Saturday, July 30, 2016
The Knowledge of God, Degrading Passions & A Depraved Mind
Christianity can be shown to be, not “just as good as” or even “better than” the non-Christian position, but the only position that does not make nonsense of human experience. – C. Van Til
I thought I would take some time to share my theological and philosophical reflections lately as I continue to explore the wonderful phenomenon of how humans experience knowledge. Unless you are a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic, you acknowledge that human beings are able to know and function within this state of affairs we call reality. Oh my, I have lumped epistemology and metaphysics together in the same sentence. What will the academic philosopher think of me now? Frankly, prof., I don’t really give a darn. All in good jest of course. I want to turn your attentions to Romans 1, a chapter that I believe serves as a basic foundation for a distinctly Christian epistemology. In this chapter we not only touch on modern controversies of epistemology, but also on some of the modern moral controversies of human sexuality; controversies which stem, as we shall discover, from man’s unethical approach to how he interprets himself, his experience of the world, and yes, his experience of God.
As he lays the foundation for what he is about to discuss with the Roman Christians, the apostle Paul tells them that the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He then informs these ancient Christians, and us I might add, that the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteous of men, who by the way, are suppressing the truth in unrighteous. Now, there is no question about the fact that God is revealing his wrath. That is clear enough. But why is this happening? Paul uses a very interesting Greek word to draw his inference. Please remember, this inference is the revealed truth God. God is revealing these things through Paul. What Paul writes, God speaks. The Greek word dioti is an adverbial causal conjunction. It modifies the verb apokalupto. Paul is about to tell us why God is revealing his wrath from heaven. Dioti is a marker of a causal connection between the idea in v. 18 and what is about to follow in v. 19. The reason is linked to man’s knowledge of God. Paul says that that which is known about God is evident within them. These are they who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. And who does that? All unregenerate men do that until the glorious light of the gospel is used to open their eyes and that work is only performed by the Holy Spirit. This knowledge of God is evident within them for God made it evident within them. When God makes knowledge evident within someone, I would say we are safe to assume that they know. They are in possession of knowledge. They know and experience the truth of God’s existence.
After clearly point out that men are in possession of the truth of God, and that these men willingly suppress that truth, Paul goes on to expand on his indictment. And make no mistake about it, this is an indictment. Paul elaborates on this fact by saying that God’s invisible attributes, his eternal power, and his divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made. Therefore, they are without excuse. Notice that Paul did not say that men ought to infer God from what was made. Paul said that men do actually see clearly and understand something about God’s attributes, his eternal power, and his divine nature through what has been made. The experience of being created in God’s image as well as the experience of God’s created order ensure that all men everywhere know God; they possess the truth about God by way of their experience of these things. And this experience is impossible to avoid. It is the experience of reality, God’s created world.
After expanding his indictment, Paul feels the need to elaborate even further. He says that even though they knew God, they did not honor him as God nor did they given thanks. Instead, they went down a different path. They became, humanity became mataioo in their dialogismos. They become utterly worthless in their reasoning, in their cognitive faculties. Man possesses the truth about God. He knows God. He understands enough about God to render him without a defense for this behavior. There is no excuse for men to reject belief in God. There is no excuse for men to refuse to give God thanks in all things. None! This behavior is condemned by God as idolatry. The traded to image of God for a different kind of image. Rather than accepting the truth that humanity is creating in the image of God and owes God all that he is, they, we, exchanged that image for a variety of different ones. In modern culture, we have exchanged the image of God for evolutionary theory. Paul has told us the wrath of God is being revealed. Now he is about to tell us how that wrath is being revealed.
Paul uses the Greek conjunction, dio, to tell us how God is pouring his wrath out on the earth. We saw a hint above when Paul references the complete uselessness of unregenerate cognitive faculties. Now he tells us, using this little word which is a logical inferential. It is the conclusion of his indictment. For this reason, God gave them over to the lusts of their own hearts. How is God’s wrath revealed from heaven? First, God gave them over to degrading passions. Atimia is a Greek word that has a sense of a state of dishonor or disrespect. The Greek word, Pathos employed by Paul in this instance, carries the sense of a strong desire. In other words, God’s wrath is revealed in the shameful, dishonorable, and disrespectful strong desires of humanity. This behavior is evidence of the wrath of God. And it is brought about because humanity experiences God in everything they do and refuses to interpret that experience righteously, giving thanks to God for all they are. But that is not all. Not only is humanity suffering from shameful strong desires because of its obstinate behavior, there is more.
God not only gave humanity over to degrading passions, he also gave them over to a depraved mind. Here the Greek word is adokimos, and it means unqualified, worthless, base. God has given unregenerate men over to a mind that is worthless. The word for mind carries the sense of intellectual perception, understanding, you know, the cognitive faculties of human beings. In this context it means a mindset, a way of thinking, an attitude, an outlook, or, a worldview. Unregenerate men display the wrath of God upon the human race by way of embracing a worthless, unqualified, base worldview. The thought-pattern of unregenerate humanity is debased.
In summary then, we observe the revealed wrath of God on humanity in the form of unregenerate men having sank into the moral confusion of even the most basic of human behaviors, sexuality. We witness the degrading passions of homosexuality not only being freely expressed in our culture, but we also observe a frightening dogmatic insistence on celebrating such behavior. Moreover, we observe an irrational and extreme hostility toward those who disagree with these practices. Second, the wrath of God is also revealed in the expression of an anti-God, anti-Christian worldview that reduces not only to moral confusion but also to an irrationalism that only be made sense of in the Christian worldview. We murder innocent babies in the womb. We celebrate perverted sexual promiscuity. We affirm men who want to be classified as women. We are forcing our young girls to share bathrooms and shower facilities with the opposite sex. And somehow, this is supposed to be progress? What we see in American culture in particular is the clear revelation of the wrath of God in the immoral sexual perversion of homosexuality along with the absolute abandonment of anything remotely resembling a worldview or mindset that makes sense. In closing, man knows God exists. Man understand something about God within God’s created order. This knowledge comes to him. Man is the passive recipient. This knowledge is unavoidable. But man forces his own interpretation on things. He rejects the Creator, exchanges God for anything but God, to include evolutionary theory. He interprets everything apart from God refusing to acknowledge or thank God in any way. God reveals his wrath by turning men over to degrading passions and lusts as well as depraved minds. Man’s desires and cognitive faculties are spiraling downward without restraint. And in it Christians are instructed to interpret this phenomenon as the revelation of the wrath of God.
This condition makes one wonder why God stopped to save any of us. Why do that? The purpose of God’s electing and saving grace is located in God. Indeed, the mystery of the loving-kindness and grace of God is above and beyond anything we could ever hope to understand.
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