Welcome to Part Three!
(Please note, this post has been revised from an earlier version and split into two posts)
We saw in Part One how at that time, we lived in a paradise here on earth, and perfect Shalom (Peace) was what God had designed for us to experience. We learned that we were in partnership with God to guard the earth and the animal kingdom from evil. But mankind made an awful choice which brought the entire created order into chaos, confusion, and destruction. In Part Two, we discussed more fully what it meant to have fallen from God’s grace, and that left on our own, we are unable to do what we were originally created to do. God continually intervenes, trying to draw us away from the idolatry and lawlessness that we turn to in trying to run our own lives, which separates us from God’s love and His peace. We’ll continue from this point.
In the NT, we see that Jesus lived triumphant over Satan’s power in our place, and thus has given us an example of how we should live and what dominion under as well as “rule and subdue” should look like. Jesus served people, He was a peace maker, He did not sin against the Father (sin is anything that separates us from the LOVE of, and relationship with, the Father). He not only met us where we were at, showed us how to properly relate to one another, but He took our place by being separated from the Father by willingly dying a horrible death on a cross for us. He was raised from the dead, and in all this (His life as He lived it, His death, being raised) He has defeated Satan; in returning to the Father, He left us His Spirit as our Helper, Comforter, and constant Guide until the day He returns to restore all things.
Christ is the perfect representation of the Father, showing us the nature of God – that anything which falls short of perfect love, perfect Shalom, is not of God. In the meantime, He gives us instructions that the Father’s will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” This implies a “pre-fall” state of living. It would follow that regardless of where we find ourselves, now that evil and good are all mixed up together to the point it is hard to tell which is which sometimes (Matt 13:24-30); regardless of the fact that the earth itself is no longer the garden of Eden it should have been kept in; we are being called to do our best now to keep it “as it would be in heaven.” We hold this as our goal. We won’t, indeed cannot do it perfectly in a fallen world in which perfect Shalom does not rule. The powers of darkness have control over our industries and governments that have control over earthly resources which all of us need to survive. These same powers of darkness have commoditized the animal kingdom, and yes the church has been a part of allowing all this to happen both directly and indirectly, yet we also need to look at the whole history to understand the problem of evil.
Satan works through people. He has been since the first humans listened to his lie. God is calling us, as His people, to choose to be set apart (which means not to be like the rest of the world, to live in the world but not of it Rom 12:2), being aware of these dynamics, and to come away from them – perhaps He is even saying “enough already.” He is expecting us to do our best, with His help, to live in the direction of His peaceable kingdom now. He expects us to begin dialoging about it – just how is the church supposed to live on the planet now that we are where we are?
- How is the church supposed to view the animal kingdom and indeed use the animal kingdom if we should at all?
- Given the dynamics of the fallen world order and the suffering animals are subjected to, this is a valid question, even though at one point He may have given them over to us as food.
- Do we partake in the systems that are in place that exploit them so terribly?
- How can the people stop participating unless they know what’s going on?
- Do Individual Christians and the church as a whole get involved in fighting these injustices and how?
- How did or does the church fight human injustice issues, like slavery, and how could the church use principles used in these movements to fight animal kingdom injustices (the church can learn here from secular animal welfare activism which is leading the way on this moral issue!)?
- How does God view our partaking in the sinful world systems?
Not that we get legalistic, but that we start asking these questions in order to do the things He wants us to do in order to be set apart!
These are tough questions, for certain. None of us should come to these issues judging one another. We should come in gratitude that God is gracious and is bringing us here to seek His will and His best for us, and His best for all He has created.
Anyone familiar with the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5-7, will know that Jesus taught us to love selflessly. We see it in His walk on earth. This was His character, it is the Father’s character, and it is to be ours. And from a character that Images His selfless, serving one, we were intended, and still are, to govern or practice Dominion of the earth and the animal kingdom. We rule and subdue over evil that is present; we also rule and subdue our own fallen nature, and line it up with the vision of the Peaceable Kingdom Jesus gave us; we follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance each step of the way every day, intentionally. We can do nothing without Him (John 15:5,the whole chapter of John is worth reading!).
To sum up, all of these things certainly paint the picture that we are to live our lives reflecting “Dominion under” others, the earth and the animal kingdom. That we cannot completely live today as God may have intended us to live on and use the planet, its resources, nor are we able to live with all of the animal kingdom as we did in the garden. What is broken is broken and it cannot be “fixed” by us. Since the fall, we have been bent on our own ways. We have developed a world order that is inconsistent with the way a loving God would have “developed” this beautiful planet in the midst of corruption. We have not considered the animal kingdom in any real manner from the beginning. Our “rule” has been that of tyranny over each other and over the animal kingdom. Most certainly, what we do today – to ourselves, the earth, and especially to the animal kingdom – is not loving as the Father would love. Polluting His creation and exploiting the animal kingdom to extinction thinking only of our needs and how we should benefit by their use most certainly was not what a loving Father and Creator had in mind.
You’ll recall I began these posts with an article I read from the blog Dominion In The Image Of God about Ellen Davis’ book “Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible.” When writers like Ellen Davis miss the mark, or do not include a full picture, it does a lot of damage. My solemn prayer is that God’s people will begin to take seriously their call to mercy (read this book by Matthew Scully, truly an eye opener); to require that their church leadership include the animal kingdom in doctrine and our ministries. Our church leaders need to know that the animal kingdom at large has been reduced to mere commodities, and should also know the dynamics of this phenomenon within our industries and our world as a whole today. These injustice issues desperately need theological attention. Animals are not utilities at our disposal, they are God’s creatures that feel pain and suffer. He put them in our hands, and as those who are to Image God’s loving and provisional character, we need to be asking serious questions about what “Imaging” Him means in particular as to our “use” of the animal kingdom in this climate of consumerism.
As Kent Carlson puts it in his book Renovation of the Church, if we are to“…be faithful to the gospel of Jesus, consumerism [is] not a force to be harnessed but rather an antibiblical value system that [has] to be prophetically challenged.” This consumerist force includes looking at everything within it, which includes the animal kingdom and our use of them.
Next post, we’ll talk about consumerism and individualism as they relate to stewardship of the earth and animal kingdom. Stay tuned!
I’ll leave us with a question for the reader to ponder:
How can we wholly Image the Father when we do not include, in our process of learning about how to Image Him as His followers, one of the major reasons the Father created us in His Image in the first place?
Thanks for taking the time to read!! ~Kathy