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Environmentalism vs. Stewardship: An Interview with Dr. E. Calvin Beisner

By Lee Duigon
May 18, 2011

This year Earth Day falls ... on Good Friday, a profound co-incidence ... And on Good Friday, the day we mark the crucifixion of Christ, God in the flesh, might we suggest that when earth is degraded, when species go extinct, that another part of God's body experiences yet another sort of crucifixion ...

-The Episcopal Church1

Still another possibility would be to construct our own sun, a source of heat and light which might be suspended in the sky and hold the hovering demons of cold and darkness at bay. This artificial sun would operate by subatomic energy. In the remaining years of grace, man might learn how to run the carbon cycle. Hydrogen, the fuel, is abundant, and other light atoms, such as lithium, are also plentiful sources of energy. With several billions of years of time at his disposal for research, man should be able to develop cheap, abundant, and manageable subatomic power.

-Kenneth Heuer, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society2

What do you get when you mix faulty theology with "science" that suffers from delusions of grandeur?

You get "the Green Dragon"-a symbolic term for today's environmentalist movement, coined by the scientists, philosophers, and theologians of the Cornwall Alliance (www.cornwallalliance.org/ ). Dr. E. Calvin Beisner, associate professor of social ethics at Knox Theological Seminary and a member of the Cornwall Alliance's advisory board, recently discussed the Green Dragon with Chalcedon in an interview.

"Environmentalism has a history," said Dr. Beisner, "that shows it's a whole worldview and religion, complete with substitutes for God, creation, the universe, humanity, sin, and salvation."

It doesn't seem to be a particularly tolerant religion, either. See last year's public-service film, "No Pressure," in which persons who fail to commit to "saving the planet" and "reducing their carbon footprint" are blown up into bloody bits.3 The film was intended to raise funds for an environmentalist group in the United Kingdom.

"Environmental Stewardship"

Although it's necessary to educate the public as to the falsehoods and inanities of the Green movement, Dr. Beisner said, the Cornwall Alliance tries to do much more. As an alternative to environmentalism, the Alliance promotes "environmental stewardship."

"Environmental stewardship is what you do, for instance, when you properly dispose of the old oil after you change the oil in your car," he said. "We're talking about reasonable care and reasonable behavior to protect our neighbors from being harmed by our actions. It's what we do because we love our neighbors, as God's Word teaches us to do. We do it in obedience to God.

"By contrast, the environmentalism movement is mostly secular and atheist. It can be ‘spiritual' for some people, but it is not Christian."

The Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship, available on the Cornwall website, develops the theme in detail:

  • Environmental policies "should harness human creative potential by expanding political and economic freedom, instead of imposing draconian restrictions or seeking to reduce the ‘human burden' on the natural world. Suppressing human liberty and productivity in the name of environmental protection is antithetical to the principles of stewardship and counterproductive to the environment."
  • "When addressing environmental problems, we should respond first to firmly established risks in ways that are cost-effective and have proven benefit. Prudent stewardship will avoid siren calls to action on speculative problems that are based on politicized science or media-driven hype..."
  • "Cornwall supporters believe the best way to care for both people AND the planet is through policies that allow increasing numbers of people around the world to fulfill their role as stewards of God's creation."

"Post-Normal Science"

In addition to its educational website, the Alliance has put out a book, Resisting the Green Dragon, by Dr. James Wanliss, a physicist, along with a 12-part DVD series with a discussion guide, based on the book. Both are available from the Cornwall Alliance (see www.ResistingTheGreenDragon.com).

Dr. Beisner himself has testified before U. S. Senate and House of Representatives subcommittees on environmental issues, and written an article on "post-normal science" for Chalcedon's print magazine, Faith For All of Life.

"Post-normal science-that is, a kind of science warped to support a political position-has been used to promote a lot of things," he said. "It's been most prominently used to normalize homosexuality, and to promote all kinds of environmental scares.

"But in the case of global warming alarmism, we see a much more sophisticated and systematic application of post-normal science, by people who are scientifically very sophisticated, but who have sacrificed their commitment to science to political ends."

Much of the steam went out of the Global Warming public relations machine last year when computer hackers published thousands of confidential emails by scientists at East Anglia University, in the United Kingdom. The revelations that "climate change scientists" knowingly tampered with data, fudged figures, and played tricks on an unsuspecting public, morphed into the infamous "Climategate" scandal, dealing a severe blow to "warmist" credibility. Resisting the Green Dragon devotes much attention to this. (Meanwhile, for an entertaining example of the mockery and contempt that these scientists have earned for their efforts, see "Hide the Decline" on YouTube.

It's not easy to spot "post-normal science" at a glance, Dr. Beisner said-"not without digging around a bit, and doing research." But there are some tell-tale signs, he said:

"Whenever the appeal to ‘consensus' occurs, be suspicious. Science is not about how many people believe this or that.

"When incentives for requirements for government funding line up with the findings of scientific research"-that is, the scientists seem to find just what the funders want them to find-"be very suspicious.

"Also keep an eye out for suppression and fabrication or data, intimidation of dissent, appeals to emotion, etc.," he said. "These are all signs of post-normal science at work."

"Green Christians"

It's bad enough that science has been corrupted by a love of money and political power. The Cornwall Alliance is also concerned about the Green Dragon's seduction of the church.

The Bible condemns those "who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator" (Rom. 1:25). The creation must not be viewed as "a part of God's body," subject to "a different kind of crucifixion," as erring churchmen have it.

"So much of the church in the Western world has succumbed to the question for social relevance, and has abandoned its confidence in the gospel," Dr. Beisner said. "As it jumps onto the bandwagon of religious neutrality, we are seeing the incredible decline of a thing once recognized as Christianity in the mainline church."

Why should so many of the churches want to hop on the environmentalist bandwagon? How do Christians go from the creation being separate from God to rocks and trees and fish being "part of God's body"?

"They have come to believe in salvation by works of the flesh-exactly what you see in Environmentalism as a religion," Dr. Beisner said. "Any sense of justification by faith has been lost.

"Do they even understand the true gospel anymore? They are dancing on the edge of re-defining God according to an Environmentalist image. And it's not just the mainline churches. Many evangelical churches are involved, too. And much of this is intertwined with a politically progressive vision."

Yes-the churches are drifting into worldly politics. For example: "New Poll Says Capitalism and Christianity Are Incompatible."4 "A new PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey shows that more Americans believe that Christian values are at odds with capitalism and the free market than believe they are compatible (44% vs. 36% respectively)," says the news report. Can this possibly be a product of gospel preaching?

"Green Christians" are unequally yoking themselves to secular Environmentalists whose beliefs are decidedly anti-Christian. Consider this quote from Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II:

"In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, in order to contribute something to solve overpopulation."5

The subtitle of Resisting the Green Dragon is "Dominion, Not Death." "All they that hate me love death," the Bible teaches (Proverbs 8:36). If you think Resisting the Green Dragon goes too far in quoting Prince Philip, we must point out that others in the Green Movement go quite a bit farther than he. The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (http://www.vhemt.org/ ) proclaims, "Phasing out the human race by voluntarily ceasing to breed will allow Earth's biosphere to return to good health. Crowded conditions and resource shortages will improve as we become less dense."

Choose Christ

How can the church be pried away from the Green Dragon?

"The truth shall make you free, the Bible teaches," Dr. Beisner said. "Knowing Christ is where it starts. True stewardship is obedience to Christ. And knowing the truth on various issues is necessary, too.

"Ultimately it's a matter of learning to think anew. It's a matter of repentance-repenting from having taken our beliefs from the world instead of from the Word of God."

New polls already show, he added, that "Protestant pastors are now more skeptical of man-made global warming than they were three years ago."

At the heart of the Green movement, Dr. Beisner said, is "an expectation of stasis, which is unscientific: a total denial of natural fluctuation, and a pervasive failure to recognize the difference between what is and ‘what ought to be.' They are always trying to define some optimal set of conditions, the kind of thing that doesn't exist in nature."

Whether it be global temperatures, the amount of rainfall in a given region, unemployment rates, or prices, he explained, there is no ideal level at which anything in the world can be purposely maintained without change.

Trying to fix and maintain a stasis, said the Cornwall Alliance Declaration on Global Warming (see the website), can be disastrous. "[M]any of these proposed policies would destroy jobs and impose trillions of dollars in cost to achieve no net benefits. They could only be implemented by enormous and dangerous expansion of government control over private life. Worst of all, by raising energy prices and hindering economic development, they would slow or stop the rise of the world's poor out of poverty and condemn millions to premature death"-an end which seems to be desirable to devotees of the Green Dragon, but hardly compatible with Christian charity.


1. http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79425_127979_ENG_HTM.htm

2. Quoted by R. J. Rushdoony in The Mythology of Science (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, [1967] 1995), 7.

3. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/no-pressure-new-environmental-campaign-glorifies-eco-fascism/

4. http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/guest_bloggers/4525/by_the_numbers%3A_new_poll_says_capitalism_and_christianity_are_incompatible/

5. James A. Wanliss, Resisting the Green Dragon,Dominion, Not Death (Burke, VA: Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, 2010), 33.


Topics: Church, The, Science, Theology

Lee Duigon

Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.

Lee has his own blog at www.leeduigon.com.

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