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What does it mean for us to have dominion?

by Michael Ford last modified 11 Jun, 2019 04:57 PM

Bishop Nicholas has explored the Genesis story of creation and dominion in the light of the present Climate Crisis with members of the charity dedicated to safeguarding shipping and seafarers.

Preaching at the Annual Service for the Corporation of Trinity House, which provides aids to including lighthouses, navigation, education support and welfare to the seafaring community, Bishop Nicholas asked "What does it mean for us to have dominion?"

Read the text here

Using Dominion as lordship (Genesis 1:28)the Bishop said:

"We human beings have made such amazing progress, growing in knowledge and understanding if not always in wisdom. We are more prosperous, more populous, more creative than ever before.

"But that which has given us mastery over creation is now getting us into trouble. Climate scientists talk about our era as the Anthropocene in which what is happening to the earth is dominated by the actions of human beings.

"The use of fossil fuels has benefited us enormously. We have gained such prosperity, health and wealth. But now our use of fossil fuels is damaging life through climate change. In the last 250 years we have burnt resources that took a billion years to lay in the ground. The science is complex but the energy released into the environment is resulting in more extreme weather events and a rise in global warming which threatens our livelihoods. The UN report published just over a month ago on the destruction of species confirms what the World Wildlife Fund has been saying for decades. By successfully organising the planet around people the pace of destruction is quickening. All of this is captured in good journalism like Sir David Attenborough’s 'Blue Planet'. What was the valuable gift of plastics has become symbolic of the destruction of the earth so marvellously gifted to us by God in creation.

"By making ourselves the centre of the story we have distorted our God given relationship with creation, consuming the earth rather than creating with it; destroying the God-given diversity of creation which is for our health and wellbeing. Our being given dominion can’t mean being given free range to consume and exploit the earth for selfish purposes. There must be a sense of service as seen in the Lordship, the dominion, of Jesus Christ and the summary of the Law to love God and love neighbour."

The Bishop also spoke of the second creation story beginning at Genesis chapter 2 verse 4 is of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, as a story of "creation and innocence, disobedience and sin."

"We recognise the man’s failure to take responsibility for eating the apple. He blames the woman, the woman blames the serpent. It is all too familiar. Could even a brilliant scientist give a better account of human failure to take responsibility for our actions, and of guilt and shame? Adam and Eve, we human beings, are consigned to a life of toil in a land east of Eden. Here we have a responsibility to make a living, to serve and conserve the precious earth.

"In these two creation stories, the loss of innocence and the desire not to take responsibility are shamefully hand in hand.

"Two thirds of Britons agree the planet is in a climate emergency. David Attenborough on Climate Change said, "the scientific evidence is that if we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies." It cannot be business as usual.

"Whatever you think of their tactics, the disruption caused by Extinction Rebellion has put the environment on the agenda in a new way and with greater urgency. As Al Gore said, ours is the first generation that cannot say we do not know and probably the last to be able to act meaningfully in response.

"It was striking that the 16 years old Greta Thunburg said that, "Avoiding climate breakdown will require cathedral thinking. We must lay the foundation while we may not know exactly how to build the ceiling."

The Bishop’s final message to the Corporation's members was:

"We must find new ways to serve and conserve amidst the precious gifts of God’s good creation."

Click here to read the Bishop’s complete sermon

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