Man’s Productive Exploitation of the Earth
Author: Pastor Paul A. Bartz
Note: Creation Moments exists to provide Biblically sound materials to the Church in the area of Bible and science relationships. This Bible study may be reproduced for group use.
The early Biblical history tells us how man, from the beginning, began developing technology as well as the arts. This not only shows us that man was highly intelligent and creative from the beginning, but it also shows how serious man was, from the beginning, about God’s command to subdue the earth. The lesson to be learned here is that technology and development are not in themselves evil, but rather they are part of man’s nature by God’s creating will.
In Genesis 1:28 we have God’s command to man to subdue the earth and have dominion over it. Adam and Eve carried out this command in perfection as they kept the Garden (Genesis 2:5). It is clear that once they left the garden they continued to work the earth and use the creatures of the earth for their needs, since Abel was raised as a keeper of flocks and Cain was raised as a tiller of the ground (Genesis 4:2). Both of these professions demand knowledge and mastery over the creation. Abel had to learn how to keep and lead sheep, being their master, and he had to learn how to use their wool to make thread and cloth. Cain had to learn how and what to plant, how to care for his crops, how to harvest them, and how to make use of the products created by his crops. Both of these activities are complex. Even today many people fail as shepherds or farmers.
We see that man began, in his first generation on earth, to subdue the earth by using his knowledge and mastery to make use of the earth for his survival and comfort. In the third generation of mankind upon the earth there were many more people, and so we would expect to find many more examples of this activity. And that is just what we find.
In Genesis 4:16 and following we have a description of some of the members of the following generations of man, and we find a growth in the productive exploitation of the earth. Cain, still of the second generation of man, built a city and named it Enoch, after his son, according to Genesis 4:17. In the eighth generation of man we find Jabal, who was the father of those who live in tents and keep livestock, much like the modern keepers of flocks in the Near East today (Genesis 4:20). In the very next verse we learn that Jubal was Jabal’s brother, and he was a musician. Here the lyre and the pipe are specifically mentioned. These instruments not only take knowledge and skill to play, but require some fairly sophisticated technology to design and build.
In Genesis 4:22 we read that Tubal-cain, their half-brother, was a forger of bronze and iron. Perhaps most of us today can better identify with this heavier technology. It takes a fairly sophisticated knowledge of the creation to forge and work iron and bronze. And, more obviously, this kind of technology has a greater impact on the environment. As we study the Scripture we can find no examples of this activity being condemned, but we do find an overall attitude which indicates that this activity is part of subduing the earth. It is, of course, to be understood that as every part of life, the use of technology would fall under the moral obligations of God’s law. This is, of course, in contrast to those today who would condemn technology and its supporting industry as wrong in and of themselves.
The examples we see here in Scripture indicate to us that man has been created with the desire and ability to exploit the earth and its resources for his own good. It is not wrong to exploit the creation—but rather it is a command of God to do so. Like anything else, exploitation of the environment can be done for evil or for good. God has also given man the wisdom to use the earth in a way which does not destroy. This is very much tied up to the position in which God has placed man: above the creation. When man places himself where God should be, he will destroy God’s creation. And when man refuses to see himself as created to be above the rest of the creation, he will be unable to see that he can overcome his destruction of the creation. This is exactly where so many of the radical ecological groups are today because of the influence of evolution upon their thinking.
Man and his own works cannot remove the root problem which ultimately causes destruction of the environment: sin. Romans 8:18-21 tells us how man’s sin affects the whole of the creation. And the only solution to sin is its removal by the forgiveness of sins which is found in Jesus Christ. Being made new creatures in Christ, our very nature is changed to a nature which desires God’s will. And God’s will does not include the destruction of His creation. The important thing to note here is that the ultimate solution to the problem of destructive exploitation of the environment is not legal action which would stop productive exploitation of the environment.
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