09 Dec #046 – Integriosity – RENEW—Keep First Things First—Kingdom—Lessons from Creation–Why Are We Here
ESSENCE: It is impossible to understand God’s purpose for work or business without looking at Genesis and understanding the Creation Mandate (a commandment about our purpose on earth), God’s love for all creation and our role as its stewards. As stewards, we have global responsibility to use our God-given creativity and productivity to cultivate God’s creation in order to enable flourishing.
In our last post, we introduced the idea of a BIGGER GOSPEL (four parts instead of just two)–one that starts with Creation and goes all the way to God’s restoration plan for His Kingdom on earth (with the Fall and Redemption through Jesus sandwiched in the middle), and we suggested that if you don’t know where you came from or why you are here, it is hard to make sense of where you are and what you should be doing! In order to understand WHERE we came from and WHY we are here, it is necessary to look at Genesis. In fact, it is impossible to understand God’s purpose for work or business without looking at Genesis!
Lessons from Creation: Why We Are Here
We believe there are two key lessons from Genesis about WHY we are here:
- God Cares About the World: When God had finished creating everything, Genesis tells us: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) That is not just humans–it is “everything that he had made“–it is forests and oceans and land and plants and animals and humans. God cares about material things because He created them and He declared it all “very good”.
- We Are the Stewards of Creation: God didn’t just plop all of creation here without direction or purpose for His greatest creation–humans. In Genesis 1:28, God gave what we called in our last post the Creation Mandate (what some also refer to as the Cultural Mandate):
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)
The Creation Mandate
We are not just another species of animal created to co-exist alongside all others. We are different, and were given a COMMANDMENT about our purpose on earth. The Creation Mandate tells us the the WHO, WHAT, WHERE and HOW of that purpose:
- WHO: We are to “have dominion“. Although that term sounds ominous and, on its face, seems to hold the potential to justify abusing the earth and its creation, theologians (which we do not claim to be) seem to be pretty confident that the term means “stewardship“. We are to care for God’s creation as its STEWARDS.
- WHAT: In our role as Stewards, we are to CREATE LIFE–“be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it”. Again, theologians tell us that this includes creating life sustaining and life affirming PRODUCTS and CULTURE. God placed us here to subdue and bring order to the world. We are to cultivate nature to enable it to flourish.
- WHERE: In our role as Stewards, we have GLOBAL RESPONSIBILITY–it is the “the earth”.
- HOW: We were created in the image of God (the topic of an upcoming post), which means we are to steward with authority and leadership in that image–the image of a God who declared all of His creation “very good”. In God’s image, we have creativity and productivity that is to be used to CULTIVATE God’s creation in order to enable flourishing. Our cultivation of nature glorifies God, because it uses His raw materials (including us) and His design and mandate.
We are not theologians, but Tim Keller is one of the best. In his book Every Good Endeavor, Keller says that with the Creation Mandate, God was “commissioning workers to carry on his work“. Keller goes on to explain:
The word “subdue” indicates that, though all God had made was good, it was still to a great degree undeveloped. God left creation with deep untapped potential for cultivation that people were to unlock through their labor.
We are called to stand in for God here in the world, exercising stewardship over the rest of creation in his place as his vice-regents. We share in doing the things that God has done in creation—bringing order out of chaos, creatively building a civilization out of the material of physical and human nature, caring for all that God has made. This is a major part of what we were created to be.
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 1:28)
Why does all this theology matter to a leader wanting their organization to faithfully “do right”? Because the Creation Mandate is CRITICAL to understanding God’s purpose for humanity, which defines the purpose of work, which in turn defines the purpose of a group of humans working together in an organization. In short, we do not believe a leader can lead an organization to faithfully “do right” without understanding and embracing the lessons of Genesis through a BIGGER GOSPEL.
SPOILER ALERT: In future posts about Creation, we will explore the idea of being created in God’s image as well as the genesis of “work” (which may be surprising) and the nature of “work” (which may be even more surprising).
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): For several years, I served on the planning team for the Professionals and Marketplace Track of Movement Day in New York. In 2014, one of our panelists was Hugh Whelchel, founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics. I met Hugh a few years earlier at a meeting in Dallas, but I hadn’t appreciated his passion for the Four-Part Gospel and the importance of the Creation Mandate (which he prefers to call the Cultural Mandate). Hugh and the IFWE have been champions in creating content to educate leaders about these ideas. I highly recommend their materials.
There has been a movement to take the call for “dominion” in the Creation Mandate as a call for Christians to “retake” or “reclaim” what have been identified as seven mountains of influence in culture. While I was intrigued by this idea, imagery and languaging for several years, James Hunter’s book To Change the World shifted my thinking. While I believe the “seven mountains” helpfully describe areas of cultural influence (and Hunter concludes that cultural change happens through institutions), and I hope leaders in all these areas pursue faithfully “doing right” through Integriosity (and if they do, I believe there will be a cultural shift), I think a “reclaiming dominion” approach will likely backfire. If our goal is to change the culture or gain authority rather than to faithfully “do right” by maximizing human flourishing and glorifying God, we will fail at all of it. We will fail because we are pursuing a “second thing” rather than a “first thing“, and we will end up with neither one. Hunter explains:
In these new initiatives, one sees again the well-meaning hope to make the world a better place. Though the tactics have expanded to include world-view and culture more broadly, the logic at work—that America has been taken over by secularists, causing harm to America and harm to the church, that it is time to “take back the culture” for Christ through a strategy of acquiring and using power is identical to the longstanding approach of the established Christian Right. The leading edge of such initiatives is still one of negation. To use words and phrases like “enemy,” “attack,” “drive out,” “overthrow,” “eradicate the Other,” “reclaim their nations for Christ,” “take back” influence, “compel,” “occupying and influencing [spheres] of power in our nations,” “advancing the kingdom of God,” and so on, continues to reflect the same language of loss, disappointment, anger, antipathy, resentment, and desire for conquest.