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The CRCNA’s Office of Social Justice (OSJ) recently communicated its unequivocal support for proposed federal legislation that would impose an array of assessments (taxes) against carbon (CO2) emissions, both directly and indirectly.

OSJ’s explanation of the legislation it is advocating, also sent out by email blast, is here:, and its invitation to you and me to personally lobby our respective congressional representatives, complete with the text of an OSJ suggested email to do so, can be found here:

For anyone interested and wanting to spend the time and effort, the actual text of the proposed federal legislation can be reviewed here:

Presumably, OSJ’s support of this legislation is in response to its sense of a mandate from Synod to advocate about “creation care.” OSJ claims this legislation, if passed, would “drive down American’s carbon pollution,” but also “unleash[] American technology innovation,” “put money in the pockets of Americans,” and be “revenue neutral.”

But would the legislation in fact do all of that?  I don’t think so, as to any of the claims made.  Why?  Although explaining my disagreement in detail would require a very long article (or short book), here is a summary: The proposed legislation suffers from a fundamental misunderstanding about a variety of energy issues, about tax policy, about the bureaucratic nature of government, and about the economic realities generally involved.  The central misunderstanding is about energy, in particular, renewable energy.  Those who support the legislation assume that existing renewable energy sources like solar or wind will become much more abundant—to the point of making carbon based energy sources unnecessary—if the price of carbon based energy like oil or natural gas is increased (as this legislation would artificially do, on an annually increasing basis).  That assumption is wrong.  Even if renewable sources of energy increased some, they could not be increased anywhere close to the level required to supply American energy needs (and thereby replace carbon based energy sources).  It is a near unanimous scientific consensus that renewables cannot come close to replacing carbon energy sources in the near future. The only non-carbon emitting source that could come close to filling the “energy gap” that reducing carbon sources would leave is nuclear.  But the current political opposition (and regulatory disincentives) to nuclear energy are impediments that will keep that from happening.  Ironically, the same people who generally favor this kind of legislation also oppose building any, let alone a lot of, new nuclear power plants.

Thus, the likely (even if unintended) consequences of this kind of legislation would be a significant contraction in the economy without meaningful reductions in CO2 emissions.  The carbon based fuels will still be bought and used because there would be no choice (and the increased costs thereof resulting from this legislation passed on), but the artificially increased price would negatively impact the economy generally, in some ways that are predictable and others not.  When all was said and done, I firmly believe the intended “cure (this legislation) would be worse than the disease.”

I suspect the OSJ, ‘spokesagency’ for the CRC as to such matters, would disagree with my assessment.  My point in this blog is not so much to persuade anyone that I am right on this issue and OSJ is wrong, but rather to suggest three things: First, this proposed legislation involves an “economic fundamental” (energy) and so would may significantly impact (I think negatively) the US and world economies; Second, competently predicting the effects (bad and good) of this kind of legislation requires significant expertise in multiple fields; and third, the CRCNA doesn’t have the expertise required to competently predict the effect of such legislation.  And so it shouldn’t lobby for it (or against it).

Should Christians (whether individually or via groups they associate with) talk about this sort of proposed legislation?  Of course.  Should CRCers (by themselves or with others they choose to associate with) politically advocate about this kind of legislation, whether for or against?  Certainly, although to be responsible, a serious amount of time should be invested in understanding the many issues involved, or at least one should defer to the judgment of an organization who has their confidence and has the expertise to evaluate these issues.  If a voter doesn’t do that, he or she just becomes a pawn in someone’s lobbying strategy.

Finally, should the CRCNA, as a denomination (essentially, in behalf of its members) politically advocate—whether for or against—about this legislation?  I think not.  Aside from the reason of the matter not being ecclesiastical (see Church Order Article 28), the CRCNA doesn’t have the expertise needed to responsibly do so.  I don’t know of any church denomination that does.



I imagine that you think that your comments are quite witty, but I find them far less so. You argue in your original piece and throughout this string of comments that expertise is important and people should not "practice" outside of their expertise. You, however, are quite happy to dismiss the large consensus of climate scientists on climate change and global warming. Presumably, we do have the expertise to speak on this issue, but that doesn't seem to matter to you, because the conclusion of the experts leads to actions that you don't want to take. It doesn't really help to make parenthetical remarks denigrating the consensus in the field. And, as I mentioned before, there is you continued use of the word "alarmist", which you are using to imply that those of us who are trying to get our society to recognize the problem and act on solutions are intellectually dishonest. I often hear criticism of the climate science community that we do treat those outside our field with sufficient respect. i would like you to consider treating the climate science community with respect. 


Come on Tom.  Stop with the snarky stuff ("I imagine that you think that your comments are quite witty, but I find them far less so").

And again, you side-step my fundamental point.  I am not advocating that the denomination adopt my view about all things climate change (let alone a proposed federal carbon tax bill).  Re-read my article.  I'm not even intending to have a public debate about climate change.  If I was advocating that the denomination adopt my view about all things climate change, I would be acting quite inconsistently, but I'm not.  What I'm advocating is that the denomination (1) stay within it's rules (CO Art 28), and (2) if it wants to wander outside that, change its rules and then acquire the expertise to take on its expanded mandate.

In contrast, you want the denomination to adopt your view, both on climate change and, apparently (tell me if you believe I'm mistaken), as to this proposed, OSJ-supported legislation.

While I agree that with Doug that the BEST course of action would be for the CRC to pull totally and completely out of the global warming debate, until and unless that happens one thing is very clear.

By choosing to enter the fray on the issue, Synod, CRC employees, and others connected to the CRC have thrown the door WIDE open to having a public debate about the issue. Any attempt to silence those of us who enter the discussion on the side of skepticism and wanting better science is completely out of line. (And frankly, it makes me suspect the weakness of one side in the debate.) We in the CRC cannot open the door, then complain that people want to walk through the door, from one side or the other.

To answer your second question, Herb, to my knowledge, those who have lobbied in behalf if the CRC have not, publicly at least, taken a position against nuclear.  And I'm pleased, certainly not displeased, that such is the case.

On the other hand, I know the lobbying business reasonably well.  In this business, not saying something is often as significant as saying something.  Thus, for example, the slogans, "Black Lives Matter" or "Blue Lives Matter" says something affirmatively, even if by unmistakable innuendo, by not saying something affirmatively about other lives.  

Another way to approach the issue is to ask the question: What effect are CRC employees having in their political lobbying?

I can reference a specific example, a "personal story", if you will (I'm told that personal stories are powerful). It is not related to climate change, but the illustration holds.

You may recall that early in his presidency, Donald Trump instituted a travel ban from about half a dozen countries that were identified as terrorism hot spots. Employees of the CRC at the Office of Social Justice responded by calling on members of the CRC to call their "elected representatives" to say that "Christians do not support Donald Trump's immigration ban."

I waited a couple days, then I called Congressman Bill Huizinga's office in DC (he is my Congressman). Huizinga represents Michigan's 2nd Congressional District, which probably encompasses more members of the CRC than any other district in the entire United States. I spoke to one of Bill's staffers, and told her that employees of the Christian Reformed Church had urged me to call Bill. But instead of opposing the travel ban, I told Bill's staffer that I support it. Furthermore, I stated my belief that (contrary to OSJ's action alert) the travel ban was completely and totally compatible with Biblical principles. Finally, I asked Bill's staffer how many other CRC members had called, but had voiced opposition to the ban. Or maybe had not identified as a CRC member, but opposed the ban on moral or religious grounds.

Zero. Bill's staffer said they had not received a single call like that since the "action alert" was sent out.

So again..if the lobbying is not actually getting people to act, what is it accomplishing?

Other than, dividing members of the CRC...and providing jobs. But I'm open to other feedback; does anyone think the lobbying is having a great effect on public policy? 

Hilarious.  Absolutely hilarious.  Like it was written by a sixth grader or Miss Universe contestant asked how they intend to save the planet. 

But in many ways it is not funny at all, because actual elected legislators think this is sound thinking.  Best quote, perhaps: The Green New Deal will guarantee "Economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work." 

No.  Unequivocally no.  And it should not simply be a question of "who's ox is being gored".  I am opposed to church mission creep whether the church is playing in my end of the pool or the other end.  As you so rightly point out, when we covenant together, it must mean something.  The division being caused right now in the body of Christ (and it is real and damaging) is because we bear false witness that we intend to do something that we do not have the will to abide by.  Shame on us for our duplicity as a denomination. 

Note too the Green New Deal totally opposes nuclear power.  It calls for no new ones and phasing out the old ones.  It makes me wonder whether they have done any spreadsheet work on this at all.  It reminds me of Billy McFarland and the Fyre Festival (

And I agree, BTW, on your "unequivocally no," Eric, but I wonder if there is any disagreement in the CRC.  I would actually expect there would be, although I'm not sure "what side" they'd be on.  :-)

Actually, this is a real good illustration in support of the argument that institutions like the CRC should stay out of these kinds of things.


I just finished reading the entire New Green Deal document.  Your characterization of it, Eric, is far too gracious.  I would never have guessed I would see something like this come from anyone who holds a federal congressional office.  

This beats even the Fyre Festival.  

Doug and Eric,

And why would you be interested in my opinion? You have stated your opinions quite clearly and there doesn't really seem to be much room for further discussion. Do you want to explore some of the ideas in the green new deal document or are you just interested in mockery? And are you willing to mock equally positions of the current administration on energy such as the "war on coal"? Let me know ....


Eric, the Green New Deal is the perfectly logical public policy conclusion of anyone who believes that global warming is being caused almost exclusively by burning fossil fuels, and that the warming is going to have immediate and devastating effects on life as we know it.

As much as I vehemently disagree with the policies it proposes, I give the Green New Deal's backers credit for having the intellectual honesty to propose drastic changes. Finally, a proposal that matches the alarm!

And, I think it is a very fair (and logical) question to ask: Should the CRC back this plan?

If we, as a denomination, truly believe the 97% consensus on global warming (the 1st step would be believing there is a 97% consensus), the CRC should back this plan. And denominational offices, agencies, and employees should take drastic steps to reduce their CO2 emissions, immediately,

Hi Tom,

I am always glad to hear your opinion, though I don't think you and I have been interacting to this point.  I have indeed stated my opinion of that document quite clearly, and for that I make no apology.  Better to be clear than to equivocate.  That does not mean that you are not encouraged to also state your opinion.  As to the document that I linked, I have nothing but mockery and disdain for it, and will further argue that it represents a nadir of foolishness and silly thinking.  I see no reason to take it seriously.  That's strong language, to be sure, but I doubt that you would want me to be squishy or unclear. 

Are there principles embedded therein that can be useful?  I have no doubt that there are, but I find their presence in the document utterly unredemptive for the document as a whole.   If you are recruiting help to mock some other proposal that you feel is worthy to be mocked, by all means make your pitch.  Mockery has its place when considering certain proposals. 

There is plenty of room generally for Christians to give each other latitude in this broad matter.  I much prefer the approach of Dr. Judith Curry, which I find balanced and less prone to overreaction that many other approaches.  An example of her measured approach can be seen in her testimony here: I'm not particularly interested in parsing her testimony here, as I don't think we will accomplish anything by that.  I simply post as an example of what I believe is a reasonable approach.  As a government-employed scientist, I can tell you that I have read more than my share of SONARs (Statement Of Need And Resonableness), and can confidently say that the science behind legislation is not immune to being stretched, cherry-picked, manipulated, and misrepresented.

Eric, thanks for sharing that information. It is fascinating. I had not seen this before, or even heard of Dr. Judith Curry. I don't agree with everything she said there (what human being does agree with everything someone else says), but I love her approach.

I particularly celebrate the idea of identifying courses of action that can have benefits from multiple angles. Maybe it reduces CO2 production. But it also provides other tangible benefits (just in case this global warming thing turns out to be minor and/or completely natural).


I would be interested to see one straight-forward attempt to answer Doug’s continual question regarding Church Order Article 28 and the proper activities of the institutional church.  The pertinent language of Article 28 is as follows: “These assemblies [council, classis, & synod] shall transact ecclesiastical matters only, and shall deal with them in an ecclesiastical manner.”

We can argue until we are blue in the face about carbon taxes, green new deals, capitalism vs. socialism, nuclear power, etc., and that is all well and fine.  But in the end, as individual Christians we make decisions based on our conscience as informed by God’s Word.  And there simply is no straight line from God’s Word to the complexities of 21st century energy and economic policy, no matter how hard you try.  There is no way to argue that a certain position on a national carbon tax is an “ecclesiastical matter” without stretching the definition of ecclesiastical until it has no meaning whatsoever.  If everything with a moral component is an ecclesiastical matter then there is no end to what can be made to be ecclesiastical.  If everything is ecclesiastical, then nothing is.  If we are to have common ground, we must have a common language, and that language has to mean something.  Are we so double minded (James 4:8) that to say one thing and then do another is perfectly acceptable to us?  Or are those who hold the power in the church’s institutions and agencies indifferent as long as their ox is not being gored?

What happened to Christians respecting each other’s consciences in matters such as this? Why must Christians take the reins of power and co-opt the name and resources of others to advance their preferred political agenda?  What is to stop these brothers and sisters from pressing their claims through YECA, EEN, Sojourners,, or any number of other organizations of like-minded individuals, whether Christian or not?  How are we to understand the continual, obvious, and divisive politicking of the church except as a display of arrogance and disregard in the face of brothers and sisters who differ?


If it is of any assistance, below is advice provided on Church Order, Article 28-a from the 2017 edition of the Manual of Christian Reformed Church Government:


1. Ecclesiastical matters

The work of the assemblies is limited to ecclesiastical matters. Such matters relate to the ministry of the Word and sacraments, worship, education, works of benevolence, the exercise of Christian discipline, the furtherance of the communion of the saints, and other activities that pertain to the church and its ministries.

Although Christian people have a responsibility to serve the Lord in all spheres of life—physical sciences, education, political life, art, business, etc.— these are not to be regarded as ecclesiastical matters. Synod has declared that political, social, and economic questions are ecclesiastical matters only when doctrinal and ethical issues of sufficient magnitude are involved as commonly understood according to the Word of God and the confessional standards of the Christian Reformed Church. By adhering to this fundamental principle, the church will not invade the rights of the state (government) nor erase the boundary between the duty of the church-institute and the duty of Christian citizens.

Thanks for posting that Lubbert.  As often as I've appealed to CO Art 28 in the past years, I don't recall anyone engaging me as to the meaning of it, nor arguing with my assertion as to what the Article means in terms of the boundaries it creates for denominational (institutional church) activities.  

I find that discouraging because it means there may well be something of a widespread willingness to break covenant (which is what the CO is, read its preface) with the CRC churches and members.  Some may think that's a small deal so long as their sense of "justice" is pursued by means larger than themselves (which is what the denomination is).

I think it's a big deal, and that our willingness to ignore (or just disobey) this foundational CO rule will be destructive.

Hello Lubbert,

I'm familiar with that material, as well as DeMoor's commentary.  I guess what I was more looking for was some proponent of the type of lobbying that Doug here decries to interact with Doug's question about the institutional church transacting ecclesiastical matters only.  I am interested to see someone who favors this type of activity in the church grapple honestly and more than surficially with our covenantal language.

The closest I've seen in this thread is Tom Ackerman's quote: "I disagree with your statements about the role of the church on issues of social justice, including global warming. There is no stronger message in the Bible than our requirement as God's people to seek justice and to love mercy. Laying waste to our environment is neither just nor merciful."

A couple of observations:

1) Tom does not in this argument establish that lobbying for a carbon tax is an ecclesiastical matter, except to establish his belief that it relates to justice an mercy.  But of course, every aspect of life relates to justice and mercy in one fashion or another, but that does not maker every matter in life ecclesiastical (of or relating to a church especially as an established institution).

2) There are indeed stronger messages in the Bible than our requirement (law) to seek justice and love mercy.  Grace always overwhelms law in the Christian gospel, so it simply will not do to posit law as the dominant theme of the Bible.

3) In this quote Tom illustrates the cardinal sin of environmentalism, that of hyperbolic pronouncement.  Later in the thread Tom objects to the use of the term "alarmist".  But the word is used for a reason, and the history of alarming exaggeration within environmentalism is long and illustrious, whether the name be Ehrlich, Gore, Hayhoe, McKibben, or some politician pandering for votes through fear.  The idiom "lay waste" is defined in one place as "to devastate; destroy; ruin", which is typical of its common usage.  The idea that humanity is somehow devastating, destroying, or ruining "our environment" is the the type of apocalyptic language that is so detached from reality that the purveyor of such fearful language drives people into two disparate camps: First, true believers, who begin to speak and act in more and more irrational ways (see Green New Deal language) due to exaggerated fears.  Second, those who are driven away by the hyperbole and flee to the opposite end of the spectrum, and often in so doing also discount realistic concerns.  So the use of such hyperbole is quite counterproductive, and it continues to be the Achilles heel of the environmental movement, both within and without Christianity. 

Hi Doug...

Your welcome. Church Order, Article 27-a may also have some relevance in this matter: "Each assembly exercises, in keeping with its own character and domain, the ecclesiastical authority entrusted to the church by Christ; 'the authority of councils being original, that of major assemblies being delegated'."

 The question I struggle with is whether the Vision 21 Report submitted and adopted by Synod 1987 upended the ecclesiastical governance model set out in Church Order, Article 27-a where CRCNA administrative bodies are speaking on behalf of church councils and congregants without their authorization and outside their sphere of sovereignty. In particular, the Manual for Christian Reformed Government in the commentary states,

"1. The assemblies of the church exercise the ecclesiastical authority entrusted to the church by Christ. This is a basic principle in Reformed polity. The church is not based on the principle of hierarchy but on shared authority that flows from the head of the church: Jesus Christ. From that principle flows the following:

  a. Ecclesiastical: The essential authority in the church is ecclesiastical—it is limited by the nature of the church as the body of Christ. The Bible speaks of various other types of authority, such as the authority of parents over their children and the authority of rulers and judges over a nation. Each type of authority must be exercised within its own sphere and in accord with its own structural purposes....

  b. Entrusted by Christ: The first principle of all ecclesiastical authority is the headship of Christ. The mandates he gives to his church are based upon Christ’s own authority. The church has no ecclesiastical authority other than that of Christ. In other words, 'the authority of the council is not delegated to it by the classis or the denomination.'...

2. The relationship of the assemblies: Each assembly exercises its own peculiar authority in keeping with its own character and domain—the council in relation to the congregation, the classis in matters relating to its member congregations, and the synod for the denomination as a whole.

  a. The authority of councils: The authority of councils is original; the authority of the major assemblies is delegated. Each congregation as a unit is a complete expression of the body of Christ in its particular setting. Congregations are the basic units of the church, comprising all of its members in a given community of faith.

  b. The authority of major assemblies: To express and maintain the broader unity of the church and to reach out beyond the local boundaries, councils (minor assemblies) unite in broader (major) assemblies called “classes.” The churches of the classes (as minor assemblies) unite in a still broader (or major) assembly called the “synod” of the church....

3. Movements that undermine the authority of the assemblies: The ecclesiastical assemblies must be guarded against actions that, knowingly or unknowingly, undermine the authority and threaten the unity of the church. On various occasions synod has warned against the circulation of petitions and against pressure movements within the church that circumvent the decisions of the assemblies and cause disunity in the church."'


I think you are quite right Lubbert.  Somewhat following outside the church political patterns, as if there is some kind of connection, there has been a trend, in both realms, toward the hierarchical and away from the distributed.

I'm not a fan of the trends.

Thanks for all of the comments on this post.  Since our community guidelines say that comments will avoid arguing back and forth, must contribute something new to the discussion, and will avoid repeating, we are going to shut off comments on this post at this time. Please feel free to start a new post if you have a new ministry question or a different point of view to express. Please also feel free to continue your conversation off line.

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