One of my favorite podcasts is Biologos’ Language of God, I encourage anyone with an interest in sound theology or science to subscribe. On the most recent episode the guests discussed how the majority of people believe that science and religion are at odds in general but when questioned about specific science and theology questions people had a much more difficult time finding actual difficulties. I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment because as I have studied and (more importantly) listened to experts on various disciplines I have discovered that what on the surface might seem like irreconcilable differences are merely relatively minor tensions. The truth is that humans are prone to doing this with any issue which with they are unfamiliar, whether that is science, religion, or politics. I say this often but, ask a person to define the political ideologies that individual hates and they rarely can. Many people will toss out catch words like communism, globalist, nationalist, fascist, CRT, Fundamentalist, but when pressed they have relatively little understanding of what these terms mean. Further, when specifics of these issues are discussed these individuals often find they agree more than they thought.
To illustrate I will take an issue I have seen frequently as of late, climate change. I see a number of more politically conservative Christians taking jabs at the climate change movement saying things like “it’s a religion”, “this earth is not our home.”, “God is sovereign over the earth therefore humanity can have no effect on the planet”, and of course “it’s all going to burn anyway”. Their broad thesis is that the climate change movement is completely inconsistent with sound Biblical teaching and so should be rejected. They are setting up a barrier between Christianity and climate science, allowing them to pick one camp and reject the other. They keep the conversation in general terms Christianity vs. The Climate Movement, and in doing so never force themselves to engage with with the other side. I will argue that their conclusions are both untrue and their beliefs arise from an un-Christian mindset. Further, The cure for this un-Christian thinking is to actually engage the issue on the level of specific issues rather than trying to get away with such generalities. Doing this allows the confrontation to disengage the modern partisan debate and to bring scripture in on a level that speaking in generalities does not.
For instance I cannot refute the claim that climate change advocates have become a religion because at least in a small quarter this is a true statement. There are some within the movement that are treating this issue with a religious conviction that is not healthy. Yet, it is easy to recognize that one group within a movement is not a valid reason to brush off the claims of others. Rather, I recognize (even if my opponents do not) that much of their opposition is rooted in a very specific political ideology and the scripture/theology they use is simply a smokescreen for their political opinions. Because I take this as my starting point I ask them to lay aside all discussion of science and politics and simply to discuss Christian theology. What does the Bible say about creation and human care and responsibility? Everyone can agree that in Genesis 1 & 2 we are shown a clear pattern of God giving humanity responsibility over creation. Now whether or not it will burn in the end, and whether or not we can completely destroy creation, I point out we have a shared common starting point for human responsibility. Given this I begin to ask what are specific ways we can live out that calling in our current world. Committing to caring for natural habitats, and creatures? Now since the answer is yes, the conversation can shift to what steps are we as Christians going to take to live out this command from God? Further, even if we cannot agree that humanity plays a role in the changing of the earth’s climate and landscape we can agree it is changing, and so I ask what responsibilities do we as Christians have toward those who are impacted by these changes? How does loving our neighbor fit into living through droughts and floods, extreme heat and cold? These kinds of questions point to the need for real answers from a Christian perspective.
The trouble is so many Christians have the mistaken belief that to engage with the opposition (whether that is liberal, conservative, communist, fascist, etc.) proves those people are right and gives them standing. The reality can be the exact opposite. Continuing with my illustration on climate change, If more conservative Christians would address the issues around climate change seriously they could take away clout from that fringe that makes the issue into a religion. What gives that fringe credibility is that many can recognize specific problems in the world related specifically to creation care issues. If the only institutions taking these issues seriously are climate activists then the people who see issues are going to gravitate to , especially if they offer the potential for answers and change. Rather, if Christians are able to take up the issues that others care about with sincere convictions we will have more authority to call out the faulty parts of their approach. Our ability to speak to specific issues helps prevent us from needlessly alienating people we are supposed to reach.
Our goal as Christians should be to seek the truth in everything we do, and this includes how we approach the world around us. Rather than arbitrarily throwing a roadblock between the Christian faith and a specific ideology, we should engage the specific concerns of the ideology head on. Engage the issues that its adherents care so much about and find our own answers to the issues at hand. If we do this we prove that our faith is closer to the objective truth and worth of adherence.