Saturday Sermon: Paradise in Crisis
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.
Selfishness and violence, corruption and greed, wars and atrocities—for all time, this one question has been pondered: what went wrong in humanity? Through his sermon on Genesis 3:1-7, Dr. Keller sheds light on this mystery. With careful examination, four critical points concerning the Fall are uncovered in this text. In this event, there was a sneer, a lie, a tree, and a call.
The problem begins in this passage the moment that the serpent (Satan) sneers at God’s commandment given to Adam and Eve. In the Garden, the snake says to Eve, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” This question is not asked for the sake of information, but rather, the snake is openly mocking the words of God in order to alter her attitude toward the command. So often, Dr. Keller points out, “we lose God not through an argument, but through an atmosphere” that hardens one’s heart toward him. The serpentine attitude is expressed in the particular humor that seeks to discredit and crush another.
Next, the serpent puts forth this lie: “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” In this statement, Satan convinces Adam and Eve that God is holding them back, and it causes them to doubt his goodness. Indeed, this is the lie that entered the very heart of humanity: one cannot trust God and his love because he does not have one’s best interest in mind. Consequently, humans have constantly struggled throughout history to obey God for fear that they will lack the goodness of life.
Then, from this place of mistrust and deception, Eve takes the fruit and eats of it. Likewise, Adam takes and eats. Now, God gave them the command to not eat of the fruit, but why didn’t he provide an explanation? According to Dr. Keller, it is because an explanation would allow them to make a cost/benefit analysis. Then, their decision would be made out of love for themselves, rather than obedience to God. However, the Lord’s desire is for children who trust and obey him as God. Everything that is wrong in the world, Keller explains, results because people are constantly mistrusting God, and choosing to take the place of their very Creator. Whether murder or anxiety, both are symptoms of a people who have taken the position of God. So, how does one truly allow God to be God in one’s life? Well, Keller offers a moving story as an example. It is of a bright Yale graduate named William Borden, a wealthy man with a great inheritance. When he felt the call of God to enter the mission field, however, he freely gave away all his inheritance, and moved to Cairo to learn Arabic. He quickly contracted spinal meningitis and died. Written on a piece of paper that was found with him were these words: “No reserve, no retreat, no regrets.” This narrative calls Christians to have this same attitude of absolute surrender and whole-hearted trust of God’s will in their lives.
Finally, the Lord God comes into the Garden after their disobedient act, and they hide from his presence. He knows of their rebellion, yet he desires to seek them. He calls to them, “Where are you?” He knows of their rebellion, yet he desires to seek them. Since then, people have continued to hide from God, but he has never ceased to chase after humanity in love. His pursuit of us finds its ultimate expression in Jesus, who took on the form of a man and dealt with the consequences of our sin. Adam and Eve disobeyed, but Christ obeyed. They believed a lie that God was not trustworthy, but Christ trusted until the end. By becoming obedient to God in dying on the Cross, Jesus transformed the tree that brought humanity death into a tree of life by his blood.
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.