Economics of Christianity (Part 2)

The Source of Value

(Continued from Part 1)

In economics things are viewed as having either intrinsic value or extrinsic value. In the simplest terms this refers to whether or not something has value in and of itself. If it does it is said to have intrinsic value. The value of water is intrinsic. We need water to sustain life. We drink it, wash with it, cook with it, and water crops with it. Its value is contained within itself.bagomoney.jpg

Extrinsic value means an item has no real value on it’s own but draws it’s value from somewhere else. A check for 100 dollars, for example, has no value on it’s own. The small rectangle of paper is virtually worthless. Its value is drawn from another source – in this case from the 100 dollars in the bank represented by the check. The check’s value is extrinsic, outside of itself.

Why in the world is this concept important to the study of Christianity?

I’m glad you asked. It is important because confusing intrinsic and extrinsic value is corrupting the Gospel in many of our churches.

Okay, let me explain.

The world is divided between people who view mankind as the basis for measuring ethics and morality and people who view God as the basis for measuring ethics and morality. Humanism views man as the measure of all things while the Bible teaches that God is that measure. Both of these worldviews, however, share a common belief – man has value.

Aha, but they are vastly different in what kind of value man contains. Humanists teach that mankind has intrinsic value – that we, in and of ourselves, are valuable. And, in our relationships with one another this is true to some extent. The members of my family are valuable to me and that value is contained in them.

But what about our relationship with God?

You may have heard it said that man is extremely valuable to God, just look at the incredible price He paid for us. Now, it is true that God paid a very high price to redeem the elect. But too often we begin to think that this is the case because God saw some value in us that made us worthy of redemption. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The idea that we have some intrinsic value that made God want to save us is nothing more than the corrupting influence of humanism, which has been infiltrating our churches since the 17th century. This unbiblical worldview has penetrated so deeply into the teachings of Christianity that once uncompromising preachers are now leaning toward Universalist views as a result. What we need to remember is that the authority for Christian faith and practice does not reside in the popular philosophies of the past few hundred years but in the very Word of God revealed to us by our Creator.

How does God characterize us? Look at Isaiah’s response in Isaiah chapter 6 when he saw the Lord sitting on a throne high and lifted up.

“Then said I, Woe [is] me! for I am undone; because I [am] a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

Isaiah was made aware of his standing before a Holy God. There was no inkling of worth in him. He was utterly and completely undone. Worthless.

“Okay, okay,” the humanist philosophy tells us, “But God still needs us. That’s why He called upon us to fulfill His will.”

As believers we certainly have the distinct privilege of serving God. But we should never make the mistake of thinking God needs us. Look at Isaiah again, this time in chapter 64…

“But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And [there is] none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.”

What we do for God is as “filthy rags.”

We need to reject humanism outright and understand the biblical teaching that before God we have no intrinsic value at all. We are undone.

However, we are remarkably fortunate, indeed, because in his letter to the Romans Paul points out that, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

It pleased God to exhibit His grace in this manner so that He may be glorified. And now, we have value in His sight but it is extrinsic. Our value before God is drawn from Christ and Christ alone, it is not our own. On this point we need to be perfectly clear.

(To be continued in Part 3)

About Chip
Chip is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, AR and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. He served more than five years on the staff of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana as Director of Communications and Public Relations, editor of the Indiana Baptist newsjournal, and regular contributor to the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. He currently earns his living as a writer. He serves his local church as a teacher and deacon and his local Baptist Association as a Seminary Extension instructor and supply preacher.

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