Dominion and Technology
RIGHT at the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis, we read of God granting man ``dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." This is a triumphant promise. Superficially, however, this promise of man's God-given dominion might seem to relate only to authority in a time when man's dealings were exclusively with nature. To many it might seem that the challenges that scientific progress has brought aren't covered by this Bible truth.
As I have studied the Bible in the light of Christian Science, I have come to learn that the whole opening chapter of the Bible is really a statement of God's eternal view of the true, spiritual universe, a universe that includes perfect man created in God's own image and likeness--created spiritual, not material. The dominion that man is recorded as having is an eternal and enduring quality of our true, spiritual identity. It is a pure expression of the divine creator's own control over His infinite cre ation.
To the degree that we prayerfully understand our spiritual selfhood, we demonstrate our dominion in our daily lives. Then we increasingly discern that dominion is not limited to some aspects of our lives and absent in others, but is applicable to all circumstances. And we can increasingly see this understanding take form in a very practical command over inventions in our experience.
I found this out a few years ago when I was asked for the first time to input data onto a large computer system. A little way into the work, the system quit working. My superior was very concerned that we wouldn't make the deadline if they couldn't get the system up and running. She also feared that all the data already input would be lost. Since I had no expertise to offer as she tried to fix things, I decided to leave and take a walk in the park, where I could pray.
As I prayed, a Bible passage that had caught my attention that morning came back to me. In the Bible the book of Isaiah reports that God said, ``I will work, and who shall let it?" In this verse, let is an old-fashioned way of saying ``hinder" or ``obstruct." So that morning I had understood the passage as showing that God's action cannot be obstructed.
Suddenly I saw that since God is truly the only animating force of all being, everything that genuinely ``works" at some time must work at all times--because there could be no interruption of His working. Just because I was dealing with a technological device--one that seemed intricate and beyond my knowledge of its operation--that didn't mean it was outside the authority of God's law and man's dominion. I saw that it didn't matter what had caused the computer to stop. What mattered was that in reality t he ideas I needed to complete my task couldn't be prevented from working.
Full of joy and conviction, I raced back to the computer room to go back to work. The machine was up and running, and all the data already input had been retained. I asked the superior who had been attending to it, ``How did you manage to get it going?" ``I don't know," she said, ``it just suddenly started up again a few minutes ago." Her words seemed to be a confirmation that when the prayerful sense of man's God-given dominion had become clear to me, the difficulty had been overcome.
The spiritual dominion that man has is necessarily applicable to all situations and circumstances. The Christ--the genuine godliness illustrated so clearly in Jesus' life--gives man this dominion. No one has ever demonstrated the Christ and man's consequent dominion more completely than the Master. Though we can't point to an example of how Christ Jesus would have dealt with technological devices, we can gratefully learn from his example of maintaining a steadfast assurance that God gave him the capacity
to cope with all that came to him.
There is always a divine solution to whatever novel difficulty our modern era may turn up! The unaltering need is for us to turn to God in prayer, expecting an inspired response to come to light for each difficulty that arises. In proportion to our conviction that nothing is beyond the dominion that we each individually have as the ideas of the all-intelligent divine Mind, God, there will be practical answers.
In an interview with a newspaper, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, was quizzed about her views on ``the pursuit of modern material inventions." Her reply is recorded in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany. She said: ``Oh, we cannot oppose them. They all tend to newer, finer, more etherealized ways of living. They seek the finer essences. They light the way to the Church of Christ. We use them, we make them our figures of speech. They are preparing the wa y for us."
I've always felt this response embodies a confidence in humanity's ability to use modern material inventions wisely for the common good while never losing sight of the secondary place that pioneering technology has as a useful tool, rather than as a goal in itself. Such an assessment of humanity's relationship to technology removes unnecessary fears of what the future will bring. Such a sense of dominion also quietly aids the development of the ethics that society needs in order to regulate rightly all o f humankind's progressive steps. The key to both individual and collective freedom from the fear of technology is the truth of man's dominion.
This dominion is an unchanging gift from God to each of us, tailor-made to cover all eventualities, past, present, and pending--natural and technological!