The term, “mea-culpa” is Latin for, “I’m an idiot.” Philologists squabble over nuance, of course. Some offer footnote-laden papers supporting “jerk” while young’n restless revisionists fight for “dolt” and “dweeb.” It gets ugly at academic conferences what with all the hurled epithets, ruined reputations, and tossed fruit salads. And no follow-up mea-culpas. Such is academia’s pressure-cooker life.
I’ve rendered quibbling over definitions needless because I’ve been all three: a jerk, dolt, and dweeb. I had an attitude problem with a theology professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary named John Jefferson Davis when I was a student in the late 1980’s. Dr. Davis came across as a straight-arrow Calvinist, a Geneva throw-back, the Puritan’s Puritan. Just call him “Doctor Predestination.”
I feared him. I only sat in on one of his lectures – which, to my surprise, was very good.
Yes, Doctor Davis is Reformed – the good kind, the kind who sees merit in Methodism’s John Wesley, the kind who doesn’t mind it if you’re not a strict Calvinist. He’s for women’s ordination and argues for theistic evolution. And, in 2000, he wrote a paper for JETS (the Journal of the Evangelical Society, which definitely does not fly at Mach 1) in which he culled twenty evangelical systematic theologies and found them wanting: They overlooked the ramifications of Colossians 1:15-20, which shows how Christ redeems the entire cosmos. We’re missing major implications in the atonement and forgetting the call of Francis Schaeffer’s Pollution and the Death of Man: The Christian View of Ecology. Evangelical theologians have “contributed” to the lack of an environmental ethic. Ladies and gentlemen, says the professor, there are “ecological blind spots” in our theology. Let’s hup-to it.
In other words, Dr. Davis is a boat-rocker – just like Calvin, Zwingli, and Bullinger. Mea-culpa, Doctor Davis. I should have taken a course or two from you, but I was an idiot – and a jerk and a dolt and a dweeb. All I can do is apologize and link up to your article, with the hopes that more theologians will heed your summons.
Evangelical scientists call for action
Fortunately, two hundred evangelical scientists are not waiting for the systematic theologies. And they’re not being idiots. They sent a letter to Congressional leaders calling for climate-change action. The letter speaks for itself, so here it is along with a link to a pdf file in which we can see the signatories:
July 10, 2013
Dear Speaker Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Reid, and Members of the United States Congress:
As evangelical scientists and academics, we understand climate change is real and action is urgently needed. All of God’s Creation – humans and our environment -is groaning under the weight of our uncontrolled use of fossil fuels, bringing on a warming planet, melting ice, and rising seas. The negative consequences and burdens of a changing climate will fall disproportionately on those whom Jesus called “the least of these”: the poor, vulnerable, and oppressed. Our nation has entrusted you with political power; we plead with you to lead on this issue and enact policies this year that will protect our climate and help us all to be better stewards of Creation.
Average global temperatures are at their highest level within the measurement record, and we are beginning to see indications of increasingly disturbed weather. For example, 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded for the contiguous United States, and it will go down as one of the most destructive and disruptive years in U.S. history: wildfires, drought, superstorms, and public health outbreaks. This past year is only one example of the patterns of change we expect to see as the climate warms globally. We’re already spending billions in emergency aid for the victims of hurricanes and weather disasters, and these expenses will only increase as the “once in a lifetime” storms become the new normal.
The Bible tells us that “love does no harm to its neighbor” (Romans 13:10), yet the way we live now harms our neighbors, both locally and globally. For the world’s poorest people, climate change means dried-up wells in Africa, floods in Asia that wash away crops and homes, wildfires in the U.S. and Russia, loss of villages and food species in the Arctic, environmental refugees, and disease. Our changing climate threatens the health, security, and well-being of millions of people who are made in God’s image. The threat to future generations and global prosperity means we can no longer afford complacency and endless debate. We as a society risk being counted among “those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18).
We call on you to pass meaningful legislation during this Congress to reduce carbon emissionsand protect our environment, thereby strengthening the long-term outlook for our economy and our children. As Christian scientists and educators, we offer our knowledge, experience, and prayerful witness to assist you and all of our nation’s leaders who are willing to address this urgent challenge.