The Power of Man Over the World

A Controversial Matter

In recent years there has been much discussion and controversy over the matter of the environment. These discussions range from the impact of man’s choices upon the world, to theories regarding the climate, and so on. These discussions have wide ramifications within the scope of faith, politics, and ethics, but are mainly based on a series of assumptions which are not valid. It is not the purpose of this article to examine the veracity of various climate theories or other environmental questions, but to deal with the larger question: What is man’s role in regard to the earth?

An Important Charge

When God finished the creation on the sixth day, He left man with an important charge regarding the world He had created. “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28, NASU, emph. added). This charge placed the created world under the authority, or better, stewardship of mankind. However, while this verse emphasizes caring for the earth, it does not imply ultimate power over the earth.

Man does not have the power to destroy the earth.

This is proven by the obvious reality of the earth itself. Simply compare the destructive forces that man has created (some of them quite powerful) with a hurricane or volcanic explosion and man’s power is found wanting. The most devastating natural disaster in earth’s history, the Great Flood, was not caused by man, but instead by God – and was still a “natural” phenomenon! The earth is destined to be destroyed one day, by consuming fire (2 Pet. 3:10), but it is God who will accomplish that feat, not man.

Man does not maintain the earth.

The best that man has ever been able to accomplish is the maintenance of minor portions of this world. When man’s tinkering and efforts are removed for a few short years, the world reclaims what is left. This can be shown by farmland which is left fallow or by devastated cities which are abandoned. Man cannot even predict the weather, let alone influence it. Man’s impotence is true not only of this world, but of the universe. This is because Someone already maintains it! (Col. 1:16, 17).

Remember Man’s Place

So, it is important for man to remember the truth about his place in this world. Man is charged with being a good steward, meaning a good caretaker. We can cause temporal harm to our world and should take great care to avoid such foolish behavior. However, we cannot destroy it – to suggest such a power is the height of hubris. To suggest such a power is to deny that power to God!

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