Genesis 1:26-28 and Sustainability

November 18, 2021 by Joshua
in Nature

Genesis 1:26-28 says

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. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.


I think about the passage more and more, trying to understanding it in light of our relationship with nature and every living thing that moveth today.

For a while, I’ve understood “be fruitful and multiply” to mean live a sweet life and multiply happiness. To say multiply without bound can’t work on a finite planet or even finite galaxy.

Lately, I’ve thought more about dominion “over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” Everyone I’ve talked to who considers these words divine interprets dominion to mean stewardship.

Well, if you’re told to steward every living thing and instead you contribute to their extinction, how are you not acting in contradiction to the first thing you’re instructed to do? Is extinction not the opposite of stewardship? Shouldn’t anyone intending to follow that instruction be doing everything they can, or at least try to keep species alive?

I’m sure I missed something. I’ve recorded podcast episodes on extinction, which turns out people couldn’t conceive of until recently, so couldn’t help but think about in relation to Genesis:

We’re making species go extinct faster than ever. It seems if you want to follow Genesis, you have to grapple with extinction. People did in general before when you couldn’t link individual behavior to extinction. Now that we can see everyone’s personal action contributing to pollution, climate change, deforestation, and so on, how can you not consider your personal actions today?

Even if you don’t see how your personal actions contribute, you could act to stop the effects. Inaction when you could act seems complicit, like watching someone die whom you could save.

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