Dominion Over the Earth
A few weeks ago I looked at how Genesis claims that we are made in the image of God and what that may mean. One possibility put forward in that post was what seems to be the most obvious in the text itself: we bear God’s image in that we have dominion over the earth. There’s no doubt that this text has been abused in the past as an excuse to rape the earth. I definitely do not think that this was what it was saying, though, so let’s look at some other ideas about this command.
Once again referencing another recent post, it is valuable to remember what toho va bohu means: formless and void or chaos. At the time that this text was written, the world around them was a tough place. It wasn’t like the Western world now where we could destroy our entire planet in minutes if we wanted to. We have definitely tamed the earth and gone far behind that. However, at the time this was written, it was a very real practical issue to survive the natural elements. The idea, then, of taming the wilderness for survival was something completely different than destroying the earth because we feel like it. This is an important thing to keep in mind if we’re tempted to say that we’re entitled to do whatever we want to the planet.
God’s Kind of Dominion
This is what I really think it is getting at, though. If we are made in the image of God and that means having dominion over the earth, then our dominion over the earth should look like how God has dominion over us and everything else. God’s dominion, typically called The Kingdom of God in the New Testament, is radically different than the ways that humans naturally think of being in charge. Here’s a small sample of what God’s Kingdom looks like:
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
God’s definition of dominion is to essentially give it all up in the service of those who he has dominion over. God’s glory is fundamentally not in his power. God isn’t glorified by doing things just because he can; power is not the most important part of God. God is glorified because the most important part of his character is loving service. We may not have all the power of God, but we do have dominion over some things including a lot of our earth. Our decision is whether to use our power to control and hurt others or to give it up in loving service for our world human and otherwise.