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Bible for Thinkers

Liberals love the Bible, too. We just look at it differently. This is a place to discuss the Bible where you don't have to check your brain at the door. There are many ways to see it, and many ways to have it come to life.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Bible for Thinkers

Okay, I'm tired of narrow-minded Bible interpretations. The Bible is a great book. I've read it through many times in my life and have studied it in seminary. I preach from its pages every Sunday in a United Methodist church. The Bible doesn't have to be rigid or boring or a weapon. It can be the living Word of God if we will just let it be itself and let God use it in our lives.

So this is a space where I want to just post thoughts on Bible passages in the hopes of opening it up some. I have a book coming out in the Spring called Blowing The Lid Off The God-Box, which has a whole chapter on how the Bible has been used and abused by well-meaning folks to serve ends it was never intended to serve. I hope you'll e-mail me at if you have comments or a passage of Scripture or Bible issue you'd like me to write about.

For today, I'm agitated about the word "dominion," specifically as it appears in the Creation account in Genesis 28. It's the beginning of time, God has created the world and everything in it, and gives the first human beings "dominion" over that creation. You need to know that I'm an animal fanatic and environmentalist. So it really makes me mad when people use this dominion business in Genesis to justify doing anything they want to God's earth and God's creatures. With tomorrow being the Feast of St. Francis and today having been our annual Blessing of the Animals service, this is on my mind.

Dominion does mean rule. There's no getting around the term by going back to the Hebrew. It's a correct translation. What I think has gotten really messed up, however, is the interpretation of the word. God expects us to have "dominion" and to "rule," I think, in the same way and with the same attitude of love, mercy, justice, and respect that God rules and has dominion.

Human history has pretty much been the history of us abusing the earth and each other. We have interpreted dominion to mean that I can do whatever I want with something. Anything that results in my advantage or the advantage of my group is okay. If I've got the power, I have every right to wield it. That is exactly wrong from a Biblical perspective. We are to rule as God rules, not as human beings have ruled for millennia.

Psalm 24 declares that "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." It's not ours. We are given dominion, much as the trustee of an estate is given dominion over funds. But those funds are certainly not there to be used at the discretion of the trustee. They are there to be used as the owner wills and for the owner's good. So with our earth. It is not okay to do what we want with the earth or its non-human creatures, just because we have been given some authority. To disregard God's intention for creation makes our "dominion" diabolical.

Your back yard isn't really yours. You've got dominion over it, but it still belongs to God, as does anything that happens to walk, slither, swim, or fly into it. So whatever you do with it should be in keeping with God's design. That's what dominion is all about. It's stewardship not unchecked power.


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