Theology 101

A Biblical View of Dominion: Stewardship

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…our churches are teaching a low view of stewardship. We’re missing the essential goodness of work in particular, even “non-spiritual” work. “Non-spiritual” work, in case you’re wondering, is any work in which God is not interested, which is just to say there is no such thing.

-Tom Gilson, Thinking Christian

Christians today need a much more exciting view of stewardship, a view that provides everything we do with a deep sense of purpose — what we at IFWE are calling “stewardship with a capital ‘S’”.  To understand Stewardship from this prospective we have to start at the beginning.

In Genesis 1:26-28 God calls mankind, beginning with Adam and Eve, to exercise dominion over the earth, subdue it, and develop its latent potential. We are called to fill the earth with his glory through creating what we commonly call “culture.”

The Hebrew word radah in this passage carries the idea of ruling, subduing, and exercising dominion. This command, often called the “cultural mandate,” has never been nullified. It is still in effect, and was confirmed and expanded to Noah after the Flood (see Gen. 9:6-7).

However, we in the church today tend to shy away from God’s more specific call of dominion. This is somewhat understandable. For many of us in this current generation, the word “dominion” has gotten a bad rap: it implies some sort of aggressive or violent destruction.

Justin Holcomb over at The Resurgence provides some great insights on a more biblical view of dominion, focusing specifically on how it must mirror the dominion of our Creator.  Holcomb writes:

Dominion does not mean destruction, but responsibility. It is important to avoid flawed convictions about the right and power of humankind in relation to the rest of the natural world. 

Holcomb then quotes Francis Schaeffer on a right view of dominion:

Fallen man has dominion over nature, but he uses it wrongly. The Christian is called upon to exhibit this dominion, but exhibit it rightly: treating the thing as having value itself, exercising dominion without being destructive. 

Holcomb concludes:

It is true that a false view of dominion has played a role in the mistreatment of creation, but a correct understanding of the concept can lead to service, responsibility, and stewardship.

We who have been redeemed by Christ stand again in the place of Adam and Eve. Like Adam, we know the will of God and have the choice to obey or not obey it. Through the Holy Spirit we not only know the will of God, but have been empowered to keep it. As Nancy Pearcey writes in her book Total Truth,

When we obey the Cultural Mandate, we participate in the work of God himself, as agents of his common grace… entering upon a lifelong quest to devote our skills and talents to building things that are beautiful and useful, while fighting the forces of evil and sin that oppress and distort the creation.

God has restored us for stewardship in this current age. Through the work of Christ we are being called back to God’s original purpose—to live in his image and to “be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over… every living creature that moves on the ground” (Gen. 1:28).

To fulfill our role we must be prepared to understand that this work of dominion should be expressed as service—sacrificial service that serves God and the common good.

Again Holcomb writes,

God gives us the opportunity to reflect him in his work of caring for and transforming all of creation. To follow this aspect of our multifaceted calling as humans is to image in our lives the One who is at work in the world and in human life, creating, sustaining, and liberating creation. Jesus’ resurrection is God’s first step in making all things new, which will culminate in a renewed world that completely honors Jesus, who rules it.

We work for and toward this new world knowing that its full realization awaits Christ’s second coming. Yet, as theologian Glenn Sunshine writes, we labor knowing that God redeemed us to carry out the work that He uniquely prepared us to do (see Ephesians 2:8-10).

The Apostle John tells us that God loved the world (Greek cosmos, the entirety of creation) so much that he gave his son to save those who believe in him. Our lives and work here are not about ourselves, but instead the good of the entire created order. We have a unique and critical role to play, however small it may look to us, in fulfilling God’s purposes for the world.

In doing this work we will truly find our purpose.

What do you think? What is your opinion of dominion? How might you think differently about dominion?

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