Posted by: davidwhall | August 18, 2008

Calvin and Wealth: Part 3

Man was charged with dominion over God’s creation

Calvin stated that it was part of the dignity which God decreed for man that he should have authority over all created things. God appointed man, as “lord of the world”, thus exhibiting the image of God. And this authority was given not only to the singular Adam but also to all his descendents. Man was created initially with dominion, but the command also to “subdue it” Gen. 1:28 further emphasizes that God put this possession “of his right”, signifying that man had a calling to develop, tame, organize, harness, subdue, rearrange, and make useful all subservient aspects of the creation. In fact, Calvin taught that “it was thy business to nurture the things provided”. We may thus affirmatively say that Calvin taught that man was to improve and enhance the creation as part of his dominion.

Creation gives a pattern of hierarchies, too. All is not on the same plane. Some species are higher, more capable, than others. Others serve the higher orders. Dominion is God’s assignment to take the creation as we find it and improve it. He does not assign to Adam to leave the creation as it is or to let it deteriorate. No, God calls men to exert themselves to nurture and bring improvement. That fundamental notion of change for the better is an economic truism that does not accord with all business systems and practices.

God does not wish his creation merely to have stasis. Instead, he designed creation for growth, productivity, and maturation. Thus, one may ask as early as the opening chapters of Genesis: what economic system fits with both the creation and the nurture mandates? Growth, development, productivity, and orderliness are features that God designs for people to have.

Dominion infers a work ethic and accountability to God

How does one take dominion over an impersonal asset? First, by recognizing its status as created; then by imposing man’s good on it; and finally by yielding fruit that contains the seeds of future productivity.
The economics of Genesis 1-3 neither calls for wealth to dissipate or to stay the same. Man is to work the garden; and with hard work, he will seek to tame parts of the creation to serve God and neighbor.

Calvin summarized these notions well in his comments on Genesis 2:9: “No corner of the earth was then barren, nor was there even any which was not exceedingly rich and fertile; but that benediction of God, which was elsewhere comparatively moderate, had in this place poured itself wonderfully forth.” He noted further, that “not only was there an abundant supply of food, but with it was added sweetness for the gratification of the palate, and beauty to feast the eyes. Therefore, from such benignant indulgence, it is more than sufficiently evident how inexplicable had been the cupidity of man.” The state of creation was that Adam not only had a mere physical existence, but that the conditions of creation excelled in endowments of the soul.

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