Day 1 Faith & Science Series Part 5: David Wood on Science and the "Image of God"

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In his message on this week's Day1 radio program--the 5th in the "Faith & Science in the 21st Century" series--the Rev. David Wood speaks on "The Image of God and the Secret of Life."

In his sermon he says:

Science has discovered just how deeply human beings are stitched into the fabric of the natural order of all living things. There is nothing in the biblical story that should cause us to resist this disclosure. If anything, the biblical stories of creation make abundantly clear that all living things find their origin in God. A surprising commonality amidst a wild diversity is entirely consonant with the heart of the biblical story.

David's sermon for the Oct. 25 program is based on Genesis 1:26-27--an excerpt from the first creation account in Genesis, where the notion of the image of God is applied equally to all persons, thus establishing the fundamental rationale for conceiving the intrinsic dignity of every human being without discrimination.

The "Faith & Science" series is presenting eight accomplished clergy and scientists who explore major issues of science with a goal of facilitating meaningful conversation around these issues particularly among people of faith. The programs are airing weekly through November 15 on more than 200 radio stations and via podcasts at Day1.org. I'm honored to produce and host the weekly program, which celebrates 70 years of weekly broadcasts this year (formerly known as The Protestant Hour).

David is senior minister of Glencoe Union Church in Glencoe, IL. An ordained American Baptist pastor, he has for the past 25 years served churches in France, Kentucky, Maine, and Connecticut. David studied theology and ministry at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and Yale Divinity School. He has also served as a consultant to the John Templeton Foundation for several years.

In his sermon, David clarifies what he means by the "image of God," and how the concept has been misapplied:

Too often, talk of what it means that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God has focused on what separates humans from the rest of the natural order. As a result, the "image of God" can read as a liberation of human beings from an entanglement with nature cultivating detachment and even indifference in relation to the natural order. A more straightforward reading of these early chapters of Genesis places humankind into a constructive, generative relationship with all that exists.

The image of God is not so much about what makes human beings different from the remainder of creation. More accurately, it is about situating the human being in right relationship to the natural order. It is not a difference FROM the rest of creation that is at the heart of being made in the image and likeness of God. It is a difference FOR--a difference FOR the sake of God's good creation--for its care and cultivation.

When I asked David to tell us one thing he hoped listeners would remember from his sermon, he responded:

To see in every person we encounter in the course of our everyday lives that they are bearers of the image of God; and that if we have that in view, it has to make a difference in how we respond and interact with each other.

The Day1 Faith & Science series launched Sept. 27 by the Rev. Scott Hoezee--you can read more about that here. On Oct. 4 the Rev. Dr. Ted Peters spoke on "God and Cosmos," and you'll find a summary here.

On Oct. 11, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, spoke on "What Matters Eternally?" You can read about that here. And last week, the Rt. Rev. Nicholas Knisely, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, addressed the topic "Quantum Physics and Eternity," about which you can read here.

Subsequent speakers in the series are:

Nov. 1: The Rev. Dr. Nancy Duff will focus on "Genetics and the Bible." She is the Stephen Colwell Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at Princeton Theological Seminary. An ordained Presbyterian minister, Duff focuses her research on the theological foundations of Christian ethics.

Nov. 8: The Rev. Dr. Tom Long will preach on "Health and Healing/Death and Dying." Named in 1996 as one of the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world, Long retired in the spring of 2015 as Bandy Professor of Preaching from Candler School of Theology at Emory University. He is the author of 21 books.

Nov. 15: The Rev. Dr. Luke Powery will preach on "Keeping the Conversation Going in Churches." He is dean of Duke University Chapel and associate professor of homiletics at Duke Divinity School in Durham, NC. Ordained by the Progressive National Baptist Convention, "The African-American Pulpit" named him one of two outstanding black ministers under the age of 40 who are helping to shape the future direction of the church.

In addition to the radio program sermons, brief videos featuring the speakers on topics related to their messages will soon be available on YouTube and at Day1.org.

Day1 has been broadcast every week for 70 years, formerly as "The Protestant Hour." Featuring outstanding preachers from the mainline denominations, Day1 is currently distributed to more than 200 radio stations across America and overseas. For more information about the program or the "Faith & Values" series, visit Day1.org.

The Day1 Faith & Science Series project is made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in these programs and resources are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.