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THEOLOGY > Man > Dominion Mandate > Ability to Fulfill the Mandate 


The Dominion Mandate for man means that he has sovereignty over all of Creation, a sovereignty that is to be exercised under and in obedience to the Sovereignty of God (see: God is Sovereign). But how can man fulfill such an obligation? Does man have the wherewithal to carry out this overwhelming duty? In the face of a seemingly impossible task, is man equipped for the demands of the assignment? Does man have the ability to fulfill the mandate?

Evidently man was created with the capacity for rule, for immediately after his creation he was given the command to rule. Obviously at the time of his creation he was endowed with the means to accomplish his global responsibility. So man has never been without the resources he needs to exercise authority over the earth. The question is wherein does the intrinsic capability reside.

There is a vital relationship between man’s image and his dominion that is revealed in God’s statement regarding the creation of man:

Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the ear, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth (Gen. 2:26).

Note the two statements: “Let Us make man in Our image” and “let them have dominion”; the “making” sets the stage for the “ruling.” That is, God made man so he would be capable of exercising dominion. The ability to fulfill the mandate resides within the image (see: Image of God).

The particular aspect of the making that is significant is the fact that man is made in the image of God: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27). Immediately after their creation “God blessed them, and God said to them . . . have dominion . . .” (Gen. 1:28). It is obvious that the Dominion flows from the image; therefore, because man is made in the image of God he has the ability to function as required by the Dominion Mandate.

It would seem,
that there is an intricate relationship
between the image and the charge of Dominion,
not that the image is the Dominion
but that the image equips man for the Dominion.

Man is what he is (the “image”), so he can do what he is to do (“have dominion”); the image is the essence, the Dominion is part of the purpose of the essence—it is the image that equips man for the work of Dominion.

The Dominion Mandate is a reflection of the responsibility and privilege that belong to man by virtue of his being made in the image of God. The means for accomplishing the Mandate is the image, for without the image man could not fulfill the Mandate. Dominion is possible because of the image, for the Mandate is anchored in the image.

Since man is to rule over creation, he must be endowed with what is needed in order to exercise this responsibility. In this sense man is like God—he has been given that which is needed for him to rule. And the rule over creation is reflective of God’s rule over all the universe; therefore, man must be like God in order to rule like God. He must be endowed with the qualities necessary to implement this right and obligation to have dominion, which is really a sovereignty over the rest of creation. Dominion is a responsibility given to man in light of his being made in the image of God, but it is not what constitutes the image.

Compositionally God made man to be His image in order that man might be equipped to rule as God’s representative over the earth.

Should not the image be understood as the wherewithal to rule, the ability to exercise dominion, which is an exercise of sovereignty? The question is not intended to convey the idea that the image is functional rather than substantive;; the image is substantive, with the substantive being what it is so that man will be capable of fulfilling the proper function given to him. The substantive is the base for the functional; the image is the foundation for the dominion.

Dominion is the function of the image,
rather than being the definition of the image.

Man is what he is—the image—
so he can do what he must do—rule.

Not only does the image provide man with the ability to rule, but it establishes man with the position from which to rule. The psalmist writes of man: “For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet” (8:5-6). The Hebrew for “angels” is “Elohim”; therefore, some interpret the text to be affirming that man is made just a little lower than God. Whether beneath angels or beneath God, man has been given an exalted position of “glory and honor”; and it is in and from this position that God has “made him to have dominion.”

Because of the image and because of the exalted position, man has authority; and “This investiture of authority gives him a likeness to God, the Supreme Ruler” (J. L. Dagg, Manual of Theology, 143). In his nature (“image”), in his position (“glory and honor”), and in his authority, man is like God who is the absolute Sovereign over heaven and earth, and time and eternity. As man exercises his sovereignty, he is like God in many respects and is also accountable to the One who made him like Him.

To be able to exercise the Dominion, man was created mature, both intellectually and physically. Those qualities necessary for Adam to meet the requirement of Dominion were given to him and those qualities constitute the image; and the image is the man. Understanding of the image is not gained by being able to number or to specify the qualities, rather man as constituted is what is necessary to exercise Dominion. The image is not something man has that qualifies him, but man as he is, is gifted to rule.

Man, being the image of God, is capable of Dominion.
In this sense man mirrors God
and exercises a sovereignty
that is reflective of and subservient to God’s Sovereignty.

In relationship to creation the image distinguishes man from the rest of creation, revealing the one capable of rule over creation. Aspects of the image may be found in those characteristics or qualities that distinguish man from the animals, and these distinguishing qualities must contribute to that which constitutes the image of God in man. Man possesses these qualities that no other part of creation possesses, qualities that equip him for the dominion over all of creation.

Adam was created with the ability to rule, to exercise sovereignty over creation, with a sovereignty like that of God—as God is to the universe, in a similar manner man is to the earth. Man is God’s vice-regent. Reflection of what man is does give emphasis to the distinctiveness of man that qualifies him to exercise sovereignty over creation; aspects of the image would include but not be limited to:

* self-consciousness or self-awareness (knowledge of personal being or existence);

* moral awareness (a sense of ought; capable of ethical judgments);

* rational judgment (logic, analytical reasoning, intuitive grasp of consequences); man is a thinking being; he can reflect on ideas, critique and judge them;

* conceptual understanding of reality (a grasp of universals by which to interpret the particulars)—the point is that man was not born with a blank slate, but from the beginning was capable of rule; he has innate knowledge;

* compassion (care for the creation which would mean proper use of creation and not abuse of creation);

* purpose (an understanding that there is meaning and significance to life, which leads to the doing in life of that which is one’s duty);

* responsibility (an innate awareness that one is accountable for the deeds done);

* communicability (ability to converse with others like the communication between the Persons of the Godhead; potential for fellowship);

* creativity (not in the sense of God at Creation, but in the sense of planning and producing some new thing; initiative);

* volition (decision making capability; the exercise of the intellect).

A final observation regarding the nature of the image needs to be made. The image is universal, all men have it; and it is equal or the same in all men, regardless of race or sex. It comes to all as a gift, for it cannot be humanly obtained, lost, nor destroyed. To be man is to be the image.

But as seen in another article, the image has been greatly impaired or defaced by sin; that is, the rule by man is a sinful rule because man has become sinful man (see: Status of the Image).

Return to: Dominion Mandate; Next Article: Difficulty of the Mandate

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