Does the “Cultural Mandate” in Gen 1:26-28 help the postmillennial argument? Or is it “forced” evidence? One PMT reader commented to my “How You Became a Postmillennialist” article (PMT-2014-075) by expressing doubt that this has anything to do with the postmillennial hope. So I ask: Does this passage speak to the postmillennial program? I believe it does. And powerfully so.
My reader noted that the Mandate in Gen 1 was given to Adam “even before there are cultures and sin” and that it was given to “the first ‘man’ to be the chief or to have dominion over the ‘lower’ creation, God is simply stating no more nor less than the plan fact that man, as the top of the creation chain made in his image, has been given dominion over the earth and everything in it.” He goes on to argue that this text does “not say it’s ‘Christian’s’ dominating other man/unbelievers, politics or culture, but Man having dominion over creation. Unless we have an agenda where we want to force the clear plain reading of the scripture to our views.”
I appreciate his interest in sound exegetical arguments, and I understand his confusion on this argument. He apparently has not read postmillennial explanations of this passage beyond brief proof-texts for postmillennialism. Let me explain how this passage is valuable to the postmillennial enterprise.
The Mandate and Man’s Fall
It is true that this Mandate was given prior to man’s Fall into sin and that it involved man’s “rule” over the animal kingdom. However, we must ask: Does it apply even after the Fall? And also: How is that rule over the animal kingdom to come to pass?
I would quickly note that the Mandate does continue after the Fall. We see it re-issued in Gen 9:1–5, with slight alterations. There Noah is re-commanded to be fruitful and multiply, as was Adam. And that “the fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth” (Gen 9:1–2). This powerful asserts man’s dominance (rule) over the animal kingdom.
We see this re-stated again in Psalm 8:5—8: “What is man that You take thought of him, / And the son of man that You care for him? / Yet You have made him a little lower than God, / And You crown him with glory and majesty! / You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; / You have put all things under his feet, / All sheep and oxen, / And also the beasts of the field, / The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, / Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.”
Thus, clearly the Cultural Mandate is not withdrawn at the Fall. Man still remains God’s image (Gen 9:6b; 1 Cor 11:7).
The Mandate and Man’s Mission
We also must analyze the Mandate in terms of its contextual setting. We may surmise the culture-wide significance of the Mandate as we consider its original issuance. God was speaking to Adam and Eve as two individuals and one family. He is commanding them to bring all of creation under their authority: “God blessed them [these two people]; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth [obviously be generating other people through reproduction], and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth [which involves the whole earth].”
Simply put: the rule of the whole earth could not be accomplished by Adam and Eve alone. The task is to big. But the task is not to be pursued by Adam and Eve alone: they are to reproduce and fill the earth, creating great numbers of offspring.
Greatness of the Great Commission (by Ken Gentry)
An insightful analysis of the full implications of the great commission.
Provides helpful inter-linking between the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
We can see the cultural-building implications of this Mandate reflected in Gen 4. There we find very early man (which Adam is still alive) building human culture: Cain’s son Enoch “built a city [Heb.: yir]” (Gen 4:17). A “city” is an organized settlement of people in a community (e.g., Gen 10:12; 11:4; 18:24; etc.). Such cities require communal operations which develop human culture.
An important part of the advance of human culture involves exercising dominion over the animals. For instance, early man in Adam’s time engaged in sheep herding (Gen 4:2), raising livestock (Gen 4:20) and so forth. As we know, this raising of sheep and livestock will lead to food production, trade, the division of labor, and so forth. So exercising dominion over the animals will be more efficiently done by man working in concert together, i.e., developing human culture.
In fact, we see that culture-building also in early man’s making tents (Gen 4:20), creating music and making musical instrument (Gen 4:21), and working with “all implements of bronze and iron” (Gen 4:22). All of this requires co-operation: not everyone can mine their own ore, create their own musical instruments, raise all of their own food, and so forth. This requires cooperative effort, which is the very definition of building culture. Indeed, “it is not good that man should be alone” (Gen 2:18), which is implied in the Cultural Mandate requiring that man multiply (Gen 1:26, 28).
In addition, my reader cites Gen 9:1–5. This is not only a re-issue of the Cultural Mandate but necessarily entails social and cultural co-operation. The very text itself warns man of killing men: the warning threatens capital punishment against murderers (Gen 9:6). This results from criminal proceedings operating in a social environment under law.
The Mandate and God’s Goal
The Cultural Mandate did not arise as an aspect of man’s rebellion against God. Indeed, it was issued directly by God at man’s very creation. And though man has fallen and corrupts the Mandate, it still remains as God’s calling. And God intends for man to do it to his glory, which by definition means under Christian influence and principle.
Standard Bearer: Festschrift for Greg Bahnsen
Ed. by Steve Schlissel
Includes two chapters by Gentry on Revelation and theonomy.
Speaks to the cultural implications of Christianity.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
If the Mandate is to be properly and fully engaged, it must be done by true believers in God. It therefore comports beautifully with the postmillennial enterprise.
What implications do you see for postmillennialism in the Cultural Mandate? Have you considered how this passage is helpful to promoting the postmillennial hope? I would