Friday Five Interview: Jonathan Merritt

December 10, 2010

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Today I have the privilege of chatting with Jonathan Merrit. I’ve been following the work of Jonathan in the last couple years as God has given him a platform to speak and write on subjects relevant to a younger generation of evangelicals. Southern Baptists will know Jonathan as the son of Dr. James Merritt, a past President of the Southern Baptist Convention and a reknowned pastor and teacher.

Jonathan is a thoughtful writer, speaking on the intersection of orthodox Christian faith and culture. He is author of Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet (2010), which Publisher’s Weekly called “a must-read for churchgoers,” offers a biblical justification for care of creation. His work has appeared in respected outlets such as USA Today, The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionThe Washington Post’s “On Faith,” BeliefNet, Christianity Today, and Jonathan is also the editor of Q.

1) You’ve written the book, Green Like God. How do you frame the Christian case for stewardship of the environment?

I root the entire discussion in the context of the scriptures. While I believe tradition and experience are important–and I reference them in the book–I lean on scripture most heavily. The book begins with a rediscovery of God’s word and then moves to reevaluating God’s world. I believe a proper approach to creation care must go through these two steps in that order.

2) Evangelicals have often been skeptical of environmentalism, because of the excesses of the movement and what some perceive as worship of the earth, but that shouldn’t mean we swing wildly the other way, either, right?

So much of religion is pendulumatic. That’s not what I promote in this book. I want a balanced and reasonable approach to creation care that asserts timeless principles. In fact, I devote an entire chapter toward the beginning to the dangers of faddish pop-environmentalism.

3) It seems today as if there are two trends among younger evangelicals. We seem to want more robust preaching, less of the “hip” church and yet we are also more solution-oriented, rather than the knee-jerk confrontational conservatism when it comes to politics. Why is that?

The shifts going on among younger evangelicals seems to be both reactive and proactive. On the one hand, it is a reaction to the failures of the last generation of American Christianity. On the other hand, it is proactive in that it is rooted not in rebellion but in reflection. There are new perspectives on scripture, culture, and gospel, for example, that are rising to the surface and pushing Christians into a new moment for the faith.

4) There seems to be an awakening in the church to issues like human trafficking, orphan care, and other issues to broaden, but not replace the usual conservative political portfolio.

That’s correct. There is an awakening to what is often called a “broader agenda” for the reasons mentioned above. And the young evangelicals are embracing this broader agenda while not abandoning traditionally Christian issues. This comes, of course, with one glaring exception. Every data point indicates that young Christians are shifting on the issues of same sex unions.

5) You have said, “I think we need to throw the hush off of the hidden things and blow the dust off the subjects we’ve stored in the attics of our minds.” Why have we not had those conversations in the past?

There are always conversations that must be had that we aren’t currently having. And those conversations will be different tomorrow than they are today. As each era dawns, it brings with it unique challenges and problems requiring the attention of Christ followers. It isn’t that we haven’t been willing to have the tough conversations in the past and I am the only one brave enough to tackle them. Rather, I see my personal calling as something of a cultural observer to identify and address difficult pressing issues as they arise. Creation care is just one of those issues, and I did my best to address it in a way that was faithful to the Bible and honest with the facts.