Saturday, March 29, 2008

What causes you sorrow?

The prophet Jeremiah, was known as a weeper. Jeremiah was observant of the tangible consequences of spiritual rebellion against God. And he was privy to the judgment that God was going to execute. Knowing the present and future spiritual condition of his nation broke his heart.

Regarding the future judgment from God, Jeremiah asked “For who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem? Or who will bemoan you? Or who will turn aside to ask how you are doing?” (Jer. 15:5).

Jeremiah’s lamenting question had an answer. It would come 150 years later in a living, breathing man in a Persian palace named Nehemiah. He often wondered how things were going in Jerusalem and one day he discovered the truth and it broke his heart.

He wrote “And it came to pass, when I heard these words [of Jerusalem’s condition], I sat down and wept.” (Nehemiah 1:4).

Almost 500 years later, Jesus too, would weep over the condition of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). Nehemiah’s primary concern was with the physical and social condition of Jerusalem. Jesus’ primary concern was over the spiritual condition of Jerusalem.

There’s a lot of weeping in the Bible. Hagar weeps when she knows her son Ishmael is going to die in the desert from dehydration. Joseph weeps many times during the reconciliation process with his brothers. Israel wept over the death of Moses (for 30 days). Naomi, Ruth and Orpah wept over their separation from each other. David wept over the death of his son Absalom. Peter wept over his denials of Jesus. The Ephesian elders weep over Paul’s departure. And who could miss the shortest verse in the Bible? It comes after the news of the death of Lazarus and says simply “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

I think there’s too little weeping in Christ’s church.

Back to Nehemiah. Chip Ingram, in Holy Ambition, labels Nehemiah’s weeping as “a dislocated heart.” That’s a powerful phrase. Bible commentator Raymond Brown writes “Although [Nehemiah] had a highly responsible job, in a secure environment in a fine Persian city, noted for its opulence and prosperity, magnificent buildings and spacious gardens, he is not remotely preoccupied with himself.”

That’s the key isn’t it? Getting over ourselves. Considering the plight of someone else. Thinking of others more than we think about ourselves (Philippians 2:4).

The Puritan Matthew Henry suggests “The desolations and distresses of the church ought to be the matter of our grief, how much soever we live at ease.”

When you study grief, sorrow and weeping in the Bible you’ll find two significant things. One, people took time to grieve. There were moments, days, even a month of crying and grieving. We often are not in touch with our grief and even more rarely in touch with things that will cause us to grieve. We’ve turned to busyness, crowding our lives with movement, leisure and action and schedule nothing for reflection and consideration of what is happening to our neighbor across the street or our Christian brother across the world.

The second thing you’ll find in the Bible is that people did something with their grief. Sometimes it is simply offering a prayer to God. With Nehemiah, his grief got translated into an elaborate plan to rebuild Jerusalem. We aren’t simply to be sad, melancholy people. There is much that will cause grief to our hears and rightly so. But Christians must do more. We must cry out to God. We must develop plans to change situations.

In Act II of The Devil’s Disciple, playwright George Bernard Shaw writes profound words into the mouth of his character Rev. Anthony Anderson, who says: “The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.”

Let’s put more of Jesus into our lives and into the world and weep more.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Cross of Jesus

The cross is necessary because there is nothing we could ever do to merit the forgiveness of God. But Jesus has done it. He has done something so wonderful and precious, that we sinners can be reconciled to God. Jesus was a perfect sacrifice. He fulfilled the demands of the law. He absorbed the punishing wrath of God.

So we can trust in ourselves; in our merit; in our righteousness and by our own works and be judged by those. Or we can trust in Jesus. We can rely on His merit; on His righteousness and in His work on Calvary’s cross. The former trust will let us down and send us to hell. The latter trust will take us to God’s grace and safely deliver us to heaven.

Augustine, the 5th century bishop of Hippo, preached a sermon entitled “Let Us Too Glory In the Cross of the Lord.” Here’s one excerpt:

The death of the Lord our God should not be a cause of shame for us; rather, it should be our greatest hope, our greatest glory. In taking upon himself the death that he found in us, he has most faithfully promised to give us life in him, such as we cannot have of ourselves. He loved us so much that, sinless himself, he suffered for us sinners the punishment we deserved for our sins. How then can he fail to give us the reward we deserve for our righteousness, for he is the source of righteousness? How can he, whose promises are true, fail to reward the saints when he bore the punishment of sinners, though without sin himself?

Brethren, let us then fearlessly acknowledge, and even openly proclaim, that Christ was crucified for us; let us confess it, not in fear but in joy, not in shame but in glory.

The apostle Paul saw Christ, and extolled his claim to glory. He had many great and inspired things to say about Christ, but he did not say that he boasted in Christ's wonderful works: in creating the world, since he was God with the Father, or in ruling the world, though he was also a man like us. Rather, he said: Let me not boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I hope you know the power of His cross. This is truly Good Friday. Good for all sinners whose sins are washed away by His blood. Good for me, for I have believed in Him—therefore I “will not perish but have everlasting life.”

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maundy Thursday—Betrayal & Arrest of Jesus

Judas’ betrayal of Jesus is well known to Christians and non-Christians alike. But other than being a glib, passing reference of Bible trivia that gives unbelievers comfort in knowing at least this part of the Bible, it should be reason for weighty introspection.

This was the night—so tradition says—so many, many years ago when the earthly ministry of Jesus of Nazareth would be brought to an end. This night marks the anniversary of Jesus’ loss of freedom.

Jesus had said “the foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no where to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). Still, homelessness is one thing; imprisonment (and subsequent execution) is quite another. While Jesus was intentionally dependent on the generous material provisions of his friends and followers, he was free to travel whenever he wanted to wherever he wanted.

All four gospel accounts of Judas’ betrayal remind us that Judas was one of the twelve (Matthew 26:14; Mark 14:10; Luke 22:47; John 6:71). Luke would later write “[Judas] was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry”(Acts 1:17). The prophecy in Psalm 41:9 was that it would be a “familiar friend” that would “lift up his heel” against Jesus. That’s the first bitter pill to swallow. Judas was an insider.

A brief perusal of church history will show that insiders, not outsiders, do more harm to Christianity. Nero, Claudius, Domitian are a few of the thousands of names of outsiders who sought to do great harm to the mission of Jesus. And while they brought much pain and sorrow and suffering and death, their persecutions actually helped strengthen Christian faith. Tertullian’s great observation in the third century that, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” was and is a truism. Names like Marcion, Arius, and Pelagius are names that have led many away from the truth of Christ. Judas was an insider.

The Church today still has external threats. But far more sinister are the threats from within. Christians leave their “first love” (Revelation 2:4-5); tolerate false doctrine and compromise their beliefs (Rev. 2:14-16), even to the point of turning a blind eye to false teachers (Rev. 2:20) and following “their pernicious ways” (2 Peter 2:1). Christians live sloppy, unwatchful spiritual lives (Rev. 3:1-3) and becoming lukewarm and ineffective (Rev. 3:15-16).

Today gives Christians an opportunity to look within ourselves; to find Judas-like qualities and behaviors that are treacherous and traitorous to our beloved Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Before we condemn Judas, maybe we should examine our own heart and life.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Worship Wisdom from A.W. Tozer

"It is very hard for me to accept the fact that it is now very rare for anyone to come into the house of God with guard completely down, head bowed and with the silent confession:

'Dear Lord, I am ready and willing to hear what You will speak to my heart today!'

We have become so learned and so worldly and so sophisticated and so blase and so bored and so religiously tired that the clouds of glory seem to have gone from us."

taken from Christ the Eternal Son, 108-109.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ford meets conditions; AFA suspends boycott

It's old news this week, but pretty big news in social conservative circles. I've posted the AFA news release below:

Dear Rodney,

I have some good news for you! AFA is suspending its two year boycott of Ford Motor Company. The conditions of the original agreement presented in fall 2005 have been met. We reached the conclusion that Ford had met the conditions of the agreement based on monitoring for several months. Individuals are free to purchase Ford vehicles again. Your support of the boycott played a key role in convincing Ford to cease its significant support of the homosexual agenda.

During the 24 months the boycott was in effect, Ford sales dropped an average of 8% per month. The boycott was not entirely responsible for the drop in sales, but it played a very significant role. A total of 780,365 individuals signed AFA's Boycott Ford petition. The original agreement contained four items:

1. Ford would not renew current promotions or create future incentives that give cash donations to homosexual organizations based on the purchase of a vehicle.

2. Ford would not make corporate donations to homosexual organizations that, as part of their activities, engage in political or social campaigns to promote civil unions or same-sex marriage.

3. Ford would stop giving cash and vehicle donations or endorsements to homosexual social activities such as Gay Pride parades.

4. Ford would cease all advertising on homosexual Web sites and through homosexual media outlets (magazines, television, radio) in the U.S. with the exception of $100,000 to be used by Volvo. The Volvo ads would be the same ads used in the general media and not aimed at the homosexual community specifically.

A few minor issues remain, and we will continue to bring these to the attention of Ford. But basically Ford has met the terms of the agreement. We are therefore suspending the boycott.

Thank you for caring enough to get involved. If you feel our efforts are worthy of support, would you consider making a small tax-deductible contribution? Click here to make a donation.


Donald E. Wildmon
Founder and Chairman American Family Association

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Richard Baxter on The Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change

"There is no walking uprightly in the dark. Zeal will cause you to go apace [quickly]; but not at all to go right, if judgment guide it not. Erroneous zeal will make you to do evil with double violence . . . No man can do well which he understandeth not well. Therefore you must study and take unwearied pains for knowledge; wisdom never grew up with idleness, though the conceit of wisdom doth no where more prosper. This age hath told us to what dangerous precipices men will be carried by an ignorant zeal."

Richard Baxter, "A Christian Directory", The Practical Works of Richard Baxter, vol. 1 (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2000), 739

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

ERLC president reacts to ‘Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change’

In a follow up to Monday's post, Iwanted to help circulate the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President, Dr. Richard Land's statement (included below). I especially appreciate Dr. Land's memory that the 2007 Resolution was amended. I must have been giving my wife some play-by-play.

Dr. Land's statement shows why he, and not others, is the President of the ERLC.


NASHVILLE, Tenn., March 10, 2008—Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, issued the following statement today regarding the recently released “Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change.”

Land answered questions about the ERLC’s lack of support for the declaration explaining that as an official SBC entity, the ERLC follows the consensus of Southern Baptists on public policy matters as determined by the SBC meeting in session each year.

He also stated, “The ERLC does not agree that Southern Baptists have been ‘too timid’” in addressing the issues of creation care and environmental stewardship.

Land’s statement follows:

“While official Southern Baptist Convention resolutions are not binding on the conscience of any Southern Baptist, they are instructive, particularly to those of us who have the privilege of serving all Southern Baptists through one of the Convention’s official entities.

“One of the responsibilities that accompanies this privilege of serving Southern Baptists is to seek the broadest possible consensus on issues where the Convention has spoken and to encourage change, when it is considered appropriate, through private discussion and dialogue to reach new consensus rather than public critique. We continue to encourage, and to participate in, such dialogues on this issue, as well as many other important issues.

"Southern Baptist public policy advocacy is most effective when it is supported by the broadest possible consensus among Southern Baptists.

“The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has a Convention-assigned role to express the consensus of Southern Baptists on public policy matters when they have reached such consensus. If the ERLC asserted Southern Baptists were in a different place on an issue than they actually were, we would lose the trust of Southern Baptists, and we would rapidly lose our credibility in Washington as well. Individual Southern Baptists may feel greater latitude in expressing disagreement on issues on which the Convention has spoken than do spokespersons related to official SBC entities.

“The Southern Baptist Convention had an opportunity at its 2007 Convention in San Antonio, Texas, to address this issue in the manner it is addressed in ‘A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change.’ Instead, the Convention’s voting messengers, elected by their local churches, voted approximately 60 to 40 percent to remove the following language from the proposed resolution:

‘RESOLVED, That we encourage continued government funding to find definitive answers on the issue of human-induced global warming that are based on empirical facts and are free of ideology and partisanship; and be it further.
. . .
‘RESOLVED, That we support economically responsible government initiatives and funding to locate and implement viable energy alternatives to oil, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and decreasing the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions; and be it further’

“The officially adopted resolution, minus the above language, is as close to an ‘official’ position as the SBC is capable of making, apart from its formal confession of faith, The Baptist Faith and Message.

“Consequently, in our Convention-assigned role to share faithfully with Washington and other public policy venues where the Convention is on an issue, it would be misleading and unethical of the ERLC to promote a position at variance with the Convention’s expressly stated positions.

“Given the fact the Convention has officially addressed the issues of creation care and environmental stewardship in its 2006 and 2007 Conventions through resolutions adopted by the Convention’s duly elected messengers (see links below to view cited SBC resolutions), the ERLC does not agree that Southern Baptists have been ‘too timid’ in addressing these issues.

“Southern Baptists, collectively and individually, jealously guard their independence and autonomy. They reserve to themselves the right to decide through Convention action what the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy positions are to be. The ERLC will continue to share the officially adopted positions of the Convention with public policy makers and the media. Thus, the ERLC has declined to endorse ‘A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change’ in its present form.”

The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest non-Catholic denomination with more than 16.3 million members in over 44,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change: More About Contacts than Contents

Today, a new movement within the Southern Baptist Convention was launched. As a former Southern Baptist activist, it caught my eye.

Jonathan Merritt, son of former SBC President James Merritt, a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has organized a “climate change” movement to evidently by-pass the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), one of several Southern Baptist entities, and the one specifically charged with environmental issues.

Sometime over the weekend, the young Merritt offered several news releases and full blown website (very well constructed, I might add) and several influential names attached to his Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change.

Friday, all was well within the SBC[i]. Today, an entire movement has been strategically launched, causing no small uproar. Picking up on the Associated Press story, the New York Times writes the event is “signaling a significant departure from the Southern Baptist Convention’s official stance on global warming”, A CNN headline reads: “Southern Baptist Leaders Shift Position on Climate Change”. The Kansas City Star chronicles "Baptist group rethinks climate change".

Sadly, when you get past all the glitz, there just ain’t much there. The document seems more about connections and contacts then it does about content. I have tried (unsuccessfully) to reign in my sarcasm which will be obvious in my retitling of the Declarations various sections, if not in the commentary itself.

Let’s consider the actual document, which you can read [here].

“Introductory Remarks” or “We want the limelight”

We believe our current denominational engagement with these issues have often been too timid, failing to produce a unified moral voice. Our cautious response to these issues in the face of mounting evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed. We can do better. To abandon these issues to the secular world is to shirk from our responsibility to be salt and light. The time for timidity regarding God’s creation is no more.
The 1970 and 1990 resolutions notwithstanding, the Southern Baptist Convention has spoken to the environment in each of the past 2 years. In this past year’s meeting in San Antonio (2007), resolution No. 5 “On Global Warming” couldn’t have been more direct. The previous year’s meeting in Greensboro (2006) produced Resolution No. 8 “On Environmentalism and Evangelicals”.

I would hardly call these back-to-back resolutions “timid” or a “cautious response”. Just try getting a resolution or motion voted on by the SBC and you’ll see why. I was present for both meetings and am admittedly a bit sketchy on the disposition of these resolutions, but I don’t recall any of the signatories offering amendments to toughen up the “timid” language. Maybe the signers have had a sudden epiphany on issues of the environment. But many of us in the SBC have been addressing these issues formally and (even more forcefully) informally for several years.

Southern Baptists, through the very excellent work of the ERLC, have hardly “abandon[ed] these issues to the secular world.” I cannot believe the above mentioned reference is anything but a slam on the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. These signers are notable leaders within the SBC and know well that the ERLC is charged with environmental issues.

I distinctly remember these signatories did NOT publicly support my motion during the 2005 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting to increase funding for the ERLC. If they are serious about Southern Baptists addressing environmental issues, they should realize that Southern Baptists are not adequately funding the entity we’ve charged to handle this (and other) issue(s). I would ask them to make increased funding for the ERLC part of their agenda.

I doubt even the ERLC could accurately record the volumnous times its staff or publications have spoken to environment issues in the past 5 or 10 years. I personally sat in a meeting with other State Ethics Leaders in November 2005 and listened to ERLC Vice-President Dr. Barrett Duke speak of the need for us to be more involved with issues of the environment, both as leaders and as a denomination. Dr. Duke is often eclipsed by the ERLC’s President, Dr. Richard Land. Few Southern Baptists realize Duke’s work and influence on our behalf in Washington, DC, but he is one of Southern Baptist’s brighest thinkers and was a signer of the 2004 Sandy Cove Covenant on the environment.

Ironically, Jonathan Merritt has launched a website using the namesake of the organization that issued that covenant. They are Merritt’s new organization uses

I cannot help but to conclude, based on the provocative language of the "Introduction" that those involved with this Declaration are newcomers to the environmental cause and woefully ignorant of the past involvement of the SBC and its ethics leaders on this issue. I welcome them to the fight to be good stewards of God’s earth. I just wish their entry into this battle was a bit more gracious.

Frankly, Southern Baptists do not need an independent entity. They need to adequately fund the entity (read ERLC) they have charged to promote this issue. Organizers of the Declaration should be fully supportive of the ERLC—at the very least with their verbage if not with their money.

Statement 1: “Humans Must Care for Creation and Take Responsibility for Our Contributions to Environmental Degradation.” or “DUH”

There is undeniable evidence that the earth—wildlife, water, land and air—can be damaged by human activity, and that people suffer as a result. When this happens, it is especially egregious because creation serves as revelation of God’s presence, majesty and provision. Though not every person will physically hear God’s revelation found in Scripture, all people have access to God’s cosmic revelation: the heavens, the waters, natural order, the beauty of nature (Psalm 19; Romans 1). We believe that human activity is mixed in its impact on creation—sometimes productive and caring, but often reckless, preventable and sinful.

God’s command to tend and keep the earth (Genesis 2) did not pass away with the fall of man; we are still responsible. Lack of concern and failure to act prudently on the part of Christ-followers reflects poorly to the rest of the world. Therefore, we humbly take responsibility for the damage that we have done to God’s cosmic revelation and pledge to take an unwavering stand to preserve and protect the creation over which we have been given responsibility by Almighty God Himself.
This section is one of the best of the entire documents. It is standard, yet essential, language for any conservative Christian in the environmental movement. Creation can be, and often is, damaged “by human activity.” But what’s this statement of “we humbly take responsibility for the damage that we have done to God’s cosmic revelation”?

I never cared for the corporate repentance language of the SBC during the Resolution on Racial Reconciliation of 1995; yet I got it. Even though a lot of current SBC-ers were northerners and even had abolitionists in their family tree, the SBC itself was formed in a climate of pro-slavery. So even though I had neither a personal nor a geneaological history of racism and no personal need to “apologize to all African-Americans for condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systemic racism in our lifetime” I understood what the SBC was saying.

But I’d like to know what damage the SBC has caused the environment. If this is intended to be a corporate document, I’d like “the damage that we have done” as Southern Baptists to God’s earth to be documented, listed, cataloged, inventoried, litanized, published and otherwise proclaimed.

But if the signers are being personally penitent, I’m not so sure we need clarification. The confession of Jack Graham pee-ing in a stream spoiling the spawning pools of trout; or of Johnny Hunt using hairspray—that’s spray not pump—sending fluorocarbons into the ozone; or Danny Akin tossing out Diet Pepsi cans along Interstate 440, well let’s just say, some things are better kept to oneself.

I may apologize for the racist past of the SBC, but here I draw the line. The first full chapter of the Bible I memorized was Psalm 19 “The heavens declare the glory of God…” I’m no litter bug. Periodically, I recycle and participate in community litter collections. I always bring out more than I take in on every hike. I was not driving the Exxon Valdez in 1989. And while I don’t chain myself to trees, I love God’s earth and care for it as much as possible.

Statement 2
“It Is Prudent to Address Global Climate Change.” or “Do something, even if it’s wrong!”

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. We are looking at the same evidence unfolding over time that other people are seeing.

We recognize that we do not have special training as scientists to allow us to assess the validity of climate science. We understand that all human enterprises are fraught with pride, bias, ignorance and uncertainty.

We recognize that if consensus means unanimity, there is not a consensus regarding the anthropogenic nature of climate change or the severity of the problem. There is general agreement among those engaged with this issue in the scientific community. A minority of sincere and respected scientists offer alternate causes for global climate change other than deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels.

We recognize that Christians are not united around either the scientific explanations for global warming or policies designed to slow it down. Unlike abortion and respect for the biblical definition of marriage, this is an issue where Christians may find themselves in justified disagreement about both the problem and its solutions.

Yet, even in the absence of perfect knowledge or unanimity, we have to make informed decisions about the future. This will mean we have to take a position of prudence based partly on science that is inevitably changing. We do not believe unanimity is necessary for prudent action. We can make wise decisions even in the absence of infallible evidence.

Though the claims of science are neither infallible nor unanimous, they are substantial and cannot be dismissed out of hand on either scientific or theological grounds. Therefore, in the face of intense concern and guided by the biblical principle of creation stewardship, we resolve to engage this issue without any further lingering over the basic reality of the problem or our responsibility to address it. Humans must be proactive and take responsibility for our contributions to climate change--however great or small.

Well, yes we can make SOME wise decisions about environmental issues. See the DUH statement 1. Don’t litter. Don’t dump your oil in the lake (or even in your yard). Don’t burn old tires. There is a lot we can do using common sense to protect and care for the earth.

But this section is on “Global Climate Change”. This declaration is for something much bigger than recycling aluminum cans and the signers want action, even if that action is wrong. They don’t tell us what action to take, though they hint at following the crowd: “There is general agreement…”

In fact, there is no such general agreement. The Declaration admits “A minority of sincere and respected scientists offer alternate causes for global climate change other than deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels” but then it continues the drumbeat of action, do something NOW, we can’t wait.

The Washington Post carried an excellent article just a few shorts days ago entitled “Global Warming Skeptics Insist Humans Not at Fault”. This argument, too long dominated by Al Gore and his think-a-likes, is beginning to shift. And thoughtful, serious Christians ought to pause and cerebrally weigh the arguments before they act, not after.

If the logic of the Declaration is followed in other fields, then children ought to be educated about the value of homosexuality as the majority of the NEA says; and surely the earth has evolved over millions of years as the majority of biologists say.

The global warming argument has been one-sided, dominated by people with clear agendas. True, objective science is beginning to speak on this issue and what it is saying should slow us down on the issue of global warming, not provoke his to frenzy.

Statement 3
"Christian Moral Convictions and Our Southern Baptist Doctrines Demand Our Environmental Stewardship." or "DUH (part 2) and Ooops".

While we cannot here review the full range of relevant Christian convictions and Baptist doctrines related to care of the creation, we emphasize the following points:

· We must care about environmental and climate issues because of our love for God—“the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver and Ruler of the Universe” (BFM 2000)—through whom and for whom the creation was made. This is not our world, it is God’s. Therefore, any damage we do to this world is an offense against God Himself (Gen. 1; Ps. 24; Col. 1:16). We share God’s concern for the abuse of His creation.

· We must care about environmental issues because of our commitment to God’s Holy and inerrant Word, which is “the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds and religious opinions should be tried” (BFM 2000). Within these Scriptures we are reminded that when God made mankind, He commissioned us to exercise stewardship over the earth and its creatures (Gen. 1:26-28). Therefore, our motivation for facing failures to exercise proper stewardship is not primarily political, social or economic—it is primarily biblical.

· We must care about environmental and climate issues because we are called to love our neighbors, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us and to rotect and care for the “least of these” (Mt. 22:34-40; Mt. 7:12; Mt. 25:31-46). The consequences of these problems will most likely hit the poor the hardest, in part because those areas likely to be significantly affected are in the world’s poorest
regions. 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.

Love of God, love of neighbor and Scripture’s stewardship demands provide enough reason for Southern Baptists and Christians everywhere to respond to these problems with moral passion and concrete action.

I sense the influence of David Copperfield (the magician, not the Dicken’s character). How did we move from a very excellent statement on Baptist doctrines regarding “issues” to the “problems” of the concluding paragraph? I’ve watched Copperfield’s prestidigitation enough to transport such trickery into my logical thinking processes (and they say you can’t learn from a magician!). No léger de main in cards or logic will get me to buy into “problems” with global warming. To unilaterally proclaim there are “problems” in the climate change/global warming issue without any offer of proof may illicit some more signatures on a website, but it won’t hold up to logical scutiny.

Statement 4
"It Is Time for Individuals, Churches, Communities and Governments to Act." or “Well…time to at least think.”

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” (BFM 2000).

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 evironmentalists to reject these evils and accept the sanctity of every human person, both born and unborn.

We realize that simply affirming our God-given responsibility to care for the earth will likely produce no tangible or effective results. Therefore, we pledge to find ways to curb ecological degradation through promoting biblical stewardship habits and increasing awareness in our homes, businesses where we find influence, relationships with others and in our local churches. Many of our churches do not actively preach, promote or practice biblical creation care. We urge churches to begin doing so.

We realize that the primary impetus for prudent action must come from the will of the people, families and those in the private sector. Held to this standard of common good, action by government is often needed to assure the health and well-being of all people. We pledge, therefore, to give serious consideration to responsible policies that acceptably address the conditions set forth in this declaration.
Maybe I’m getting tired of my critique. On this statement I say “Here, here.” Though, the declaration might have catalogued more than just the "abortion" problem within the mainstream environmental movement. There are many practices and/or conclusions most conservative Christians would find objectionable.


We the undersigned, in accordance with our Christian moral convictions and Southern Baptist doctrines, pledge to act on the basis of the claims made in this document. We will not only teach the truths communicated here but also seek
ways to implement the actions that follow from them. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, we urge all who read this declaration to join us in this effort. Laus Deo!
This effort is needlessly confusing. In a time when Southern Baptists need more unity and less division, it is unfortunate this entire episode was not worked out in conjunction with the ERLC.

I am glad for Jonathan Merritt’s passion. Southern Baptist’s need many, many more like him who will move beyond shallow evangelicalism into assertive application of biblical values. And particularly in less popular but equally biblical arenas like creation stewardship/environment (as well as poverty, hunger, persecution, welfare reform, etc), the church needs more, not fewer voices.

I’m glad his father and many of his father’s friends have affirmed this passion. They should have been more discerning of the political fallout this is causing around the nation.

I have no commendation for the SBC’s current President Frank Page. For a sitting president to undermine the work of the convention and of a convention agency, in this case the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is inexcusable and shameful.

In the end, this blurp has caused more confusion than clarity to the issue of environmental stewardship. It will continue to do so in the days ahead as a great distraction to the work of Southern Baptists.


[i] With the exception, of course, of declining baptisms, inflated membership numbers, personal attacks on denominational leaders, division over charismatic issues and doctrine, a growing acceptance of alcoholic consumption, unspiritual leadership, turmoil over missionary appointment policies at the International Mission Board, influence of Emergent doctrine, ecumenism and a recalcitrance of biblical separationism. Otherwise, all was well in the 16.5 million 8 million member denomination.

Friday, March 07, 2008

An Open Letter to Barack Obama

Dr. Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, is one of traditional morality’s greatest thinkers. Dr. George has been especially helpful in the realm of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). Some of you will recognize that he serves on the President’s Council on Bioethics.

One of his students, Sherif Gergis, a 2008 Princeton Graduate and Rhodes Scholar, has written an open letter to U.S. Senator Barack Obama on the subject of the protection of unborn human life. Dr. George has asked the letter be given wide distribution.

It is listed below, or can be accessed online at National Review.

The Audacity of Hope
A second-generational query.

By Sherif Girgis

Dear Senator Obama:

As an immigrant from Kenya, your father found new hope in America’s noble principles and vast opportunities. The same promise brought my parents here from Egypt when I was still too young to thank them. Now you have inspired my generation with your vision of a country united around the same ideals of liberty and justice, “filled with hope and possibility for all Americans.”But do you mean it?

As a legislator, you have opposed every effort to protect unborn human life. Shockingly, you even opposed a bill to protect the lives of babies who, having survived an attempted abortion, are born alive. Despite your party’s broad support for legal abortion and its public funding, most Democrats (including Senator Clinton) did not oppose the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act. You, however, opposed it. Your vision of America seems to eliminate “hope and possibility” for a whole class of Americans: the youngest and most vulnerable. You would deny them the most basic protection of justice, the most elementary equality of opportunity: the right to be born.

As a prerequisite for any other right, the right to life is the great civil-rights issue of our time. It is what slavery and segregation were to generations past. Our response to this issue is the measure of our fidelity to a defining American principle: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life.”

You have asked me to vote for you. In turn, may I ask you three simple questions? They are straightforward questions of fact about abortion. They are at the heart of the debate. In fairness, I believe that you owe the people you would lead a good-faith answer to each:

1. The heart whose beating is stilled in every abortion — is it a human heart?

2. The tiny limbs torn by the abortionist’s scalpel — are they human limbs?

3. The blood that flows from the fetus’s veins — is it human blood?

If the stopped heart is a human heart, if the torn limbs are human limbs, if the spilled blood is human blood, can there be any denying that what is killed in an abortion is a human being? In your vision for America, the license to kill that human being is a right. You have worked to protect that “right” at every turn. But can there be a right to deny some human beings life or the equal protection of the law?

Of course, some do deny that every human being has a right to life. They say that size or degree of development or dependence can make a difference. But the same was once said of color. Some say that abortion is a “necessary evil.” But the same was once said of slavery. Some say that prohibiting abortion would only harm women by driving it underground. But to assume so is truly to play the politics of fear. A compassionate society would never accept these false alternatives. A compassionate society would protect both mother and child, coming to the aid of women in need rather than calling violence against their children the answer to their problems.

Can we become a society that does not sacrifice some people to help others? Or is that hope too audacious? You have said that abortion is necessary to protect women’s equality. But surely we can do better. Surely we can build an America where the equality of some is not purchased with the blood of others. Or would that mean too much change from politics as usual?

Can we provide every member of the human family equal protection under the law? Your record as a legislator gives a resounding answer: No, we can’t. That is the answer the Confederacy gave the Union, the answer segregationists gave young children, the answer a complacent bus driver once gave a defiant Rosa Parks. But a different answer brought your father from Kenya so many years ago; a different answer brought my family from Egypt some years later. Now is your chance, Senator Obama, to make good on the spontaneous slogan of your campaign, to adopt the more American and more humane answer to the question of whether we can secure liberty and justice for all: Yes, we can.

— Sherif Girgis of Dover, Del., is a senior philosophy major at Princeton University and a 2008 Rhodes Scholar.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Memo to McCain: Don't Hold Your Breath for My Vote

If I had stayed in Missouri, I would have got to vote for Mike Huckabee while his campaign was still very much alive. Now I’ll vote for him in Indiana’s primary when his campaign is very much dead.

I joined an Indiana Huckabee Meetup group—late in the game—but soon enough to enjoy common fellowship of undaunted crusaders who believed in a great man and a great cause.

That was 48 hours ago. Since then, our man bowed out and we are very much divided on whether John McCain will receive our vote in November’s general election.

For me, voting for McCain presents several problems.

First, he is not pro-life. Anti-abortion, yes (mostly), but pro-life, no. John McCain wants to destroy human life when it's in an embryonic, frozen stage.

Second, he favors homosexuality. Homosexual marriage, no; but homosexual unions, yes.

Third, he is weak on national defense. Strong on the war against terrorism abroad, yes; but on protecting America's borders (very much a national defense issue) he is very, very weak.

Fourth, he has a woeful position on taxes. He has said little--other than he is not opposed to raising them. I could continue, but this will suffice for the moment (or go here and start reading about one third of the way down).

If I were to vote for him, I'd have to say if/when he were to sign a federal bill into law protecting homosexual unions that I had a part in making that happen. I could console myself and say, at least it's not a homosexual marriage law, but I'd have to own up to getting John McCain in that spot. The same when he signs an executive order allowing scientists to experiment on human life; when he thwarts efforts to secure the border and deport illegal aliens; and when he continues rampant federal spending and raises taxes. For now, I will do nothing of the sort. My conscience will not allow it.

When we speak of conscience, what we are saying is that when evil presents itself, of whatever degree, we can say to ourselves, to our families, to our countrymen and to our God--we had no part in that.

We know well the threat from an Obama or Hillary presidency. The threat looms as strong in our minds and hearts as it does yours. Perhaps we are being naive or counter-productive. And perhaps, by that fateful November Tuesday later this year, we'll be convinced that we must vote for McCain for the good of our country. But I doubt it.

People like me haven't voted for a politician yet who isn't pro-life and pro-marriage and we don't intend to start.
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P.S. For all the talk of Republicans 'closing ranks' and 'supporting our own' read this post from the Irritable Elephant on how McCain treats his fellow Republicans. Does "you reap what you sow" sound familiar?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Win One for the Gipper!

Well, we tried. The Reagan Revolution, spawned by America’s brilliant 40th president, received a virtual death blow tonight with the cinching of the Republican nomination by John McCain.

One of Reagan best lines was succinct: “Facts are stubborn things.” And the facts are that John McCain is no conservative.

Remember these Reagan quotes?

"Simple morality dictates that unless and until someone can prove the unborn human is not alive, we must give it the benefit of the doubt and assume it is (alive). And, thus, it should be entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

“Approximately 80% of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation, so let's not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emission standards from man-made sources.”

“Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

John McCain will not protect embryonic life; is a supporter of the Kyoto treaty and a true believer of ‘greenhouse gases’; and one of two Republican contenders for this year’s nomination who REFUSED to sign a commitment opposing new taxes.

For a little walk down memory lane, read President Reagan’s Farewell Speech.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Mike Huckabee and The Alamo

James Butler Bonham had a simple message when he left San Antonio de Béxar. He left the little mission on February 16, 1836 and headed 100 miles southeast for Goliad, seeking the reinforcements of Colonel James Fannin's 450 Texas men. Bonham had a simple message. Colonel William Travis and all the defenders of the Alamo were about to be overwhelmed.

History teaches us that Fannin didn’t arrive in time; that only a few other volunteers from the surrounding towns of Gonzalez and Victoria came to help; and that after a 12 day siege, General Antonio López de Santa Anna, after raising a blood-red flag signaling the message that no defenders would be taken alive, ordered 1,600 of his five thousand man Mexican army to attack. Within an hour, the Alamo was captured and 189 defenders were dead.

Tomorrow, Texas Republicans have a similar scenario. Few in the party will champion John McCain as a Reagan conservative. In fact, most Republicans would admit that Mike Huckabee is a much, much better choice at carrying forth the conservative banner. Unfortunately, so many for too long have swallowed the establishment tale that Mike Huckabee lacks "electability".

And so, like Santa Anna’s overwhelming force smashing the Alamo and its defenders, the McCain campaign, with help from the Republican establishment, the media elite and even unbelievably, key leaders from the Christian-Right, is set to annihilate the Huckabee campaign by capturing most of Texas’ 140 delegates.

It’s not like ample warning hasn’t been given. Like James Butler Bonham's desperate rides through the Texas countryside in 1836, voices have been calling out to Republican conservatives to come and help.

Much has been done to counter-act the "Huckabee can’t win” banter. Adam Graham, writing an article entitled “Mathematically Impossible” states:

"In the end, this election has been a lesson in how the media can manipulate elections and create news, with phrases repeated often and long enough. News anchors and stories chattering on about impossibilities and candidates having "no chance" as a matter of fact, not a matter of opinion or analysis, have created a perception that doesn't match fact. But the constant, incessant buzz is taking a toll and creating the reality it alleges."
The fact is that Republicans can keep John McCain from securing the nomination. Conservative Republicans can march into Minneapolis-St.Paul with an infamously brokered convention. Read my previous blog post here to find reasons why this would be a good thing. Bottom line—it keeps John McCain from becoming president.

Status quo Republicans may have forgotten some of what John McCain stands for, but I, along with hundreds of thousands of my fellow Republicans, haven’t.

John McCain is a Washington insider and is more a part of the problem than the solution. Consider one of McCain’s popular campaign tactics—criticizing government “pork barrel” spending. McCain ridiculed $1 million for a Woodstock museum, but when it was time to vote on an amendment he co-sponsored, he chose to stay on the campaign trail and skipped the vote. In another example, McCain cites $3 million to study bears in Montana. While he did offer three amendments to reduce funding, not one of them included removing appropriations for the grizzly bear project. Could it have been that the backer of the bear funding, then Senator Conrad Burns decided to endorse McCain?

John McCain supports embryonic stem cell research and forced government funding for this research. He voted in favor of H.R. 810, a bill to fund embryonic stem cell research and when asked at the GOP primary debate at the Reagan library if he would expand federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, McCain replied:

“I believe that we need to fund this. This is a tough issue for those of us in the pro-life community. I would remind you that these stem cells are either going to be discarded or perpetually frozen. We need to do what we can to relieve human suffering. It's a tough issue. I support federal funding.”
John McCain has swallowed the left’s view of the environment. He favored the Kyoto Treaty on reducing “greenhouse gases” and even called for a second treaty. He opposes exploratory drilling for oil in Alaska saying “As far as ANWR is concerned, I don’t want to drill in the Grand Canyon, and I don’t want to drill in the Everglades. This is one of the most pristine and beautiful parts of the world.” Yet this drilling would be helpful in reducing our dependence on foreign sources.

John McCain cheated on his wife Carol, divorcing her and marrying his former mistress--now wife--Cindy and has recently been involved in a relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman which was improper at best, immoral at worst.

John McCain is to be remembered for the legislation bearing his name—McCain/Feingold—which was a major suppression of free speech rights especially of pro-family groups. McCain even went so far as to file an amicus brief against Wisconsin Right to Life in enforcing this suppression of speech. And lest I let the obvious pass by, who would want their name forever attached to Russ Feingold?

The real story in the recent NY Times article which has been categorically lamblasted for its sneering inuendo of a McCain/Iseman relationship is McCain lies about his ties with lobbyists.

And ironically, the McCain/Feingold legislation prevents McCain from spending much more money on his political campaign. Instead of abiding by the legislation, McCain has decided to ignore it and has pulled so many unethical and illegal manuevers that the Democratic National Committee has filed an ethics complaint with the Federal Election Commission.

John McCain favored amnesty for illegal aliens. You can watch him here making the case for open borders and amnesty for illegals.

McCain has refused a pledge to oppose tax increases and actually opposed President Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, as well as opposing the attempt to eliminate the death tax in 2002. In a 2003 interview on the Today with Katie Couric, McCain’s class-warfare rhetoric was unrelenting:

HOST KATIE COURIC: “But, Sen. McCain, if you listen to Commerce Secretary Don Evans, and he just appeared on this program, working Americans, the middle-class Americans, under the Bush proposals will get a major break. A family of four making $39,000 a year, according to Mr. Evans, will get a $1,100 tax cut for several years, allowing them to plan their individual budgets. That sounds like something that won’t just simply benefit the wealthy.”

MCCAIN: “Well, I think it will. But when you look at the percentage of the tax cuts that—as the previous tax cuts—that go to the wealthiest Americans, you will find that the bulk of it, again, goes to wealthiest Americans. … A lot of Americans now are paying a very large a—low and middle-income Americans are paying a significantly larger amount of their income in taxes. I’d like to see them get the bulk of the relief.”—NBC’s “Today,” Jan. 7, 2003.

2004 Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry says McCain was interested in becoming his VP nominee. John McCain is opposed to a Federal Marriage Amendment protecting the country from homosexual unions. Time fails me to discuss other idiotic and conservative betraying issues from John McCain. Do terms like Keating 5 and Gang of 14 mean anything to any post-Reagan conservative?

Republicans have a choice tomorrow…and not just in Texas. In Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont those who hold to the 1980s Reagan Revival can elect his heir. President Bush has already weakened those convictions. John McCain will finish them off. Mike Huckabee stands in stark contrast to the insider, politics as usual, flip-flopping, moderate policies of John McCain.

Mike Huckabee plans to secure America and his first step is to build a fence. He won’t give amnesty to America’s 11 million illegal immigrants as would Bush and McCain and won’t sponsor a $20 million virtual fence. He’ll build a real one.

Mike Huckabee is opposed to embryonic stem cell research, research which destroys a human life. Unlike McCain who wants to force Americans to fund this immoral research, Mike Huckabee is opposed to tax funding for ESCR. Mike Huckabee favors a Human Life Amendment to the US Constitution.

Huckabee favors independence from Middle East oil. He is for the Fair Tax. And he’ll continue to aggressively fight the war on terror.

The choice for Republicans is clear. There is but one heir to the Reagan legacy and that is Mike Huckabee.

172 years ago, Texans were late. They finally caught up with Santa Anna at San Jacinto and crushed his army. But I think that where the analogy ends. If Mike Huckabee is soundly defeated in Texas tomorrow, I don’t think he or the Republican party will recover.

Contribute to Huckabee’s campaign. $5 or $500. They’ll go a long way.