Sunday, 23 February 2014

SUBDUE THE EARTH



I have commented previously on the flooding in Somerset and the strategic decision-making which seems to have lead directly to the calamity.Further detail is fleshed out here on the causes & I would encourage you to read the whole article before returning here.  

Thinking on this, it seems to me that there is a deeper underlying problem which has brought us all to this pass. These, I believe, are not merely technical matters of hydrology and how to efficiently manage and balance rivers and farmland. We may be surprised at the extent to which the problem here is actually theological in nature, hence my interest in it on this blog.

I believe that there is a worldview at work here. 

Reading the article I have linked to we discover that,

 “In 2008, an Environment Agency policy document on the “Parrett Catchment Area” admitted that it was “still not completely clear” how much the deliberate increase in flooding would breach “the property and Human Rights” of those whose homes and businesses would be damaged.”

Despite this a high-level political decision was made to go ahead because the estimation was that “wildlife will benefit from increased water levels.” If the report here is accurate then it seems that a decision was made that the human cost was acceptable because of the benefits that would accrue to wildlife.

 It is here where I would suggest that the issue has become theological. In Genesis 1:28 Man is commissioned to “be fruitful and multiply; fill the whole earth and subdue it.” For millennia Man has considered it a part of his purpose to fulfil this mandate.

  Rivers were dammed, sea was reclaimed, wasteland was fenced and cultivated, bridges were built, wild animals were driven back from human population areas. All of these were understood to be a part of the mandate to subdue the earth and previous generations would have seen this as a part of human progress and flourishing.

 None of this, it must be said, was to be done without due regard for the proper management of the earth or with ill intent towards its other creatures. The creation was to be respected for “the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.” Man was to be nature’s steward not her cruel master. But nevertheless the biblical commandment was clear, the earth was to be subdued.

Not any more.

Now decisions are made without regard to this age-old wisdom and policies are being enacted which seek to reverse this God-given commission.Now instead of the earth being re-fashioned to suit the needs of humans, we are to be inconvenienced for the benefit of nature. Where once wild beasts were driven out and waters were pushed back and dammed in order to facilitate the safety of human settlements now man is to be driven out in order to restore the wild.

 The result is now a part of the earth (the Somerset Levels) where once humans lived comfortably and profitably which has been, temporarily at least, reclaimed by the wild. That which was once subdued has  become unsubdued. 

And all of this is a direct  result of the policies of men whose worldview leads them to “worship and serve the creation rather than the Creator” (Rom 1:25).

I would suggest that it doesn’t get any more theological than that.