What is a Christian’s purpose on this earth? Many one-phrase answers could be given such as: to glorify God, to make disciples, or to love God and love neighbor. While each of these is true, an aspect of a Christian’s purpose on earth is often neglected: the cultural mandate. The cultural mandate, also known as the dominion mandate or the creation mandate, is a theological concept derived from the early chapters of the Bible, specifically Genesis 1:26-28:
"Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God, he created them; 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 in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'"
The cultural mandate can be summarized as follows: God created humanity in His image and gave them the responsibility to rule over and care for His creation alongside and on behalf of Him. This mandate extends beyond the natural environment and includes the cultivation of culture, arts, sciences, technology, and social structures.
Understanding the Cultural Mandate
Embracing the cultural mandate is not an option but a vital calling for all believers to fulfill their God-given purpose and contribute to the flourishing of God's creation.
There are five different aspects to this cultural mandate.
1. God's Blessing
The cultural mandate begins with God's blessing upon humanity. It underscores that God's intentions for humans are good, filled with purpose and favor. The divine blessing empowers humans to carry out their responsibilities with confidence, knowing that they are working in alignment with God's plan. Fulfilling this mandate can only be downstream from His powerful blessing.
2. Fruitfulness and Multiplication
Being fruitful and multiplying refers not only to physical procreation but also to the cultivation of human potential and creativity. This aspect of the mandate calls believers to use their God-given gifts, talents, and resources to bring about flourishing in various aspects of life, from personal growth to societal development.
3. Filling the Earth
Filling the earth involves not only population growth but also geographical exploration and cultivation. It encourages humans to spread across the globe, establishing diverse communities that can enrich humanity.
4. Subduing the Earth
The word "subdue" can be misunderstood as domination or exploitation, but it primarily conveys the idea of responsible stewardship. Humans are called to exercise wise and caring dominion over creation, taking care of the natural world and ensuring its sustainable use for future generations.
5. Ruling Over Living Things
This part of the mandate emphasizes the human responsibility to care for and protect all living creatures. It establishes a call to show compassion, respect, and kindness towards animals and the environment.
This mandate is not in conflict with the Great Commission, it is simply different. Both commandments are from God to bring Him glory. Embracing this mandate means recognizing the interconnectedness of faith, culture, and the environment. Caring for God's creation, cultivating the arts and culture, engaging in education and science, and being salt and light in the world are all integral aspects of fulfilling the cultural mandate.