Thursday, January 15, 2009


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, over every creeping that that creepeth upon the earth. And 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.
Genesis 1:26-28 (AV)

My goal in posts under this topical heading will be to muse upon and to explore the relationship between the arts and mankind's original calling by God to exercise dominion over the earth. In order to get to the place where we can discover various ways in which this applies to the arts specifically, it will be helpful to establish some key points and principles regarding this calling to have dominion as it exists generally.

Notice first of all that man – that is mankind, encompassing both male and female – is charged with exercising dominion upon the earth. This position of dominion or lordship is apparently the essential component of what it in fact means to be made in God’s image. When man exercises dominion over creation as God intended him to do then he is in that very capacity most accurately and fully representing God Himself to the rest of the created order.

Secondly, notice that this authority given to man includes both the earth itself and the other, lesser creatures which dwell upon it.

Notice thirdly that what is involved here has two closely related though slightly differentiated aspects which should not be confused, separated or set against one another: Man’s position as established here by God involves authority over it, which would include the implicit sanction to order it, make use of it and dispose of it as he deems most fitting (according to certain fundamental principles and within certain important parameters). At the same time, this exercise of authority is always to have the net effect of replenishing or nurturing the creation. (Many translations render the phrase in v.28 as “fill the earth”, but I like the AV's choice of “replenish” here. The Hebrew word here does literally mean “to fill”, but I think the context of Genesis indicates a filling which is qualitative as opposed to simply quantitative. In other words, man is certainly supposed to “fill up the earth” by populating it, but as he does so, he must take care to go about it in a away that enhances rather than detracts from the glory and the richness of the creation, lest his filling of the earth actually amount to an emptying of it and its resources.)

And lastly it must be remembered that all of this is established in a pre-Fall context, which provides much to ruminate upon. The Fall of course greatly marred and deteriorated this established order, particulaly man's ability to faithfully fulfill his role in it. But the trajectory of redemptive history as presented in the Bible involves a return to the Garden, a return which is made possible by the work of Christ. Since in Christ we are re-established in our role as His agents upon the earth, it is therefore imperative that we seek to more fully apprehend what that role entails – for redeemed mankind generally as well as for each of us in our individual callings – based upon a careful examination of its original authorization.

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