Redacted Dominionism: An Evangelical, Environmentally Sympathetic Reading of the Early Genesis Narrative

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Critiques of the environmental ramifications of the early Genesis narrative by environmental thinkers such as Aldo Leopold, Ian McHarg, and Lynn White underscore a longstanding tension between the environmental movement and Western Christianity. The evangelical community (EC) especially, has been at odds with the environmental movement, as the EC grounds its theology regarding human relations to nature on the Genesis narrative—and especially the Genesis 1:26-28 dominion mandate— interpreted with a literal hermeneutic. The EC generally concludes in favor of either a dominionist interpretation, that mankind has dominion over nature, or a stewardship interpretation, that mankind’s dominion is more akin to ... continued below

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Cone, Christopher August 2011.

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  • Cone, Christopher

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Critiques of the environmental ramifications of the early Genesis narrative by environmental thinkers such as Aldo Leopold, Ian McHarg, and Lynn White underscore a longstanding tension between the environmental movement and Western Christianity. The evangelical community (EC) especially, has been at odds with the environmental movement, as the EC grounds its theology regarding human relations to nature on the Genesis narrative—and especially the Genesis 1:26-28 dominion mandate— interpreted with a literal hermeneutic. The EC generally concludes in favor of either a dominionist interpretation, that mankind has dominion over nature, or a stewardship interpretation, that mankind’s dominion is more akin to tending or stewarding than to domination. Both interpretations trend toward the anthropocentrism that Leopold, McHarg, and White criticize. J. Baird Callicott postulates a third, less anthropocentric view: the citizenship interpretation, that humanity is co-citizen with nonhuman beings, rather than a superior. Callicott’s view, while commendable on key points, is incompatible with EC methodology because it is grounded only on Genesis 2 and subsequent passages, rejecting the legitimacy of Genesis 1:26-28 altogether. A fourth interpretation is proposed here, redacted dominionism, derived using EC methodology, and claiming that human relations to nature are based on theocentric themes. Redacted dominionism understands humanity as initially given dominion over nature by virtue of the imago Dei, but human disobedience to God, tarnished that image, and human qualification for dominion was lost. Post-fall, the dominion mandate is never repeated, and seems even to be replaced. In consideration of early Genesis and related passages, understood within EC methodology, redacted dominionism argues for theocentrism, thus grounding a biblical environmental ethic that escapes the indictments of Leopold, McHarg, and White. Such an ethic could be useful within the EC to motivate greater environmental consideration. It could likewise be beneficial to those within and without the EC, as a catalyst for dialogue between the environmental movement and the EC, and as a mechanism whereby the EC may be held accountable for attitudes and actions impacting nature.

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  • August 2011

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  • May 17, 2012, 9:47 p.m.

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  • Dec. 12, 2013, 12:10 p.m.

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Cone, Christopher. Redacted Dominionism: An Evangelical, Environmentally Sympathetic Reading of the Early Genesis Narrative, dissertation, August 2011; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc84193/: accessed February 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .