18But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who push the truth away from themselves. 19For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. 20From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God.
21Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. The result was that their minds became dark and confused. 22Claiming to be wise, they became utter fools instead. 23And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people, or birds and animals and snakes.
24So God let them go ahead and do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. 25Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies. So they worshiped the things God made but not the Creator himself, who is to be praised forever. Amen.
26That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27Note And the men, instead of having normal sexual relationships with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men and, as a result, suffered within themselves the penalty they so richly deserved.
28When they refused to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their evil minds and let them do things that should never be done. 29Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, fighting, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They are forever inventing new ways of sinning and are disobedient to their parents. 31They refuse to understand, break their promises, and are heartless and unforgiving. 32They are fully aware of God’s death penalty for those who do these things, yet they go right ahead and do them anyway. And, worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. (Romans 1:18-32, NLT)
The Daily DAVEotional
I heard a humorous story a long time ago that goes like this:
A guy is talking to his atheist friend and poses this series of questions:
“You’re walking along the beach and you see a tennis ball. What do you assume? Is it the product of random ocean forces that somehow mixed random ocean materials together to create a tennis ball and then washed it up onto the shore?
“NO! It’s a tennis ball. I assume someone left it here after playing with it on the beach.”
“Ok. Let’s say you’re walking along the beach and you see a bigger ball, like a soccer ball. What do you conclude? Was it designed or did it create itself through some random process?”
“It was obviously designed and placed there by someone.”
“Ok. Let’s say you’re walking along the beach and you see an even BIGGER ball, like a weather balloon. What do you conclude?”
“Well, since a weather balloon has purpose, it must have been created by someone who understood that purpose.”
“Great. What about an even BIGGER ball? What if you’re walking along and you see the EARTH? What do you conclude? Was it the product of an intelligent designer?”
“Oh no. The Earth was not created by an intelligent being. It’s the product of billions of years of random chance processes.”
Romans 1 is the classic Bible chapter outlining the process by which people, in the futility of their own mind, devolve into the depths of their own sinfulness.
Paul speaks to the fictional exchange above in verses 18-20, which state that it’s obvious when you look around that there must be some powerful, creative force behind all that we see. Given our own understanding and experience with creating and designing advanced, complex machines and electronics, how could anyone come to the conclusion that something like our universe, which is so intricately, beautifully and purposefully designed is the result of random chance?
It really makes no logical sense.
William Paley, in the early 1800’s, posed this scenario when he developed his “Watchmaker” analogy. In his analogy, he said in effect,
If I stumbled upon a stone and asked how it got there, I would think the question is absurd. It has been there forever. But if I stumbled upon a watch and asked how it got there, the answer would be different, for a watch is obviously designed with purpose, showing evidence of a designer.
So what is the reason people will acknowledge that man-made items such as watches, computers and automobiles are obviously designed, yet something much larger, more complex and intricate that includes biological living things and entire eco-systems, is NOT the product of a designer?
Paul’s answer in this chapter is spelled out in the first verse of this section (verse 18), when he says:
“But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who push the truth away from themselves.“
The short answer is that people suppress the truth that is inherently obvious to them. To suppress truth is to deny it and reject it.
Paul’s discourse outlines the depth of the problem of sin. Sin is not just doing bad things or saying bad things, but sin has penetrated to the very depths of our heart.
The heart represents our will, our most inner motives and desires. Paul is saying that though God’s qualities are obvious to all through creation, people end up suppressing (rejecting) this truth through a downward spiraling pattern of inner rebellion.
How does this happen?
It starts when people who know God, or at least know there is a God, refuse to give thanks to God or acknowledge His role in our lives. Next, people develop an image of God that matches their own preferences. They fail to acknowledge God as He is, but instead begin to create a god in their mind who matches their own desires and preferences.
As people begin to follow and worship their own view of god, their hearts become darkened. Why? Because they are not following the truth but they’re following a distorted and false image of god that represents their own preferences and desires. In effect, people begin to train and condition their own moral values away from God’s standards and towards their own sinful desires.
As people continue on this course, God gives them over to their own base desires. In other words, He gives people the freedom to follow their choices and also experience the natural consequences of those choices. People’s thoughts, attitudes and actions become more and more vile and wicked as they reject God’s standards of morality and choose to follow their own inclinations.
The end result is that people develop their own moral values that contradict and oppose God’s values in varying degrees. What sinful humanity now thinks and calls normal and good, God views as wickedness. These rebellious acts show up in every possible area of our lives, from the way we talk to others, the way we conduct our business, our sexual practices, etc.
The final stage in this rebellion is a declaration that our sinful acts are righteous (thus, morality is redefined) along with an encouragement for others to follow these new moral guidelines.
In order to justify the new moral order, people either eliminate God altogether (atheism) or they re-create God in such a way that He actually advocates and endorses these attitudes and behaviors that have traditionally been seen as sinful (paganism/idolatry).
I think verse 31 is a fitting summary that characterizes the attitude of the person Paul is describing, when he says,
“They refuse to understand, break their promises, and are heartless and unforgiving.”
This sounds a lot like our current culture to me, and the thing is, none of us are immune to these outcomes. If we are not intentional about caring for our spiritual life, we may find ourselves, over time, slowly drifting away from God until one day we resemble the person described in Romans 1:28-32.
How can we avoid this?
I’m sure there are many practical steps that could help but if we did these three things consistently: acknowledge God, give thanks to Him for His goodness, and worship Him for who He is, we would likely safeguard ourselves from entering the downward spiral which starts the progression.
What are the typical reasons you hear people giving to reject God and His existence?
What examples can you see in our current culture where people are redefining morality and changing their view of God in order to accommodate their own life choices and preferences?
What biblical moral standards do you struggle with the most? What do you think are the reasons you (and others) struggle with those particular moral values?
In what ways are you most tempted to re-define God in order to meet your own personal moral preferences?
Photo by Kevin Mueller on Unsplash