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July 01, 2006

The Southern Baptist’s Lame Statement on the Environment

I was perplexed by the resolution passed by the Southern Baptists in Convention earlier this month on the environment. It is not unusual for me to be perplexed by the odd resolutions that are the usual gurgitation of these conventions, but because I’ve been active on the issue of evangelical environmentalism over the last year, I was particularly interested in the 2006 SBC Resolution No. 8 on environmentalism and evangelicals.

Apparently the resolution is attacking the Evangelical Climate Initiative, of which my firm was a part, but I can’t say for sure because there is too much nuance in the document for the actual purpose to be understood (perhaps someone who attended the conference would know if the floor discussion clarified this), and climate change or global warming isn’t specifically mentioned.

But the climate change politics aren’t interesting to me anyway, because I know where the conservative leadership of the SBC stands. While I think the SBC’s previous statements on global warming demonstrated an antiquated pack mentality, the question of the personal, moral responsibility of the follower of Christ is much more important. That’s what I’m most interested in now.

The Resolution acknowledges sinful man’s culpability when it comes to environmental degradation:

“WHEREAS, Since the fall into sin, humans have often ignored the Creator, shirked their stewardship of the environment, and further defiled the good creation.”

And the Resolution calls on Southern Baptists to protect the environment.

“RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 13-14, 2006, renew our commitment to God’s command to exercise caring stewardship and wise dominion over the creation (Genesis 1:28); and be it further

RESOLVED, That we urge all Southern Baptists toward the conservation and preservation of our natural resources for future generations while respecting ownership and property rights; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage public policy and private enterprise efforts that seek to improve the environment based on sound scientific and technological research.”

OK, that’s all good, in my view. Unfortunately, I have no idea what the Resolution is encouraging SBC adherents to do.

Let’s summarize: Baptists should.

1. exercise caring stewardship and wise dominion over the creation
2. conserve and preserve natural resources for future generations
3. encourage public policy and private enterprise to improve the environment.

I just don’t understand what any of this will mean to the Baptists in the pew without more specific directives.

To the drafters, what is caring stewardship? Does that mean establishing habits in your home that will use less non-renewable energy, or carpooling to the Golden Corral after church on Sunday?

How are Baptists asked to conserve or preserve natural resources? What is step one? And is it conserve or preserve—two very different approaches (there was argument between John Muir and Ansel Adams on this point). Do the Baptists really support any significant preservation?

And what legislation will the Baptists now support to improve the environment? What will they encourage private enterprise to do? Could they give us one clue?

The Resolution is useless because it is so vague. The criticisms are lame and the instructions are simply nice words.

There is one other point in the Resolution:

“RESOLVED, That we not only reaffirm our God-given responsibility of caring for the creation, but above all, that we continue to commit ourselves to the Great Commission to take the Good News of Jesus Christ to people of every tribe, tongue, and nation thus bringing glory to the One who will make all things new at His coming (Revelation 21:1).”

So the bottom line for the Baptists on the environment is for us to get more people saved. That’s wonderful; it really is. But when it comes to the environment, what good are more Christians who don’t know how to live their lives in a way that will truly care for God’s creation.

The Southern Baptists don’t know or they can’t say.

In another post I’ll tell you about some folks who can help.

Posted by Jim at July 1, 2006 08:10 PM

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I don't understand why you or the ECI would or should have any problem with anything in this resolution. Yes, it is vague, but certainly nothing sinister or evil. Maybe a waste of time - sure. Why do you consider it an attack? Do you believe this is an attack just because they did not mention your organization specifically? As if the ECI owns the issue of evangelicals and the environment? Anyone not with you must be against you?

I find your conclusion a little puzzling. To paraphrase your reaction "get more people saved, what good is that?" Well, Jesus Christ changes lives. Changed lives means changed families, changed businesses, changed politics, changed world, you name it. You may consider yourself both an environmentalist and a Christian. So do I. However, I'm a Christian FIRST. That means I ask the opposite questions you do. "Save the planet and ignore souls, what good is that?" I liked the last resolution.

Posted by: bruce at July 5, 2006 03:47 PM