It is possible, I think, to say that… a Christian agriculture is formed upon the understanding that it is sinful for people to misuse or destroy what they did not make. The Creation is a unique, irreplaceable gift, therefore to be used with humility, respect, and skill.
-Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture
Every book, every story that is in anyway meaningful usually has one particular moment that grabs at the heart. Something that enlightens you, forces you to rethink the world, how it is ordered, or how one exists within it. This is why we tell stories. We do not simply tell stories for facts, though many are factual. Some of the greatest stories I have read, the greatest movies I have watched, have not been true stories. Even when we are told a great true story it is not the truth of the story that we are so infatuated with, but rather the truths hidden inside.
To claim that truth can only be summed up in the confines of what is or is not factual is to do ourselves a great injustice. Do Christians love the story of Jesus so much because Jesus actually lived, or is it because the story of Jesus reveals to us the truth of what it means to live?
I have no doubt many will agree with this. But all too often we, being a lawfully minded, scientifically equipped group of people have a tendency to prove what we believe. We believe what we believe and we believe in the urgency behind it. We want others to be enlightened the way we have been. So how do we do this? Well, we can’t prove abstract ideas. So we develop a tendency to focus on the factual. Once we achieve the factual, we can now prove we are in fact, correct.
Unfortunately, it is my belief that we have a tendency to focus on the factual aspects of Genesis rather than the beautiful truths and startling indictments hidden within. I will be honest and say that most of Genesis makes little sense to me. Or at least, it doesn’t strike a chord with me. For example, why would an all-powerful, completely loving God have to destroy mankind with a flood? Could he not find another way, a peaceful way to deal with mankind’s unjust behavior? Or, why does God destroy the men of Sodom and Gomorrah? Why can this God not deal with sinners the way Jesus did?
With all the questions that go along with it, it is my belief that Genesis also provides some of the most insightful sections in all of literature. There are several thought-provoking stories hidden inside Genesis, but for now, I will talk about the opening chapter, the Creation.
In the first chapter of Genesis, God gives a command to the humans he just created. He commands them to rule over the rest of the created order. As arrogant humans, we take this to mean that we can use creation in any way possible to suit our needs. I do not believe however, that this is what is being said.
When I think of the word “rule” I think of a king ruling over a group of people. This can be done in a variety of ways. A king can rule by taking advantage of his people to suit his own interests and desires. Or a king can rule for his people. Providing them their needs, promoting an ordered kingdom and a just society to suit the common good rather than simply the interest of the ruler himself.
Unfortunately, we have filled the role of rulers of the earth much closer to the former king rather than the latter. We are not rulers trying to preserve, conserve, and maintain the natural order. We are rulers set on self-centered benefit. Lost in the reality of our computer driven, mechanically oriented world, we have forgotten the beauty of the natural for the sake of our progress, our machines, and our wealth.
While the earth cries out for humanity to rediscover what it truly means to be a ruler, the clock ticks closer and closer to midnight, and the dark cloud of an unrevivable, intoxicated earth looms over us all.