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!


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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  • 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.

  • 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…