Saturday, March 02, 2013

The Sentence

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. — Genesis 1:26–27 (NASB95)
Harvard psychologist and researcher Daniel Gilbert opens his best-selling book Stumbling on Happiness with what he calls "The Sentence." "The Sentence" begins with these eight words: "The human is the only animal that …." Gilbert argues that every professor needs to finish that sentence. – Adapted from Frank Partnoy, Wait: The Art and Science of Delay (PublicAffairs, 2012), pp. 120-123
What a fantastic idea proposed by Daniel Gilbert. Wouldn’t if be fascinating to hear how every professor would finish that sentence? And if professors should answer it, how much more so should preachers answer it?

Gilbert implies that there are a multitude of ways to answer “the question.” If not, I think he would have suggested that the philosophy professor answer it, or the psychologist, or maybe the sociologist, or another. I’m not sure how professors in the various fields might finish the sentence. Perhaps different professors in the same field of study would answer differently.

The same might be true of preachers. I can think of at least a few ways to complete the sentence that would be both true and interesting to consider. But one stands out, and even it might be expressed in different ways.

Here’s how Daniel Gilbert finished the sentence:
The human being is the only animal that thinks about the future ….
[Human beings] think about the future in a way that no other animal can, does, or ever has, and this simple … ordinary act is the defining feature of our humanity.

How would a preacher finish “the question?” Well, here’s one of my suggestions: “The human being is the only animal that was made in the image of God.” I think everything else one could say about human beings flows from that truth.

It’s the reason that sin matters (for example), and that redemption matters, too. God’s eternal purpose and plan for human beings is contained in that germ of truth. Everything that can be said of mankind is about men and women made in the image of God.