Mastering Nature vs. the Biblical Mandate to Take Authority Over Creation
There is a very fine line between the secular humanist’s attempt to master nature with science, technology and economic activity and the biblical mandate to take authority over and develop creation. It is incredible that we know so much about our universe, and yet, why should we be surprised that our loving God would let us in on his mysteries? “For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6, NIV). Every bit of wisdom comes from God and he takes delight in us discovering how He has created the universe.
One major difference is that the secular humanist’s goal is to take control over and manipulate creation for his own profit and gain, rather than to work with it in order to benefit both the human and the land, as well as bring glory to God, who created it. It is clear even in the Old Testament as the laws were being written that God cares dearly about his creation. God commanded that every 7 years after continual reaping and sowing, the land would be allowed to rest for a Sabbath year(Leviticus 25:2-7, NIV). We are not meant to destroy creation, but to live cooperatively with it.
This is the great thinking of such sustainable development activists like Michael Braungart and William McDonough, authors of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, who believe we can work together, both big industrialists and environmentalists, to create a worldview of “abundance, creativity, prosperity and change” in order to save the planet from our destructive acts (p12). Cutting down the rainforests to build factories, and even demolishing local forests to build parking lots for the new strip mall is not what God had in mind when he commissioned Adam and Eve to have authority over the earth in Genesis 1.
As Richard Middleton and Brian Walsh wrote in The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview, we were intended to be “culture formers.” There is an “eschatological movement from the garden to the city” (p 58). The story of God starts in a garden in Genesis and ends in a city in Revelation. We were created to cultivate and work the land but it is still a very challenging thing to discern how our society can develop this way without allowing science, technology, and economics to take over without the guidance of God (p58).
Unfortunately, the reliance on our own means is already a reality. Looking at the global impact of the recent economic crisis in America, we can see who our god really is. As any false gods do, “[our] gods have failed us” and we find ourselves struggling for economic survival (Middleton, p142).
I find it interesting that we are never told in Scripture that Jesus possessed money. He had to ask the Pharisees for a coin to teach a lesson (Matthew 22:15-22), and he had to make money appear in a fish’s mouth to pay his taxes (Matthew 17:24-27). Instead of the economy and society we have come to understand in our modern culture, the first church demonstrates the power of Christ’s community within the Roman Empire, an empire not so dissimilar from America today:
"And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity - all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people" (Acts 2:44-47, NLT).
What would it look like to live in this way? In a radical, culture shifting community that loves all people and creation with the purpose of glorifying God?