Restore God's Creation Mandate
Please read Genesis 1:26-31 and Psalm 8 in your Bible.
Last year Marta Zaraska wrote an article entitled, “Chronic Fear of Environmental Doom? You’re Not Alone.” In this article she detailed a new mental illness she called “Climate Anxiety.”
This is an unofficial disorder brought on by environmental apocalyptists who predict ecological disasters like “Man-made Climate Change.” Zaraska cited other names for the condition: “pre-traumatic stress disorder,” “solastalgia,” or “reef grief” (concern over the loss of coral reefs). By any name, it is distress over perceived threats to the natural environment. Some people have serious cases of this. In 2018, American attorney, David Buckel, set himself on fire as a protest against using fossil fuels.
I’ve read Michael Crichton’s fictional book, “The State of Fear,” where eco-terrorists, politicians, and Hollywood elites used climate anxiety to raise money, gain power, and influence the electorate. There are certainly examples of that kind of misuse of ecological concerns in the non-fictional world.
As an alternative to fear, Christians have a much better motive to offer for ecological stewardship: God’s glory. Today we are going to restore the Creation Mandate to all questions of the environment. Moral and political issues arise about how to care for our world, with deceit lying alongside valid data. Wisdom is needed to know how to navigate these troubled waters. Let faith in God be our North star.
By faith we keep God’s Creation Mandate.
1. The Creation Mandate is God’s first commands to humanity. (Genesis 1:26-31)
Let’s notice the Mandate is preceded by a blessing. (28) We find out in vs. 26-27 that humans are the only thing in all creation that are created in God’s IMAGE. Nothing else, in heaven or on Earth, is created in God’s IMAGE. The term is filled with meaning and has been interpreted in various. What we can agree upon is that possessing the IMAGE makes us unique. In addition to the distinction of the IMAGE, God BLESSED the man and the woman.
The Mandate is several commands. The first is to “BE FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY.” This literally means to make babies, have families, reproduce. The spiritual equivalent would be “make disciples.” (See Matthew 28:19-20.)
The second set of commands is to “FILL THE EARTH AND GOVERN IT.” The first half seems to expound upon the first command: “Keep on being FRUITFUL and multiplying until you’ve got creation filled up.” The second half makes us stewards or managers of creation. This stewardship means God holds us responsible to manage creation in a way that honors Him (see Psalm 8).
The third command is to REIGN over all the creatures of the earth. We can speculate on why verse 28 specifies rulership of the creatures and why verses 29-30 center on the plants, but without any speculation, we can safely say the Creation Mandate requires the image-bearing human beings to accept the responsibility and authority God gave them over the earth.
However, the Mandate covers only the earth. (28-30) It does not cover the sun or stars. Ironically, the stars do not govern us, nor do we govern them. Land, sea, and air are all under our management, not space.
In verse 31, God approved the Mandate and all His creative activity. At the end of each day of creation, God overlooked His creative activity and pronounced it GOOD. Here, at the end of the final day, GOD LOOKED OVER ALL HE HAD MADE and repeated that all of it was GOOD. In this case, GOOD meant in conformity with God’s plan. Creation turned out just as He wanted. Whenever someone comes along and says they’ve improved upon what God said was GOOD, assume they’re lying to you!
2. The Creation Mandate is a song of worship. (Psalm 8)
All creation testifies to God’s glory. (1-2, 9) Creation itself is never praised in the Bible, never personified (i.e., “Mother Nature”), and idolizing anything is strictly forbidden. Worship is only directed to God our Creator. Nature serves to direct attention to Him; it should not take attention away from Him.
His MAJESTIC NAME FILLS THE EARTH. (1+9) This means that all of creation is evidence of God’s existence and His creativity.
His GLORY is HIGHER than the highest thing we can see in creation: the HEAVENS. (1) Thus, all of creation - both heavens and earth - are involved in glorifying God.
Even simple-minded people – CHILDREN AND INFANTS – can learn these truths. And yet, these truths confound worldly wise people who make themselves ENEMIES of God and OPPOSE Him. (2)
Verses three through eight remind us that God mandated human beings to rule over His creation. (3-8) In comparison with the vastness of space, people seem very small. (3-4) Why should God even care about us? Moreover, why give us the authority and responsibility involved in the Creation Mandate? Why did He choose to create us in His IMAGE?
Yet God does care about humanity and His caring is indicated by the rank, honor, and authority He gave us. As we shall see, this is not just an honor, but it is also a great responsibility, one that requires a great deal of effort and commitment to maintain.
Our rank is ONLY A LITTLE LOWER THAN GOD. (5)
God CROWNED us with GLORY AND HONOR. (5)
Our authority is over EVERYTHING God MADE (except the heavens, as we saw in Genesis 1), over every creature of the land, sea, or air. (6-8)
3. Keeping the Creation Mandate requires practicing biblical ecology.
Science can be useful in keeping the Creation Mandate if it does not become an idol (if it does not take on an authority greater than God or His word). For example, in my opinion, Darwinism is the most egregious lie masquerading as science. There is no biblical or irrefutable scientific reason to accept this theory which is an avowed attempt to remove God as Creator. Furthermore, it creates a philosophical assumption that everything newer is better. This is contrary to the Bible’s commands to respect our elders and our traditions. It seduces into egotistically insisting we can create our own faith without accepting the faith first handed down to us by the apostles.
On the one hand, it is morally wrong to ruin our environment, our home. On the other hand, it is morally wrong to cause human suffering as an over-correction of environmental concerns. In this, as in all things, we must seek balance.
Not all technology is used in God-honoring ways and “science” isn’t always about hard facts. As is the case with statistics, data is subject to interpretation and can be misused to prove falsehoods. We need to be objective and subject claims of scientific accuracy to demanding skepticism.
Not everything done in the name of the environment is an appropriate way to keep the Creation Mandate. We cannot resort to immoral means to attempt to control or correct nature. Some historic efforts at managing environments have been historic failures.
Some respond to the climate anxiety by favoring a return to primitive levels of existence. All uses of terrorism or other aggressive or repressive means of coercion are immoral.
Keeping God’s Creation Mandate is work, sometimes hard work. The Mandate is not authority alone, it is also responsibility. God has appointed us to be stewards of creation and we will be judged on the quality of our stewardship. In everyday life, the Creation Mandate requires every believer to show respect for the environment and respect for property, including the owner. Our motive is to bring glory to God and love for our neighbor by leaving the world in a better state than where we found it.
By faith we keep God’s Creation Mandate.
Have we failed to keep the Creation Mandate? How can we get back to honoring God in this way?
Here’s an obvious reality: We all live in this world. All nations, ethnicities, and religions share this space. The desire to take good care of our home ought to be something we can all readily agree upon. While we may disagree on things like climate change, this ground on which we stand ought to be common ground. So, first application of the Creation Mandate: it can be a bridge to cross to join with other people. The Church ought to take the lead here and use a shared concern for our environment to demonstrate Christian stewardship and explain Christian beliefs about our Creator.
A second application is to be respectful users and good stewards ourselves. Set an example for others to follow in practical ways; get involved and let people know why you’re involved. God didn’t create us to be consumers only, but caretakers as well.
“Chronic Fear of Environmental Doom? You’re Not Alone,” Marta Zaraska, 2021, retrieved from https://www.discovermagazine.com/mind/chronic-fear-of-environmental-doom-youre-not-alone, on 22 may 22.
One-Volume Illustrated Edition of the Zondervan Bible Commentary (2008)
Genesis, H.L. Ellison & David F. Payne
Psalms, John W. Biagent & Leslie C. Allen
The Creation Mandate: Our Responsibility and Our Bridge, Rev. John Pellowe, 2018, retrieved from https://www.cccc.org/news_blogs/john/2018/10/29/the-creation-mandate-our-responsibility-and-our-bridge/ on 22 may 22.