“Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.” – Genesis 1:28
To believe the essence of the creation story as it is told in the book of Genesis is to accept that the universe and all life within it are the handiwork of God the Creator – regardless of the process of how things may have specifically come into being. And to accept that much of the story one must also recognize that humankind was somehow created distinctly separate from the rest of nature – that we were given intelligence and reason beyond that of every other being within creation. That is to say, although we too are created beings along with the rest of nature, we are also different from it. We are the only form of nature created in the image of the Creator.
Writer Annie Dillard once spent an entire year living by a creek in the mountains of Virginia expecting to be inspired and refreshed by being close to nature over an extended period of time. What she discovered instead was quite surprisingly to the contrary. She came to realize that nature, rather than being peaceful and serene as we like to imagine, is actually ruled by violence of the strong against the weak. That should not, however, diminish for us the beauty and majesty we see in nature, but instead serve as a reminder of the role we play within it; that in spite of our many human flaws – including our own tendency toward violence at times – we are the only creatures given the authority and specific instructions to subdue it. We are given dominion over all creation by the Creator, and it is our sense of values born out of our unique capacity to care and to love that empowers us to act as stewards of both nature and mankind.
So, unlike the rest of nature which is ruled by the strong overpowering the weak as Annie Dillard discovered, mankind is ruled by a higher form of behavior, guiding principles we call values – values which are formed out of our intellect, ability to reason, and capacity for love, and influenced by such things as life experiences, social norms, and religious beliefs. Everything we do, be it the decisions we make or the actions we take during the course of a day are based on our consciously or unconsciously held values. Thus since our stewardship over the rest of creation is dependent upon the values by which we live, we must be ever striving to align them with the perfect values of our Creator.