Permaculture & Genesis, part 1 — “Dominion”

I’m taking a permaculture design course right now, and it’s got some excellent principles and methods for growing food and building communities.   However, there are some permaculture topics where Christians have better solutions.  Here is the first of several:

One of the observations the permaculture movement has made points out how agriculture has been destructive for all of history.   The logical conclusion to this observation is that the best and most productive use of the land can only come in it’s wild state.  (i.e. if agriculture is bad, then no agriculture must be good.)  My instructor says Christianity is one of those religions which says God made the world for humans, gave “dominion” over the world to humans, and so humans  exploit and destroy the natural world with the church’s justification.

Here is the quote from Genesis he refers to:

   27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

   28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
Genesis 1:26-28

My view 
The natural world is very much a system that is “in the NOW”–plants and animals mostly just respond to their surroundings.  God gave people the natural capacity to plan, design, and manage the world.   It is our role to plan, manage and adjust the natural world so nature’s wealth can be channeled, directed and increased.  Adam was given a ROLE to fill.  It is up to mankind to tend, direct, and increase nature’s bounty so the earth produces it’s fullness to support plants, animals, and people.

As a farmer, I’ve seen how a living soil supports growing plants, how healthy plants are the best food for livestock, and how properly managed animals enrich the soil.  It is a closed loop, and my role as farmer is to manage this cycle.  I have the ability to see how these systems flow, and so it is my responsibility to act on what I see.  This is the same job God assigned to Adam.  It is the sovereign role of leadership and of dominion.

In answer to permaculture’s observation about agriculture’s history of destruction, I add one detail:  Man has been sinful for all of history.  Because of sin, the founders of agriculture (Adam, Cain, & Abel) were isolated from God, and so their farming was also sinful, ignorant and destructive.   This was not the way God created it.

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good
Genesis 1:31

Man was included when God declared it “very good”, and so the highest, best, and most productive use of the earth includes people.  I look forward to the day when sin is removed and “the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Is 55:12)

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