Wednesday, September 10, 2014

John Murray on the Cultural Mandate

There is an indication in Genesis 1 and 2 of the variety which would have characterized his labours in a state of confirmed integrity. The other mandates—the replenishing of the earth and subduing it—involved labour also. Even in the genial conditions which would have obtained in an uncursed earth it is not difficult to imagine the labour entailed in geographical expansion and the necessity of making adequate provision for sustenance and comfort in this process of expansion. But more significant in respect of labour is the mandate to subdue the earth. This means nothing if it does not mean the harnessing and utilizing of the earth’s resources and forces. We are not to suppose that the earth is represented as offering resistance to man’s dominion and that the subduing was to be that of conquering alien and recalcitrant powers. But the subduing of the earth must imply the expenditure of thought and skill and energy in bringing the earth and its resources under such control that they would be channeled to the promotion of certain ends which they were suited and designed to fulfil but which would not be fulfilled part from the exercise of man’s design and labour. In the sense in which Jesus spoke of the Sabbath as made for man and not man for the Sabbath, so we may not say that the earth and its resources were made for man and not man for them; he was to exercise dominion over them, they were not to rule over him The earth and its resources were to be brought into the service of his well-being, enjoyment and pleasure.
John Murray, Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1957), 36-37.

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