“. . . let them rule over . . . all the earth.” – Genesis 1:26
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 works of a supreme 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. Tee and I used to observe the same thing while sitting out under the stars on our West Texas ranch. That realization, however, should not diminish for us the beauty and majesty we see in nature, but instead should serve as a reminder of the role we play within it; that despite our many human flaws – including our own violence at times – we are the only creatures with the ability to subdue it. We are, after all, given dominion over all creation by the Creator, and it is our sense of values borne 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, influenced by such things as life experiences, social norms, and religious beliefs. Everything we do, the decisions we make and the actions we take during the course of a day are based on our consciously or unconsciously held values. So, since God created mankind in his own image and left us with this charge, “let them rule over all the earth,” isn’t creation best served when we, mankind, strive to align our values with those of the Creator as given to us through God’s Word?