The Holy Trinity: How to explain Climate Change to Conservative Christians


To the great surprise of most people living in North America, January 2014 was the fourth warmest January in recorded history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. What is even more disconcerting is that climate scientists predict that as the Earth gets warmer freezing weather caused by polar vortexes are likely to become more common: increased global temperatures are causing local freezing temperatures.

Climate Change is happening and it is predominantly caused by mankind’s activities.  This view is shared by most scientists in the world who have studied the issue.  In fact, between November 2012 and December 2013 out of 2,258 peer-reviewed articles about climate by 9,136 authors only one author rejected man made global warming.  A previous study of the peer-reviewed literature from 1991 through Nov. 12, 2012, found 13,950 articles on “global warming” or “global climate change.” Of those, only 24 explicitly rejected the theory of man-made global warming. The prestigious Royal Society of Great Britain and the US National Academy of Sciences weighed in on the issue in February 2014 and both agreed in a joint paper that human activities are changing the climate.  

Why then do so many conservative Christians dispute this?  On what evidence are they basing their opposition?  History Future Now believes that there are three main reasons for opposing the science.

Firstly, there is a strong correlation between people who are religious and those that are sceptical about climate change.  Religious views have been repeatedly assaulted over the past few hundred years by scientific advances. Strongly held religious beliefs about the age of the Earth, the origin of life and the location of Earth in the cosmos have been overturned by science.   The Earth is not a few thousand years old, but billions of years old.  Life was not created in a few days with all forms unchanging but evolved from basic primordial ingredients.  The Earth is not at the centre of the solar system but revolves around the Sun, which revolves around the centre of the Milky Way galaxy.  Many religious people believe that when God told Noah that there would be no more floods he would be true to his word.  Climate change, with predictions of floods and sea level rises is incompatible with God’s promise to Noah.

Science is trying to dismantle another firmly held religious view and religion is trying to fight back.

Secondly, there is a strong correlation between people who are conservative, or right wing, and those that are sceptical about climate change.  They rightly observe that to combat climate change effectively you need global policies.  This goes against one strongly held conservative view, which is about individual rights and freedoms.  To be truly free you must be able to do what you want.  Policies to combat global warming will fetter people and make them less free.  A second issue for conservatives is that global warming is linked to environmentalism and environmentalism was born out of the socialist movement.  If they accept that global warming is happening they will also have to accept the big government policies so beloved by socialists.

Thus global warming threatens the entire conservative movement and so denying that climate change is happening is a way for conservatives to fight back.

Thirdly, it seems so easy to disprove climate change with your very eyes.  How can we have a frozen North America AND global warming? Unlike religion, which seems to be consistent, unchanging and reliable, climate scientists seem to constantly change their beliefs.  New “facts” come to light that contradict earlier “facts”.  Heck, if the so-called scientists can’t make their minds up, why should the general public believe a word that they say?  Then there is the conspiracy angle.  Since there is a correlation between scientists, aethism and holding left of centre political views, it would seem natural that scientists would promote global warming: it is just an excuse to attack religion and conservatives.  Finally, since most scientists are funded by the government they have a vested interest to promote climate change in order to keep their fat government pay checks.  Case closed.

And here is the problem for scientists that are trying to convince the general public about the perils of climate change: religious beliefs and political beliefs are much stronger and deeper rooted than the evolving views about climate change.

It took decades before people started to take the theory of evolution seriously.  In some parts of the United States they still reject evolution and the timeline for the creation of the Earth and the Universe, despite the fact that large chunks of modern science and engineering could not exist or function without understanding evolution and physics.

Climate change science is only a few decades old and is extremely complicated.  New data may contradict older data.  While the Royal Society and National Academy of the Sciences may agree that climate change is happening it will take further decades of research on an ongoing problem before strongly religious people and conservatives will accept that it really is happening, and is not a left wing god hating conspiracy.

It is too late to stop climate change.  It is already happening and is going to get worse.  Even if all political groups agreed with the science and wanted to do something about it today the policies required by society to stop the problem from getting any worse are greater than any political party can deliver.

When I go to church with my family, one of the items that we read aloud as a congregation is the Nicene Creed. This statement of belief was a political and religious compromise devised in 325 AD under the guidance of the Roman Emperor Constantine.  He gathered together all of the various early Christian factions that had been arguing about the nature of God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

If Christians believe in only one God, how do you account for Jesus and the Holy Spirit?  Doesn’t that add up to three gods, not one god? And if Jesus was God, how could an immortal all powerful deity have suffered and died on the cross?  Surely he can’t suffer or die?  Yet if he did not suffer or die then how did he save our souls? Was he just faking it? Some Christians believed that God and Jesus were separate. Others that they were one being, but different.

The Nicene Creed established the concept of God as a Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  A good analogy of how to explain the impossible contradiction of one God but three forms is to think of water, H20.  It exists as solid ice, liquid water, and as a gas, water vapour.  Their forms are quite different, but they are all H20.

The Nicene Creed became the official stance of the Christian faith.  All those that did not adhere to it would be excommunicated and no longer be members of the Catholic faith.  The Nicene Creed goes as follows:

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen. 

So here a statement that there is only one God.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.

And that Jesus Christ is both the son of God and the same being as God.

Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirt

And that God became Incarnate as Jesus Christ through the medium of the Holy Spirit.

he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Climate Change can be viewed in a similar way to the Holy Trinity.   Droughts and floods, freezing and hot temperatures, ocean acidification and sea level rises appear to be quite different to each other, in the same way that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit appear to be quite different.

But they are caused by the same fundamental problem: increased levels of Carbon Dioxide, and other greenhouse gases like methane, in the atmosphere has started to heat the planet.

Many of the early breakthroughs in science were discovered by deeply religious people who believed that by understanding the laws of nature they were revealing the true awesome nature of God’s creation. Many climate change scientists remain deeply religious and feel that their work not only helps provide an understanding as to why Earth is not a lifeless rock like Mercury or Venus but also gives them an understanding that mankind is in the process of destroying God’s creation. They are conservative in the desire to conserve God’s Earth.

And that is something that conservative Christians should want to embrace as well.


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