Dominionism with Dr. Norman Wirzba

Dominionism with Dr. Norman Wirzba

Dr. Norman Wirzba, Professor of Christian Theology / Senior Fellow at Duke Divinity School and celebrated author of, "This Sacred Life," talks about the agrarian context in which Genesis 1:26 was written, and how that changes everything.
This is the keynote interview for AllCreation's Spring 2022 edition, "Dominionism: Exploring religious relationships with other life," guest edited by Rev. Dr. Dan De Leon. Dan speaks here with Dr. Norman Wirzba about Genesis 1:26, the context it was written in, and how knowing all that changes the modern Christian perspective. 

"And God said, 'Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.'" (Genesis 1:26)

About Dr. Wirzba
Dr. Norman Wirzba
is the Gilbert T. Rowe Distinguished Professor of Christian Theology and Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke Divinity School. Dr. Wirzba’s research and teaching interests are at the intersections of theology, philosophy, ecology, and agrarian and environmental studies. He lectures frequently in Canada, the United States, and Europe. His research is centered on a recovery of the doctrine of creation and a restatement of humanity in terms of its creaturely life. He is currently the director of a multi-year, projected entitled “Facing the Anthropocene” where he works with an international team of scholars to rethink several academic disciplines in light of challenges like climate change, food insecurity, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, species extinction, and the built environment. Visit for more.

Written Works

  • 00:02 Dan's Intro
  •  01:57 Welcome Dr. Wirzba
  • 02:37 Dr. Wirzba self-introduction, "It doesn't seem there could be a more important conversation than how to live together..."
  • 08:50 Scripture conversation begins -- Genesis I: "I give you Dominion"
  • 16:45 Understanding the context of the language is very helpful; some biblical metaphors can now be made literal 
  • 20:20 "God created us for Intimacy with the Land”
  • 28:00 Distinction between idolatry and iconic perception
  • 34:55 Repositioning of our perspective; What is “Nature” and what is “Creation”
  • 42:40 “The Gospel being for all creatures”
  • 44:40 “Jesus as creator” 
  • 51:25 "How to pray", re: The Lord’s Prayer and “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven”. You write that in order to make that real we must restore relationships with the actual land on which people live… To make this sacred prayer realized, what are some practical ways we can restore relationships with the actual land on which we live?
  • 56:00 re: Awakening & Connecting to other Life, Metanoia: a change of heart and direction, and Purification: giving one another the ability to see God’s creatures -- I hear that in you saying we need to have time for Metanoia. "What was your metanoia?"


It doesn’t seem that there could be a more important question than to figure out how to live well, in our places, with each other.

How can we do this to our world? How can we be damaging it so badly?

Scripture assumes a God who loves the world… And the question for me is: how can we say we worship a God who loves the world but not give our love to the world at the same time?

These are Agrarian people.

As a farm kid, the first thing you know is that… you don’t ever presume to do with your land or your animals whatever you want… You know that as a farmer you are only successful in so far as your animals are healthy and your land, your soil, is fertile. Which means that good farmers are always very attentive to the needs of the land, to the needs of plants, to the needs of their animals… It’s the realization that you can’t possibly succeed if the world that feeds you does not do well at the same time.

Subduing means learning to come alongside fellow creatures so that in taking care of their needs you also take care of your own.

We are all together sharers in this divine breath that animates Ground into the diversity of Creatures that we see.

God understands that apart from soil, plant, and animal life, we can’t possibly survive, we can’t possibly thrive, and we can’t possibly be happy.

The first creatures that are presented to “the Adám,” as someone to help them in their loneliness, are animals.

Let’s go to the second creation story. We forget about the Garden. The image you get there is the first human being, Adam, being animated out of soil. God is the first gardener.

We are
made to feel connection with soil, plants, animals, and people, because those are all the places where God is active.

Scripture affirms a position in which God is present to creatures all of the time, desiring for them to live into the fullness of their lives.

It doesn’t make sense to talk about human flourishing if everything (humans) need, in the form of water, and air, and food, if it doesn’t flourish at the same time.

All things came into being through His word.

When you’re living the life God wants you to, animated by this loving power, there is no better life.

I think the first thing to do is for people just to get outside, and: Notice. Look. Pay Attention. Smell. Feel. Touch. Grieve.

The thing to start is just to try to calm down and center yourself in your neighborhood.

Children can be our teachers, too. 


Thanks for listening.
This podcast is part of our Spring 2022 series, Dominionism.
Visit the AllCreation podcast site or for more.
Produced and edited by Chris Searles.
See the whole "Dominionism" collection here.

@BioIntegrity Partnerships