Saturday Sermon: Paradise Lost
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 order to understand the very nature of humanity, one needs a firm grasp on the doctrine of original Sin. Dr. Keller makes several important points concerning Genesis 3: 8-24 as he looks at the response of God as well as Adam and Eve to the great act of disobedience. The aftermath of the Fall reveals sin’s heart, breadth, depth, and end.
Getting to the heart of sin, Dr. Keller defines it as a willingness to justify oneself at the expense of others. This is clearly demonstrated by Adam and Eve. When God walks into the Garden and asks whether they have eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they both shift the blame to another—the man to the woman and the woman to the serpent. Thus, because sin has entered the human heart, people will “throw anyone else under the bus” to detract from their own “nakedness.”
He next examines the breadth of sin according to the Genesis account. One finds that neither Adam nor Eve is more sinful; just as one does, the other does as well. This indicates that they both are equally ashamed, equally guilty. Furthermore, God banishes both humans from the Garden. This, Dr. Keller believes, shows that all humans are innately sinful and selfish. Looking at the implications of this truth on one’s societal views, he logically concludes that no specific group can be demonized or blamed. Whether the elite or the common, sin is in all, and all are responsible for the problems in society.
Then, Dr. Keller sheds light on the depth of sin: every relationship a human has—with God, with oneself, with another person, and with the environment—is now broken and tarnished by sin. The creation account shows that people are meant to be relational beings. In verse 8, God comes “walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” This word walking is an idiom in the ancient Hebrew language that indicates friendship; the Lord was seeking companionship in spite of their sin. Unfortunately, humanity continues to hide, rather than confess and return to God’s grace. A person’s relationship to oneself is tainted as well. When God calls out to Adam, the man says that he hid because of his nakedness. Humans have the desire to cover themselves because of the shame of their sin. This obscures their identity, and they no longer see themselves correctly. Similarly, it damaged the bonds between people. Adam and Eve immediately conceal themselves from each other after trespassing God’s commandment. Dr. Keller explains it like this: “We cannot really bear to have other people really know who we are—we have to control what other people see about us….” Humanity even clashes with the physical world as seen in the struggle against death, disease, and natural disasters. Overall, sin is a “malignant tumor that destroys a person’s ability to conduct relationships” properly.
Finally, the end of sin lies in the mercy of God. The Lord does not come to Adam and Eve declaring their sin. Rather, he questions them, inviting them to admit their wrongdoing. He desires to discuss the problem, and restore the friendship. This shows his love for the sinner. Furthermore, God fashions suitable garments for them from animal hide to conceal their nakedness. This is an amazing foreshadow that indicates humanity’s need for the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to cover its shame. Last of all, Dr. Keller highlights the flaming sword that guards the Garden of Eden, explaining that Jesus allowed this very sword to slay him. Going before all people, Jesus provided a way into the presence and friendship of God once again. In receiving this merciful love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, one’s nakedness is clothed forever.
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.