I have also been somewhat surprised at the way the press has spun this document. If you simply read the headlines, you would think that this was a divisive document about global warming. Just take a look at this headline in the New York Times: "Southern Baptists Back a Shift on Climate Change".
This is disappointing, because to characterize this as a “global warming initiative” is to mischaracterize the document. Let me speak with clarity:
-This is not a "global warming document"
-This is not an endorsement of any particular scientific data
-This is not a political document written to support a particular legislation
This is a document that was written to increase the conversation about important creation care issues among Southern Baptists. It is a biblical document, and it is a Baptist document. This is apparent when you actually read it. But I guess that is where some of the confusion has come from. Too many people who are criticizing this document and blogging about it ad nauseam would be well served to read the document rather than react to the media.
A lot of the blogging going on in Baptistland argues against points that the document isn’t making. There is a lot of talk about whether or not part of the changing climate is due to natural cycles, but the document doesn’t directly address that. The document’s statement on climate change can basically be boiled down to this: In the face of conflicting evidence, Christians should act prudently.
When people read that statement—which isn’t a controversial statement—they always ask, “So what does that mean? What prudent actions should be taken?” For a number of reasons, this document doesn’t answer those questions. One reason is because we are not policy makers, and since these things have not been a real part of our dialogue, it wouldn’t be wise to go that far. Instead, the document offers a theological basis by which people can evaluate creation care issues.
Interestingly, even with all the journalistic acrobatics, we have increased the number of signatories by a large margin. In the last few days, we have gone from 46 signatories to nearly 200 signatories on baptistcreationcare.org! The outpouring of support has come from dozens of church pastors, SBC seminary professors, a divinity school dean, SBC college professors, IMB missionaries from all over the world (as well as one strategic coordinator and one regional director), NAMB church planters and even SBC laypersons. I assume many of these people think a lot like Nathan Finn, a recent signatory and an Church History instructor at Southeastern, who has referenced this on his blog.
This has been encouraging, and it just reassures me of something I knew all along. These conversations are beginning to happen among Southern Baptists. Even though I thought it was poorly worded, I think the poll at SaidatSouthern.com illustrates that these things are not settled among Southern Baptists.
This is not a divisive statement and it is not being pushed in a divisive way (as documented in a recent article by the Christian Post entitled, "Green Southern Baptists Avoid Divisive Talk"). This is not a "global warming statement." In fact, only one of the four statements is about climate change. This is not all that controversial, and it certainly cannot be grouped in with the extremist "Chicken Little" movement. Actually, this offers a rational and biblical alternative to the extreme.
The SBECI is the collective voice of Southern Baptists who are excited to rediscover the creation care mandates we find throughout scripture beginning in the very first book of Genesis. The rest of the world is talking about these things, and I am excited to see my own denomination join the conversations in an effort to maintain a relevant, biblical voice and continue to fulfill our calling to be salt and light in a dark and sour world.
Plato said to “Never discourage anyone…who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.” It is clear these issues are going to be part of evangelical discussions as younger evangelicals increasingly participate-even small steps forward are positive. Southern Baptists are rediscovering biblical creation care and how it relates to our MOST IMPORTANT priority of fulfilling the Great Commission. I think our future will be brighter as a result.