Creation mandate

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” Genesis 1

When people hear this word the word dominion they get the notion that Christians were instructed by God to dominate not only nature but the other people around them who many not even be believers in God. The reality is that God empowered Adam and Eve to be stewards of the animals and the earth in which God had placed them. They were to be the caretakers of the planet for God by developing it and producing what today is known as culture.

The Hebrew word in the Bible is radah and means ruling, subduing, and exercising dominion. This command, often called the “cultural mandate,” has never been nullified. It is still in effect. It was reconfirmed and expanded to Noah after the Flood in Genesis 9:6-7. The word "dominion has gotten a bad reputation due to the past tendencies of people to rape and exploit the earth in order to make their quick riches. Obviously this is not what God had in mind. Francis Schaeffer gives a correction and a biblical perspective on the term. Fallen man has dominion over nature, but he uses it wrongly. The Christian is called upon to exhibit this dominion, but exhibit it rightly: treating the thing as having value itself, exercising dominion without being destructive. The church should always have taught and done this, but she has generally failed to do so, and we need to confess our failure . . . By and large we must say that for a long, long time Christian teachers, including the best orthodox theologians, have shown a real poverty here.

Rather than exploiting and abusing nature we are called to care for it and develop its potential. As Nancy Pearcey writes in her book Total Truth,

When we obey the Cultural Mandate, we participate in the work of God himself, as agents of his common grace… entering upon a lifelong quest to devote our skills and talents to building things that are beautiful and useful, while fighting the forces of evil and sin that oppress and distort the creation.