The idea of dominion is one of the oldest in Scripture. We read in Genesis 1:27-28: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 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 fowl in the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
Webster’s New World Dictionary defines dominion as: “rule or power to rule; sovereign authority; sovereignty.” According to the Bible, man was to have power over all of the other creatures that God had created. He was to subdue the earth, turning the wilderness into a garden or a productive farm to sustain human life, and he was to use the sheep, cows, bulls, chickens, goats, geese and other domestic animals for his benefit. This has governed the productive lives of human beings since the beginning.
Lately we have seen the growth of the environmental movement, in which extreme views call for the elimination of man as the spoiler of the primeval wilderness. Obviously, these views are of pagan origin, which reject God’s mandate that man take dominion over the earth.
There is a fundamental difference between the conservation movement and the environmental movement. Conservationists strive to become better stewards of the earth’s resources. Many environmentalists endow the wilderness with some kind of sacred status that would prevent us from disturbing it or using it for our benefit. Tree huggers think trees have “souls”: to cut down a tree is tantamount to murder. Most environmentalists also favor abortion on demand. For them, human life is of lower value than the wilderness. Environmentalism is an attempt to reverse God’s mandate.
All of this has ramifications for the family, for the idea of dominion is extremely important to the social stability of society. Rev. R. J. Rushdoony writes in The Institutes of Biblical Law:
[E]ssential to the function of the family under God, and to the man as the head of the household, is the call to subdue the earth and exercise dominion over it. This gives to the family a possessive function: to subdue the earth and exercise dominion over it clearly involves in the Biblical perspective private property. Man must bring to all creation God’s law-order, exercising power over creation in the name of God.1
Exercising dominion requires responsibility and authority. A man marries and creates a family and has authority over it. He cannot hand over his authority or responsibilities to the government or his wife without rebuking God. His wife may help him exercise his authority, but she cannot take it over.
In educating children, it becomes a sin to put one’s child in a school that denies the dominion mandate. Rev. Rushdoony writes:
The major casualty of modern education is the male student. Since dominion is by God’s creative purpose a basic aspect of man, any education which diminishes man’s calling to exercise dominion also diminishes man to the same degree.2
It is the issue of dominion that makes same-sex marriage totally incompatible with God’s creative purpose. God chose the husband, in a man-woman marriage, as the individual who exercises dominion over earth and its creatures for the benefit of civilization. God spoke the dominion mandate to Adam in Genesis 1:26. Then God created Eve to be man’s helpmeet in pursuit of the dominion mandate. Thus man and woman are to exercise dominion. However, in a Christian marriage, there is a clear Biblical division of labor prescribed by Scripture. And man is the one primarily concerned with dominion.
Same-sex marriage will of necessity undermine the civil order because it defies God’s natural order in which dominion plays a central role in maintaining civilization. Social decay sets in when the natural order is disregarded in favor of unnatural disorder.
The majority of American people overwhelmingly rejected the legalization of same-sex marriage in the last election because they saw the danger to civilized society that same-sex marriage poses. Godly order has mandated forever that a male-female marriage is the core institution of a Christian society. There can be no compromise on this issue.
Dominion also implies authority. Authority is the power to enforce obedience, and in modern society only governments can do that. We give our elected government the power to enforce our obedience to its laws. As Christians, it is important to entrust that power wisely. If our laws are incompatible with God’s law, we have a problem. In a democratic society, we must fight ungodly laws by the legal means we have at our disposal.
We have fought against legalized abortion ever since the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade. That same court can overturn its ruling when it realizes the lies perpetrated by Roe at the Court’s hearing.
Dominion also implies knowledge, curiosity, science, exploration, and invention. We must have ever-expanding knowledge of the earth and its creatures. We must have scientific curiosity that leads to investigation and exploration. And we must have invention to make dominion a practical achievement. It was this sense of dominion that drove the Pilgrims to the new world where they could do what the Bible instructed them to do: “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over fowl in the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
The dominion mandate has produced the richest, freest, most creative civilization on earth. As long as the Bible remains the guidebook to man’s productive actions, we shall reap the benefits of dominion in America and elsewhere, wherever we plant these Biblical seeds.
1. R.J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1973), 163.
2. Ibid, 184.