Saturday Sermon: Heart of Darkness
Though some may believe that moving the science/faith dialogue forward is best left to scientists, scholars, and theologians, we at BioLogos recognize that our pastors play an invaluable role in the conversation. Across the globe, pastors are helping their congregations work through difficult issues of science and faith with honesty, insight, and a gentle spirit. To this end we present an ongoing series recognizing sermons (and the pastors who give them) that are helping to promote the harmony of science and faith. Today's sermon comes from Rev. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Click above to hear an excerpt. Below, is a brief summary written by BioLogos editorial staff. The full sermon, which we highly recommend can be purchased from Redeemer’s sermon store. Finally, if you know a sermon or podcast related to science and faith that has especially spoken to you, please let us know.
In the Garden of Eden, Eve is tempted to put her own desires ahead of God’s call for her life. The serpent tells her that if she eats of the fruit she can become like God: she, in essence, can become the master of her own fate. Similarly, as the New Testament begins, Satan comes to Jesus and tempts him in three different ways to become centered in self, rather than centered in the Father. Finally, Paul begins his great treatise, his letter to the Christians in Rome, with the same thought. We all, like Eve, but not like Jesus, have tasted of the fruit, and Dr. Keller in his penetrating style expounds.
This week’s sermon continues to evaluate the heart of humanity, which first is revealed in Genesis, and later is expounded upon in Romans 1: 18-32. The Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome presents a clear picture of both God’s revelation in the world, and humankind’s suppression of the truth. Exploring the message of Paul, Dr. Keller reveals that within each heart is the knowledge of our God, the factory of our idols, the hardening of our humanity, and the capacity for endless praise.
Foremost, the knowledge of God resides deep in the soul, but humans continually suppress this truth. It is the knowledge that God is Creator to whom all are completely accountable and on whom all are forever reliant. However, as Paul reflects on humanity in Romans 1: 21 (NASB), he claims that “though they [people] knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks…” Dr. Keller explains that an unthankful heart is not merely bad etiquette; it generates the false reality of self-sufficiency and fails to recognize utter dependence on God for all things. Our sinful nature desires to maintain control, but true acknowledgment of God demands that we submit to his will rather than our own. Keller further makes the point that many people can believe in an impersonal God who gives all a free pass into heaven, but very few people wish to believe in the relational God of the Bible who demands all of their soul. For this reason, people suppress the truth about God and withhold his praise.
Inevitably, this act of turning away from the truth of God leads to the manufacturing of idols within the heart as one begins to worship a created thing rather than the Creator. Dr. Keller explains that people are “telic,” which means that they “need to live for something.” There is something in every person’s life that holds their worth, hope, and allegiance. If this something or someone is not the living person of Jesus Christ, one will be enslaved to idols. From wealth to marriage to morality, the Apostle Paul makes it clear throughout all his letters that these idols may take numerous forms. For example, he says in Romans 1:23 (NASB) that they “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures..” The stark reality is this: God deserves all of our love and all else is futile worship of idols.
Next, the sermon explores how the worship of idols causes the heart to harden. Dr. Keller explains how idolization will ultimately strip a person of his or her humanity. In speaking about this very thing, the writer proclaims the truth in Psalm 135 (NASB) that idols are “the work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; they have eyes, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear…Those who make them will be like them, Yes, everyone who trusts in them.” It is apparent from this verse that an idol will consume the heart’s desire. In this place, the person’s will becomes utterly subject to the object and conformed to its dead image, rather than conformed to the image of the living God.
Lastly, Dr. Keller illuminates the remedy for all the perpetual idols in our hearts. He affirms that in order to stop worshipping these idols, one must do as the angels do in heaven: endlessly praise and worship God. He then references 1 Peter 1: 10- 12, which describes how angels long to look into the things concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, Dr. Keller explains, the angels deeply desire to gaze upon the beauty of what Christ has done for all humanity by his death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. When we too see Jesus and glorify him as the One who gave it all for us, we will finally be saved from the destructive power of idols.
Tim Keller is pastor and founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. The “Influentials” issue of New York magazine featured Keller as “the most successful Christian evangelist in the city” for his engagement with the young professional and artist demographics. He received his bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Penn., his Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hampton, Mass., and his Doctor of Ministry from Westminster Theological Seminary. Keller has helped start more than 100 churches throughout the world. He is the author of Counterfeit Gods; The Prodigal God; The Reason for God: Belief of God in an Age of Skepticism -- named book of the year by World Magazine in 2008; and the recently released Generous Justice.