere.
    I was delighted for one year by the sermons of a beginning Episcopalian minister.
    He read the popular novels of the time and cleverly used them to illustrate moral questions. His contract was not renewed. Making the faithful think is not appreciated.

  • Chaplain Martin

    That may partially explain why I took up the cloak of the Chaplain. “I use to preach in rote from my seminary notes.”
    There are successful pastors who preach meaningful sermons that actually make a point. I heard one this past Sunday. Their number is far fewer than needed and no one has a winner each week.

  • Jack

    Nobody denies that climate changes. The obvious question is whether or to what extent human activity is responsible. Since the history of the world showcases how much and how often climate change occurs without any evidence of human causes, the burden of proof rests on those who say of today, “this time it’s different.”

    And using the Bible as a proof text for either view is just silly.

  • Glenn Harrell

    Well said Jack.
    If you will pack you bags, it sounds like you are our man for Washington Politics.

    I will vote for you.

  • samuel Johnston

    You throw words and ideas about recklessly. The sentence: “The obvious question is whether or to what extent human activity is responsible.” is reasonable- but not the most important question. But then you follow it up with nonsense. What is being considered is the immediate future, the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren- not whether the climate is always changing, which of course it is. If global warming is happening, the most important questions are these:
    1. How much, how soon
    2. How will that affect us all
    3. What can be reasonably do to avoid worst of the adverse effects
    4. How much will it cost to fix it (temporarily)
    5. Will the fix actually work
    6. Then, what is the longer term situation and what should be done

  • Larry

    Untrue. Plenty of people deny climate change and they deny human efforts contributing to it. Virtually none of them have the scientific knowledge to back their views. The history of the world is littered with how humans impact their environment adversely in dramatic fashion.

    “the burden of proof rests on those who say of today, “this time it’s different.”

    Which is what the scientific community has provided the evidence for. Its all out there for people to see for themselves. Scientists love to publish. The overwhelming majority of those scientists in the field do not doubt human based climate changed.

  • Glenn Harrell

    Excellent Samuel,

    We may have ruled out the bible as a viable source for answers to your questions.

    Perhaps a crystal ball is available? there are plenty who would believe its view.

    The “overwhelming majority” Larry and others speak of is like 9 out of 10 docs prefer this brand of hemorrhoid cream.

    Dang that nagging 1 doc.

  • cken

    Very good choice of words ” even a modest degree of human responsibility for global warming”. I think historically the Bible indicates climate changes. I understand the correlation which science is representing as causation. The problem is there is no science to support the hypothesis we can do anything to effect climate change. The push to reduce greenhouse gasses is nothing more than a very very very expensive experiment to see if their hypothesis is right or wrong. And yes it might be almost as expensive for us to adapt to climate change. Either way we are assuming their correlation = causation hypothesis is correct, which it might not be. Remember milk is bad for you, milk is good for you, milk is bad for you. And my favorite, smoking causes cancer. They now know only kidney cancer is directly caused by smoking. My point is; do we trust science enough for a multi-trillion dollar experiment to prove or disprove their hypothesis given their spotty track record.

  • Glenn Harrell

    Wikipedia offers a list too.
    Which of the scientists in the following three groups has been “bought out”?…/List_of_scientists




    “The New England Journal of Medicine reports that 9 out of 10 doctors agree that 1 out of 10 doctors is an idiot.”
    – Jay Leno

  • Doc Anthony

    And if you ever wonder why they “do not doubt it”, it’s because they already know what happened to established climate scientists, like Dr. Lennart Bengtsson, who DO express their doubts about the IPCC stuff publicly.

    Nothing like raw censorship and bullying, (and a broken hockey stick or two), to help establish the religion of global warming.

  • Jack

    Thanks Glenn. I unpacked my bags a while ago, but the bottom line is I don’t have the stomach for it. I’d rather assist those who do.

  • Jack

    Samuel, what we’re ultimately discussing is a string of unknowable things on both sides of the debate — and how to deploy the art of risk management to the matter.

    I wouldn’t even begin to know how to sum it all up in one post. All I will say is that the alarmists are looking at risk from a very narrow perspective. They’re looking at the risks of not doing…..but there are risks in doing as well.

    But more broadly, they are assuming that (1) global warming is a locked-in-trend that this time isn’t cyclical, ie is not self-correcting because (2) this time, unlike all prior times in history, it’s overwhelmingly man-caused and (3) assuming that’s all true, it can be countered effectively by measures that will not themselves risk mass economic dislocations, especially for the world’s poorest people, that could turn out to be calamitous.

    A good example of how a too-narrow view of risk management can be fatal is the story of DDT, the pesticide that was found in the 1960s to be harmful to the environment.

    The finding was real enough and called for a serious response.

    The problem was the hysterical overreaction that followed: It was banned.

    Result: While banning DDT eliminated the environmental risks it posed, it also eliminated the benefits it had conferred in the fight against malaria.

    And so countless numbers of people in some of the poorest areas of the world died as a result.

    In other words, governments focused solely on the risk of using DDT, and not the risk of not using DDT.

    A more balanced approach would have been one of regulation, not elimination. DDT should have been more tightly regulated.

    Regulation would not have been the perfect solution by any means. More regulation would have meant fewer lives saved from malaria. But it would have been better than elimination, which meant no lives saved. Likewise, more regulation would have meant less protection than elimination for the environment. But at least it would have meant more protection than zero regulation.

    That’s how risk management works. It acknowledges that risk elimination is impossible, but it seeks to balance the various risks.

    Sometimes, though, once you do a full risk analysis, you come to conclude that the best mitigation of a particular risk is no mitigation at all. Some would say that this is the conclusion of any mature risk analysis of global warming. It may well be that the kinds of mitigation required to fight it with any degree of effectiveness are so draconian, so certain to bring terrible suffering today to the most vulnerable people, it’s not worth it, unless you can show a similar level of certainty that it really is largely man-caused.

    Smart politicians who understand risk analysis know this perfectly well, but are responding in cynical ways with measures that are severe enough to do measurable economic harm but not severe enough to seriously address the risk.

  • Larry

    “And if you ever wonder why they “do not doubt it”,”

    Not at all because I understand how the system works. Because the evidence in their various peer reviewed studies and research confirm it.

    Dr. Bengtsson’s work relies mostly on the largesse of conservative media as opposed to the acceptance in the field among fellow experts.

    A narrative of conspiracies and persecution is far easier to sell to a lay audience (especially one biased against scientific research to begin with) than one of poor methodologies, biases and shoddy work.

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  • samuel Johnston

    Excellent presentation. I agree. The alarmists and the deniers are reacting to a physical problem as if it is a merely a matter of political will. My complaint against the deniers is that they are not interested in doing the win-win affordable actions, such as reducing carbon emissions (more efficient vehicles and power generation). The alarmists want to disrupt the economy with speculative schemes of all kinds. The political opportunists came up with the ethanol fraud. We really could use some trustworthy, but transparent leadership. I am not optimistic.

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