Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Venus Flytraps Poised for Oblivion

A recent article caught my attention and I would be remiss not to pass it along. The Venus Flytrap is in grave danger of extinction. This may be a seemingly odd topic for this blog as it is not directly related to theology or philosophy. Indirectly, it is, however. Gen. 1:27-29 says,
God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. (NIV)

The English uses terms like "subdue" and "rule" for the Hebrew "kibash" and "radah," respectively. While kibash is, in some semantic cases, used to refer to the trampling of enemies and "bringing into bondage," there is also a sense of forcing or training in a certain direction. This is not merely an active cultivation but one marked with great force. Radah contains a similar connotation, domination. Yet it also encompasses ideas of order, care, and expansion.

The question then comes, how do we interpret this passage? The Genesis passage above has been greatly misused in recent generations to support the wholesale slaughter of people groups, other species, and the rape of the environment in general. If we examine the Scriptures, though, we see God's care and concern for all of his creation. This care is exemplified in the Law, the Prophets, and the New Testament. According to Genesis, man has been placed over God's creation to subdue and rule it. Keeping God's care in mind, however, I suggest we should see an expansion, care, ordering, and training of the creation that we have been placed over. We are responsible for that creation to God.

Next, while we cannot see it within the immediate text, I would suggest we should see the expansion in this text not as mere expansion of mankind (which is covered in "be fruitful and increase in number"), or of industry, but of the declaration of God's glory; evangelism, if you will. The primary function of the imago Dei ("image of God") is to display God and his glory. To whom is that image to be displayed? At the point that the imago Dei is set-up, it is to the rest of creation, i.e., non-humans.

Both the themes of imago Dei and of expansion run throughout Scripture. The Promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob include the promises of expansion of God's glory through them and their living and acting in certain ways to glorify God. Job's faithfulness despite suffering, and Jabez' prayer continue the theme. The Mosaic Exodus and conquest of the land of Canaan magnify the theme. The theme finally finds its fulfillment in Christians, who are to live righteously and spread the glory of God throughout the nations. The expansion is therefore exploded from its nationalistic, Old Testament, emphasis to a spiritual one.

So what does all of this have to do with Venus Flytraps? Those of us who bear the imago dei in more than just a general way should see our responsibility to order and cultivate the earth, because we are directly responsible to God for our management of it. (We should also be ashamed that some non-believers can see and act on their responsibility while we often don't.) That means that while our evangelism is primarily about the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is also about what responsibilities come after that Gospel is accepted. We have a responsibility to take care of our earth, even if we disagree on the process with the rabid and atheistic "eco-" types.

The Moa, the Great Auk, the Quaga, the Dodo, the Tasmanian Wolf, and many other entire populations of species have been destroyed by a wrong kind of human conquest. The Venus Flytrap may soon join them in oblivion. These creatures are also innocents, are also weak, are, without realizing it, dependent on man for protection and the right display of the imago Dei. Our expansion of humanity should be done with the Gospel, and with preservation and cultivation in mind.

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