Climate change and biblical literalism

No Planet B
Photograph borrowed from Monash University by AIG with the purpose of promulgating precisely the opposite message to that of Monash University. Credit: Monash University. Fair use.

I sometimes claim that a religious belief that does not contradict known scientific fact is generally harmless. If you ever entertained the possibility that biblical literalism was harmless, you might consider the article Climate change and the Bible, by Avery Foley, published the other day by Answers in Genesis. The article was subtitled, “Top four biblical reasons not to panic about climate change.”

Before we get to the top four biblical reasons (are there more?), I want to note that Ms. Foley has, as far as I can tell, borrowed the preceding figure from an article, A new approach for teachers to engage in climate conversations in the classroom, posted by Jodi Evans of Monash University. Borrowing that photograph (uncredited, incidentally) from the article by Ms. Evans seems a bit tacky in that the article by Ms. Foley promulgates the opposite message to that intended by Ms. Evans.

In fairness, Ms. Foley does not claim that climate change is a hoax, only that we need not panic. What is her evidence?

  1. Psalm 115:3, "when our God is in heaven and all that He wills He accomplishes," and Psalm 148:8, "fire and hail, snow and smoke, storm wind that executes His command," where I use the Jewish Publication Society's 1986 translation. If you thought those verses were fragments, you would have a point.
  2. "God has commanded us not to be afraid," at least 365 times in the Bible.
  3. God promised Noah, "So long as Earth endures,/Seedtime and harvest,/Cold and heat,/Summer and winter,/Day and night/Shall not cease." Well, yes, it is kind of hard to argue that the seasons will not endure, but we may experience massive dislocations and countless refugees as some agricultural regions dry up, forests burn, and coastal regions flood. Should we "be afraid"? You bet we should.
  4. Genesis 1:27 informs us that we (alone) are made in God's image. Hence, we should adopt a "humans first" policy, which leads Ms. Foley to the very reasonable conclusion that we would do well "to lift nations out of poverty." Her solution, though she tempers it slightly with a light dose of environmentalism, amounts to "drill, baby, drill."

Ms. Foley concludes by advising us to

consider what God’s Word says and the promises God has made. Do what you can to be a good steward, help the poor and needy and support policies that will protect them, and, above all, preach the good news of the gospel.

What can I say? She makes light of climate change, pretends that the only way to support the poor is by providing nonrenewable energy, and relies on out-of-context snippets from the Bible for support. I felt a little bit like I was reading a medical tract written by a faith healer. Ms. Foley is, however, worse than a faith healer: The faith healer at least elicits a placebo effect from time to time, but as far as climate change is concerned, there will be no placebo effect. Biblical literalism as it is practiced at AIG is anything but harmless.