CHAPTER 5: The Purpose of Life in the Natural World
This chapter treats the purpose for human life in relation to the
natural world. The religions give a two-fold teaching, for the human
being is both a part of nature and yet qualitatively distinct as the
highest and central entity in nature. One the one hand, since every
creature has its value and purpose in the cosmos, scriptures teach an
ethic of reverence for all life and stewardship of the environment. On
the other hand, the scriptures teach, in various ways, that the human
being is the crown of creation. The human is the microcosm of the cosmos,
encompassing all things. He or she is uniquely in God's image and able to
realize divinity. Hence humans are given the commission to take dominion
over the things of creation. But this right of dominion should not be
misunderstood as sanctioning domination, but rather in the sense of
contributing to and enhancing the harmony and beauty of the natural world.
When human beings are firmly at one with Absolute Reality, they emit a
luster and a spiritual fragrance that perfects their environment.
We begin with a collection of teachings on the value of every
creature, on the sanctity of the natural world, and on the earth as the
great source of life. The second section brings together passages on the
ethic of reverence for life and stewardship for the environment. The third
section contains passages which describe the human being as the microcosm,
encompassing in his or her being the totality of the earth and its
creatures. In the fourth section are texts commissioning humans to take
dominion over the earth and to rule the earth as God's 'vicegerent.'
This right to rule is founded upon the unique position and qualification
of human beings as manifestations of Ultimate Reality, endowed with divine
creativity. In the fifth section are teachings on the lordship of human
beings extending over the spiritual realms as well. The final group of
passages describes the highest union of nature's inherent beauty and power
with human creativity and love, when the creation is sanctified by ideal
humanity and will 'obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.'