The exegetical foundation for proxy baptism of the dead is stronger than the exegetical foundation for "creation care" as presently defined.
- Both concepts rise and fall on the interpretation of a single statement. The modern environmental concept of "creation care" depends entirely upon a particular interpretation of Genesis 1:26-28. Although the Bible makes abundant mention of God's status vis-à-vis His creation—that He created it, rules over it, and retains ownership of it—this Genesis passage is the only suggestion in the Bible, indirect as it is, that man is accountable to God for the climatic health of the earth. The notion of proxy baptism of the dead depends entirely upon a particular interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29. This verse, unlike the Genesis passage, appears in a New Testament epistle to a church. All other things being equal, drawing exegetical support from a New Testament passage is generally a stronger position than drawing exegetical support from an Old Testament passage, because the questions regarding how the concept might have been affected by the Fall or the Gospel are not in play with regard to a passage in a New Testament epistle.
- Major alternative interpretations of Genesis 1:26-28 are available, unlike 1 Corinthians 15:29. Many exegetes will hazard some sort of guess, but when you get down to brass tacks, most will concede that we have no idea what 1 Corinthians 15:29 is talking about. On the other hand, a long and distinguished history exists of reading Genesis 1:26-28 as a passage subjecting the earth to human domination, to be employed for the benefit of man.
- Other passages in the Bible seem specifically to contradict the notion that human activity changes the climate. Ecclesiastes 1 specifically mentions several climatological phenomena as items unaffected by the "vanity" of human existence, pointedly asserting the indefinite unfazed existence of the earth in the face of human endeavors. In 1 Kings 17-18, Matthew 8:23-27, and James 5:17-18, the ability to impact the weather receives specific attention as a demonstration of the power of God in contrast to the power of mere mortal activity. Apocalyptic passages in both Old and New Testaments seem to teach pretty clearly that climactic climatic cataclysm is God's ultimate intention for the earth rather than a human-induced phenomenon that contravenes His design. On the other hand, although strong exegetical evidence refutes the notion of post-mortem evangelism or conversion, no other passage of scripture anywhere even tangentially addresses the idea of proxy baptism for the dead either to support it or to refute it.
Neither case is strong exegetically. Neither case convinces me exegetically. But the exegetical basis for the idea that I ought to be baptized in behalf of my great-grandfather, weak as it is, is stronger than the exegetical evidence that I ought to be concerned about monitoring my carbon footprint.
One might even say that every time a Southern Baptist argues that pollution is unbiblical, that person has rejected the sufficiency of Scripture and has become a closet Roman Catholic. And every time that person uses religious rationales to advocate governmental imposition of restrictions upon what I can drive, burn, cultivate, manufacture, mine, or pump from the earth, that person has become a closet Pharisee, loving their own rules more than Scripture itself.
Of course, to make such a public statement would be to cast grave aspersions upon those who see things differently and to throw down the gauntlet and call for heated, public, high-stakes debate about the idea, and I do not wish to go quite so far. Rather, I believe that our greener brethren are attempting to address questions arising out of human technological advancement, and are attempting to do so within the framework of a generally biblical worldview. We might be able to come to differing conclusions about environmental matters without ratcheting the level of rhetoric up quite so high. At least that would be my hope.