God's First CoupleErwin W. Lutzer | March 1, 2009
Selected highlights from this sermon
If we accept Darwin’s theory that humans descended from ape-like ancestors, much will be lost. Though there are similarities between the two species, humanity is unique. We were made in the image of God, constructed with critical thinking and morality.
Humanity fell, but our intrinsic value has not been lost. The image of God in us may have been marred by the fall, but Christ came to cleanse it.
I know that times are tough, but they’ve been tough before. There is a story that comes to us from 1929 during that great crash that happened. Jobs were scarce. The Lincoln Park Zoo existed at that time, by the way. Did you know that D.L. Moody in his biography said that he took his children to the Lincoln Park Zoo? But in 1925 their chief monkey, who delighted children, died and they didn’t have a replacement, so they put an ad in a newspaper and said, “Would anyone want to play the role of a monkey?” Well the story is that a man, who did calisthenics and was very nimble, applied for the job, got it and wore a monkey suit, and was actually able to eat popcorn and other things, and delight the children and wave at them. In fact, he got so good that he would actually crawl up to the branches of a tree that was in his cage, and one day he was swinging up there and the branch broke and he happened to land in the lion’s cage. You can imagine that the man was terrified. He ran to the corner of the cage and he blew his cover and shouted, “Get me out of here.” The lion just kept coming toward him and looked him square in the eye and said, “If you don’t shut up both of us will lose our jobs.” [laughter]
In today’s sermon we answer this question. A man can play the role of a monkey but can a monkey play the role of a man? To put it differently, we’re going to ask the question that the monkey in the zoo asked. “Am I my keeper’s brother?”
Darwin, in his book, The Descent of Man, said that humanity has for its ancestors the Great Ape. He was impressed by the similarities between apes and us and in The Descent of Man he works that out and shows that we came up through the animal kingdom. The implications for this are enormous, not only because of our dignity. Everything is at stake in this question of who or what is man. Everything is at stake.
Peter Singer, who teaches at Princeton University, is a Darwinist, and he takes Darwinism to its logical conclusion. He insists that we are primates in an unbroken continuum with animals, as all atheistic evolutionists do. By the way, today modern evolution speaks of such things as, “We came from ape-like creatures.” That is just a matter of semantics. They can’t quite say flat out that we are primates and we came up through the ape world, but Peter Singer does. He says that because of this we have made an arbitrary distinction between men and animals, and so he’s in favor of more rights for animals and less special treatments for humans. Apes have more rights than unwanted children, people with disabilities, and the elderly who no longer contribute to society. Let me quote him directly. “I suggest a period of 28 days after the birth of a baby before an infant is accepted as having the same rights as others.” Actually, he’s becoming more conservative because I think a few years he said that up to the age of two you should be able to kill any infant that does not pass the test of personhood in terms of responses, or if he’s deformed. Singer says we kill piglets, and we should kill infants too. Pigs, chicken and fish have a greater claim to rights, according to him, than fetuses, newborns and the elderly. Everything is at stake in this debate. Who then is man?
Well, enough for a way of introduction. We’re going to open God’s word. Turn to Genesis 1. This is the third in a series of messages entitled, “The Darwin Delusion.” It’s very critical for us to hear. Genesis 1:24-25 talks of day 6 of creation. It says, “And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures, according to their kinds – livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth, according to their kinds.’ And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth,” etc., everything according to their kind. Verse 26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image.’” Let’s read just that far.
Please notice that animals were created on the same day as man. We do share similarities with the animal world in terms of cell structure and bone structure. Many of our features have to do with the same kind of structures that you find in the animal kingdom, and that only stands to reason because we share this planet with animals. Food and water and all of the other things that we need animals need as well, but when we get to verse 26 in the creation of man, everyone should be awake. Notice God says, “Let us make man in our image” – plurality. Up until this time the Trinity has been hinted at and now more expressly it is referred to. God exists in community – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and he says he is going to create man in the likeness of God. Man will bear the imprint of the divine image. Wow!
What does that involve? First of all, man is tri-part – body, soul and spirit. Animals can think perceptually, being able to assess certain situations such as danger and what have you, but only man can think conceptually. You’ll never find animals discussing the Trinity. You’ll never find monkeys discussing politics, though I do need to say that with a smile on my face. I don’t know. Recently it’s been a close call. All right? [laughter] But, you see, man therefore differs from animals. Man has a conscience. You can teach a dog. You can discipline a dog is he doesn’t do A, B, C, or D, and he’ll respond to that, but animals have no conscience. There’s no evidence that the lion that you see there on the history channel or the animal channel that takes and just crushes that sweet little deer who is running for his life, feels guilty after having done such an awful thing.
Sometimes people ask, “Can atheists be moral?” Of course they can be because they too are created in the image of God and have a moral sense and a conscience. That’s where they get their morality. Out of atheism no morality can logically arise – none. The reason that atheists are moral is because they also are created in God’s image. What you find also is that man can actually have some of the communicable attributes of God. There are some attributes of God that we can’t have. We can never be omniscient or omnipresent, but we can have love and mercy and truth. In fact, the Bible says, in some regards we should be like our father in heaven, who not only is just, but forgiving. So we can have the attributes of God, and only man can.
This could be extended much further actually. Because God exists in community he says, “Let us make man in our image.” Families exist in community, and just as the Son is submissive to the Father, so wives should be submissive to their husbands. Ehad, the word used for oneness in the great Shema, “Shema Yis'raeil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai ehad” (Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One), is the same word that is used of man and wife. They shall be one flesh - plurality and unity. And then through their children and through the ministry of the church, we also exist in community as God does, and the Trinity becomes the basis for our unity. That’s a separate discussion, but Jesus clarifies that in John 17.
So what you have is the uniqueness of man, his creation there in Genesis 1:26. “Let us make man….” Man did not evolve out of some primordial slime or a warm pond, as Darwin suggested in one of his letters (that that’s where it all came from). Man is a unique creation of God, created in God’s image.
Now what are the responsibilities of man? We continue on in verse 26. “And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heaves and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Adam was the first king of the earth, and he was to rule with Eve. She also has the image of God. Verse 27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” And he said to them – plural, “Rule and have dominion over the earth.”
One of the ways in which this dominion was seen is in the very next chapter, and I need to say that chapter 2 of Genesis is a more detailed exposition of some of the events that you have recorded in Genesis 1. You know there are some scholars who look at it and they say, “Oh, it was a different writer because notice he’s covering the same material.” Of course some of the same material is covered but it is simply a more detailed accounting of the first chapter, which summarizes it all.
In Genesis 2:19 God said, “So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.” So Adam had responsibility to name the animals. Now you don’t name somebody else’s baby, do you? No, you name your own. This was a sense of ownership. It was obviously also a form of control, and by the way, another unique thing about man is that he has language. The fact that Adam was able to think of all of these different names – perhaps hundreds, if not thousands of names – meant that he was taking control. He was taking dominion as God had promised that he would.
Now, it’s interesting that he lost, of course, all that after the fall. He lost control over the animal world, but isn’t it interesting to see that Jesus, when he was here on earth, gave us a little glimmer of how he recaptures it; for example the fish of the sea. When the disciples had been out trying to fill their nets and the nets, of course, were empty, Jesus said, “Put them on the other side of the ship,” and they said, “No, it’s the wrong time; it’s the wrong place,” and suddenly the nets were filled with fish. Jesus spoke and those fish swam into the net. He spoke and the rooster crowed at exactly the right time. The Bible says that as Peter finished speaking the rooster crowed. And the animal that Jesus rode on had never been broken, and yet he rode on it because Jesus was showing us a little glimmer of dominion over the fish of the sea and over the beasts that roam the earth.
The second responsibility of man is that he was to tend the garden. I’m looking at this in chapter 2 as well. We’ll go between chapters 1 and 2 because they cover some of the same territory. It says in verse 15, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” And notice this. Work was instituted by God before the fall. Work is not part of the curse. Now, of course, later on it becomes more difficult because there are going to be weeds and all of these other problems that Adam is going to have, and childbirth is going to become difficult, but what God was saying was, “Tend the garden.” It must have been a delightful task without the weeds, but there were things to do in the garden, and God said to Adam, “You represent me; you do it.
Also, God said (and for this now we are back in Chapter 1, verse 28), “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing….” Sometimes it was said by uninformed people that the first sin was the sin of sexuality. Obviously that’s wrong, and that has a great deal of implications that are devastating, and we should make sure that we understand that God gave the command to multiply before the fall happened. Now, Adam and Eve were to rule. They were to have dominion, but they themselves were to be ruled by God, so God was saying in effect, “I want to delegate to you the responsibility of running the world, but you are going to be accountable to me on how you are going to do it; how you’re going to treat the animals, how you’re going to treat the soil, and what you are going to do with the trees of the garden. You take command, but you have command with accountability. So what you have now is first of all, the creation of man; secondly, the responsibilities of man, and third, the fall of man – Genesis 3.
In previous messages on various topics we’ve looked into Genesis 3 in detail. Today I want to just simply point something out. When the serpent came to Adam and Eve and said, “If you eat of the fruit of the tree you shall be like God, like Elohim – that’s the word. It is the same word that is used in Genesis 1:1. “In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth.” So what happened is the serpent came and said, “If you eat of the fruit of the tree you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Did Adam and Eve actually think that they could be like God in the sense that he was the creator of the sun, the moon, and the stars? Is that the sense in which they were like God? Not at all! They knew they couldn’t do that. What the serpent was saying was, “You get to rule your own life. You will be like God in the sense that you will be independent. You will no longer be accountable to God. You’re going to be accountable only to yourself, and now self is going to be on the throne, and you’ll know good and evil,” and by the way, that was partially true because they now knew good and evil after they sinned in a terrible horrendous way, and that was the promise.
Well, when Adam and Eve sinned, God pulled the shades. The plug was pulled and darkness came upon the soul of man, and what a terrible experience that was. The whole New Testament shows now that in our fallen state, because we inherited this from Adam (both the sin nature and sinning by choice), the man in the flesh, the Bible says, cannot please God. Listen to this description. This is of pagans, but it’s really true of all of us without God. “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of heart.” Wow! “They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy practices of every kind with impurity.” That’s what happened when man went on his own.
What this means in practical terms is this. You and I will always make ourselves appear to be better than we are. We will always believe ourselves to be better people than we really are. We’ll compare ourselves with others and we’ll always come out favorably. Self- protection is now going to become the way in which we operate so that when we are accused we tend to lie, we hide, we manipulate, and that’s just the nature of man in his darkened state. Also it says, “Their foolish hearts are darkened.”
I’ve got to throw this in because right now I am reading Richard Dawkins’ book entitled, The Blind Watchmaker. Now think about this. Dawkins, of course, is a very famous atheist and a very famous evolutionist. What he’s saying there is that when you make a computer you need intelligence. When you make a jet plane it needs intelligence, but when it comes to life there is no intelligence. It is just this thing called natural selection, bumbling around in all of these interesting ways, and lo and behold, everything evolved. No matter how unbelievably complex we are, the whole business of life and what is needed for life, how can a man say that? The Bible says he is darkened in his understanding.
By the way the next and last message in this series and there I am going to delineate some of my concerns and we’ll discuss whether or not intelligent design is actually science, and a lot of other things will be in that message, but the Bible says their minds are darkened.
Well, something else happened. When we go our own way without reference to God, lo and behold we are like animals. Oftentimes when the Bible wants to describe human beings without God doing their own thing it uses animals as examples. Yes, we do have similarity to the animal kingdom. For example it says in Psalm 32, “Don’t be like the horse and the mule which need a bit and bridle to hold them in check.” We can be as stubborn as horses and mules.
The author of Proverbs 7 says he was looking out of his window and as he was looking out of his window he saw something that some of you perhaps have seen here in Chicago. He saw a young man going down the street and he finds a prostitute and she says, “Come, come lie with me, be with me,” and he goes to be with her, and what does the text say? It says he goes like an ox to the slaughter. You see we can be as stubborn as mules, and we can be as stupid as oxen. When Jesus wanted to warn people about false teachers he said they are like raving wolves in sheep’s clothing. What an indictment of false prophets but what a beautiful description of them!
So, when the Bible refers to us as animals, it is because indeed we are acting like animals - actually far worse than animals. You know, animals can only do so much. Animals don’t have the intelligence to be able to build bombs. Animals don’t have the ability to be able to strap a bomb on themselves and then walk into a wedding or a café and blow innocent people away. People do that. Animals never do that.
You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer (and here’s the question that you should be asking yourself today), in light of the fact that man was created in God’s image, and the very fact that man walks upright upon the earth, and that he was created with a desire to know God (as Augustine said, “Oh God, thou hast made us for thyself and our hearts are restless until they find their all in thee”), did the fall destroy that image? Does the fall mean that human beings aren’t as valuable as Christians say they are? Should they be thought of as a continuum like Peter Singer says, killing infants that don’t measure up to certain standards of personhood?”
Well, I’m glad you asked that question. You should have been asking it, and it’s time for an answer. The answer is this. The image of God in man as a result of the fall was effaced. It was marred, but it was not erased, because in the New Testament you also have references to the image of God in man, and in the book of Genesis after the fall you have God saying to Noah that from now on capital punishment will be instituted. Why? Genesis 9:6 says it’s because God created man in his own image, and because man is so valuable the only justice that can be done is this, that if a man sheds human blood, his blood should be shed. It’s a reference to the fact of the intense value of people.
Let me give you this illustration. Yesterday I was looking for something in a drawer and I came across a Kennedy half- dollar. Now I need to say that I feel sorry for people who have everything really neat, you know, with everything is in this drawer and in that file! I feel sorry for people like that, and the reason I do is I find so many good things when I’m looking for something. [laughter] I really do. I don’t know what I’d do if I weren’t always looking for something. I’ve got this pile of stuff on my desk and when I’m looking for something that I need I come across something, so yesterday when I was looking for something else, I saw a Kennedy half-dollar. I should have brought it this morning. Maybe it’s the only one I have.
Let us suppose that I were to lose it at a truck stop in a muddy hole of dirt, and it would be lost there. Some oil gets spilled on it. It lies there for five years, and then somebody comes along and says, “You know we need to put a post here because we’re putting up a new light,” and they begin to dig and they come across this clump and they feel it’s hard but they don’t know what it is because it’s just guck, but it’s hard so the man takes it and later on takes it to a sink and washes it with water. It’s a Kennedy half-dollar. The image is still there. It is still worth 50 cents. It has not lost its value. Marred and effaced yes, but not erased! And we say today to that little infant that is born with a deformity, “You have intrinsic value because you were created in the image of God, and sin has not erased that image. You are special to us and you are special to God.” [applause] And to that couple who are told by doctors to be sure and abort a baby because it has all of these disabilities, God bless the couple that says, “Yes, it may be that those deformities are there, but we’re not going to kill this little one, because he too (or she) is born in the image of God, and if she isn’t born, she is still special to God and will be taken to heaven.”
And we go to the nursing home and we see that man over there who doesn’t know who he is. He doesn’t know who his kids are, and he needs to be fed, and we say to ourselves, “We do not kill him because he too is in the image of God and life is a divine gift and he is special.” And we go into the prison and we see that man who has done evil, committed murder or perhaps committed rape, and we say to him, “You, too, have value because you are created in the image of God. You are not just an animal,” and that leads us to the fourth division of this message, and that is the redemption of man.
Genesis 3:15 is the proto-evangel (total efangelium if your German), and God says, speaking to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring. He shall bruise your head you shall bruise his heel.” Jesus is going to become a man and he’s going to die for men and women. He’s not going to die for primates, and evolution says that because we came up through the animal world, we therefore need no redemption because there was no fall. We didn’t fall from anything so there is no paradise lost and paradise regained. There is no reason to think that there’s going to be a restoration and man will be put again in his original position as king of the earth, ruling with Jesus forever and ever. Evolution says that that is all bunk. We are intelligent animals. “We are primates,” to quote the words of Peter Singer. And if anything, we’re evolving into something better. We fell from nothing. We need to be redeemed back from nothing, and we say to ourselves, “We are unique creations of God. The distinction between man and animal is not arbitrary. Everything hinges on it.”
The Bible says in the book of Hebrews that when Jesus came he took not upon himself the nature of angels, nor did he take upon himself the nature of apes. He came as a man and died as a man to redeem humanity because we have value. We have value.
Jesus said to the disciples, “Just look at the birds of the air. They don’t sow, and they don’t reap and gather into barns, and yet your heavenly father takes care of them.” And then he said, “Are you not of much greater value than they?” and of course the answer is, “Yes, we are.” Your father will take care of you. In fact, the very hair of your head is numbered, and so you see, God says that he is redeeming humanity and the redemption comes to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. The bottom line is man is accountable to God. Animals aren’t. Man can be redeemed. Animals cannot be. When everything is destroyed, and when the earth burns with fervent heat, and everything that you have worked and built toward is all gone, there is one thing that lasts throughout all eternity and that is people. People, once they are born, become as eternal as God. You have value.
What would you say to somebody who is evil and who acts like an animal? Here’s what you would say to him, to quote the words of another, “You are more evil than you could have ever feared.” In fact, that’s true of all of us. We are more evil than we could have ever feared, but we are more loved than we ever could have imagined. God loves us despite the image that has been marred, and what he does through conversion is he cleanses it, renews it, and the Bible says that as we bore the image of the earthly, so we shall bear the image of the heavenly when we shall be fully recreated in another paradise to live with God forever, and that’s because you were created in God’s image. You have the stamp of the divine.
So when we sing, “The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell. It goes beyond the farthest star and reaches to the lowest hell,” we really do mean it because we believe that in Jesus, God sent a ladder to take us out of our slime, our pit, to cleanse us and redeem us and to call us his forever that we might rule with him.
Apes are not part of our ancestry. We are humans. Don’t ever forget it.
Our Father, we thank you today that you remembered us. We thank you today that we are not monkeys in a zoo. Thank you, Father, that despite our ancestry people begat us, and thank you that you set us apart and you said, “Let us make man in our image.” We ask today, oh Lord God, that you shall grant to us a great deal of joy in being able to say to a society that has so ruined itself, “You have value.” To the abandoned child we say as we put our arms around him or her, “You are precious to us and to God.” Father, please help us. Help us to value what you do. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.