Evangelical scientists are having a significant impact on many evangelicals and their views on environmentalism, writes Mark Pinsky in the Harvard Divinity Bulletin (Winter).
The American evangelical rank and file have been divided on such environmental issues as climate change, with both sides using scientific authorities to help defend their positions. But Pinsky writes that a subset of evangelical scientists at prestigious (often British) universities have turned their attention to climate change, authoring several books making the Christian case for curbing global warming, among the most popular being A Moral Climate: The Ethics of Global Warming, by Michael Northcott.
Other scientists, such as Brian Heap and Sir John Houghton, along with their American counterparts, such as Francis Collins and Calvin DeWitt of the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies, have directly influenced religious leaders, who, in turn, spread the word to their constituencies about the dangers of climate change and the need for activism.
For instance, Houghton personally influenced Richard Cizik, head of the 30-million-member National Association of Evangelicals, who became an outspoken proponent of activism on climate control (attracting the attention of critics such as Pat Robertson and James Dobson, who exerted pressure to try and have him fired).
Joel Hunter, an influential megachurch pastor and advisor to President Obama, has likewise been the recipient of Houghton’s personal counsel. Hunter says that believing researchers have been very important in generating support for activism on the issue, mainly because they are seen as respected scientists who are also committed Christians. Pinsky adds that support for an activist role regarding climate change has become a “major tenet among a cohort of younger megachurch pastors now bidding to assume national leadership of the evangelical movement.”
(Harvard Divinity Bulletin, 45 Francis Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138)