Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Monday, March 10, 2008

    Southern Baptist Declaration on Environment and Climate Change

    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.


    jazzycat said...

    I heard this yesterday and was very disappointed. As my pastor and friend you know how I feel about the agenda behind the global warming hysteria. Since people that I trust, including Coral Ridge Ministries, have raised red flags about this issue and people that I don’t trust (and in fact have proof that they use manipulation to exaggerate and make their point) promote this folly; I am greatly offended by organizations that affirm or give creditability to this hysteria.

    That being said, let me publicly make the following declaration for all Christian ministries to consider. I personally resolve to give zero per cent of my Christian gifts, tithes, and offerings to any Christian ministry (including their entire organization) that climbs on board with this global warming hysteria. I will not cut back any on my giving, but I fully intend to give 100% to ministries and churches that remain TOTALLY neutral on the global warming. I hope the PCA (and their churches) will remain neutral on this issue and not succumb to the secular post-modern liberal worldly pressure that is pushing this issue. I hope this does not sound like a threat but is considered a laser like commitment to a defining issue that is central in keeping the church unaffected by the consensus of “the world.”

    swordbearer said...

    Not taken as a threat, for I know you.

    I trust our denomination will act appropriately in this matter as well as others. We certainly take the line between the roles of the church and state as seriously as anyone, both recognizing the distinctions, but also the interrelatedness as each is to serve God and each other in their respective roles. This being said, there are some things we can learn from the SBC, one of which is the value of the church communicating it's role (not just inside the church but outside the church as well) and the fact that while we leave the state's business and decisions to the state, that does not mean the church is living in darkness, uninformed, or failing to act in
    ways that are in accord with what God has called us to do.

    Note: While my post dealt with some weaknesses found in the SBC action and declaration, by providing a link to the declaration itself, I hoped to people would read the declaration and see that the declaration itself says no where near what the media has presented it as saying. The media has picked up on a few phrases like the actions of the SBC in the past have been "too timid" and then added headlines to suggest the SBC supports "climate change." Whether this is the truth or not, I'm still not sure, but what is clear is that the media's running with this story goes far beyond what the declaration itself states.

    jazzycat said...

    The media may very well have overstated their position, but after skimming their statement, I believe they went too far in appeasing the global warming alarmists. I see their statement as a lukewarm attempt to curry favor and approval from the secular forces that are pushing this alarmist hysteria agenda. The Southern Baptist statement sounds exactly like a political cover statement and is nothing but caving in their direction. (IOW - Lets give them some concessions, but not give them the whole ranch) The whole ranch is probably just a year or so away from coming as well. We (PCA) should either stay out of this altogether are expose their agenda, their tactics, and their error. This has been done by Coral Ridge Ministries.

    I prefer the stance and position that Coral Ridge Ministries has taken under the leadership of the late Dr. D. James Kennedy. Go to the following site and put global warming into the search thingy for articles that firmly oppose this hysteria: Coral Ridge This makes a lot more sense than the gobbly gook of the SBC statement.

    jazzycat said...

    The following is a direct quote from the Coral Ridge link I will give below:

    Should you be worried about global warming? The answer is "No," for two reasons: first, we cannot stop it, and second, it is not likely to do us significant harm. In fact, Dr. E. Calvin Beisner says that global warming "is more likely to do us some significant benefit." What else don't you know about global warming? Dr. D. James Kennedy and Dr. E. Calvin Beisner tell you, on Truths That Transform.

    This is an interesting interview that can be found HERE

    I choose to believe Dr. Kennedy, Coral Ridge Ministries, many scientists over Al Gore, media propaganda and many intimidated scientists.

    swordbearer said...

    Jazzycat wrote: "I believe they went too far in appeasing the global warming alarmists."

    I do not argue with this.

    As I've stated, while each of us might come to our personal persuasions on the matter, it is not the role of the church to make determinations or speak concerning matters belonging to the state (except in unique situations as I've stated).

    Again, while the SBC declaration probably went too far (i.e., in seeking to establish credibility they presented the fact that they undertood serious study of the matter, and then presented their "personal" or "common" persuasion on the matter, but this statement clearly could and probably will be taken by many as a "corporate" or denominational stance on the matter, if not a stance taken on the part of their leadership)... in this matter, I agree they spoke in regard to a matter (their persuasion) that would have been better left unaddressed.....yet at the same time, it must be pointed out that while they felt more persuaded, they did not go so far as to say they were in agreement with those who hold to what you refer to as a "liberal" agenda, but rather that they were persuaded this should be considered a "challenge" of our day, ... in other words, an issue that the church should pay attention and give consideration to as of significance.... i.e., taking into account other parts of their declaration which state that they are not scientists and do not pretend to be experts.

    Put more clearly, I agree, if not caving in, they have given the appearance if not the opportunity to be misrepresented as caving in... which provides significant help to that side of the discussion.

    Better to state the church's role:
    1. Preach and teach truth and principles found in God's Word which provide the necessary foundations for all things pertaining to life and godliness, including how to approach, handle, and respond to issues and debates like environmental and climate change.
    2. Communicate the difference between the role of the church and role of the state, along with responsibilities of individuals to be informed and exercise great discernment.
    3. Look to and leave the matters belonging to the state with the state.
    4. Encourage all to exercise wisdom and responsibility in their response to evidence, argument, and decisions revealed to them.