My current reading project is G. K. Beale’s The Temple and the Mission of the Church.
As the title suggests, Beale sees a link between the concept of the temple or sanctuary and the concept of mission.
He has laid the groundwork for this by saying that the Garden of Eden was the original sanctuary and that Adam’s role was that of a priest. Now he says that the command to Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” and “subdue the earth” was a command to expand the sanctuary. The role of king and priest are one. So Adam and Eve become “vice-regents” with God in exercising dominion over creation.
God’s purpose was to make the earth habitable (Isaiah 45:18 and Psalm 115:15-16). So God wants to show his greatness throughout the earth by means of “his faithful image-bearers inhabiting the world in obedience to the divine mandate.”
This gives a religious and even priestly meaning to what we usually think of as secular activities such as farming, building cities, and raising children.
Egyptian and Assyrian myths have the gods tired of working to provide for themselves, so they create people to serve and feed them. In the Bible, though, God creates people to extend his glory throughout the world.
Ancient kings, when they conquered new territory, often built temples and put images of themselves in the temples to show their sovereignty over the new territory. Beale thinks Genesis pictures humans as in the “image of God” because by inhabiting the earth they extend God’s temple and sovereignty everywhere.
Putting the two creation narratives (the one about creation in seven days and the one about the Garden of Eden) together, Beale says,
“. . .Adam’s kingly and priestly activity in the garden was a beginning fulfillment of 1:28 and was not to be limited to the garden’s original earthly boundaries but was to be extended over the whole world.”
Adam’s activity in naming the animals and the couple’s activity as male and female becoming one flesh in their children and increasing population by the replicating of such couples throughout the world are activities that widen the borders of the garden sanctuary to include more and more of the world.
Beale is apparently drawing most of this from two books by John Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One and The Lost World of Adam and Eve. I have only read reviews of these books. They are part of an admirable effort to get evangelicals to rethink their often too wooden interpretation of Genesis. However, it seems to me that the approach, which puts together bits and pieces from different parts of scripture, still holds close to a kind of proof-texting that suppresses the different and contrasting voices we find in scripture.
Perhaps Beale views the whole Hebrew scripture through the lens of Psalm 8, the passage that he appeals to at the end of his discussion of the mission of Adam and Eve. It begins and ends by singing “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (vs. 1 and 9 NET Bible). The spreading of God’s majesty though “all the earth” is what it is all about.
I had a thought that goes beyond what Beale talks about. Psalm 8 does not just mention the earth; it also talks about the moon and the stars. Could we see manned space flight as part of the ultimate purpose of God? I would like to think so.
I have been a fan of space flight since reading juvenile sci/fi novels. As a farm kid, I tried to launch my own rockets. I had some stuff that Homeland Security would take an interest in nowadays. I have followed the Mercury program, the Apollo moon landing 47 years ago this month (shortly after I got married–the summer of ‘69), and the Space Shuttle successes and disasters. Currently I live-stream almost every one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX launches.
So I am not neutral. I would really like to think that God wants us to take his image out there. However, I doubt the Bible was really promoting space flight. (I imagine that with the emphasis many put upon the Fall and the corruption of humanity, space travel would be thought of as spreading a curse.)