Is the Earth Intrinsically Valuable or Simply a Resource? Quote to Ponder: Christopher J.H. Wright (repost)

This is a post that I wrote last year that I feel has some relevance today.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this one!

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Over the past months I have been doing some reflection on how Christians have understood the value of the planet and the rest of creation. As I have wrestled with this, Christopher J.H. Wright’s book, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative, engaged this even further. The fresh insight that I received came with understanding that creation care can be Christian mission all on its own, and need not be driven by a human need. For instance, it is often discussed that if we do not do something to prevent global destruction on nature, that future generations will not have a suitable environment to call home. This is a fine motivation to serve the planet, but should not be the primary reason to work for ecology from the perspective of the narrative of God. Rather, ecology is our “first missionary commission” (415). Serving the planet is part of joining the mission of God!

Depending on the tradition in which you grew up, this may be a new and possibly ‘heretical’ thing to say. If what I said above un-nerves you a bit, it is probably because of the view of creation that you grew up with. It seems that we often have been taught that the earth doesn’t have intrinsic value, but rather is a resource that is going to be consumed and destroyed; and the only creation with value is the human family. Consider the following images I threw together that illustrate where creation gets its value:

Wright expresses that the earth must have intrinsic value:

“So the earth has intrinsic value—that is to say, it is valued by God, who is the source of all value. God values the earth because he made it and owns it. It is not enough merely to say that the earth is valuable to us. On the contrary, our own value as human beings begins from the fact that we ourselves are part of the whole creation that God already values and declares to be good…we take our value from the creation of which we are part, not vice versa. The earth does not derive its value from us but from its Creator. Accordingly, we need to be careful to locate an ecological dimension of mission not primarily in the need-supplying value of the earth to us, but in the glory-giving value of the earth to God.” The Mission of God, 399

What are your thoughts on this issue of value? Does the planet have intrinsic value? If so, what are the implications for mission and the whole of the gospel? If not, what do you disagree with Wright on and why?

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  • http://jude24nlt.wordpress.com Ernie Marton

    Quick response to your question.
    I say intrisically valuable. Dallas Willard says this about redemption. If humans were worthless sinners God never would of come after us. We benefit from redemption because we are valuable. My thoughts on earth follow. Paul tells us creation groans for redemption. It will benefit from redemption why? It’s valuable and not just a resource. Or how’s this. It is part of us. God took dirt and formed mm breathed into him and walla.

  • http://findingmeaningin.blogspot.com/ Tucker

    The Bible describes the non-human world as glorifying and worshiping God, being subject to the fall, and as being redeemed by Christ. It seems to me that God values it highly.

  • Amy Stone

    I think about those deep sea creatures that have luminescent body parts. God didn’t have to give those creatures beauty. Could it be that God enjoys the whole of creation, even the parts that are only distantly related to the experience of human beings? Does God make those look cool just for fun? Maybe so. If so, for whom? God’s the only one who can access them much. (I tend to consider creation an ongoing and progressive act of God)

    I think about the archetypal ecstasy of human procreation. Yes, I’m talking about really good sex. Could it be that God is so rapturously engaged with the act of creation that our best human parallel is only an obscure hint at God’s pleasure? Is this divine creative pleasure for human benefit? Maybe not.

  • Daniel

    I’d suggest that maybe the question of the earth having intrinsic value is one that goes way beyond a simple yes/no answer…

    God made it, and called it “good”, so we cannot treat it like garbage, or simply as fuel to throw into whatever industrial furnace we can devise. But we also must be careful not to elevate all of creation to the same level of value as mankind, which of course is the only part of creation which God made “in our image, in our likeness”…

    The real questions surround the matter of redemption, and eternal destinies… Mankind is redeemed through the cross, but did Jesus die for frogs and rocks microscopic organisms? Was all of creation guilty of Sin before the Creator, or only man? Can the earth be “redeemed” by God simply recreating/restoring it, or are people the only means by which it can be redeemed? Unless these matters are decided upon first, it’s hard to have much in the way of meaningful dialoge…

  • axal gipson

    Well, I almost laughed out loud, when I read this piece on “the intrinsic value of the earth”….well, almost: were it not for the fact that Scripture is very plain about the whole creation being totally corrupted by lawlessness and sin, and therefore it-the earth and the whole universe as well, are beyond redemption… already.

    From the indisputable Genesis 1 account of that corruption, throughout the whole of the Scriptures, from Moses to the Temple in Jerusalem, every place where a man puts his foot, outside the sacred and Holy places, is declared as unholy ground.

    And, I believe this scriptural declaration of the whole earth being unholy ground, has far reaching implications on the teachings of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to this earth for His Bride.

    The failure to understand this “corrupted earth” theology has, I believe, led to so many other unscriptural ideas such as the ‘Let’s save the earth’ GREEN teachings as “the earth’s intrinsic value”, which completely ignores just how sinful, corrupt and unholy is our world, and that being so, has also blinded so many to its greatest of all implications… that Jesus Christ will never put His Holy foot upon this sin-corrupted earth again.
    Nor do they see that Jesus Christ is even now sitting on the “Birthright Throne” in a place between the lower heaven and upper earth called the “Heavenlies” and that He will not be on earth micro-managing His kingdom, but will be delegating His authority to the human leader, “the Prince of Israel”, a scion of David who will serve as Messiah’s leader governmentally during the 1000 year Millennium.
    These are only some of the implications of the Bible’s “corrupted earth” theology.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      Beyond redemption? You read a different bible… That isn’t biblical Christianity.
      I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us. The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters. Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice—it was the choice of the one who subjected it—but in the hope that the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children. We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now. And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? (‭Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭18-24‬ CEB)
      Peace.

      KURT WILLEMS
      http://kurtwillems.com
      http://facebook.com/kurtwillems
      http://twitter.com/kurtwillems

      • axel gipson

        Kurt,

        You said “what Bible are you reading?” Well, I get that a
        lot, especially from Modern Evangelicals, relative strangers to the Old
        Testament writings, which the Bereans consulted to see if what Paul
        said, “be so”.

        Its also why I believe they’re not so conversant
        with its greatest theme: the Kingdom of God. Well, because the so-called
        “Church fathers” that murderer Augustine and company, were virulent
        Jew-hating anti-semites who extensively tampered with such books as
        Revelation( a Jewish Scriptures) to sound more Christian, so that the
        Roman Catholic Church could masquerade as God’s kingdom on Earth.

        Yet
        the four Gospels (of that Kingdom of God-over Israel in the flesh) are
        entirely addressed to Israel, and Jesus said not a single word to the
        then non-existent Church. And He actually sent His disciples to
        preach,”saying the Kingdom of God is at hand” to the lost 10 Tribes,
        saying to them “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the House of
        Israel.”

        Indeed, the only peculiar thing about the Hebrew
        writings, consistently addressed throughout to Israel, is the
        parentheses of the Church epistles addressed to the “Gentiles”, after
        which the Jewish John again picks the old theme of the kingdom of God,
        addressing God’s message entirely to the 144,000 male heads of the
        families, 12000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel returning in the
        2nd Exodus to the Land of their forefathers in the Bible’s last book.
        Just
        as with the Jewish Bereans, I can also consult the Old Testament
        writings, to see whether what Evangelical Christians are teaching be so.

        • axel gipson

          So Kurt,

          Where in the Kingdom of God is there a place for the Church?
          The
          Church is Christ’s Body: His arms, hands, legs, eye, and ears. And in
          the Church Epistles they are told to “Wait for their Lord from heaven” (
          or, the Heavenlies) where they will be joining Him with their new
          Celestial (spiritual )bodies, from which they will be ruling from the
          Heavenlies through their earthly counterparts, the firstfruit of the
          144,000 male heads and the 800,000 or so wives and children of the 12
          tribes of Israel.
          These headed by the 12 Apostles, who receive their
          delegated authority from the deleted King, Christ Jesus, who in turn we
          receive His authority from the actually king, Yahweh.
          And as we can
          see in the Book of Revelation, it is Yahweh Who is coming. But only
          after the Son shall have subjected all human authority to put them under
          His feet. Only then will the Son deliver up the kingdom to God His
          father, so that Yahweh may be ALL in ALL.
          So, what about the Bride of Christ?
          The
          newborn spirits, the 144,000, is “the Bride of Christ”. So that at the
          end of the Millennium, The Lord, Christ Jesus, her glorious husband will
          come back to this earth, but only as far as the lower earth’s
          atmosphere..and as a traditional Jewish husband, will quickly take His
          Bride and swiftly take her back to His father’s House.

      • axel gipson

        Kurt,

        I attempt to give you a bare outline on this enormous
        subject of the Kingdom of God in the Old Testament. A kingdom implies a
        king, law, territory and subjects.

        God’s kingdom is now in Heaven, but shortly will be the Kingdom of heavens.
        We
        see that the Hebrew word for Heavens is shamayim, a dual noun (things
        that come in pairs: eyes, hands, lower Egypt and upper Egypt, ect.,) and
        it speaks of far greater realities. Some have dual ending but without
        dual meaning: Sky, heavens, Jerusalem, Egypt. This implies the subject
        may be divided into two parts.
        Heaven is an entity is divided into two parts, and the earth also divided into two parts.
        Heaven as the stellar realm (outer space) and heaven as the abode of God.
        Cautiously following Paul, we can say there is an “invisible heavenly earth”, as there is a “visible realm of the earth.”
        So that the lower level of heaven overlaps the upper level of earth, in the in-between place Paul called the “Heavenlies”.
        It
        appears that both these realms are required to make this world
        function. The men with positions of authority in the physical world who
        have their counter parts (either good angels or evil angels) in the
        spiritual realm.
        In the Old Testament accounts, Greater Israel can be
        seen as also being divided into two parts: the “house of Judah is the
        “Sceptre realm”, and the “House of Israel” is the “Birthright realm”.
        These too have far greater realities. There are two Thrones: one
        invisible and the other visible
        the “Birthright Throne” in the
        heavenlies, and the “Sceptre Throne” in the palace complex. But the
        Greater reality is that God the Father is the Sceptre God-being and our
        Lord Jesus Christ, His Son, being the firstborn son, receives the
        “Birthright Throne” in the Heavenlies.
        So that God the Father
        delegates His authority to His Son, by birthright, and God’s Son our
        Lord Jesus Christ will during the Millennium be delegating His authority
        to the human leader, the Prince of Israel, who shall rule over the
        whole earth from the Scepter throne in the place complex at Jerusalem.

        This very roughly is what the Old Testament teaches about the Kingdom of God.


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