Romans 1: 18 – 23 God’s wrath against sinful humanity
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.
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I have struggled to make sense of Romans, and this is where it all starts to go wrong. In terms of orthodox belief, what I write here is wrong. Nevertheless, I feel called to write it. However, I would urge any readers to read it critically.
In this passage, Paul seems to be saying that the nature of God is clearly shown in his creation.
Is it really? I can accept that human wickedness is responsible for many of the ills of the world, but what about the many natural disasters that cause great suffering? What about earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, epidemics, not to mention the horrors of cancer and other diseases?
There is certainly much in the world that is beautiful, and I give thanks to God for it, but as to deducing the nature of God from it, I don’t think I can.
Take the statement “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen.”
I want to ask Paul, how are they clearly seen? All civilisations have creation myths, and they’re all different. Don’t the differences show that the nature of God is not obvious from his creation? And is the bible not a record of how God has revealed his nature both to individuals and to nations? If his nature were obvious from creation, why would this revelation be needed?
And is Paul actually revealing God’s nature to us when he writes “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people”? The message of Jesus is not one of condemnation but of forgiveness. It is a revelation of God’s nature as love.
I am convinced that the essence of the holiness of God – the quality that makes him holy – is love; a love for his creation that transcends anything we can imagine.
I am confused. I believe you are God and that Jesus shows that you love us passionately, and yet I find the writing of your great apostle St Paul seems to say otherwise. Please help me to understand your will and to be obedient to it.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.