Cultural mandate

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Gott erschafft den Weltkreis by Rudolf von Ems

The cultural mandate or creation mandate is the divine injunction found in Genesis 1:28, in which God (YHWH), after having created the world and all in it, ascribes to humankind the tasks of filling, subduing, and ruling over the earth.

Biblical text[edit]

The text of Genesis 1:28, as specified in the King James translation, states:

Version Text
Original Hebrew ויברך אתם אלהים ויאמר להם אלהים פרו ורבו ומלאו את־הארץ וכבשה ורדו בדגת הים ובעוף השמים ובכל־חיה הרמשת על־הארץ
Wayəḇāreḵ ’ōṯām ’ĕlōhîm, wayyō’mer lāhem ’ĕlōhîm, "Pərû, ûrəḇû, ûmilə’û ’eṯ-hā’āreṣ, wəḵiḇəšuhā; ûrəḏû biḏəg̱aṯ hayyām, ûḇə‘ôp̱ haššāmayim, ûḇəḵāl-ḥayyāh hārōmeśeṯ ‘al-hā’āreṣ."
King James Bible And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
New International Version God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
New Living Translation Then God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground."

Common grace[edit]

The cultural mandate is a mandate common to all humanity rather than limited to religious peoples, and thereby does not necessarily envision the legislation of such religious ordinances as Sabbath attendance or blue laws, but rather, presumes the idea of public law from the perspective of common grace. Those who advocate it have typically assumed that there are principles established by God which underlie all human society, that apply to all people and not only Christians, but which Christians are to apply in the modern context within a biblical framework. Within that framework, contemporary society is subjected to a Christian analysis under the assumption of Christian faith that all created things, including all people and their institutions, are subject as servants to the same God, although not all have Christian faith. The cultural mandate further assumes that Christian justice demands that the lives of non-Christians must be watched over and their welfare protected, regardless of unbelief, because every person is made in the image of God.

Principled pluralism[edit]

While the cultural mandate looks to the Bible as its guide to gain insight into the general principles of social structure and public justice, most proponents of this view do not typically appeal to Scripture for authority in public discourse, but accept that the pluralistic modern State has developed according to the providence of God, and would argue according to this given state of affairs as interpreted by biblical reasoning. Within the Christian community itself, preliminary work is required to explain exactly how Christian faith applies in its own terms, and to develop the terms by which this Christian understanding may be communicated to a diverse culture. For example, the public agenda for the criminalization of murder would not usually begin and end with the Bible, but might take the form of arguing that murder violates what society calls a "self-evident right to life" that all men deserve, and murder contradicts the widely accepted pragmatic consideration that it is in one's own interest not to harm one another or society - for, although such moral reasoning comes short of a Christian rationale, it may be deemed compatible in practical terms with Christian aims. The neo-Calvinist approach is sometimes called "principled pluralism", because it seeks to find biblical principles of justice that apply without preference for one professed faith over another, in a diverse society.

Compared to "Dominion mandate"[edit]

The cultural mandate is fundamental to the theocratic ideal of Dominionism and Christian Reconstructionism (where it is often called "the dominion mandate"), but it does not by itself imply that ideal. Christian Reconstructionism seeks to establish Old Testament law as modern civil law; but the cultural mandate, per se, seeks only to discover the biblical principles which relate to the human stewardship of the earth, and of society including civil law. The connection is even more remote, between this theological motive and those who see themselves as "creating God's kingdom on earth now," as Kingdom Now theology seeks to do. Unlike Kingdom Now theology, the cultural mandate does not try to establish the kingdom of God on this earth, but rather presents a holistic, biblical world view that proponents believe lead to liberty and happiness.

The cultural mandate is most elaborately developed in the West by Neo-Calvinism, which explores the implications for modern, pluralistic society, of this Calvinistic assertion. Although this concept is fundamental to theonomy ((the rule of) the law of God), the Theonomy movement is a distinct and minority branch of this Christian approach to the structures of society and moral philosophy. Theonomy is distinctive, for example, in that while it affirms common grace,[1] it denies that biblical principles are compatible with pluralism.[2]


The cultural mandate is associated with neo-Calvinism and Christian Democracy, and thus, with the ideas of Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch Calvinist minister, who wrote in The Stone Lectures of 1898:

That in spite of all worldly opposition, God's holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school and in the State for the good of the people; to carve as it were into the conscience of the nation the ordinances of the Lord, to which Bible and Creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to him.

Modern proponents[edit]

Popularized versions of the cultural mandate idea have been promoted by Chuck Colson, Nancy Pearcey, and the late Christian philosopher, Francis Schaeffer.

In Asia, one of the most notable teachers of the cultural mandate is Stephen Tong, who has designed the first concert hall in Indonesia, Aula Simfonia Jakarta (, and established Reformed Centre for Religion and Society (


The cultural or dominion mandate in Genesis to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" is prefigurement to other mandates in the Bible. In the Bible it says Noah received a commission to "be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth" (Genesis 9:1). The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is an analogous mandate: "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them...teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gary North, Dominion & Common Grace: The Biblical Basis of Progress. Tyler, TX: Dominion Press., 1987
  2. ^ Smith, Gary Scott, ed. God and Politics: Four Views on the Reformation of Civil Government — Theonomy, Principled Plurlaism, Christian America, National Confessionalism. Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1989, ISBN 0-87552-448-6

Further reading[edit]

  • The Bible and the Future; by Anthony A. Hoekema
  • Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity; by Nancy Pearcey
  • Liberating the Nations: Biblical Principles of Government, Education, Economics and Politics; by Mark Beliles
  • Culture Making; by Andy Crouch
  • Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission; by David J. Bosch
  • Missional God, Missional Church: Hope for Re-evangelizing the West; by Ross Hastings

External links[edit]