By: Amilee Watkins
In 1983, Peter Harris and his wife founded A Rocha, a conservation organization currently working in 20 different countries to care for God’s creation. As their initial project was established in the Algarve region of Portugal, A Rocha is Portuguese for “the rock.” For over 20 years, Peter Harris has sought to engage culture with the power of the gospel, specifically in the realm of environmental stewardship. The organization grounds its goals in the biblical understanding of creation – that which is created by a God who deemed it very good and entrusted its care to mankind made in His image.
Genesis 1:28-29 is often termed the Cultural Mandate as God completes the initial act of creation and then sets mankind in authority over the created order. He intends for humanity to serve as His vice-regents, filling the earth and subduing it, ruling over every living thing to bring glory to His name. Unfortunately, in a fallen world, this mandate is often manipulated in order to exploit the creation, to use and abuse it for the glory of man. But when we do so, we thereby live as a people who have forgotten the One in whose image we’ve been made. We’ve forgotten that creation itself was initiated not for our pleasure, but for God’s delight. And as ones who are commanded to rule as He rules, with justice and compassion, the dominion language of Genesis 1 takes on a whole new meaning.
As theologian Craig Bartholomew articulates in his work Where Mortals Dwell:
“Humankind’s rule is a major way in which humankind images God. God, and not humankind, is the central character in the creation narrative, and dominion is best understood as a royal stewardship in which humankind’s role is to serve, develop, and indwell the creation in such a way that it is enhanced and God is honored….[This passage in Genesis] suggests that an important way in which humans are to image God is by perpetuating the abundant sufficiency God has built into his creation. ” (p.13).
While in our fallen state we cannot fulfill this beautiful call to stewardship, we are freed by the work of Christ, who entered history as fully God and fully man, to take on the work Adam was unable to do. As we declare in the Apostle’s creed each Sunday, after taking on the punishment of death we deserved, “on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty…” Christ has restored humanity to its rightful place at the right hand of God, and left His Spirit to empower us. Guided by the same Spirit active at creation’s inception, we can once again seek to cultivate the earth in the way God intended – bringing flourishing to all created spheres and sectors of society.
Join the Center for Faith & Work at the next Gospel & Culture Lecture as Peter Harris charges us all to fulfill the call to faithful stewardship of God’s good creation.