Human Vocation: Subdue the Earth

As the image of God, we represent God in the world, and therefore we are called to partner with God in what God is doing in the world. Our identity shapes our vocation.

We are called to multiply and fill the earth with the glory of God, and we are also called to continue the divine work of creation by subduing the earth.

To subdue the earth is humanity’s creative function. As Creator, God brought order out of chaos.  Hovering over the waters enclosed in darkness, God brought order to an uninhabitable earth, which was a chaotic void at the time. God subdued the earth to provide habitable space, and then God filled that space with life.

Part of our human vocation is to continue this creative work, which Genesis calls, subduing the earth.  Unfortunately, some believe “subdue” empowers humanity to exploit the earth and deplete its resources. But to “subdue” is not a destructive task where the earth is scorched but a creative one where the earth is ordered and its habitable space is enriched so that life might flourish.

The seven days of creation did not rid the cosmos of chaos. Even after the seventh day of creation, darkness still existed, the waters still existed, and a chaos figure—the serpent—entered Eden itself. God called the light good but not the darkness, God did not remove the waters but gave them boundaries, and outside of Eden, the universe was yet unordered. In fact, not until the new heaven and new earth appear will chaos disappear from the earth, when there will be no more waters or sea and no more night.

Until then, we partner with God to subdue the remaining chaos. This ordering includes things as diverse as domesticating a field for crops or goats for milk as well as developing software programs to bring order to a mass of data. We use technology to enrich our lives while, at the same time, we do no permit it to destroy the earth.

This vocation extends to every aspect of human life. The arts (from music to literature to fine art) are expressions of human creativity that bring beauty and order out of what was previously unordered or even chaotic.

To subdue the earth means to partner in God’s creative work; it does not mean abusing or exploiting the creation. Whatever chaos remains in the creation, humanity is called, in partnership with God, to subdue it and order it so that life might flourish.

This means no work is secular as if it were disconnected from our missional identity and vocation.  Every good work participates in the mission of God if it is engaged in the process of ordering the chaos. Technology manages resources; medicine serves wholeness; and social structures shape community. This is our human vocation. We co-create with God.

One Response to “Human Vocation: Subdue the Earth”

  1.   Mike Hendricks Says:

    I’ve grown to like this idea of subdue, and bringing order out of chaos more and more. After all, God planted a “garden” in Eden, not a jungle or brier filled woods. A garden is a place where plants and such have been ordered out of chaos. It’s similar to Paul’s instructions on worship in 1 Corinthians 14, highlighted by his comment that “God is not a God of disorder, but of peace,” from verse 33.

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