Saturday Sermons: In the Image of God
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.
Despite the disagreements among Christians concerning the interpretation of Genesis, all Christ followers hold firm to this fundamental doctrine: humans are made in the image of God. This belief is grounded in Genesis 1:26 (NASB): “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth…’” Dr. Keller dissects this all-important idea in his message as he focuses on first the importance of the image of God in people, then the meaning of the image of God in people, and finally the repair of the image of God in people.
Dr. Keller explains several crucial implications that result from the radical idea that humans have been made in the image of God. First, the Bible affirms that all people reflect God; there is an “irreducible glory and significance” inherent in each person, regardless of who they are or what they have done. Second, this incredible worth present in each human demands respect and reverence in the way in which people treat each other. To emphasize this point, Dr. Keller quotes C.S. Lewis in his sermon saying, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal… [Therefore], our merriment [and play] must be of the kind which exists between people who have from the outset taken each other seriously.” Next, he argues that civil rights—the idea that every human being is entitled to certain liberties regardless of race, gender, or class—is grounded in the Biblical principle that all people have intrinsic value and dignity. To support this, he cites the passage from Genesis 9:5-6 (NIV) in which God, speaking to Noah and his family, states, “And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being… for in the image of God has God made mankind.” In other words, God is declaring that every person has a right to life solely because he or she has been fashioned in his image. Dr. Keller further stresses the importance of this doctrine by revealing the consequences that arise in a society that does not establish human value in its reflection of God, but rather in human capabilities. He paints a picture of the Greco-Roman world—a culture that found human worth in its capacities. In this civilization, there was mass abortion and infanticide; the sick and the elderly were left to die. However, as Christianity spread, these practices greatly decreased because of its doctrine concerning the sanctity of human life. Clearly, the idea that humankind is made in the image of God has serious moral ramifications.
Next, the sermon discusses what it means to be in the image of God. According to Dr. Keller, it suggests that human beings are meant to accurately reflect his character and in turn represent God to the whole world. He compares a person to a mirror to make his point. Just as a mirror is able to first reflect the brilliance of the sun’s light, and then concentrate that light on wood, for example, to make a fire for warmth and food, so every person is designed to shine with the glory of God’s light and in turn, cause all life to flourish. This reality has deeper implications. Because of the truth that all are image bearers, people will be the “sum-total” reflections of their relationships with others. Furthermore, since humans are spiritually-dependent beings, they cannot generate their own glory and significance. Dr. Keller explains that if a soul does not face toward God to receive its worth, then it turns away from God to the world—a career, a marriage, a cause etc.—to obtain value. When this turning away occurs, humanity breaks the image of God in them, and therefore, will trample on the image of God in others. This is the root of all evil seen in the world.
Finally, Dr. Keller explains how God has chosen to restore this broken image in all people. He sent his son Jesus, who is the perfect image of God, into the world. As it says in Colossians 1:15 (NIV), “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Because he so loved the world, Jesus allowed the image of God in himself to be crushed by the world, so that he might bear in his body the due penalty for the sin and the brokenness of a fallen people. It is as people turn their gaze back toward Jesus, the image of God, that true healing will take place. Ultimately, this restoration of God’s image within each person releases that individual to radiate the glory and love of God, bringing life rather than death to all humanity.
ADDENDUM: Please note, although we do invite your comments as we explore the theological richness of God's word in the sermon series, the comments will be restricted to Christians who are genuinely seeking to enter into a deeper and more meaningful relationship with God. Those who are not Christians but are seriously seeking to explore the Christian faith as a possibility for their own lives are also very welcome to raise questions and make comments. However, this will not be a place to belittle Christianity. We ask that our atheist friends respect our purpose here. We realize that you think Christianity is irrational and we are willing to engage the profound rationality of our faith, but this is not the place to discuss that with you.
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.