Words shape worlds. When Noah, his family and all the animals step off the boat that saved them from a flood God makes a covenant with all of them (even the animals) in which he gives them all rules about how to interact. What we found interesting is that both animals and humans had been given the same initial instructions at creation with the words “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen. 9:1). This suggests that those same words were the initial command of a covenant with all of humanity right from our origin.
The animals had already been “ordered” to fill up the earth, sea and sky with almost the exact same words in Gen. 1:22-23. Whatever the idea of human “dominion” over the creatures was supposed to entail, it is clear that humans and animals were both intended to multiply and prosper together. The sad fact that we are killing entire species daily is a grim testimony that something has gone horribly wrong with God’s intent.
What all of this suggests is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is about more than just personal sin, repentance, forgiveness and salvation. It is literally also about saving the world. Jesus comes to restore the entire created order to its original purpose (not just its original state). We are told that the time Jesus comes again is intended both for rewarding his servants and “for destroying those who destroy the earth” (Rev. 11:18 Emphasis mine).
For Christians to interpret the command to “have dominion” as a license to destroy creatures at our whim is to grossly misrepresent his will. And it might just come back to bite us. Jesus came to restore not only a right relationship between human and God and human and human but also between human and other creature.
Sure, we need to start by making sure the “new heavens and new earth” (Rev. 21-21) are populated by redeemed human beings. But wouldn’t it be a step forward to treat the other life on our planet as worthy of our time and effort to save from extinction, too? Why should we let our atheist and pantheist friends have all the fun?