Global warming: we are trying our best to make it happen!

Sam Norton is sceptical about Anthropogenic Global Warming, i.e. the widely accepted conclusion that the world is getting warmer because of human activity. Well, his post suggests that one piece of evidence for this may, or may not, have been debunked. So perhaps we can’t be as certain as we once thought we were that the world today is warmer than it was in the Middle Ages.

But there are things that we can be sure of. One is that the world today is quite a lot warmer than it was in the early twentieth century. That much is clear from temperature records.

Another is that (according to Wikipedia, yes I know this is not the most reliable source) the level of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is around 20% higher than it was 50 years ago and perhaps 35% higher than the level before the industrial age. The amount of carbon dioxide being added to the atmosphere each year from burning of fossil fuels, around 27 gigatonnes in 2004, is about twice the observed rate of increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, 0.4% of 3 teratonnes which is 12 gigatonnes. Presumably around half of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide is taken up by various “sinks” and half remains in the atmosphere.

Meanwhile the reason I am enjoying eating fresh tomatoes in October is not global warming – but is an effect which is also linked to global warming. My tomatoes are in a greenhouse, which is warmer than the garden outside not because it is heated by burning fossil fuels but because the glass traps the sun’s rays. It is well known and easily demonstrated that carbon dioxide has a similar greenhouse effect. Plug into the equations, or into a simple experimental rig, the increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and the result is clear: an increase in temperature of a few degrees Celsius – just about what has been observed.

So we have observed A, a large and apparently anthropogenic increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. And we have observed B, an increase in global temperatures. We can also show by theory and experiment that, everything else being equal, A causes B. I accept that that falls short of proof that the observed A is actually causing the observed B, because there are other factors which makes everything else not equal.

But perhaps it would be fair to say that if the observed B is not being caused by the observed A, but by some other factor outside our control, then we as humanity are extremely fortunate that the predicted greenhouse effect is being cancelled out by some unknown factor and so not causing even faster global warming. To put it in other words, we humans, by pumping all that carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, are doing all that we can to cause global warming, and if we are not causing it that is by luck rather than responsible judgment.

When "men" is a really bad translation: John 4:28 and 2 Timothy 2:2

I came across a few days ago an interesting example of where “men” is a really bad translation of Greek anthropos, in the plural. The leader of my home group Bible study on John 4, a lady who knows her Bible very well, was using NKJV. She commented on the way in which in verse 28 the Samaritan woman broke cultural norms by speaking to the men of the city. This was based on the text that she had in front of her:

The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, …

John 4:28 (NKJV, emphasis added)

Here “men” is a rendering of Greek anthropoi, the plural of the word anthropos which I have been discussing in previous posts.

Now I think that all Greek scholars and biblical exegetes would agree with me that anthropoi in this context should not be understood as referring to adult males only, but to all the people, at least all the adults, of the city. This is reflected in the rendering “people” in RSV, ESV and NIV as well as NRSV and TNIV. There is nothing at all to suggest that the woman has done anything unusual or improper in talking to the men only in the absence of women. But that is precisely the interpretation that my biblically literate home group leader put on the NKJV wording.

Some might defend the NKJV rendering in that it is almost identical to that of KJV. But NKJV editors, in their Preface, recognise that

our language, like all living languages, has undergone profound change since 1611.

As a result in places like Philippians 1:27 where the KJV rendering “conversation” is readily understandable by modern readers, but with quite the wrong meaning (clear but inaccurate), the NKJV revisers have made a change to “conduct”. The same principle should apply to the word “man”, which has also completely changed its meaning since 1611.

The first readers of KJV would not have understood “men” in John 4:28 as specifying males only. But the language has changed to the extent that today’s readers do – and draw quite the wrong conclusions. This is a place where anthropos certainly should not now be translated “man”.

But this is by no means the only such place. Another is 2 Timothy 2:2, where again the Greek word anthropoi is used, and rendered “men” this time in KJV, NKJV, RSV, ESV and NIV, but not NRSV and TNIV which have “people”. This verse, in the versions using “men”, will certainly be understood by readers today as implying that only males should teach others. But this seems to have been far from Paul’s mind in this letter, in which he apparently commends Timothy’s grandmother and mother for the way in which they have taught him scriptural truth (1:5, 3:14-15). So again translators should avoid “men” in this verse.

Benny Hinn, blessedness, and Benedict

Doug Chaplin seems to rejoice that, as reported by Ruth Gledhill, the preacher Benny Hinn was not able to enter Britain yesterday, because of the technicality that he did not have the required letter of invitation. In the process Doug writes that

you can hardly call the selling of asking of donations in return for miracles a religious activity.

Well, in that case I trust that Doug is immediately going to stop asking for donations, by passing round a collection plate or whatever, at any services of the Eucharist. After all, at least according to his “Catholic” doctrine, the central point of the Eucharist is the “miracle” of the bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Christ. Either that or he should stop claiming to be a minister of religion leading a “religious activity”.

Here is the comment I made on Doug’s post:

Does your church pass round a collection bag or in other ways solicit donations at religious gatherings? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye before complaining about others who do just the same.

Maybe this comment is not quite “Gentle Wisdom”, but I hope Doug knows me well enough to take the word “Hypocrite” as friendly banter.

However, my point is a serious one. What is the real difference between Doug, a stipendiary (I assume) priest of the Church of England, living on money from worshippers and Benny Hinn doing the same? Is the difference just the large amount of such money received by Benny (short for Benedictus, “blessed”)? Are the complaints fuelled by a hint of jealousy about his private jet? Or is the real issue that Anglo-Catholics like Doug and Ruth do not believe that the blessed Benny’s message and miracle ministry are genuinely Christian? In that case they should say so straight out and not pretend that this is a matter of asking for money.

Personally I don’t like Benny Hinn’s style. I also have serious issues with how both he and very often the Church of England seem more interested in taking people’s money than anything else. And although I do believe his ministry is genuinely Christian, although like any preacher’s not perfect, I would defend his right to preach it wherever he wants to. But of course that does not make him immune to border formalities.

I would say just the same about another Benedictus clothed in white expected to visit the UK next year. I hope someone remembers to give the Pope the right letter of invitation.