Sunday, November 8, 2015

Creation and God's wrath in Romans 1

The guilt
The reason given by Paul for God's wrath is surprising in itself and very different from our natural conscience and feeling of justice - bad deeds are the reason why God gets angry at us and punishes us, is that not true?

The prophetic words about sinful humanity in St Paul's letter to the Romans is very surprising. He writes that the reason to God's wrath is essentially not the wickedness and bad deeds of humans but what the very fact that they do not: give glory to the true Creator of the world, God of Israel. Instead, idolatry rules, as Paul could see by his own eyes in Athens, Rome and elsewhere.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Romans 1:18 - 23
The punishment
Speaking about God's wrath leads our thoughts naturally towards heavenly punishments against sinners such as natural catastrophes, physical illnesses and pandemics, horrors of wars. Isn't this pattern of crime and punishment how divine wrath is understood in religions? Humans try to find ways to guarantee that highest forces are satisfied with us and bless rather than punish.

St Paul writes tough words but there is in them something very different from the natural pattern of crime and punishment underlying much of human religious behavior.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Romans 1:24 - 32
Not very politically correct but definitely powerful words and totally surprising on closer reading.

God's wrath
Curiously, St. Paul sets the reason of human wickedness to God's respond to not being glorified as the Creator.

From our natural religious perspective things are upside down in Romans 1: instead of human wickedness being the cause of God's wrath the reason is idolatry, not recognizing the true God even He is so obvious in His deeds.

In response to human idolatry God Himself

  • gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another
  • gave them over to shameful lusts
  • gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

St Paul sees little hope for flesh, children of Adam and Eve. They will never be able to glorify God as He should be respected in His immensely wise deeds of Creation. According to the Letter to the Romans, something totally radical must happen to human individuals before they sing the glory of God as their Creator wishes and is worthy of.

1 comment: