“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Gen. 1:28).
Inescapably, the first chapter of Genesis involves us in the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. God, as the creator of all things, must be honored by the entire creation as Lord over all (Isaiah 45:23; Philippians 2:10). But honoring God as creator obviously requires a full acknowledgment of His law-order. Should any Christian deny his responsibility and position in God’s plan of creation and history, he stands as a rebel.
There are at least three fundamental economic issues contained in Gen. 1:28: the calling, the question of natural law, and the concept of development.
Adam was given tasks to perform in the garden even before Eve was provided as his helper (2:15, 19, 20). Man is therefore not to be defined apart from his calling before God. Even as God “labored” to create the universe, and “rested” the seventh day (obviously, He was not exhausted), so is man, as God’s image-bearer, to labor and to rest. God, as self-contained and self-defined, can be defined apart from His creation, but man, as a created being who must serve God in all his affairs, is not self-existent and self-defined. Man is God’s vice-regent on earth, a subordinate official, a worker who is to implement God’s sovereign rule on earth and in time. Labor is not something added to man as an afterthought; only the curse on labor, as a result of man’s rebellion, is a new factor (3:17-19).
Present-day ecological romantics, like Rousseau and nineteenth-century Romantics before them, long for a world which is free from the effects of man the destroyer. In this they are agreed with Christians, for, we assert that the whole creation groans to be delivered from “the bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:21). But Christians “are saved by hope” (Romans 8:24), a hope in God’s redemption, not in hope of some return to a “natural” paradise. Man is indeed a destroyer, an ethical rebel who seeks release from God’s created law-order. But “man the destroyer” is not the result of “man the controller”; he is the product of “man the ethical rebel.” It is not man’s dominion over the earth that is illegitimate, but rather man’s attempt to dominate the earth apart from God’s control over man. Yet the only foundation of man’s claim of limited, derivative sovereignty is an acknowledgment of God’s ultimate sovereignty. Captains who rebel against generals can expect their corporals to be insubordinate. Our polluted world is rebelling against our lawless, rebellious rulership, not against rulership as such.
The assumption of the ecological romantics is that nature is guided by its own autonomous laws. Man must conform to these hypothetically impersonal laws of nature. Man is therefore to be under nature, dominated by nature, the servant of nature. Nature–the creation–is sovereign in this scheme, not God’s decree, a decree which involves personal responsibility of men before God to rule over His creation. This is why the call for a “return to the laws of nature” is ultimately secular and satanic. It is a denial of man’s legitimate subordinate sovereignty and hence a denial of God’s legitimate absolute sovereignty.
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