I was interested in Simon Beard's mention of David Attenborough and the interpretation of 'dominion' in Genesis. After watching Sir David's recent TV programme on evolution, in which he stated that according to the Bible we have the right to use the earth's resources as we wish, I wrote to him and explained that 'dominion' implies service, i.e. care and nurture.

I had a pleasant reply in which Sir David agreed that this is an 'enlightened' view of the Genesis passage and said he was sorry he hadn't made that clear. Perhaps any future comments on the Bible and green issues might be more positive...

The Green Bible

While I'm at it I have issues with this whole fad of Green Bible and Justice Bible. When is someone going to bring out a prosperity bible or a God as Genocidal maniac bible?

The trouble with this approach is it encourages a superficial reading of the texts. And it's superficial readings of the texts that cause most of the problems in our Churches.

The Justice Bible doesn't do justice to the Bible and the Green Bible is just naive.

Fine by me.

Fine by me.

Sharing the wisdom

Mind if I blog this and quote you, Lisa and Keith?

No problem

Fine with me, too.

Enlightened view of the Bible and domination

It's not just readers of Genesis who have gone for a domininion model of understanding our world. And it's interesting that David Attenborough referred to a more servant-like model as enlightened.

Enlightenment, ideologically is all about human dominion over nature. We sort, sift, categorise and control nature for human ends to be fitted into human understanding. This alienates humans from the rest of the universe, as though we are of different stuff.

In the 1960s the Frankfort School (Marxist/Freudian analysis) was critical of enlightenment thinking and claimed that it was this approach - as exemplified by people like Francis Bacon - that lead to our wreaking havoc on the planet.

A question might be: Does "care and nurture" go far enough in brining us back into a healthy relationship with the universe or is it just a softer version of domination (called patronage)?

If it is not than perhaps we need to look outside Genesis 1 and 2 for the foundations of a creation theology. As Christians, and bearing in mind John's assertion's on Jesus as creator, perhaps the gospels should be our starting point.

Enlightenment view of the Bible and 'self'

I think that the dominion view of man over nature is not meant to be one of 'wreaking havoc' but of reflecting our imago dei. God himself is creator and ruler over the earth. When we exercise our dominion over the earth in a way which reflects His image it is one of love and care and beauty, not slash and burn; because that is not what God is like. Rather than disconnecting us from the world when we exercise dominion, it connects us to it in the way God intended.

I persoanlly like Peter Senge from MIT in his book 'The Necassary Revolution' where he seeks to understand nature, not by an enlightnement reverse-engineering all its componants, but by understanding how the earth, as a system, connects and flows. I can see how a dominion can be exercised here as an improvement upon the enlightenment worldview.

I worry if we begin taking on a philosophy of serving the earth as that appears to be turning the Genesis storey on its head. The earth was given to us, to serve us. But our dominion is a gentle and tender one where we exercise the likeness of God in the way we live within His gift. It is the idea of serving the earth that leads to a Ghia paganism which in my view is a valuable, yet insufficuent way to approach enviromental problems.

I don't think that the problem is the enlightenment view of 'dominion' but the enlightenment view of 'self', where 'mankind' sets the standards of the world. God is no longer the centre of the universe. As we are 'enlightened' we break our relationship between humanity and the world. The enlightenment story is well reflected in the story of Genesis. The snake offers us the power to become God and when we accept it the natural order of the universe breaks down. Actually, there was not a lot new in the enlightenment it was just a replay of humanitys univeral problem of our broken relationhship with God.

Furthermore, we are of 'different stuff' to the universe. The Genesis story tells us that God metaphorically "breathed" into us. The earth is special but we are more so because we bare God's likeness. The responsibility to God, ourselves, each other, and the world is both frightening and beautiful.