Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Cultural Mandate and Environmentalism

One of the things I'm most excited about in relation to the change in roles here at ECC is leading an ACG with Lynn in the fall (Lynn doing most of the social/community building stuff and me doing most, though not all, of the teaching). We're thinking about starting off with a series on Christ and Culture, so I've started reading up on the topic. Today, reading Frame (The Doctrine of the Christian Life) I read this and thought I'd share it and solicit feedback.

"There are two elements [to the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:28]: filling and ruling...As they fill the world, they are to rule it. They are not to be terrified by the natural world...Rather, they are to march through the world as kings and queens, taking possession of everything. They are to harness the animals, the heat and cold, the electricity and seismic energy, to serve their own purposes. That means development. Adam and Eve are not to leave the world untouched, as some radical environmentalists would prefer. Rather, they are to use the resources of God's creation, to bring out the potential of the heavens and the earth, to facilitate their rule under God. They are to turn the creation into a culture, into a home for human society.

Of course, use is one thing, and exploitation is something else...Just as Adam was to take care of the garden (Gen. 2:15), so Adam's family was to take care of the earth. God wanted them to use it and also to preserve it - to use, but not to use up. So God later told Israel to rest the land after six years of cultivation. Man is to rule the earth, but also to serve it. He is to be a servant-king. That is the basis of biblical environmentalism.
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What do you think?

2 comments:

seg said...

Hmmm, you're likely expecting me to disagree with this, right?

So many thoughts ... I can't even fully order them. So this will be haphazard and incomplete, I admit that.

First, this gets tricky and I'd urge Frame to consider the difference between "growth" and "development." I feel that only a white American living in a developed country would consider this sort of "use" of the Earth to be legit. Are we to acknowledge our country's borders, then, and use more food, energy, land, etc. than other countries of the world, just because we can and somehow are fortunate enough? ... which leads to....

"serve their own purposes" -- since when are Man's purposes good? And, since when is serving Man's own purposes what Christ wants? Didn't Christ acknowledge that thing called sin which Genesis 1:28 didn't quite get to yet? --- (I could be way overstepping my bounds of Biblical knowledge here, so sorry if that's true!)

And, back to the question of "borders" --- who are "they" who get to serve their own purposes? (even without exploitation)

"not to leave the world untouched" --- I'm sorry, but you've got to be kidding me!! Does this mean we have a biblical mandate to tame and utilize every animal for our purpose?? To step foot on every square inch of land ... and to top it off, what about the ocean? We've barely scratched the surface, so to speak, there. Man! ... what failures are we, apparently.

I could have misunderstood, but I thought that all of Creation was "good" regardless of its use or development by humans? And, yes, I get the difference between use and exploitation.


Also, one last comment and then I'm done ... in terms of environmental concepts, "preservation" is not compatible with "use." That's being nit-picky with Frame's terminology, I know ... but it matters. And I get to be nit-picky because this is a blog! :)

Mark said...

I know it's not too popular in high-brow evangelical circles any more, but I'd like to suggest that things changed with the new covenant, that we are now citizens of heaven, that our fruitful multiplication is to preach and make disciples, and that to place environmentalism on a plane with this responsibility is wrong-headed.

That said, though we are citizens of heaven, we are living in this foreign land as ambassadors, and we should respect the well-being of this place, but only to a point where it does not interfere with our primary embassage. I would put this civic responsibility in the category of doing good deeds, loving our neighbor, and so on.

On the other hand, I'm not a big fan of what Frame has said. I just don't buy the whole "cultural mandate" thing, either the Sojourner liberal mythology or the Dobsonian conservative mythology. I think the great commission matters more. Read Acts. There. I've said it.

But I do recycle and feel guilty when I drive, if that helps. :)