Saturday Sermons: The Garden 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.
Genesis 2:2-17 places an interesting emphasis on work—not only does God work to bring about all creation, but also, man is called to the task of caring for God’s world. Dr. Keller believes this passage provides an important assumption, a purposeful direction, a resulting burden, and a necessary provision concerning the work.
First, because God is described as working, one can conclude that work reflects a significant aspect of God’s character. Therefore, when humans perform various tasks, they are reflecting the image of God. If working does indeed reflect his image, Dr. Keller states, then there is an intrinsic dignity to manual labor no matter what the occupation. This concept reveals the goodness of ordinary life. Whether simply gardening to produce food or cleaning a space to produce order, people are meant to rejoice in the responsibilities that daily life brings.
Then, Dr. Keller explains that the duty of humankind to care for God’s garden reveals the aim of all work. In order to garden properly, one must meddle with the natural state of things to bring about fruitfulness and prosperity. This may include clearing the ground to expose it to sunlight or trimming back plants to stimulate growth. The gardener cannot simply standby like a “park ranger” and let things freely develop—he or she must creatively order the garden in such a way that all plants thrive. In the same way, all work involves, as Dr. Keller puts it, “rearranging the raw material of a particular domain [in order] to draw out its potential for the flourishing of everyone.” He strengthens his point by applying this definition to the work of writing music. Music, he says, is created when the raw material of sound is structured in such a way that it brings meaning to human life. Overall, God has given all people the ability to express creative energy in the service of others, and that is the intended goal of work.
Next, the Genesis text reveals the burden of work. When the curse of the Fall came upon Adam and Eve, death entered the world. According to Dr. Keller, this is more than just a physical death that came to humanity. He compares the human condition to the second law of thermodynamics (which states that the universe is becoming more disordered) in order to demonstrate that people are falling apart physically, culturally, spiritually, vocationally, etc. People are constantly caught in the tension between their efforts to accomplish tasks and the unstoppable force of death that causes all things to degrade. Furthermore, he says that one can neither have a cynical view nor a romantic view of work. A person must recognize the goodness of work, yet keep in mind that it is still difficult and laborious. Although each person has a specific vocation through which to serve the world, he or she cannot always fulfill this calling because he or she must work to survive as well. This is the very heart of the frustration and burden of humanity’s calling to work in this fallen world.
Finally, in the midst of this struggle and tension, God has given humans this provision: rest. Genesis 2:3(NASB) puts forth the statement that, “…God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” The Bible shows that this rest has been given as a free gift to all people, and it is not a provision that needs to be earned. According to Dr. Keller, this gift is the rest of peace and the rest of hope. It is the rest of peace because Christ has offered his love that assures believers in their significance. People no longer have to bear the burden that somehow their performance in their job or career determines their value as a human being. Likewise, it is the rest of hope because believers will one day have the ability to realize their dreams—an invention, a painting, a novel—when God makes the new heavens and the new earth. Therefore, a Christian need not be dismayed by the broken dreams in their heart during this lifetime, for one day, those things too will be accomplished. Now, through Jesus Christ, all can enter into the deep peace that their soul so desires and find true rest in work.
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.