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Dominion or stewardship? Either way, God seems likely to stay out of it

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Richard Cable | 14:50 UK time, Friday, 27 March 2009

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams says we can't rely on divine help to avert catastrophe due to climate change. Speaking at York Minster, he said: 'I think that to suggest that God might intervene to protect us from the corporate folly of our practices is as unchristian and unbiblical.'

illustrated_bible226.jpgThe Archbishop reflects quite a lot about green issues and has also dealt with the biblical notion of mankind's 'dominion' over the Earth, which he interprets - as many theologians do - as meaning a form of 'stewardship'.

The Good Book itself is pretty descriptive about what it means by dominion. Here's a sample:

Genesis 1:28
'"Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."'

Genesis 9:2
'The fear and dread of [man] will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands.'

Psalm 8
'You made [man] ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet:'

Stewardship is nonetheless pretty much the only acceptable interpretation in the 21st century, no matter which faith group you belong to.

But these biblical quotes - which appear to define dominion in much more adversarial terms - are a stark reminder that for most of human history, Nature has been a threat and a deadly competitor, extremely red in tooth and claw, which needed to be defeated and tamed. Looks like old habits die hard.


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