Learning from a More Liberal View of Creation Care

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

To help you better understand Bauckham’s statements against E. Calvin Beisner and the Cornwall Alliance, it would be helpful if you listened to Beisner’s lecture first before listening to Bauckham’s lecture. You can find Beisner’s lecture here.

At the recent national Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) conference in November 2012 in Milwaukee, WI, Richard Bauchkham spoke in the third plenary session on “Reading the Bible in the Context of the Ecological Threats of Our Time.” 

On a negative note, I think Dr. Bauckham unfairly represented Beisner’s position by tying him to Francis Bacon. Even though Bauckham is not a Scientist himself, he ignored the quotes from specific scientists made by Beisner, simply dismissing Beisner’s position as that of raping and pillaging the land.  Beisner did not argue such things (You can find Beisner’s lecture here). Thus, I learned from Bauckham how not to treat my brothers and sisters.  We have a responsibility to accurately represent our brothers and sisters in Christ.

On a more positive note, I appreciated Bauckham’s passion for caring for creation. He obviously was so dogmatic in his position because he believes human lives and human livelihood are at stake in the global warming issue. Bauckham never met many of these people that he spoke of, but he obviously loves them. I too should love my neighbors with such passion. . . all my neighbors, including Beisner.

Bio: Richard J. Bauckham MA, PhD Cambridge, FBA, FRSE (born September 22, 1946) is a widely published scholar in theology, historical theology and New Testament. He is currently working on New Testament Christology and the Gospel of John as a Senior Scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge.

Zondervan recorded the plenary sessions, and offers them here. Dr. Bauckham is introduced at 01:03:40, and starts speaking at 01:05:48.

Summary of Main Points (These are Bauckham’s points, not my points. This is just a summary of his position, not mine. For a more detailed analysis of Backham’s approach, see my review of his book: http://sbcvoices.com/living-with-other-creatures-book-critique/)

We all know that the “Jesus didn’t exist” position is unfounded. Climate change denial is the equivalent of the “Jesus didn’t exist” position in the scientific world. The overall majority of Scientists agree that man-made global warming is an alarming threat to the continued existence of our planet. In order to answer the global warming crisis, Christians should view creation in the same manner God does as described in Genesis 1. We must learn to add without devaluing, to add without replacing or destroying the creation God has entrusted to our care. Human creativity must be exercised within the limits of our creation. Freedom is always limited. We live in a culture of excess, where nothing is ever enough, especially in the West. The Baconian project destroyed much that is good in the name of progress. We are exploiting the world’s resources instead of meeting human needs and worthy aspirations. We must seek to enable and enhance human life by living within creaturely limits.  We do not need to remove mountain tops to mine coal, burn fossil fuels much longer, etc. We do not need to waste energy and food on the colossal scale that we do. We do not need the consumer goods a corrupt economic system has deceived us into wanting. God has made humans resourceful enough to find much better ways to live and flourish.

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.


  1. Bennett Willis says

    I find it frustrating that you insist on referring to protection of the environment as a “liberal” issue. On this blog, “liberal” is about the foulest thing that can be said about another. Surely protection of the environment (and we who live in it) does not deserve this description.

    This is said with a bit of “tongue in cheek,” but not much more than the tip.

  2. Rob Ayers says

    So what exactly are you advancing? Who is “we”? Should Christians aspire to a simpler life like living in caves and using grass for toilet paper? Our footprint is what it is – our culture is also what it is. I am currently helping a poor family attempting to get a better “ride” because their current one is a 30 year old GMC Jimmy which is always on the blitz – but it is the only thing they can afford – intense regulations over the environment have seen to that. It is a wonder the government has not confiscated it yet. Yet to not have a vehicle in the country and rural areas is unthinkable. We do not have the convenience of public transportation so everything is “long distance.” What is it that we use to keep warm in the winter? We either burn fossil fuels or wood – and with 6 billion people on the planet that is a lot of carbon umph.

    The majority of the scientific community do not believe in God either. So what is your point there exactly?

    I am not discounting the Bible’s commands as it relates to being good stewards of the environment. We have been given these resources to use wisely, and many in the world have failed miserably. At the same time some people’s cure for what ails the environment is far worse than the disease. I would hope that somehow the folks at Voices would produce a balanced approach.


  3. says

    Of course we ought be good stewards of the gifts given to us, including the earth and everything in it.

    The trouble comes when “enviro-wackos” put animals and icebergs ahead of people. And when they make the earth into a god.

    The earth and everything in it are NOT progressing…but are being brought to an end.

  4. says

    I believe fossil fuel, oil, is a blessing and provision from God. If it were only being discovered today, it would be considered a green fuel. After all, without oil, just think of the polution from millions burning coal and wood, and anything else, to keep warm.

    If you travel in cars and airplanes, you should be for oil.

    A few of my thoughts on Global Warming, Global Cooling, & Climate Change are at:

    David R. Brumbelow

  5. Rob Ayers says

    Another point: most of the worlds advances were “discovered” before the old ways discarded. The automobile did away with horses (everybody complains about smog and pollution that the combustion engine gives but say nothing about what horses delivered to the ecosystem); the “light bulb” removed candles and kerosene lanterns, “no-tilling” farming techniques pretty much did away with the plow (and the ‘dust bowls’ that resulted therein). While I am all for the idea that “necessity begets ingenuity” history has shown that only with discovery has old practices been abandoned. What you seem to be saying is, “lets abandon the old ways – we are a pretty resourceful lot, we will find a way.” Your way would place millions of people, mostly in the poorer regions of the world, at dire risk. Would this be what Jesus would want us to do?

  6. Rob Ayers says

    John Wylie – while these units are still in use, there wholesale use have been done away (at least in the United States and other more “modern” countries). My grandparents told of times when the sky was black for days at a time during the thirties and early 40’s. It was this issue which drove research into more stable and productive farming techniques – yet we did not stop to grow food in the meanwhile.

    Jared – from reading your piece it is hard to determine when analysis ends and editorial comment begins. How can you love your neighbor when you want them to live in conditions approaching third world status with all the “other” pitfalls that accompany the same? Bauckman rails at “progress” when he is surrounded by the trappings of “progress” – nice suit, warm and comfortable surroundings, modern sound equipment, etc., etc., etc. – all produced by a decadent society that produces such terrible devices for the betterment of humanity (revealed to them by a sovereign God) and to line the inventor(s) and investor(s) pocket. How devastating!


  7. Bill Mac says

    I sometimes get the feeling that the Christian approach to protecting the environment is that it is fine as long as it inconveniences no one.

    • Rob Ayers says

      Is that projection Bill? My problem is that most of the supposed fixes to the environment proposed by the most is that it greatly poor people. Thomas Edison once said he sought to make electricity and lighting so cheap that only the rich would burn candles. The modern environmentalists want to make it where only the rich would dare have electricity in their homes, and outlaw the use of candles in poor homes to boot. You sir have brought up the classical “straw” man – the Christian who understands who owns it all (God) (and that would be most of us) understands about environmental decency and good manners in dealing with God’s world. We object when there are no readily available alternatives to grandiose pie in the sky environmental regulations that place the indigent and poor at a great and desperate disadvantage – and by the way great inconvenience. You know – the people whom the Bible tells us to protect (more so than say the environment :-) – Just saying). By the way – did you drive your car today? Did you take a warm shower? Did you turn on the heat?



  8. says

    Some of many examples of environmentalists getting it wrong.

    They railed against the evil of paper grocery bags. It was destroying the forests. Never mind we had more trees than 100 years ago and trees are a renewable resource. They said the answer was plastic grocery bags. Now, they are condemning the plastic bags.

    They used to panic and warn of Global Cooling; now its Global Warming and Climate Change. By the way, the climate always changes and goes in cycles. While some ice caps and glaciers are receding, others are advancing; but you seldom hear that on the news.

    Environmentalists pushed ethanol, fuel from corn. It costs more than it’s worth to produce, is heavily subsidized, takes up more farmland, and has driven up the price of corn, a staple for the poorest people. In other words, it doesn’t hurt the affluent much; it seriously harms the poorest folks. Now they are into making fuel from algae, another unsustainable pursuit.

    Environmentalists promote expensive electric cars. Guess what electric cars run on. They run on coal. They generate electricity from coal. And wind turbines only produce electricity when the wind is blowing, they have no reasonable way of storing that electricity.

    I’m for clean water and air, wilderness areas, good wildlife management, and reasonable environmental regulations. I’ve done more gardening, tree planting, grafting, wildlife management, than most. But much of the environmental hysteria is costing us dearly. Again, thank God for oil. It has made our environment and our lives much better.
    David R. Brumbelow

    • Greg Harvey says

      The worst part about corn-based ethanol is that scientists have seriously questioned whether there is a net carbon benefit over oil taking into consideration the entire supply chain (tractors, fertilizers, production, and transportation.) That’s why the push is on for unproven cellulosic ethanol instead. Even more effective would be cane sugar which is how Brazil produces its ethanol, but the sugar lobby has its tenterhooks very solidly in keeping THOSE prices subsidized to the point that importing either cane or cane-produced ethanol is unlikely.

      But, wait, there’s more: a gallon of ethanol has roughly 67% of the energy content of a gallon of gasoline. So unless you pay 2/3rds of the price for a gallon of ethanol–and that not taking into account the reduced distance you can drive on it–you’re getting ripped off. And did I mention it’s still subsidized? And there are still duties preventing importation?

      Ethanol is the perfect example of government gone nuts. It’s a dumb policy designed to provide supports to farmers. All it has really accomplished is raising the price of groceries. And environmentalists really aren’t very honest in dealing with it because it was a political “win” for them.