A Post in which an actual Parable is Referenced

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Rebecca is posting about environmental issues. Regarding our relationship to the earth, she says:

The earth belongs to the Lord, of course, but he's chosen to give human beings rulership over the plants, the animals, and the rest of the earth's resources. God told Adam and Eve to fill the earth and subdue it (Genesis 1:27), and we inherit that command. The idea of subduing the earth, in context, is that of managing the created order to our advantage, or harnessing it's potential for our continued benefit. We need what the earth has to offer us, and God have given us the authority and the responsibility to use the earth's many gifts as we see fit.

I disagree. In particular, I disagree with this statement: "The idea of subduing the earth, in context, is that of managing the created order to our advantage, or harnessing it's potential for our continued benefit." Basically, I don't think that the subduing the earth is primarily for our advantage or benefit. As Rebecca, rightly points out, "The earth belongs to the Lord". Therefore, our subduing the earth should be primarily for His benefit. We are stewards of His property; we are to manage it for His sake, not ours.

I see our stewardship of the earth the same way I see the stewardship in the Parable of the Talents. The owner will return, and He will expect some Return on Investment. He did not entrust the talents to the servants so they could benefit themselves; Nor was He satisfied with merely getting His talents back. He wanted his talents to multiply.

I fear on the Last Day that God will say to Humanity: "I gave you a billion species to manage, and you only give me back 267!!?!?"

When God gave us dominion over the earth, I think that He wanted us to subdue and tame the wilderness, to cultivate it and bring order to it. We are to guide nature into maturity and make it even better than it was in raw form. We are not meant to use it to our own ends, for our own benefit. We are caretakers, and thus our goal is to nurture the earth, not bend it to our own desires.

The idea that the earth is for us to use as we see fit because we have dominion over it is one that troubles me deeply.

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Some links from A Physicist's Perspective on April 20, 2005 1:20 PM

The Parableman Wink at Parablemania has a brief post relating to the Christian view of the environment (what does it mean to subdue the earth?). It's worth reading, and I agree with him, especially on this part: I fear on... Read More

6 Comments

Jeremy:

I couldn't agree with you more: the planet has been raped by people who thought it was here for their private use. It is, as you say, a stewardship for which we will be held accountable.

One way to read Genesis 1-2 is to see it as God's acts of redeeming an earth that is under judgment. We are to continue what he has begun, i.e., to redeem and restore the earth so that it glorifies Him. If we benefit from it (and we would), that is incidental.

I agree with Wink, but that doesn't mean I wrote the post.

So a post that mentions a parable is written by Wink and not by the Parable Man. :)

I've written posts about parables before, though. I did two a while back that were my own parables, and I've written at least one Jesus's Reasoning post that dealt with a parable or two.

Heh. I don't think you disagree with me as much as you think you do, but I guess we'll find out.

In particular, I disagree with this statement: "The idea of subduing the earth, in context, is that of managing the created order to our advantage, or harnessing it's potential for our continued benefit."While the idea of subduing the earth may mean more than this (and I don't doubt that it does), it is connected, in the context of Genesis 1, with God giving us the use of plants and trees for food. The subduing included using what we need, and working to make the earth produce more (chapter 3)--domesticating things (or harnessing it's potential) for our continued (and continued is an important word here) benefit. That's at least part of the purpose God had for commanding us to subdue it.

Basically, I don't think that the subduing the earth is primarily for our advantage or benefit.

I didn't say it was primarily for our benefit. Everything is ultimately for God's glory. Our use of the provisions he made for us through creation gives him glory because it shows the greatness of the system he has created. But Psalm 104 does say that even the crops (and I would take this to refer to cultivation) is for the service of man, so it's not wrong to say that the subduing, harnessing, or whatever is for our benefit.

I fear on the Last Day that God will say to Humanity: "I gave you a billion species to manage, and you only give me back 267!!?!?"

I absolutely agree with you. And I'm not sure why you think I was arguing against that in my post. All the stuff from Psalm 105 in the post was supposed to convey the idea that there is something wonderful and glorifying to God about the diversity of animals and the diversity of terrain that sustains those animals, and whatever "subduing" we do needs to be done in the context of valuing those animals and working ecosystems in the same way God does.

We are to guide nature into maturity and make it even better than it was in raw form. We are not meant to use it to our own ends, for our own benefit. We are caretakers, and thus our goal is to nurture the earth, not bend it to our own desires.

May I point our that "for our own benefit" and "bend it to our own desires" are not the same thing, at least not in the way I was using the term "continued benefit". For our own benefit is what is good for us (the human race) in the long run, and that, really, is to caretake the earth.

The idea that the earth is for us to use as we see fit because we have dominion over it is one that troubles me deeply.

Ha! When I said the earth is ours to use as we see fit, "as we see fit" is the qualifier on "use". It doesn't mean use as we desire, but rather use as we understand to be appropriate. God's given us brains, he's given us the job of caretaking the earth, and part of the way we rightfully caretake it is using the resources in a way that we understand (through careful consideration) to be right or fitting.

Please understand that this is all written in the context of setting things up to look at the issues (pro and con) for drilling oil in the Artic Wildlife Refuge, and how we make our decisions about what it right to do. I don't think we can say, biblically, that we automatically can't drill for oil--we are given the earth's resources to use if we need them--but neither can we say that we can get oil without careful consideration of the value of the animals, etc. that are already there. We have to consider both things when we decide how to act in as caretakers.

This has taken more time than I have so I'm not previewing or proofreading, so ignore the mistakes.

rebecca - Sorry to presume that we were disagreeing. After your explanations, I think that we are probably very much on the same page. I reacted the way I did because I hear quite a bit of anti-environmentalism at my seminary. "Dominion" and "subdue" are interpreted by phrases like "for our benefit" and "as we see fit" with the conclusion that humanity can do whatever it wants with creation. There is a sizable portion of my classmates who see us as owners of the earth, not stewards. I have to deal with these classmates on a day to day basis.

So when I heard you using the same language as they use, it touched a nerve. Sorry for jumping to conclusions.

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