Declaration found here.
While Southern Baptist's business is their own, and while I was pleased after reading the headlines that this declaration did not go further than it did; it (along with other things I've read lately such as "The New Baptist Covenant",etc.,)raises some question in my mind on both the political involvement within the Southern Baptist denomination as well as the role the Southern Baptist Church is taking in regard to secular matters such as environment and climate change.
Overall, while the declaration spoke mostly in generalities and about roles the church is supposed to already be playing, and while I suppose it will relieve pressure off the SBC and perhaps even serve as "good PR" for the SBC in that it has spoken in regard to a present day issue, there are elements of it that still raise concern.
Let me state that on several levels I was glad to see the church distinguishing between the role and responsibilities of the church and that of other entities such as the government and private sector. The only problem is that it should have distinguished more than it did (or at least been more clear than it was).
For example, while statements such as the following were good:
1. We recognize that we do not have any special revelation to guide us about whether global warming is occurring and, if it is occurring, whether people are causing it.
2. We recognize that we do not have special training as scientists to allow us to assess the validity of climate science.
3. We must care about environmental and climate issues because of our love for God—“the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver and Ruler of the Universe ...
4. We realize that we cannot support some environmental issues as we offer a distinctively Christian voice in these arenas. For instance, we realize that what some call population control leads to evils like abortion. We now call on these environmentalists to reject these evils and accept the sanctity of every human person, both born and unborn.
5. Therefore, our motivation for facing failures to exercise proper stewardship is not primarily political, social or economic—it is primarily biblical.
6. We realize that the primary impetus for prudent action must come from the will of the people, families and those in the private sector
7. To abandon these issues to the secular world is to shirk from our responsibility to be salt and light.
At the same time, statements such as the following perhaps opened themselves to misinterpretation or misapplication, if not going too far for the following reasons:
1. "Yet, even in the absence of perfect knowledge or unanimity, we have to make informed decisions about the future."
Reason: While mankind and particularly those involved in science and the state (along with individuals and those in the private sector) must make informed decisions, the church must be careful not only to avoid overstepping their bounds, but even to give the appearance of doing so. For example, news articles related to this declaration may tend to give the impression that the Southern Baptist Church has weighed in and has sided in full agreement with those who espouse "green" and "global warming", etc., and do so even to a degree that I don't believe their declaration actually makes... (Note FoxNews Headline: "Southern Baptist Leaders Issue Surprising Call to Fight Climate Change.") Another example of this would be in the statements "...Poor nations and individuals have fewer resources available to cope with major challenges and threats. Therefore, “we should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy … [and] the helpless” (BFM 2000) through proper stewardship." Such statements could be taken to mean the SBC has agreed that global warming, etc., is validated and therefore our government should bear the brunt and give large amounts of money to "green" causes, while there are sufficient statements in the declaration to suggest this is or may not be the SBC mindset at this point.
2. "We affirm that “every Christian should seek to bring industry, government and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth and brotherly love”
Reason: While this statement does not state the government should buy into arguments suggesting "global warming, etc." is true and therefore the government without continuing to hear and weigh arguments in making judgments, should act in keeping with some environmenatist agendas; to the causual or undiscerning reader it could be taken not as an affirmation to call these entities to principles of righteousness, but as an affirmation for believers to call government to act concerning climate change (... in keeping with climate change agendas, etc.). It most certainly could be construed by some as thinking the "church" should call government to become more involved, while this is not the role of the church, particularly when the state seems to be addressing the issue and debate continues to play out.
3. "...Indeed, some of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that these are real problems that deserve our attention. But now we have seen and heard enough to be persuaded that these issues are among the current era’s challenges that require a unified moral voice."
Reason: It's already clear in the scietific, governmental and public arena these are issues which present a challenge. The use of the words "persuaded", "considerable convincing", "real problems", can lead one to think the declaration is not suggesting it to be just a "challenge that requires a unified moral voice" but to be "real" problems, even ones that demand others be persuaded. It's not the role of the church to make scientific determination (as the declaration states in another part) but these statements can give the appearance the SBC is not simply evaluating the subjects of environment and climate change in regard to whether such issues are legitimate issues for the church to be concerned and involved in (according to it's theological and eccesiastical roles)but that the SBC has weighed in on the scientific question itself.
These things being said, it is best for the the church not to overstep and enter into the realm and business of the state (unless as some former Christians have stated the failure of the church to act and call the state to address issues of monumental significance and consequences involving things like the protection of life, etc. wherein the state has either refused or failed to address an issue or acted in the issue in ways not in agreement with the clear teaching of God's Word,etc. will have dire and significant or detrimental consequences, ...note others have worded this better than I have here).
This being said, let me affirm I continue to be grateful for my brothers and sisters in the SBC, their efforts in standing for Christ in society, and in honoring God in all of life.
Monday, March 10, 2008
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