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Uninvited - Again

The British Royal Society is greatly concerned about climate change.

No, I mean really concerned.

So much so that the Society convened a major symposium at its Chicheley Hall facility to discuss the possiblities of geoengineering the climate in order to save the planet.

All the important folk were there, according to Associated Press reporter Charles J. Hanley (4/3/11). The gathering included scientists "of earth, sea and sky, scholars of law, politics and philosophy" and even one ethicist. The question for consideration is what the world should do, in the absence of carbon emissions controls, to stave off the inevitable warming of the planet and the drastic climate change sure to accompany that.

Scholars and scientists from six continents, "a blue-ribbon cross-section of atmospheric physicists, oceanographers, geochemists, environmentalists, international lawyers, psychologists, policy experts, and others" spent a few days mulling over the possibilities of what governments and private interests might do to forestall what many see as an impending environmental and planetary disaster.

I won't go into the various geoengineering possibilities discussed, because that's not what interested me the most about this gathering. I'm not opposed to such convocations. If there are geoengineering solutions to be discovered, then, by all means, let us bring them to the table.

My concern lies elsewhere. Kenyan earth scientist Richard Odingo expressed the concern that, by experimenting with the atmosphere through one or another geoengineering application, human beings might be playing God. And he added that this possibility is "very tempting to a scientist."

Such candor is refreshing.

But if there is concern about playing God among those who are beginning to consider large-scale projects to keep the earth from warming beyond what civilization can bear, would it not make sense to have a theologian or two on hand, just to keep an eye on the deliberations?

Apparently not. For it seems none were invited. There's nothing remarkable about this. These days what would be surprising, and what would surely raise eyebrows among the press and academic community would be if some theologians were invited to such a gathering, and if their opinions and remarks were given fair consideration.

So the Chicheley gathering is simply one more occasion when the "big questions" of life on planet earth were hauled out for discussion, but no one from the theological community was invited to the table. There are two reasons why this is so.

The first is what Marilynne Robinson describes as the "threshold" effect (Absence of Mind) - the belief, everywhere accepted, that, at some point in the 19th century, certainly the 20th century, intellectual life crossed a threshold and left religion behind as having nothing serious to contribute to the modern world. This is the operating assumption of almost every secular university and college in the Western world.

The second is the general lack of a serious intellectual life among Church leaders today. Who has the time or inclination to think about such things as geoengineering? What do spiritual and theological leaders have to add to such a discussion?

But if the earth is the Lord's and everything in it (Ps. 24.1), as surely all theologians and pastors agree, then should it not concern us that a cadre of scientists, intellectuals, academics, and politicians have taken it as their responsibility and privilege, quite apart from any consideration of God's purposes or will, to determine what's best for the planet?

If our pastors and theologians refuse to serve as sons of Issachar in this generation (1 Chron. 12.32), then it's no wonder that church members don't have a clue as to what it means to seek the Kingdom of God in this or any other area of everyday life. And it's also no wonder that, when the big questions of life on planet earth come up for discussion and review, no one representing a Christian worldview is invited to the table.

Additional related texts: Psalm 8; Hebrews 2.5-9; 2 Corinthians 10.3-5

A conversation starter: "Should Christians become more informed about and involved in the current debate about envirnomental issues?

T. M. Moore

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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