Romans 1:18-23 Human Regress

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Human Regress

Solomon has a reputation for wisdom.  It is well deserved.  We all remember the famous story about how he took the hooker’s baby and threatened to slice it in two.  We believe he was able to write down many thoughtful Proverbs about how life is best lived.  However, he made alliances with surrounding nations by marrying their pagan daughters.  He compromised his faith and allowed pagan practices to grow unchecked on the high places of Israel.  His son, Rehoboam didn’t pay heed to his father’s words possibly because his actions spoke louder.  In one sense, under Solomon, the country progressed in prestige, technology and wealth.  However, in the way that really mattered it regressed.  It adopted godless patterns of thinking that would, many year later, lead to its demise and exile.

We have indoor plumbing, personal computers and telecommunications systems that span the globe.  We can send people into space, explore the outer regions of our own solar system, and we have medicines that keep us healthy and make us live longer.  We look sideways at Aristitotle and Plato, because they were men rooted in their backward age.  Metaxas tells us that we have ceased to hold up people from the past as heroes.  Anything before this present age is corrupted by racism, agism, sexism, or nationalism.  However, we have ceased to have big answers to big questions.  Individuals have been authorised to work out the meaning of life in private.  Public life is reserved for seeking passing pleasures or making a profit.  Although we often symplistically label all things new as progress, The Apostle Paul questions that assumption.  He shows how the devolution of the mind is inevitable once the mind ceases to be in right relationship with God the Creator.  We have clever gadgets and we have instant access.  However, our frantic pace of life keeps us from seeing our descent into hell.

Life is pointless.  Our hearts are dark.  We think we’re clever because our science has disproved God.  We create mythologies in movies and computer games.  People in our age have replaced the transcendent with the vulgar and we think we are clever.

Prayer

God, we thank you for the ingenuity to create machines and systems that make this world more easy to live in.  We repent of the thoughts that deceive us into thinking we are gods.  May we bow down in awe before you and regain the mind we have lost.

Questions

  1. What are the markers in the passage of human regression?
  2. What is the word translated ‘futile’ in Greek?
  3. How do we see cycles in the Bible of godly and futile thinking?
  4. Is the country in which you live making progress or regressing?
  5. How can you be a factor in reestablishing the Christian mind?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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14 Responses to Romans 1:18-23 Human Regress

  1. Megumi says:

    1. didn’t honor him, became futile in their minds, foolish hearts were darkened
    2. Vain, useless
    3. In Judges, in instances of biblical sons who didn’t follow in their godly father’s ways, between godly and evil kings in Israel.
    4. Regressing
    5. By being a Christian education who teaches my students to thinking critically and soundly

  2. Maelynn says:

    My initial reaction to this passage is fear for those who have avoided God. Truly, woe to them! No one is blameless before God.

  3. Maria T. says:

    The regression is evident in the idol worship. Idol worship strikes me as ridiculous. My friend and I were talking about her recent trip to China, where she visited a temple and watched her well-educated coworkers bowing down to idols. She said it struck her as so foolish, but she realized that she is susceptible to the same. I started thinking about how it is so easy to bow down to things here in America like money and comfort without even realizing that we are doing it. We claim that we are being wise by storing up for our futures, when really, Jesus is calling us to live for Him. So in our consumerism, we claim to be wise, but our foolish hearts are darkened. I want to honor Him as God and give thanks to Him so that I will not become futile in my thinking. May we leave a legacy of wisdom for the future generations.

  4. Michael McCardle says:

    I think that human regression has a tendency to start with idolatry. When Eve sinned in the garden she committed idolatry by placing her self and the fruit in a place of more importance than God. Today, man has suppressed the truth of God by further worshiping idols. In my own personal life, when I put things in front of God I feel like I suffocate myself. The Lord truly is the way, the Truth and the Life.

  5. 1. They suppress the truth, did not honor God, became futile in their thinking, their foolish hearts were darkened, they claimed to be wise but instead became fools, exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling created men and animals.
    2. Empty, foolish, hollow.
    3. People depend on God in the depths of their need but become puffed up and slowly exchange His glory for created things which can never save.
    4. I think we are regressing.
    5. I need to personally rely more on God and His provision for me and then take His truth out in compassion and understanding.

  6. Emmy R says:

    The picture you chose to post with this blog is so powerful. What an incredible image to pair with perseverance, and what a good reminder. Perseverance sometimes feel like your stuck in the middle of a tornado, and that is when you REALLy feel like giving up. Although, we always need to remind ourselves that it is WORTH IT.

  7. Christa says:

    1. What are the markers in the passage of human regression? Futile thinking, darkened foolish hearts, being fools while claiming to actually be wise, exchanging the glory of God for simple creatures
    2. What is the word translated ‘futile’ in Greek? The word futile in verse 21 references “nothing” and often is used in the context of idolatry
    3. How do we see cycles in the Bible of godly and futile thinking? I think that the most obvious cycle is that of the Israelites in their time of wandering in the wilderness; however I often see similar cycles in my own life when I take my eyes off of the One who is my Lord and elevate myself instead
    4. Is the country in which you live making progress or regressing? As you pointed out, compared to many standards we are making progress but compared to the values and truths of God’s Word we are regressing as we ignore and defy Him rather than glorifying and loving Him
    5. How can you be a factor in reestablishing the Christian mind? By reestablishing it first firmly and consistently in my own mind, then by being a teacher who models and teaches it to my students

  8. Kimberly W. says:

    We, humanity, think we are so wise, not recognizing our own foolishness. How swift we are to turn from God! Lord, forgive us.

  9. Jung Kim says:

    Lord… it is sadly true that we think we are gods, know everything, and have the authority to do whatever. However, the real truth is that our life is futile unless we know who you are and what you have done to us. Lord, may the world know you that there is NO ONE like you and NO ONE who can compare themselves with you. You are the ONE and ONLY God who is living and personal.

  10. Christina W. says:

    In our world today, we are making progress in things that do not matter and have no eternal value. However, in the things of God, we are regressing. Society is becoming increasingly opposed to God instead of drawing ever nearer to Him.

  11. Andrew Moore says:

    When I think about spiritual regression, I think about Ecclesiastes and how there is nothing new under the sun. In the same way that Israel regressed during Solomon’s day, so are we regressing right now in the modern day. However, God works to bring people back to repentance, and I pray that he will work in the hearts of modern people.

  12. Olyn says:

    This is an interesting post and made me think about the abundance of direct opposition between the world and the Word. Fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom, is labeled as foolish in our current age. The heart, which the Bible says is deceitful, is now seen as the gauge to determine truth. People believe that they have outgrown God and His laws, like a young child who really believes that they can run away from home when they do not welcome a parent’s rebuke.

  13. This passage reminds me of Romans with Dr. Vanlaningham. This passage, according to Dr. V, teaches that people in places that haven’t heard the gospel still deny God because they see him in natural revelation. This was a hard concept for me to grasp at first, but after digging deeper, it has grown my desire to spread the gospel to all people.

  14. Nate Silvieus says:

    No one wants to think that humanity is regressing. We are making so much progress in the world- especially the United States, with technology and such However, our physical successes are taking us further and further away from the truth and the principles this country was founded on. We want to take God out of everything. I also question whether or not the church is regressing. As sad as that thought is, I believe in some instances it is true. There are so many new church denominations popping up out there that are not speaking the truth of the gospel at all and people are flocking to them–there is serious human regression even in the church and we have to absolutely come to realize that.

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