26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:26-28
This famous passage, in which humankind makes a first appearance, has been consistently misunderstood by both faithful and faithless generations. John Gray writes, ‘Free- market economists never tire of ridiculing the idea that other living things have intrinsic value. In their view, other species are just means to the satisfaction of human wants and the earth itself is a site for the realisation of human ambitions.’
This idea, that all creation is ours and that our dominion amounts to divinely ordained domination of our environment, has been retained even by those who have lost almost every other aspect of faith. For Christians, our uniqueness in creation is easily explained in this passage, for we, unlike any other creature, are created ‘in the image of God’. So there is a nonsense in the secular worldview that places humanity at the pinnacle of creation.
Like atheists, Christians live in a world damaged by sin. The opening passages of Genesis establish the first humans as monarchs of their world, put into Eden to manage the creatures over whom they have power and for whom they must take responsibility. The proper attitude towards fellow creatures is therefore not one of domination, abuse or exploitation. Reverence, care, and responsibility are the attitudes that should and often do characterise the relationship between humans and the rest of creation.
Ultimately, the ways in which we steward the resources of the earth reflect what we hold true and dear about the world in which we live, how it came in being and where it will all end up.
Lord Jesus, forgive us when we think too highly of ourselves and when we write you out of the equation of life. Reveal yourself to those who appreciate your world but do not see you in it, so that all may become children of God. Amen