2 Aspects of Adam’s Unique Calling

Daniel Darling
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Not only was Adam created in a special way, he was created for a special purpose. The narrative in Genesis moves quickly from Adam’s unique creation to Adam’s unique calling:

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.” (Gen. 1:28)

The First Set of Commands: Subdue. Rule.

These commands were first given to Adam to cultivate Eden, but it is the obligation of every image-bearer. We know this because even after the fall, after God punished the world with a great flood (more on that later), God urged Noah (Gen. 9) to cultivate creation. Creating, building, working, and resting are the primary ways humans represent God in the world. Listen again to Genesis:

The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and wdopatch over it. (Gen. 2:15)

The Second Set of Commands: To work it and watch over it.

Eden was a blank canvas given to humans by God for their creativity and His glory. Work is not a punishment brought on by the curse of sin, but a gift, a way we worship the God whose image we bear.

Humans were given stewardship of God’s world. Adam was given the task of naming the animals, a seemingly never-ending job in a world teeming with unlimited expressions of God’s creativity. The job of naming wasn’t God merely delegating on a busy day. It is God bestowing on His image-bearers the gift to care for creation. To name is to have authority. Notice throughout Scripture, God’s naming: renaming Abram to Abraham, renaming Simon to Peter, Saul to Paul and ultimately Jesus, who is given a “name that is above every name” (Phil. 2:9).

Understanding this mandate, this authority to rule, should shape the way we see our world. We are keepers of creation and not its creator. Adam’s sin and our sin is a both a rejection of God’s rule and an abdication of our rulership over creation. The mere act of listening to the lying words of a serpent is Adam subjecting himself to an animal kingdom over which he was made to rule.

Eden was a blank canvas given to humans by God for their creativity and His glory.

This side of Adam’s fall, we fail to obey our mandate to rule and cultivate in two ways. Humans are tempted to exploit rather than cultivate God’s creation, neglecting our role as the stewards of God’s world. Or we embrace the tendency to worship the earth in ways that sets us up against our Creator. This is evident in much of the language today around environmentalism and climate change, which at times seems to assume that humans possess total power over the universe, instead of God, who is “sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Heb. 1:3). Earth worship instead of worship of the Creator leads to policies that often hurt the people for whom the earth was created: human beings. Obeying Genesis means resisting both a throwaway attitude of increasing consumption that ignores the care of natural resources and a godless green religion that pits the earth against the creatures for which it was created.

Ultimately now, in a fallen world, our work to cultivate is made more difficult as the ground fights back. Embedded in the curse pronounced by God as a result of Adam’s sin, our work is fraught with difficulty, thorns and thistles fighting back in the gardens of life. And yet the work we do, even the work that seems unworthy, is a way we glorify the One who gave us work as a gift.

Our Relationship With Technology

God’s instructions to Adam should also shape our view of technology. On one hand, we can easily worship progress as a kind of mini-god, with every new piece of technology as a kind of object of worship, with every new Apple event a kind of secular temple and inventors like Elon Musk our mini-gods. We’re tempted to put our faith in “science,” that kind of catch-all term for observable and man-made discovery that easily forgets the One who created the raw materials and left them for us to discover in the first place.

We can also be pulled away from technology in a way that almost worships the simple and the rural, as if an untouched Eden is the ultimate end for the people of God. The narrative of Scripture doesn’t point us backward to a remembered “good old days,” but forward to a future, restored New Jerusalem, and a second Adam who fulfills the mandate that the first Adam failed. Eden, undeveloped and raw, is not where we are headed. Heaven, a city, is our destiny. Genesis points forward to Revelation.

So we should ask questions about our technology, in a world where it can be corrupted and have evil ends, while also championing new advances that are signs of our fulfillment of the creation mandate. And yet we should recognize that God’s new creation people are a forward-looking people. The writer of Hebrews describes faithful Christians as people who are “looking forward to the city . . . whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).

For Further Reading:

The Characters of Creation

by Daniel Darling

Most Christians are familiar with the opening words of Genesis: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” But push...

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