Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Creation Care or Creation War?

It has become quite popular in evangelical circles to speak of environmental responsibility in terms of "creation care." Efforts to fight global warming, preserve rain forests, and save endangered species have been connected with the initial charge God gave to mankind in Genesis 1.26-28:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 
However, while this connection is certainly legitimate, I believe there is even more going on in this passage. The Hebrew word translated "subdue" (kabash) is elsewhere translated "enslave," "conquer," and even "rape." As John N. Oswalt explains in The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament,
Despite recent interpretations of Gen 1:28 which have tried to make "subdue" mean a responsibility for building up, it is obvious from an overall study of the word’s usage that this is not so. Kabash assumes that the party being subdued is hostile to the subduer, necessitating some sort of coercion if the subduing is to take place. 
Furthermore, in the second creation account, we read that "The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it" (Gen. 2.15). The Hebrew word translated "keep" is the same word translated "guard" in Genesis 3.24.  Apparently Adam and Eve were created to do more than simply water the flowers! Both the words "subdue" and "guard" imply conflict.

Modern science asserts that death and pain existed prior to man, and the Bible clearly teaches that evil was already at work in God's good creation (Gen. 3.1). It seems that the creation of man was God's response to that evil. This becomes clear when we consider how later biblical authors reflect on Gen 1.26-28.

David reflects on this passage in Psalm 8:
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea. 
In the NT, Psalm 8 is quoted by Paul and by the author of Hebrews. Both believe that mankind has failed to realize his calling, but both argue that in Jesus, the destiny of mankind is beginning to be fulfilled. Why do they believe this? Because Jesus is defeating evil! Both Paul and the author of Hebrews connect Psalm 8 to Psalm 110.1, the single OT passage most frequently cited in the NT:
The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” 
Shortly after quoting this passage, the author of Hebrews moves on to quote from Psalm 8, concluding with verse 6:
"You have put all things in subjection under his feet." For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone....Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. - Hebrews 2.8-15 
In a strikingly similar argument, Paul explicitly links Psalm 110.1 to Psalm 8.6:
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive…For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet [allusion to Psalm 110.1]. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet” [quotation of Psalm 8.6]. - 1 Corinthians 15.20-27 
Paul links these two passages again in Ephesians 1.20-22:
He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places [allusion to Psalm 110.1], far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet [allusion to Psalm 8.6]. 
The phrase, "all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named," is a reference to the spiritual powers of darkness. These forces once dominated us (Eph. 2.2). We were created to defeat them, yet we failed. But now in Christ, the "pioneer of our salvation" (Heb. 2.10), our victory is assured and the fight is on. As Paul goes on to explain,
We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. - Ephesians 6.12 
In conclusion, humanity is called to do more than merely care for the creation. We are also called to fight the evil that infects it. Therefore, we cannot be satisfied with recycling plastic and planting trees. Don't get me wrong. These things are very important, but if we are to be responsible stewards of creation, we must also actively resist the satanically inspired institutions which trample the weak and defenseless.

1 comment:

Peter Scholtens said...

Great post - How would you work in Psalm 72?