In a post titled A Very Inconvenient Truth, Ben Witherington throws his weight behind global warming and our need to do something about it. I’m glad he has chosen to do so, and not just because I consider his commentary on Revelation to be one of the best available.
And therein seems to lie the problem for some people. One commenter on his blog has called him to account for commenting on something in which he is not an expert. That is a charge that could also be frequently aimed at me, because I comment on many things. In fact, I see my call and mission as a popularizer, so I am almost always reporting things I have found in the works of the actual experts. I’m not terribly comfortable with being an expert. At one time I discovered that there were people at my church who were saying simply that if I could read Hebrew and Greek, and I believed the Bible, then they could too. Of course that bypasses the issue of what, precisely, I believe about the Bible, and of whether one person’s belief or lack of it is an adequate foundation for one’s faith.
But on global warming and a host of other issues the people ultimately making the decisions are going to be non-experts. In our republican system of government, we elect people who make the decisions, but we generally choose those people based on their view on particular issues, as well as our general impression of them as people.
But why should a person like Dr. Witherington, who is clearly expert in New Testament Studies, give his weight to one side of an issue on which he is not at all expert? I think there are several excellent reasons:
- There are others, equally inexpert who are making it a matter of faith not to act with regard to global warming.
- His voice at a minimum provides cover for conservative Christians who want to take action about global warming, but are pressured by others who suggest it’s some sort of liberal conspiracy
- He is very well placed to hear other expert opinion and to give a Christian view on the issue
We should not decide what position to take based on opinions by people who are not experts. But such people often help deal with peripheral issues.
Dr. Witherington says:
The changing of the minds of many conservative Christians is perhaps a clear ensign that we are nearly to the point of recognizing we are dealing with an undeniable truth. Christians are sadly often the last to get religion about worldly things that have been obvious to others for many years. I say this to our shame.
Because some conservative Christians have been in opposition to most actions related to global warming, Dr. Witherington, a conservative Christian himself is well placed to challenge that view. Perhaps Christians are often the last to get the word, but Christian leaders need to be ready to stand out from the crowd and say, “We have been wrong, and we need to take action.” At a minimum, we need to realize that the global warming debate is about facts and the strategies to deal with them, and is one on which Christians can disagree.
But there are some principles at stake. Dr. Witherington asks a series of questions:
What if there will be no escape from the problems of this world for the foreseeable future because Jesus told us to first evangelize all the language groups before the second coming? What if God expects us to properly tend and care for his good and beautiful garden-like creation until his Son comes back? What if when he returns instead he finds us sticking our heads in the sand, and ignoring the many ways we have bruised and abused the earth he created for our eco-system? What if our otherworldly redemption theology involves a gross distortion of the Biblical creation theology?
I suggest you go to his article to see his answers. Those are all topics on which is is expert.