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Our Divine Commission to Rule over all Living Things
The Text: 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Genesis 1:28-31.
Biblical Reasons to Rule the Living Creation
- It is a command. (Genesis 1:28-31; Psalm 8:6-8) – The Dominion Mandate
- God values it highly – God created the various kinds of plants and animals… and He said it was very good (Genesis 1:31). Plants and animals do not have to justify their existence by having some use for man to exploit.
- He made life to feed us – Plants to eat (Genesis 1:29). Animals given after the flood (Genesis 9:3). Both used for sacrifices (Leviticus).
- God wants us to maintain the created diversity. Genesis 7:2-3
- God wants us to take good care to animals under our charge. A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel (Prov. 12:10). Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations? (Prov. 27:23) (Psalm 23)
- Nature declares the glory of God and proclaims his invisible attributes (Psalm 19, 104; Romans 1:20)
- Knowing about plants and animals was considered part of Solomon’s wisdom. (I Kings 4:33-34)
- Living things (not just man) bring praise to the Lord (Psalm 148)
Understanding dominion: An analogy from Ephesians 5 shows that dominion is not exploitive or oppressive. Godly headship never is.
- Christ and the Church – under Christ’s headship the church is to thrive, be fruitful, and become more lovely
- Husband and wife – under her husband’s righteous headship a wife is to thrive, be fruitful, and become more lovely
- We have been given dominion over the Creation. If we exercise godly dominion under the Lordship of Christ the living creation will thrive, be fruitful, and will become more lovely. Knowledge and appreciation of our fellow creatures is essential for good husbandry.
Disastrous Acts of Judgment in the Bible: For thus says the Lord God: How much more when I send upon Jerusalem my four disastrous acts of judgment, sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast! (Ezekiel 14:21) Three of the four are environmental problems.
What is the cause of environmental problems? Sin (direct or indirect causality)
Hosea 4:1-3 – Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel,
for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.
There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,
and no knowledge of God in the land;
2 there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
3 Therefore the land mourns,
and all who dwell in it languish,
and also the beasts of the field
and the birds of the heavens,
and even the fish of the sea are taken away.
See also Jeremiah 12:4
What is the solution to environmental problems? The Gospel
How so? Because of the Fall we have been alienated from God, from our fellow man, and from nature. Nature also has internal conflicts (all creation groans). Francis Schaeffer refers to these as divisions. When we are reconciled to God by justification that lays the groundwork to begin healing these other divisions.
How shall we then live?
- Live and proclaim the gospel with a conscious desire to heal all the dislocations caused by the fall. God to man; man to man; and man to nature, and nature to nature. Prov. 16:7; Isaiah 11:6-9
- Cultivate a love and appreciation of God’s living world…in yourself and in your children (children have an innate love of nature). Through hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, gardening, zoos, botanical gardens, arboretums, and parks.
- Have a heart of gratitude to God who made living things to meet our practical needs (food, clothing, and shelter). Thank him that they also fulfil our aesthetic and emotional longings.
- Principles for professionals that directly exercise dominion over plants or animals (zoo keepers, farmers, ranchers, foresters, soil scientists, horticulturists, vets, breeders, animal rehab, park rangers, landscape architects, wildlife managers, ecologists, developers, etc. etc.)
- Exercise good husbandry for the animals in your charge (Prov. 12:10; Prov. 27:23).
- Think biblically regarding the management of nature. Don’t be narrow-minded and disregard the diversity, balance, and interdependency of nature.
- Be humble and eager to learn of better practices from others (non-Christians and Christians alike). Look for ways to enhance your real estate. Don’t just think in terms of mitigating the negatives.
- Don’t look down your nose or be judgmental at others who are at different levels of knowledge, wisdom, and practice. Be an example of better practice.
- Developers: You have a greater capacity to do great good as well as great damage. In addition to abiding by environmental laws to avoid possible punishment (Romans 13) love God and your neighbor in how you develop. Don’t chafe under the environmental regulations, set a higher standard. We should be reformational and think generational in all things. Think how to achieve a win-win not zero-sum game. Think, innovate, and work toward a garden city. A human city or town that emulates Hobbiton and Rivendell. Keep in mind that wilderness has its place (Psalm 104:18). It is not useless.
- Don’t just think sustainability. We (along with the sea creatures and fish) were told to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Mankind at present has an MO that diminishes creation; we are not enhancing the created order. Sustainability is indeed a step in the right direction but we can’t stop there. In the parable of the talents which servant got chewed out?
The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof (Psalm 24:1). Since God has put us in charge, as far as it depends on us, let’s enhance its intrinsic beauty and diversity in the sphere of influence God have given us, motivated by our love of God, His creation, and our neighbor.