Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Smoking Gun--1600 Page Global Warming Report Out Soon

1600 pages is a big report. Trouble is, it is only the first of four parts, the result of an enormous and some have said definitive report demonstrating beyond reasonable doubt that there is human causation of several sorts when it comes to global warming. The first part will be out in early February. America's top climate scientist, Jerry Mahlman joined with Canada's leading climate scientist, Andrew Weaver in saying the evidence is now compelling and beyond dispute. In fact he says of the report: "This isn't a smoking gun,climate is a battalion of intergalactic smoking missles." You can read the AP story here at the following link---

I will not belabor the point since we have been talking about it already this week. I will simply say this report is written by 600 scientists reviewed by 600 others from 154 countries. That is what we call definitive and compelling. And one important thing about scientists. They tend to be very cautious as a group. They use words like maybe, possibly, or probably. They hardly ever say something is definitive, or beyond argument. This is what makes this peer reviewed detailed report so remarkable.

Cynthia Rosenweig from NASA authored the chapter which details the already very evident effects on human health, species engineering and food production of global warming.

Read the article and see what you think.

Since the rapture is not a Biblical doctrine at all but rather something dreamed up by a teenage girl in about 1820 at a revival in Glasgow Scotland and then preached by Darby and Moody neither of whom were ever Bible experts, perhaps we had better pay attention and see what a proper Christian response should be to this crisis, especially for the sake of being a good witness.


High Power Rocketry said...

: )


Dan Chen said...

Dr. Witherington,

I am grew up with a dispensational background, but I have started to read a lot of N.T. Wright's works. Could you briefly describe your biblical framework in dealing with the issue of global warming? That is, is the issue important because it's hurting people, and we need them to be alive to share the gospel and save their souls or(and) is it part of the church's responsibility in building the kingdom of God and thus helping to establish (to some small degree) the new heavens and new earth?



Ben Witherington said...


There are several reasons: 1) of course it is in part because we are fouling our own nest and it hurts other human beings; 2)I believe that the church is always supposed to be about the business of making this a better world by offering up a whole Gospel, both in its spiritual and a social dimension. I recognize of course that the new heaven and new earth will only come in any full sense after Jesus returns. This is what the NT says. However, I also know that Jesus wants to find us being about the Father's business when he comes. And that business involves the salvation and redemption of the world, not just of human souls. So any alleviation of human misery is something that honors our God who will one day bring the resurrection and the new heaven and new earth.


Ben W.

Ben Witherington said...


There are several reasons: 1) of course it is in part because we are fouling our own nest and it hurts other human beings; 2)I believe that the church is always supposed to be about the business of making this a better world by offering up a whole Gospel, both in its spiritual and a social dimension. I recognize of course that the new heaven and new earth will only come in any full sense after Jesus returns. This is what the NT says. However, I also know that Jesus wants to find us being about the Father's business when he comes. And that business involves the salvation and redemption of the world, not just of human souls. So any alleviation of human misery is something that honors our God who will one day bring the resurrection and the new heaven and new earth.


Ben W.

P.S. Take a look at my The Problem with Evangelical Theology.

Todd Gwennap said...

Dan, I could take a stab at your question, although I would be curious to hear Dr. Witherington's comments as well. It seems to me that there are several biblical reasons to support a Christian environmentalism (for lack of a better term). First, God's first command to Adam and Eve was to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and we see later in Genesis 2 that God's purpose in creating man was to have dominion over the earth. The original image we have is of man working and cultivating the earth, and enjoying the fruits (quite literally) of his labor. Taking that alone, we should still exercise a responsible dominion over the earth, not consume all we can, pollute, and trash the place. Dominion does not equal commodification. Second, after the Fall, the earth was subjected to a curse. It would no longer produce fruit without toil. Yet God does not abandon His creation. We see in Genesis 9 that God still desired man to rule over creation and exercise dominion, again, responsibility is implied. Third, and finally (for now), I believe that much of evangelicalism's reluctance to support responsible stewardship of the environment stems from a deeply ingrained Platonic dualism. It is commonly believed that one day, we will be disembodied spirits floating around in heaven with God (who will have destroyed earth and all things material). Unfortunately, this is not what Scripture teaches. God is redeeming his creation, not just our souls, but our very humanity. The curse on the earth will be lifted. There will be a bodily resurrection. So, in a way, I agree with your second question. We should do everything possible to usher in the Kingdom of God, especially care for the rest of His creation responsibly. In this way, we fulfill our original purpose.

By the way, if you can't tell, I write from a Reformed and covenantal perspective. I'd love to hear from people who think differently.

yuckabuck said...

To sum up point 2 of Dr. Witherington's comment above, one reason Christians should exhibit a deep concern for the environment is because

"he comes to make
his blessings known
far as the curse is found
far as the curse is found
far as far as
the curse is found"

(Couldn't resist. It's still Christmas at my house. Besides, try to find another carol that has such good theology about the Kingdom of God that was written before Schweitzer, Dodd, Ladd, Perrin, Wright, Witherington, etc.)

Dan Chen said...

Dr. Witherington/Todd,

I believe both of your arguments are more than enough to the call for Christians to pursue the environment issue, But to add another element, do you think the church is ushering or building the Kingdom of God in some sense more than just being a signpost or representative of new creation? Do you think that in some sense God will fix the environment through human means? Or do you think everything we do to the world follows the general model of the redemption of humans by which everyone dies and then is resurrected in the 2nd coming. It seems most Evangelicals get tripped up by the fact that Christ will make everything perfect in his 2nd coming so therefore issues like environment don't really matter, and we need to get in the busy of only saving souls. So I guess I am asking is there any sense that we are actually providing the building blocks for the new heaven and new earth in relationship to the environment?

Thanks for your thoughts,


David said...

Jesus was clear that when he came, the Kingdom of God was now. It was a current event, not a future wait.
Yes, there is a future hope of eternal life when we die.
But now, we are eternal, and are a part of the Kingdom.
I believe Romans 8 and creation doesn't just talk of a New Kingdom when Jesus returns, but speaks of a groaning creation now, waiting for us to do something.
Climate change is a result of the sin of man. The answer is certainly political, social, and individual, but it's also spiritual.

I'm curious to see the report.
Good stuff Ben. You're always so well spoken. :-)

Daniel said...

"I will simply say this report is written by 600 scientists reviewed by 600 others from 154 countries. That is what we call definitive and compelling. And one important thing about scientists. They tend to be very cautious as a group."

There are studies on both sides of this issue. All you have to do to get 600 scientists to agree with another 600 scientists is to pick and choose your scientists based on your position.

Happens all the time in politically charged debates.

I saw a Copley editorial cartoon just now at work that I wanted to post, but unfortunately my work access doesn't extend to personal use. :)

Basically it's a bench of judges with the title "INQUISITION" and the caption "You dare challenge global warming with scientific debate?"

Ben Witherington said...

Well Daniel you're pretty cynical, but in fact I won't let you off the hook that easy. Nobody handpicked these scientists. They signed on because they were interested in the subject and they came from a variety of viewpoints. So sorry, you can't fend off this landmark report with a wave of the hand. In fact, you have an ethical obligation as a Christian to look into the matter.


Neil Parille said...

Dr. Witherington,

Years ago I read a book arguing that the rapture was invented by a teenage girl on Scotland. (Darby apparently had some connection to her church). I wasn't convinced that the author (McPherson?) had conclusively established the link.

Do you have more evidence?

Ben Witherington said...

Yep.... as for where the rapture idea came see my chapter on this in The Problem with Evangelical Theology. It does indeed go back to a young girl named MacDonald whom Darby encountered at a revival in Glasgow in the 19th century.

Ben W.

ASAM said...

Hot topic, global warming, with oil companies etc. influencing politicians to minimize the gavity of what is happening re. our environment.
I find it interesting that the bible talks about the demise of the earth that fits with where the global warming, nuclear devices, etc. would take us.
Anyway.........my passion is something more closer to home. I was born in a war torn country, but now live in N. America. My blog sites talk talk about my passion re. family violence and other related things.
Please check the two sites out.

Bill Barnwell said...

I myself am conflicted on this matter. I will be looking for analysis of this study once it comes out. On one hand, I do think the secular enviornmentalist agenda is dangerous in many ways, but on the other hand, I'm fairly certain that we've done some real enviornmental damage. I think it's hard to deny not everything we are doing is good for the earth!

Perhaps part of the problem of some Christians not wanting to hear anything about global warming is that they reflexively label it a "liberal" issue, and anything that's "liberal" thus must not be good. I don't as Christians we should associate the goofiest elements of the enviornmentalist movement with main issues at stake here. Of course, I would agree that escapist/lazy theology does play a role as well. While on vacation this last year I was visiting one of the largest churches megachurches in America. The pastor plainly said that "we don't need to worry about global warming because God is in control and our Lord may soon return."

We need to not be politicized when we approach this issue. If we are indeed harming our earth, then Christians of all people should take the lead in speaking out. Why should we leave the issue to those who honor the creation but not the Creator? It doesn't have to be an either/or. We can, and should honor both God and His creation.

Alex said...


I'm in agreement that global warming is a very serious issue for humanity, Christians and non-Christians alike and I agree, based on what little I've heard, that humans are a big cause of the problem. However, to say "They signed on because they were interested" about the scientists included in the report is to admit that we don't have a truly random (fair) sample of scientists.

A fair sample would include "interested" and uninterested scientists. Most, and I emphasize 'most', people who are interested in the topic of global warming also agree that humans are the cause of it. Therefore to allow it to be a sort of volunteer sign on if you're interested sort of thing biases the sample from the very beginning. Do you see where I'm coming from?

Ben Witherington said...

I see Alex, however there were various of the more reluctant whom I gather were invited to review the study anyway, so I think its a fair sampling.

tony garrood said...

Off topic, but Darby not a bible expert? He knew the original languages back to front, translated the Bible into French and English, wrote a synopsis on the whole of the Bible, and was the most influential and one of the most creative evangelical theologians of the 19th century. Isn't he at least the equal of Wesley in theological capability and scope and surely his superior in sheer linguistic ability and bible knowledge? He founded a whole school of Bible interpretation which continues to find very competent and able defenders to this day. Of course, he didn't teach at a University or Seminary, but he's like Spurgeon; his bible knowledge and the intelligence and insight he brings to the study of the scripture is greater than almost everyone who did or does. I'm not saying that about Moody, although he was certainly no fool when it came to Bible knowledge. I have no brief for dispensationalism and in many ways Darby is not a person like Moody or Spurgeon of whom one can wholeheartedly approve. But not a bible expert?

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Tony:

No Darby was certainly not an expert in the Bible. He was a translator, true enough, and a pretty good one as well. He had neither the training, nor did ever do the research or the teaching that Wesley did at Oxford. Take a look at Wesley's huge treatise on Original Sin. It is possible that Darby's Hebrew knowledge was a bit better than Wesley's, but on the other hand Wesley knew the Church Fathers inside and out, especially the Greek ones. Darby did indeed found a school of thought which still endures today with many permutations and changes. This doesn't make it necessarily consonant with the Bible 's witness. Like many of his successors he unfortunately was a person who liked to string texts together on the tenuous basis of a shared catchword. However words have differing meanings in differing contexts, and unfortunately Darby set up a sort of proof-texting that does not do justice to the processes of contextual interpretation.



José Solano said...

When I taught high school history I would at times share my dooms day scenarios with students. I would offer various reasons why our planetary state was just about hopeless. Pollution, overpopulation, nuclear holocausts and humanity's basic greed were some of the dangers I would point out. I would bring to their attention things like the Cuban missile crisis, the Chernobyl potential meltdown, places like Mexico City being essentially in the middle of a huge garbage dump with birds falling from the sky from toxic air, or the catastrophic conditions in the former Soviet Union and in China with regard to nuclear dumps and general irresponsibility in polluting their major rivers. At that time we didn't have our knowledge of the global warming crisis to add to the dooms day scenarios.

Some students became so disturbed and frightened that they complained to the principal and I decided to tone it down as I did not want them having nightmares. My basic view was and is that the situation is essentially hopeless. An enormous world catastrophe that will impact every human being on earth appears inevitable. This was not a commentary to induce greater complacency. On the contrary, it was a real wake-up call for everyone to work indefatigably to do whatever appears even remotely possible to reverse the course of what might be called humanity's Thanatos drive.

Tonight I will sit back and relax to watch the dooms day scenarios of National Geographic's Strange Days. And I'll consider what an evangelist once told me that God will not allow humanity to destroy itself, that remains strictly God's prerogative.

Come Lord Jesus.

Jeff Burton said...

First: If you are going to hitch your wagon to the environmental movement, I suggest you switch to "Global Climate Change". "Global Warming" is passe. That makes it much more convenient to turn up the hysteria no matter what the weather does. Second: Isn't it interesting that the policy recommendation summary is appearing now, but the technical details won't come until May? And the expressed reason is so they can fiddle with the gun to make more smoke come out.

tony garrood said...


I'm just going to come back at you again on Darby.

I take your point to be to deny that Darby was competent to access/create the rapture doctrine because he was not a Bible expert.

Because I know you like Wesley and because I see Wesley and Darby as very similar people, I thought I would compare them. You then point me to Wesley's training, to his time at Oxford as a teacher and to a theological treatise he wrote.

1) I don't think you need a University training to be a bible expert. You simply need to be thoroughly conversant with the contents of the Bible, know the languages it was written in (preferably) and able to debate cogently with peers about it. Lets take some other people. Richard Baxter, he didn't have a University training, but he was surely a Bible expert for all that. Calvin's training, like Darby's, was in a discipline other than theology. But he was surely a Bible expert. Spurgeon had no training, but he was surely a Bible expert. I support the idea of a trained ministry, but people can also teach themselves the Bible. Very able people, like Baxter, Calvin, Spurgeon and, yes, Darby, can also so immerse themselves in the scriptures and the theological literature of their day that they are able to argue with the best representatives of those who have received a University training as peers.

2) I don't think Wesley's tutoring and teaching as a fellow of Lincoln College was his greatest achievement.

3) Wesley's theological and biblical achievement does not rest on his work on Original Sin. Surely it rests on his reading of the whole scripture from the perspective of evangelical Arminianism. Its in the 53 sermons, in the Notes to the New Testament that Wesley displays his credentials as a Bible expert and a majopr Christian theologian. Of course, he could also write technical theology. But he didn't do this often. But Bible experts are not judged by whether they write treatises of technical theology. It's whether they have mastered the tools necessary to carry out Bible exegesis, know a lot about the Bible and argue in a manner their peers take notice of. Both Wesley and Darby qualify on this score.

Off Wesley and back to Darby. Darby and his sort of exegesis and his knowledge of the Bible was not peculiar to him. He made his name, just like Wesley [OK so not so off Wesley] amongst seriously minded theology students at Oxford. Amongst his associates were G V Wigram (who stayed with him after 1848) and S G Tregelles (who sided with Newton and Bethesda). So Wigram prepared both Hebrew and Greek scripture concordances. In your eyes, was he a Bible expert? He was a paid up Darbyite. He may well have been wrong, but he was surely learned. Now Tregelles was such an expert on the Greek manuscripts that he was part of the team that produced the Revised Version. A peer of Westcott and Hort. He disagreed with Darby, to be sure, but his method of interpretation, his literalism, was just the same as Darby's. It's simply that he and Newton disagreed with Darby about the the dispensations and place of Israel in prophecy.

Its clear that Wigram and Tregelles considered Darby to be their peer, in some ways to be their teacher. They are certainly Bible experts. Therefore Darby is as well. Darby's translation of the Greek text came with a critical apparatus to enable those without his learning in Greek and knowledge of the manuscript discoveries of the mid 19th century to get up to speed and consider the translation in the AV in the light of current learning.

Thats Darby and his friends. Lets consider the province of the rapture theory. Lets say it originated in Irvingite circles in the 1820's. But Darby only adopted it fully 10 or so years later, as a lynchpin of his dispensational analysis of the whole of the scripture. But Darby rejected that other discovery of the Irvingites, the restoration to the Church of the apostolic gifts as a presage of the last times. Both of these ideas therefore have a similar provence. However the second was uniformly rejected by all competent Bible experts in England and lived on only in Catholic Apostolic circles. However, 80 years later the gifts manifested themselves again in Azusa Street. My view is that the ministers in charge at Azusa Street were not Bible experts, if Darby is not counted to be a Bible expert. However, this does not prevent you from being positive to Pentecostalism in your recent celebration of its 100 years; the lack of Bible experts to verify the new doctrine doesn't seem to bother you so much in this case. Nowadays those of us who are as doubtful of tongues and the baptism in the holy spirit and the restoration of the gifts to the church as we are of the rapture are not allowed to mention its origin in Irvingite circles or the complete lack of belief amongst Bible experts about the exegesis used to justify the doctrine either in 1829 or 1906. I think neither Parham nor Seymour were experts in the original languages or trained theologians, whatever their other merits may have been. However, the unlearnedness of these people is not a reason you give for rejecting the ideas a experience of Pentecostalism. You aren't consistent here.

The final point you make is that you disagree with Darby's hermeneutic. But this is not a reason to say a person is not a Bible expert. Bultmann is in my view hopelessly wrong about the gnosticism of the 4th gospel, about form criticism and about the theology of the new testament. He rejects the inspiration of the Bible and is led into implausible and irrational exegetical schemes. I would love to be able to say he can then be ignored because he isn't a Bible expert. But of course Bultmann was a great expert in the original languages, knew the text of the scripture and argued cogently with his peers. Walter Bauer I think is grievously mistaken about Orthodoxy and Heresy in the Early Church. His method is completely wrong. But what nonsense to say he is not a Bible expert. Thomas Thompson says the whole of the Old Testament is unhistorical. I would love to say he is not a Bible expert, but very sadly more and more OT scholars seem to be taking his view of things. There may be problems with literalism, but are Bultmann's, Bauers and Thompsons methods of exegesis to be preferred? Are they really more faithful to the divine and human context out of which the Bible is written. You say literalists ignore the context of the words of scripture. Well of course because they accept its divine context, its context in the history of redemption I think they pay far more attention to context than Bultmann does with his about gnosticism, his speculations about form criticism and his gutting of the Pauline literature. I disagree with both Bultmann and Darby (for what thats worth, not so much, I'm not a Bible expert), but I don't think I can dismiss either as unlearned. You don;t dismiss Bultmann as unlearned, despite disagreeing with his hermeneutic, why dismiss Darby, because you don' agree with his hermeneutic?

And of course that is the reason why I am bothering with this post. For mainstream Bible scholars teaching at Universities in the UK and USA it doesn't matter how much the faculty at Dallas contributes to the study of NT Greek, there are no Bible experts at Dallas because the faculty accepts dispensationalism and are a bunch of fundamentalists. Now I know this wouldn't be your view. But I really don't see any difference between Wallace and Fanning and Hoenher, and Darby in the essence of their hermeneutical method. Its been refined, but at the end of the day, these folks believe in the Rapture as well. Are there no Bible experts at Dallas either?

Too long.

Tony Garrood

Andy said...


I'm all for being a responsible Christian, but you seem to be suggesting this means embracing "Global Warming" as "gospel". After all, it's endorsed by a large concensus of scientists so it must be true.

Should we say the same about Evolution?

How about miracles? They generally cannot be "scientifically verified" if the consensus scientists say miracles are not possble then should we stop believing in them?

So what's MY point?

Just as Evolution has critics, there are bona-fide scientists who dispute the validity of Global Warming.

As far as I'm concerned whether Global Warming is fact or fiction it doesn't matter. As Chritians, we should realize we don't have to "save the planet" or the world - this was already accomplished on the Cross. What we need to do is ensure as many people know about the salvation already wrought.

If you want to file me under an "evangalitical madman" than so be it.

God bless,


P.S. If you'd like a perspective from someone who's taken the time to look at some of the facts and draw his own conclusion try this...