There are many things that Christianity is credited for, many of them have done good and some bad. There are two things that environmentalist and scientist often point out, and they both have negative consequences. The exploitation of the earth’s natural resources and the destruction living things. According to Christianity, the world was created for us humans. And as revealed in the Book of Genesis, us humans have dominion over the earth and are to subdue it for our benefit. Here are the scriptures from Genesis Chapter One that sets into motion the idea that humans are rulers of the earth.
“26. and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth – 28. subdue it (earth): and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” NRSV
The word dominion is used two times in three verses, the word subdue is used once. What are the definitions of these words? Dominion – control, rule, command, sway, supremacy. Subdue – overcome, conquer, defeat, vanquish, overwhelm, crush, beat. Get the picture? Man, is to be the dictator of all living things. A common Christian environmentalist interpretation of these scriptures is done by saying that having dominion over the earth and subduing it means that we should manage and care for the earth. In other words, we should be good stewards of the earth.
I like the idea of being good stewards of the earth. In fact, I believe in the idea very much. There are indeed many things that man can easily subdue and use to our benefit such as row crops and meat production animals. There are also many species of animals that have suffered or have gone extinct because of our intrusion. We have clear cut thousands of square miles of forest causing several plant species to also go extinct. We pollute rivers to where they are unusable and deposit millions of gallons of other types of pollutants into the ocean. In this light, it easy to see that humanity does indeed have dominion over the earth. That our actions could bring about serious consequences in the future. That we are going about the wrong way to subdue the earth, that we are being bad stewards.
I would agree that humanity is doing a poor job of being good stewards in many ways. But there is one thing that I would like to point out, it is where I disagree with these scriptures. Humanity does not rule over the living. Even in today’s scientific age, an estimated 25,000 people die every year from bacterial infections in the United States. This number is much higher in other countries. Every year thousands of people die from other illnesses that are brought about by living seen and unseen creatures.
And if “climate change” and “global warming” proves to be true? Humanity has accomplished a catastrophic event among living creatures that cannot be reversed by our dominion. In this case, if we were given dominion? It was only to bring upon ourselves our own destruction. Extinction is nothing new to the planet, to think that we have a dominion over all living things would be to say that we could reverse the extinction of all living things, including ourselves. The forces of nature could easily swallow humanity in one given moment if they wished.
Yet, in the end, I will conclude that humanity does have dominion over several thousand species of living things. And that it is the duty of me the Christian to be a good steward of the land.