Dominion and Stewardship: Imaging God in Creation

14 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2015

See all articles by Matthew Cavedon

Matthew Cavedon

Emory University - Center for the Study of Law and Religion

Date Written: December 14, 2013


God’s conferral of dominion over creation to human beings is one of the most suspect biblical texts for environmentalists. It is often seen as authorizing human exploitation of creation, a licentious enjoyment of the world’s resources combined with the subjection of all other things to human welfare. According to its critics, and some Christians all too willing to condone damage to the environment, Genesis 1:28 embodies a utilitarian understanding of nature.

They are wrong. The dominion given to humans in this passage is meant to image divine dominion, which fosters life and delights in the goodness of creation. Scripture shows that this is how God exercises dominion, over all of creation and over human beings in particular. God allows nature its own being, nature rejoices in God’s dominion, and God promises to bring about a new heaven and a new earth in which nature and human beings flourish together harmoniously. In addition, God’s dominion over human beings is meant for their life, not their exploitation.

In fact, God has made human beings to be good stewards of nature. Human beings need to conserve it in order to survive. And it is necessary to preserve creation so that human beings can relate to it, as this is an essential part of being human. Such an understanding of the way human beings are rejects the utilitarian interpretation of Genesis 1:28 in favor of a view wherein human beings benefit simply by living in the midst of a creation that is itself a great good.

Keywords: theological anthropology, Genesis, image of God, imago Dei, Josef Pieper, stewardship, dominion, creation, flourishing, relation, environment, environmentalism, ecology, eco-theology

Suggested Citation

Cavedon, Matthew, Dominion and Stewardship: Imaging God in Creation (December 14, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Matthew Cavedon (Contact Author)

Emory University - Center for the Study of Law and Religion ( email )

201 Dowman Drive
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

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