Saturday Sermons: The First Word

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June 4, 2011 Tags: Creation & Origins

Today's sermon features Tim Keller. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

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.

Throughout the last 150 years or so, the interpretation of the creation account in Genesis 1 has been a point of contention within the Christian as well as the scientific community. Some say it is a poem or a song meant to be read in symbolic terms. Genesis 1 contains much repetition and many refrains in the text, literary devices that they strongly believe characterize poetic pieces. Others stand firm in their conviction that the text is quite literal in its description of the creative process. These advocates argue that what they perceive as the absence of traditional parallelism indicates that it is not poetry, but historical prose narrative. Still, most scientists remain skeptical of a literal reading because it contradicts the geological evidence concerning the age of the earth as well as the evidence for the manner in which life progressed on this planet. Despite one’s beliefs, Dr. Keller continues, it is necessary to remain humble and gracious as Christians. In this posture, Dr. Keller rises above these disputes as he seeks to illuminate the foundational principles of God’s creation. He poses and answers this question throughout his sermon: “So, what does the Bible teach about creation?”

Throughout Genesis 1, it is important to note that God ascribes goodness to the creation unfolding before Him at the power of His word. In Genesis 1: 11 it says, “…and God saw that it was good.” While some eastern religions describe this world as an illusion that will one day fade away, the Bible is unique in that it presents a high view of “the material goodness of creation.” Not only does his universe display his glory, but also, it speaks of the unimaginable splendor to come when all creation is transformed. In other words, it is a mere shadow of the things to come! This idea is expressed in Isaiah 25 (NASB) when the scriptures say, “The LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow…and on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples…He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces…for the LORD has spoken.” Thus, it is right that humans should take pleasure in His good work, for God has placed us here in the midst of His goodness that we might experience him through what has been made.

The sermon further highlights creation’s finiteness. This fact has significant implications according to Dr. Keller. Although it is good and meant for enjoyment, it is temporary and fleeting. With this in view, Christians need to place all their delight and security in God, the eternal One. It is right to appreciate God’s earthly blessings as long as they do not displace God from the central focus. Nature exists to direct the believer to worship God, but the believer’s deepest fulfillment should be found in the Lord, who is its ultimate source.

Furthermore, it is understood from Scripture that a unity exists between the physical and spiritual realm. The natural has been infused with a divine spark. This concept that is established in the Word is revolutionary. A significant number of people would like to believe that the universe is purely material. Others hold to the Greek dualistic belief in which there is the natural and the spiritual, but the two are in opposition to one another. However, the Bible clearly states that the physical and spiritual realms are positively connected. This leads Dr. Keller to explain that both a person’s spirit and body are good, and everyone is created in the image of God. When the Fall occurred, the image was broken, but the image is there nonetheless. As he puts it, all people have been given “gifts of courage, wisdom, [and] creativity” that reflect God’s nature.

Next, Dr. Keller goes on to point out that not only is creation good, but it is beautiful! It ministers to our souls, and speaks of our eternal God. The scriptures speak of this concept frequently. For example, in the book of Psalms, the sun and the moon and the stars are described as declaring the glory of God. In addition, Romans 1:20 states that, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…”

Dr. Keller makes one last point. Everything in creation is accomplished through God’s mighty word. Things are brought into being and blessed by the word. However, as a result of the Fall, this benediction or divine pronouncement of goodness over humankind was replaced by the curse that sin brought upon humanity. From that moment, no person again received that spoken blessing until Jesus came in the flesh. What does this tell us about the sacrifice of our Savior on the cross? Well, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus cries out to the Father in distress at His fate. He pleads with the Father to allow the cup of wrath to pass from him, but he receives no answer from God. Then, on the cross, Jesus exclaims, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” In these moments, Jesus received upon himself the condemnation that we deserved as broken people, that all might receive once again the delight and approval of the Father. Just as life came into being through God’s word, humans were brought again to life in our spirit through Jesus, the Word of God. The divine blessing is once again warranted to sinful humans because Christ has purchased it for us by his righteous blood.

Clearly, there are treasures of divine revelation in the Genesis account that provide a richer understanding of the purpose and destiny of what has been formed. It is helpful to recognize that this account is not meant as a scientific summary with precise details of the world’s beginning, but rather a text which is intended to illuminate and reveal important principles behind the creation we know and love.


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.


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Steve Ruble - #62101

June 4th 2011

“[Dawkins] knows somehow that in spite of the fact that his mind says that the beauty is an illusion, that it’s not.”

This is a mischaracterization of the position of Dawkins’ (and any other naturalist, including myself, who thinks that our aesthetic preferences can in some cases be explained in terms of evolution). The fact that there is an hypothesized explanation for the fact that humans tend to be wired so as to find certain scenery beautiful does not make the beauty of the scene an “illusion” any more than the fact that humans tend to be wired so as to find foods high in sugar to be sweet makes that sweetness an “illusion”. The food is still sweet (to humans) and the scene is still beautiful (to humans). What is exposed as illusory is the idea that there is some property called “beauty” or “sweetness” that is inherent in certain scenes or foods, such that if humans were wired so as to not find those things sweet or beautiful, we would all be wrong about the sweetness and beauty of those things. But since that idea is obviously nonsensical (imagine, “Rocks are actually sweet, but no one thinks so!”) the loss of that illusion shouldn’t worry anyone.


Cal - #62109

June 4th 2011

I don’t think Keller is arguing that views have beauty intrinsically, but that the beauty we feel is not due to an evolutionary appraisal of survival or food surplus. Rather the views in Nature we see evoke a feeling of beauty because they offer a glimmer of the glory of God, something we’re to “Image Bear”. I don’t think his choice of the word illusion is proper to describe the psycho-evolutionary position, but neither is he arguing intrinsic value. I mean if a person were not available to appraise a site as beautiful it would not have beauty in a person-less world, I agree Steve it would seem absurd.


Papalinton - #62204

June 6th 2011

@ Cal


“Rather the views in Nature we see evoke a feeling of beauty because they offer a glimmer of the glory of God, “

Apart from making the statement drawn from a very personal proclivity, where is the substantive link, where is the evidence?

Cal - #62211

June 6th 2011

Papalinton:

The comment was to offer a different perspective on a phenomenon that occurs that affirms views and sights of beauty in Natue do not affirm beauty in and of itself.

Why, when I look at a red desert, perhaps sometimes pictures of mars, or at the stars in the sky, do I understand beauty? Sure there may be a chemical reason, but that occurs to inspire awe, I don’t think there is any definitive answer that can be provided for why. Why are humans so apt to enjoy such a variety of art, in every form? I think there is a connection in what the Bible refers as being ‘Image Bearers’, sharing the same creative impulse and being able to marvel at it. But since you reject that world view, I don’t expect you to come to the same conclusion.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #62125

June 4th 2011

Steve Ruble wrote:

What is exposed as illusory is the idea that there is some property called “beauty” or “sweetness” that is inherent in certain scenes or foods, such that if humans were wired so as to not find those things sweet or beautiful,

I understand that human tastebuds are “wired” to detect sweetness in certain usually high calorie foods, it would seem that trhere would be something wrong with their neurological wiring if thery did not find sugar sweet. 

On the other hand beauty is harder to define.  It seems to me that beauty is associated with peace and harmony.  I would be very concerned if someone found scenes of death. violence, and chaos routinely attractive.     


Steve Ruble - #62105

June 4th 2011

I think it is irrational not to be scared of the possibility that after death there’s nothing.

I don’t. It’s rational to be scared of dying, since it is both likely to be an unpleasant experience and because it thwarts any desires you might have had to do anything other than to die, but being afraid of the non-existence after death doesn’t make any sense. You won’t be there. What could you possibly be concerned about? The only way I can make sense of it is to suppose that Keller and those who would agree with him are somehow imagining that they will be there to experience their non-existence… but surely if anything is irrational, that is.



Roger A. Sawtelle - #62221

June 6th 2011

Now Steve, is it rational to not want to lose your arm or to lose your mind?

Why would it be rational not to want to lose yourself?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #62224

June 6th 2011

If death is nothing more than an unpleasant experience, which the late Dr. Kevorkian can alleviate, then why not die instead of facing the difficulties of life? 


KevinR - #62352

June 9th 2011

Isn’t it strange that the author and Ms. Keller assert that things were not created from nothing, but doesn’t produce any other text from the bible to support that view. I always thought that the bible itself should be used to interpret or clarify issues which arise.
Instead we find a whole discussion on what outsiders have to say about it- with really scant regard for making the case from within. It really rings absolutely hollow, showing that the discussion attributes much more authority to the opinions of human beings than the word of God.

The viewpoint is also very singular and does not consider the different ways that the scripture could be interpreted, as others have already shown above. This too makes it a one-sided, biased view, not worthy of any serious thought.


KevinR - #62354

June 9th 2011

Mmmhhh. posted in the wrong blog. Sorry.


keddaw - #62378

June 9th 2011

What does this tell us about the sacrifice of our Savior on the cross?

He’s not our Saviour, he is only Saviour to believers.  To the rest of us he’s fictional, a good role model, a heretic, a false prophet or a snake oil salesman.  This kind of language is annoying because many Christians say “Jesus died for your sins” yet also tell me I’ll be going to Hell for my sins if I don’t repent - he either died for all our sins or he died for only Christians’ sins.

Roger: “If death is nothing more than an unpleasant experience, which the late
Dr. Kevorkian can alleviate, then why not die instead of facing
the difficulties of life? “


Because it is the act of ceasing to live that is unpleasant, not the act of living, which is actually quite pleasant most of the time.


Cal - #62383

June 9th 2011

keddaw:

He still shed His blood for you. The problem you’re wrestling with is understanding what God’s judgment is and that’s not your fault. There are so many who have such faulty information that they’ve nearly erected a barrier in their minds that makes what they say be contradictory. Something like, “Jesus love you! But..if you don’t happen believe what I do (which may be a 6 day creation or maybe the penal substitution theory of atonement, or what year the book of Daniel was written) then God’s going to torture you forever!”

That’s a load of garbage, the Scriptures says all Creation will rejoice at the judgments of God. Also, repent is a change of mind, it’s not feeling sorry for what you did (which you may do when you repent). The Bible talks of Judgment and that there will be a resurrection, everyone who has not found the indwelling of the Spirit, will meet their maker. Yet in this “General Judgment” in the highly symbolic Revelations, it says “everyone who’s name was not found in the Book of Life was cast into the Lake of Fire”, that’s actually saying that of those, some names will be in the ‘Book of Life’.

This all just some thoughts to consider, but primarily, if this whole scenario is true, if when you die you wake up to meet Jesus, incarnation of the Living God, what would you say to Him? Do you think Him full of hate? You can just read the Bible, look at His character and in the same breath realize this same Jesus is the one who would judge you. John says perfect love casts out fear. One day you may be very pleasantly surprised.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #62486

June 11th 2011

Keddaw wrote:

He’s not our Saviour, he is only Saviour to believers.
This kind of language is annoying because many Christians say “Jesus died for your sins” yet also tell me I’ll be going to Hell for my sins if I don’t repent - he either died for all our sins or he died for only Christians’ sins.

First of all, the statement that Jesus is the Savior is a statement of historical fact, just like the statement that George Washington is the Father of his country.  Second, the fact is that He is either Savior of all people or none.  This works only as all or none.  Finally, Jesus did die for your sins, but He does not force salvation on you.  Thus gift of salvation is offered to you whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not, however if you don’t think you need eternal life or prefer not to live a life of love, God will grant you your desire.  

If your idea of the good life is life without God, God will give you your concept of salvation.  

Because it is the act of ceasing to live that is unpleasant, not the act of living, which is actually quite pleasant most of the time.

I think that you agree with believers that it is better to live than not to live, so there is good reason to avoid death.  However, believers have the comfort of knowing that death is not the end of life, while non-believers do not have this hope.  Christians also know that if they die a good death, not giving up their belief that love is better than hate, then their life with God will be much better than their life on earth.

Life meaningful and good because it has purpose.  Life is not good because it is pleasant, which is a weak word generally meaning “pleasant, nice, comfortable, and agreeable.”  Life is often uncomfortable and painful, which must be endured to be enjoyed.    


Cal - #62436

June 10th 2011

Keddaw:

Don’t get me wrong, Jesus is the Way, He is Truth and He is Life and no one gets to the Father. I also think that if you see Jesus you see the Father. Yet the entire narrative paints a God who is just and merciful and good which all spring forth from His character that is self-sacrificial love.

I don’t read the Bible selectively, I try to go and understand it all in its proper context (however, I’m opt to mess up). I don’t believe in the Papal infallibility ex-cathedra either, neither do I believe in degrees of mortal and venial sins. This just isn’t Biblical, but that’s just my opinion. There are many passages I’m sure you may be thinking of that I’m missing something and I’d be more than joyful to discuss them (by email?).

The only way anyone is to be able to be apart of the “wedding banquet of the Lamb” (so to speak) is by the Blood of Christ. It doesn’t have to be about being good, so no one will boast, but on the mercy of God. I didn’t say there would be no hell, rather I think in the end you’ll be rather surprised. And I may be in the minority, but so have been bible-believing, gospel-living, indwelt Christians. I can not number them but there’s something about recognizing fruit. I’m filled with joy to be apart of the Remnant .
Peace & Love friend.


keddaw - #62429

June 10th 2011

Cal, I appreciate (and prefer) your selective reading of the Bible, but on what basis am I to take your claim that I will rejoice along with all creation the Judgement of God when it also claims Jesus said"the only way to the Father is through me” and the Catholic church teaches that anyone with a mortal (eternal) sin will go to hell - which I have since I have willingly turned away from Jesus and denied the Holy Spirit.

There are thousands of ways to read the Bible and you are most definitely in the minority when it comes to claiming non-Christians will be saved.  Doesn’t mean you are wrong, obviously, but it does make me doubt that you know I’ll be saved.  (disclaimer: assuming I don’t become a bad person before I die.)


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