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SBC leaders say regardless of global warming stance, Christians should care for earthcomment (0)

April 3, 2008


Christians and Southern Baptists on different sides in the debate over the environment can nonetheless partner together to care for it out of a belief that such is biblically commanded, two Southern Baptist leaders who themselves are on different sides of the issue say.

The comments by Barrett Duke, vice president of public policy and research for the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., come after an initiative signed by Dockery and approximately 50 other Southern Baptists drew significant national media attention March 14. The self-labeled Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative — which was not an official statement from the denomination — said that humans “must be proactive and take responsibility for our contributions to climate change — however great or small.”

Duke did not sign the statement but in 2000 was among leaders from various religions and denominations who signed the Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship, expressing skepticism that global warming is mainly human-induced. The statement also expressed concern about the effects that policies proposed by those who believe in human-induced climate change would have on the poor.

Both statements affirm the biblical admonition to take care of God’s creation, which should be the starting point between the two groups, Duke said. Both sides believe humanity has a responsibility to care for the environment and believe that humanity can be either a blessing or a curse on it, he said.

“It is appropriate for Christians to be concerned about the environment because it is part of God’s creation,” he told Baptist Press (BP). “We do recognize that when God created Adam and Eve, He put them in the Garden and gave them responsibilities to care for it. We don’t see any indication that humanity no longer has that responsibility.”

Dockery agreed, saying in an e-mail to BP that Christians “should care about the environment because ‘[t]he earth is the Lord’s’ (Ps. 24:1).” God has given stewardship of the earth to humans, Dockery said, and Christians must “avoid both the idolizing of this creation (Rom. 1:25) as well as the irresponsible neglect of it (Luke 12:13–21).”

“We should find areas of common concern and focus on our biblical responsibilities and not on the inconclusive scientific hypotheses over which there are many unanswered questions and disputed interpretations,” he said.

“... It seems good that believers have in recent years become concerned about the future of the earth. We need, however, to separate the biblical teaching from the political rhetoric,” Dockery said. “Together we can affirm and proclaim a full-orbed Christian worldview that includes the creation mandate of Genesis 1 and the teachings of the New Testament. While we might differ in the application of these teachings, we must reaffirm our shared biblical, theological and ethical underpinnings. We live in hope that the biblical message of redemption from sins also promises redemption for God’s good earth.”

Duke said Christians have an obvious need to care for the environment out of a need for “self-preservation.” But Christians also have a unique desire to care for creation, he said, because they believe earth and the universe declare glory God’s glory. “Scripture tells us that the evidence of God can be seen in creation and so the more creation is assisted in showing its beauty and showing its magnificence, the better reflection that is on God.”

Southern Baptists, Duke said, should approach the issue of global warming with care. “All Southern Baptists and all Christians in general need to be listening to the experts and they need to be asking questions. And they need to make sure their questions are answered. Then, I think it would be wise for all Christians to do what the [2007] SBC resolution on global warming said, which was to proceed cautiously. We need cautious engagement on the issue. We can’t ignore it as though nobody’s talking about it. But we shouldn’t just take somebody’s word for it. We need to engage but ... engage cautiously.” (BP)

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