Comments 5

  1. Great article! This is why I enjoy photographing nature. As a chemist, I see and appreciate God’s hand in the details of chemical reactions and molecular spectra. Photography allows me to see the wonder of God’s handiwork on a larger scale, and specifically as a work of art. It’s not an either-or issue, but a both-and.

  2. Thanks, great piece. Reminds of a quote by G.K. Chesterton that goes something like this: “It might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life… It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.”

  3. Is it really the case that creation is primarily to be enjoyed as art that communicates something about the artist, while its exploitation or use is a secondary activity to be approached with caution and restraint for how it might make creation less enjoyable, or enjoyable to fewer people? I like your image of someone born and raised in an art museum who starts using famous works of art as casual playthings, but the analogy seems less useful for understanding nature as opposed to our under-appreciation of it.

    It seems to me that nature, as a manifold of interconnected, interdependent life, is much more like a busy marketplace than a museum. As a dynamic system enfolding us in a web of relationships with all its members, nature and ecosystems within in are intrinsically valuable because they are our home. They are at the same time useful, but not just for our personal purposes. They have their own business, and in the process of trying to maintain their own health and order on many levels, they do things to and for us that have great value. These “instrumental” values are also “intrinsic” values, and we really cannot make a distinction that separates them. It is the values you call “instrumental” that were blessed as good, given for our sustenance, etc. It is not God’s blessing and covenant that magically confers value to things apart from his will and spirit for them and in them, sustaining them and desiring them for the good of all.

    1. Hi Chad,

      Thanks for your response. I agree that the analogy is most useful for highlighting our under-appreciation of creation. Like all analogies it does break down if applied too broadly. However, I do think that we have to start with an appreciation of and an eye toward Gods purposes for things before we intentionally begin to shape, exploit, use, or even arguably, to study the creation. I believe that the fundamental purpose of all creation is to bring God glory. Our use and development of the creation can certainly be a part of how the creation (including people) can bring God glory. But if we don’t start with the right perspective on the values of things (including ourselves), it will be very difficult to interact with them appropriately.

      I also completely agree that the instrumental and intrinsic value of things are not distinctly separable parts of the creation, but rather separate ways that we can appreciate it or think about it. Ideally as we consider the creation we are viewing these things as part of an interconnected whole. There is a thin line being tread, I am specifically saying that the value of the rest of the creation does not reside in what it can and does do for us. It resides in how it reflects God’s purposes. Certainly our interrelationships and the complexity of the whole system is more than the sum of its parts, but centering the value of the rest of the creation around our use and the benefits that the creation accrues to people might imply that it is all for us.

      What I am trying to clarify is that the creation is for the lord and in order for all of creation to truly glorify God, we should recognize that first. We are as much here for the rest of the creation, as the rest of the creation is here for us.

      We were placed here as stewards rather than owners- to “shamar” and “abad”. God covenants repeatedly with non-human creation. Both of these indicate to me that God values the rest of the creation, for reasons bigger than how it can serve us. It is declared “VERY good” when we function within it (using it, being sustained by it, protecting and keeping it, developing it) in ways that serve and glorify God. But we do not ultimately define the goodness of the rest of creation. We do not have that authority, nor does it reflect appropriately the relationships among us, God, and the rest of the creation to say that there is no difference between the intrinsic and instrumental value of things. I tried to clarify that the connotative meaning of intrinsic is somewhat inappropriate but perhaps not well enough- thanks for pointing that out.

      I would say that “Instrumental value” is an intrinsic part of the value of the rest of the creation. There is also, however, value in things that is not defined by their usefulness for us. So “instrumental” and “intrinsic” (as I am using them) are different in the same way that I might talk about my stomach as being something different than me, even though it is a part of me. My value is not entirely determined by my ability to put food in my stomach. The value of the creation is not entirely determined by its “usefulness” to people.

      1. What is shamar and abad?

        Do you know natura naturans (dynamic active nature, a living process) and natura naturata (inert nature, a thing complete)? It is like “creating/creative creation” and “created creation.” Present and future, active and ongoing versus past tense, finished. In classical and European history one is male, one female — usually the female *not* associated with the creative principle. The artist, doctor, or scientist comes to stand outside the frame, understanding and correcting nature with disembodied reason, mathematics, logic.

        Interesting how “instrumental value” is assumed as “useful…to me” or “useful….to human like me” not “useful…to bees, birds, fish…”

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