Regarding the recently unveiled Southern Baptist Environmental and Climate Initiative (see www.baptistcreationcare.org), I have a few concerns. I applaud the initiative in the sense that it is an attempt to extend the biblical worldview to all of creation, which, of course is explained in a biblical worldview. As Christians, we understand that the earth is the Lord’s and all that are in it.
In one sense, this is nothing new. I have had an environmental theology in place and in practice for more than 10 years, after reading Francis Schaeffer’s Pollution and the Death of Man, a work which, by the way, was written from an evangelical perspective more than 3 decades ago. Perhaps there needs to be more of an emphasis on an evangelical theology of the environment.
Whether this initiative facilitates such a theological and ethical engagement, time will tell. For now, I have one complaint and three concerns regarding this latest attempt at engagement. First, the complaint—on what grounds ought this initiative be termed Southern Baptist?
Jonathan Merritt, the director of the Southern Baptist Environmental and Climate Initiative, answered this complaint on the Albert Mohler radio program with the reply that those who make such a complaint need a lesson in Southern Baptist ecclesiology. Perhaps. Perhaps not. Be that as it may, who is now able to give the national media a lesson in ecclesiology? Understandably, the national media have taken the statement just as it sounds, as an official declaration by Southern Baptists concerning global warming and the impact human machinations have on the environment. As the title suggests, this initiative has been repeatedly referred to in news outlets as a Southern Baptist initiative, although it is an initiative that the Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee—the Southern Baptist entity responsible for keeping Southern Baptists informed on issues of ethical or cultural concerns—does not endorse.
Ecclesiology aside, Mr. Merritt’s group has confused many and must work to clear up the confusion concerning the manner in which this initiative is Southern Baptist. My complaint is about the confusion such a name would inevitably cause in the culture at large. This group had to know such confusion would likely abound when they chose the name they chose. The name seems provocative, designed to represent–if not irritate–Southern Baptists. The problem is not completely one of poor ecclesiology.
( I will post the three concerns in a later blog).