Monday, March 10, 2008

"Baptist Creation Care," If You Please

With the global warming debate continuing to hold headlines, often generating more heat than light, I guess it is not surprising that some Southern Baptists feel the need to weigh in or else we might be viewed as "irrelevant." With that, "A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change" has been birthed. It is the brainchild of Jonathan Merritt, son of former SBC president James Merritt. Merritt credits a Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor who stated that destroying God's creation was like "tearing a page out of the Bible" with giving him this inspiration. This led him to lobby several SBC leaders, presumably using his father's Rolodex, to sign on to the initiative.

As a Southern Baptist pastor, I had been pleased that our denomination had not followed more liberal denominations in generating a knee-jerk response to the issue of "global warming." A few years ago, some evangelical leaders, including some prominent Southern Baptists, signed the declaration of the Evangelical Climate Initiative which declared that global warming was real, that it was detrimental, and that governments should immediately act to curb emissions. Many other Southern Baptists moved quickly to disagree with the sweeping statements of this declaration with the belief that the science of the question was far from settled.

This current initiative with its auspicious title,
"A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change," aspires to be far more than it is. It is not an official Southern Baptist statement but rather simply a statement of the signatories. The Southern Baptist Convention passed an official resolution, "On Global Warming," in the 2007 convention which urged caution on climate issues because of the unsettled nature of the science.

In my opinion, the global warming issue is the biggest fraud ever foisted upon the public, both national and international. We are continually inundated with stories of impending and unabated global warming. We are warned in apocalyptic language that we might soon reach a "tipping point" where no amount a action could reverse runaway catastrophic global warming. In such a situation, we are told, many of the world's major cities would become uninhabitable due to rising ocean levels. This is to spur us into pressing our government leaders to take drastic actions to reverse the process without regard for economic consequences. The dangers are too they say.

History is replete with crises created so that the "annointed" can rush in and save everyone with, of course, the implicit understanding that this will take great sacrifice. Global warming is the latest "crisis" that requires immediate action. Never mind that there are many contrary voices in the global warming debate. Never mind that many accomplished scientists dispute the findings of those who warn us that the end is near. Never mind also that the drastic actions demanded will hold off the industrialization that many third world societies desperately need thus ensuring that they will remain in generational poverty. The risk is too great to waste time on debate. The time for action is now.

Thankfully, this Southern Baptist initiative falls short of calling for precipitous action as did the Evangelical Climate Initiative. However, it adopts much of the same language and circuitously advocates a scaled-down version of the same kind of action advocated by the more radical declaration.

Ironically, or sadly, depending upon your perspective, these Southern Baptists are rushing to board the climate change ship just as it seems that the wind is leaving its sails. Global warming skeptics receive more press than ever before. Global temperatures are actually falling right now. One Russian scientist has stated that global temperatures peaked in 2004 and were now dropping due to decreasing solar activity. If the previous global warming was due to the sun, and many scientists think it was, there is no amount of government action that can change that and all our precipitous actions will have had no effect; other than to enrich those trading in the carbon offsets they said we needed.

Southern Baptists, as well as all other Americans, will do well to exercise eternal vigilance when fads arise leading to calls for drastic action significantly affecting our way of life. Human "crises" will come and go but one thing remains constant, our need for reconciliation with God that can only come through Jesus Christ. If we do our job as the Church, proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost world, we may not be "cool" but we will never be irrelevant.

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