Based on a talk by John Lennox, at the Keswick Convention 2013. He is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and a lecturer at the Oxford Centre of Christian Apologetics.
When you look at a work of art - and the Bible is that and much more - you often find yourself in trepidation in case you damage it. I feel I've been scratching at the surface the past few days. You cannot talk for 5 days as a fallen inadequate human being without misrepresenting some of it. I expect you to check for yourselves and come to your own conclusions, and not accept anything on my authority, limited as that is. It is vitally important that each individual comes to the Word and decides before the Lord how they are to understand it. All I can do is share with you some of the things that have helped me. We are all limited. I'm sharing with you things that have inspired me with confidence.
It will be a good question to ask yourself next year if you come here. How much of what I learned in 2013 did I communicate beyond my circle of Christian friends? The test is not whether you listened and enjoyed these talks, but whether you did something with it.
Genesis 2:15-17 says, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die."
Notice how intimately the sphere of work in the Garden in verse 15, is connected with morality - the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Here's a question - why do we work? We've got family, mortgages and so forth - is that all there is to it?
It can't be. Human beings are material, but we are so much more than that too. Marxism regarded man as just a worker. I saw the tragic effects of it in East Germany and beyond. Once a worker had finished life, they were a non-entity. Life was defined by work. But for many people that's the case today. Their whole significance is contained in their work.
So it is interesting, that at the very beginning God placed the moral issues right at the centre of the Garden, in this sphere of work.
Work is related to eating and feeding. Paul pointed this out to the Thessalonians, who were getting lazy as some Christians do. He said, that if any man will not work, neither let him eat.
What strikes me as interesting is, if you start in your 20s and retire in 65, you have done an estimated 74,000 hours of work. So, what does the Bible have to say about it? My Marxist friends used to have jokes with me, and say Christianity involves work for just 2-3 hours a week, whereas Marxism covers the whole of life. That was a challenge to me that my Christian faith was in danger of being less than an ideology, if it didn't cover the whole of life.
Here's an encouraging but challenging statement from Matthew 6. The goal of work is not for food or clothing - we are to work for treasures in heaven. We are to "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Seek first the government of God. The income, food and clothing we get from it are just by-products. Our work, whether voluntary or paid, is meant to be an experience of the rule of God in our lives. We can't learn morality sitting at home drinking coffee. God will send us out in to the workplace. God will give us responsibilities. There's not a job in the world that doesn't raise questions of morality. The trouble is this. If I don't clear up the goal of work and the by-products of work - I'll change the by-products into the goal. If I do this, I start working for the by-products and cut the moral corners in order to transform the by-products into the goal.
The children of Israel who were given gold after they left Egypt, following their slave labour there. When Moses disappeared up into a mountain, they took this by-product and turned it into a god. How often that Christianity has taken wonderful by-products like education and employment, and they become the saviours and God is forgotten. The by-products become the goal.
I asked a banker about the financial crash, what's it all about? He said, G-R-E-E-D. When the by-products of work become the goal, our effort is merely greed.
How often we think we're working for God for a couple of hours, and then go and do our work. But Colossians says, "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men".
Peter had worked as a fisherman. But when Peter went to catch fish simply because Christ told him, it had a moral effect on him. He said, "depart from me, I am a sinful man" as Luke 5:8 tells us. He was convicted of sin not at church, but at the place where sin mostly happens – in the workplace.
Now let's have a look at the second Creation story of Genesis 2. It says animals were created after man. Now, some say that it contradicts the first story in Genesis 1, in which it's the other way round. But I can point out, that the Hebrew in verse 19 could be translated either the Lord God 'formed' or 'had formed,' because Hebrew doesn't distinguish between the tenses, so it could have been in the past. This solves the problem instantly – is describing the story logically not chronologically.
Then let's look at the creation of woman, in verses 21-23. It says God took one of Adam's ribs and made a woman from it. How can we possibly understand this passage?
Metaphors stand for realities. What is the rib a metaphor for? I think taken from man to show they are companions. It's not given to everyone. It's sad for some who cannot enjoy the companionship of a spouse. So we need to be sympathetic to people whose life has turned out differently to what expected it to be. If you've got a happy marriage, be very thankful for it, but be careful how you talk to people who are single.
By the way, I find it astonishing the number of married Christians who don't pray together or read together. My wife and I frequently recommend reading those simple daily Bible notes. We've seen numerous marriages transformed completely. If you haven't prayed together for a long time, you need to repent. How can we possibly mean business with the world, if we can't even take a few minutes a day to talk to the nearest and dearest and talk to God? Also, it's very difficult to fight and pray at the same time, just as a practical point.
In Gen 2:24 it says, "that is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh." We need to take this very seriously, it's quoted by our Lord. This is the definition of marriage. It comes from God. Marriage is defined by God.
I think that chapter 1 of Genesis, it shows that the speech of God leads to the creation of a universe for human beings. But chapter 2 is about the creation of human beings in relation to morality and society. The serpent was more crafty than any other beast in the field. In verse 1, he said, 'did God actually say…?'.
We've got to take everything seriously. We've just learned there's a fundamental difference between animals and human beings. Now, an animal that talked. You say, really? We know from scripture that there was a sinister being. It amuses and saddens me when people laugh about this, about there being an alien evil being... yet are happy to believe that there are aliens in the universe.
This is a serious question. The way in which evil infected humanity, was by someone asking, 'Did God actually say...?' The first question is about the veracity of God's word.
What the enemy does, is encourage the first humans to use the gifts of God, their wisdom, and steers those senses until they begin to be used independently of God. He tells them, 'you shall be as gods…knowing good and evil.' It was a half-truth of course.
Sometimes temptation is just an objective thing we go for. More often than not, it's someone offering it to us, and we don't want to reject them so we go with it. I've as wicked a heart as anyone else. We need to face this analysis, because it's so important.
They took the fruit and they died. Life involves a relationship with someone else other than you. It involves a relationship with God that's morally defined through his word. So, of course they died. What happened in that moment, their relationship with God was ruptured.
There's a lot of evangelical confusion. I've been asked, 'what is the point in doing the debates, atheists are dead in sin, so they can't respond?' That's exactly the wrong analogy. The thing that happened to Adam is that he didn't die physically. He was spiritually dead, but he hadn't lost the capacity to respond or analyse his moral situation. A lot of the difficulty is based on an un-Biblical analogy and making false deductions from it, and then getting into difficulty with our theology.
God has given us this wonderful ability to say yes and no. Although we're damaged by the fall, we're still made in the image of God.
When you've seen dozens of people coming to faith through these debates, you begin to think it's worthwhile. We are not determined. It demotes human beings.
Out of this mess in Genesis 2 and 3, the woman is told her seed will eventually defeat the serpent. It is foretelling that a human being will come, the last Adam who is from heaven. A life-giving spirit will come. He will defeat the enemy. Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
Why are human beings so special? Because God became human. Do we believe it? If what I've said is true, there is another world.
When I get to heaven, I wonder if I'll be tempted to say, 'if I'd known this world would be like this, I'd have invested far more into it.'