Young seminarian Jonathan Merritt sure has gotten a lot of attention for his effort to get Southern Baptists more engaged in creation care. Even TIME magazine and other well-known publications picked up on it.
His concern, he said, was stimulated by a systematic theology class at Southeastern Baptist Seminary. That’s good; theology classes are suppose to stimulate such reflections.
The visibility of his statement was greatly heightened when past Southern Baptist Convention presidents James Merritt (his father) and Jack Graham, along with current SBC president Frank Page, among others, added their signatures to the declaration.
The confessional part about the SBC being timid on this moral issue immediately put SBC ethics guru Richard Land on the defensive. And the public statement will likely result in opposing resolutions coming before the SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis this June.
But at least they’ll be talking about it.
Since climate change and environmental issues are generally associated with more progressive Christian groups — and persons like Al Gore, the formal SBC will be hesitant to embrace anything substantial on this issue.
Admittedly, it is a divisive one when the discussion moves to debating particular political solutions to protecting the environment from harm.
Tony Campolo, however, defined good parameters for theological discussions on this subject with the title of his 1992 book, How to Rescue the Earth without Worshiping Nature: A Christian’s Call to Save Creation (Thomas Nelson).
As a non-scientist, I confess to not fully understanding much of the technical debate concerning the causes and impact of climate change. But I have no confusion about whether creation care is a matter of stewardship for believers.
It is one of the first messages given in the book we call holy.
Since my youth I have cringed whenever someone threw trash out a car window or spray-painted rocks on an otherwise scenic hillside. And I look for ways to live without creating unnecessary waste.
But my early awareness came from my involvement in Scouting, not from the church. Maybe that will change for the next generation of kids, even those in many Southern Baptist churches.