Saturday Sermons: The First Word
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.