Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Wednesday, 19 July 2017


By Jim Jordal

 God said, "Let us make man in our image, and let him have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over everything that lives on the earth” God blessed them and said to them, “multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over every living thing that moves on the earth." And God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it, and to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to your wife's voice, and have eaten of the forbidden fruit, cursed is the ground for your sake. In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Thorns also and thistles will it bring forth to you. By the sweat of your face will you eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken, for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."     Selected and paraphrased from Genesis 1-3.

So the beautiful story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden contains seeds of conflict that have spread from what seem to be minor differences in how the Garden was used to massive obstacles to human welfare and even survival today.

Humans were allowed dominion over the creation for a reason---that it be “dressed” and kept in a sustainable manner. Sustainability thus becomes a major value of human resource use---as it still is in primitive societies.

But somewhere along the way we replaced the concept of sustainability with one of absolute dominion and domination over every aspect of the earth, from its flora and fauna to its minerals, air, water, magnetic fields, and especially its vulnerable people.

It seems to be the advent of capitalism during the later middle ages that let the genie out of the bottle. Capitalism is not inherently evil, but due to its emphasis on growth and free enterprise-driven profit-making it offers openings for opportunists more interested in profits than in human welfare. Capitalism gives its blessings to those who accumulate capital. Unfortunately the ability to gather great sums of capital opens doors to literally buy government protection from fair taxation for that capital---allowing it to multiply even further. That’s how venture capitalists got the bulk of their earnings to be taxed, not as regular income, but at a much lower rate as capital gains .The evidence of these warped values we see on every hand as massive global corporations pursue policies that are unconcerned with sustainability, only productivity at all environmental and social costs. People no longer matter---just profits. But people matter to God, and hence the age-long struggle between people’s rights and corporate profits.

 Deceased economist Milton Friedman introduced the idea of profit-making as a corporate fiduciary duty in a 197 0 speech declaring “the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.” The idea then was popularized by Chambers of Commerce and business schools as the fiduciary duty of corporate officers, even though it still does not exist in law. In the Hobby Lobby case of 2014, the United States Supreme Court said that “Modern corporate law does not require for-profit corporations to pursue profits at the expense of everything else.”

Had the descendants of Adam and Eve thoroughly understood and applied the commands of God relative to sustainable use of the creation, things might have developed differently. In their 2012 book “Why Nations Fail” MIT economist Daron Acemoglu and Harvard political scientist and economist James A. Robinson point out that early decisions made by leaders reverberate and are magnified as generations pass. Nations founded on extraction of wealth from the people by their leaders tend later to fail as the products of capitalistic development transfer to the wealthy and powerful. The opposite is true concerning nations based upon inclusion of their people in the benefits of capitalism---they tend to become more successful over time. The vastly different political, social, and economic conditions now existing in the two Korean nations offer perhaps the most vivid example of this interplay of forces.

God offered us the opportunity to create a world healthy for humans and protective of nature, but as usual human hubris won out for the time-being. Had we followed the balanced “use but nurture” plan devised by God we could now be in a virtual Eden. But no, we can’t accept it God’s way, so we muddle along in conflict and violence. Yes, the systems of this world are truly being shaken as a result of our arrogance and stupidity. But God will persevere, as he has promised.