Saving the world by subduing it

Right now I’m prepping for teaching two blocks of grade 10 business at a Christian school in September by reading an ethics book called Beyond Integrity by Biola philosopher Scott Rae. I was surprised to find Rae favorably quoting Peter Leithart in the chapter on environmental stewardship. Leithart sounds much like Stephen Weinberg did in an article entitled, “Five and a half utopias” from the Atlantic.


“More precisely, in God’s wisdom, man best guards the world precisely by subduing it … Wild animals become safe and serviceable only after they are made submissive to human rule. Land becomes more productive under human care. Art and architecture are possible only becuase of human effort to transform the material of creation. Subduing the earth brings safety, prosperity and beauty. As the earth is subdued, it becomes something worth guarding; it becomes a sanctuary. By contrast, should man fail to exercise this royal mandate, the world will be less productive, safe and beautiful. This pattern implies a very different perspective from that of contemporary environmentalism. Instead of guarding the pristine creation, humanity is called to guard the world once it has been subdued to human rule, once it has been transformed into something like a sancturary. Man guards the garden and the city, not the wilderness.” Peter Leithart, “Snakes in the Garden: Sanctuaries, Sanctuary Pollution and the Global Environment,” Stewardship Journal (Fall 1993): 24 – 32.

Profound as always.