“Again and again we read, ‘And God saw that it was good.’ This signifies two things for us. God’s work is good as the unimpaired form of the will of God. But it is good only in the way that the creaturely can be good. Because the Creator views it, acknowledges it as his own and says of it, ‘It is good.’” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall
Primarily in Genesis, we read about God creating all that is known and unknown. It is through God’s Word that we read about God’s work. It is only through the Word of God that we can attribute value to creation. God calls creation good therefore it is. It is through the failure to grasp this idea that there is an issue with attributing value to creation particularly in conservation ethics. The value of creation is outside of anything humans can do to or for creation. The value is not dependent on us but rather simply because God attributes value to creation.
I suspect that if you have spent any time at all amongst creation you will have sensed the value and embedded beauty and awe within it. This feeling is mysterious and hard to explain. However, deep knowledge of creation or an exciting experience with creation is not enough to establish an ethic. Value should be thought of as more than economics but rather something philosophical.
In Genesis chapter one we begin to read how all we know to be was formed. The narrative consists of a repeating formula. God creates and calls it good. Six times this happens, creation and goodness. If you are like the average American, then something good means something good for you. Mosquitoes, those itchy, blood sucking insects. Those are usually not good for soft human flesh and I have seldom heard another person call them intrinsically good.
If we pay close attention to the text we see that God calls creation good even before humans are breathed to life. Creation, excluding humanity, has value because God called it good. Humans have value because God called them good. All of creation is good and has value because of its Creator’s existence and exclamation of its goodness.
The mosquito is of no real “use” to humans but God takes delight in God’s creation which includes the pesky (to humans of course) mosquito. It is for this reason, the delight of God, that even mosquitos have value.
Sin, from the very beginning, is the idea that humans make themselves the center of all things rather than the notion that God is the center of all things. It is through this failure that we sense the alienation of humanity from the rest of creation. It is essential that we as humans take on a God-centered value system in order for us to rightly understand our relation to creation.