For all Have Sinned(b)
Having opened up this section of the epistle with a statement upon the Wrath of God, Paul describes ungodly and unrighteous men; “who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (v18). The word translated “hold” literally means “to hold down”, “to restrain” or “to suppress”. It is a characteristic of our sinful society that men and women will go to enormous lengths in their efforts to deny God. Paul’s synopsis of the activities of men in their efforts to overthrow God is most appropriate for our society today. Professor Stephen Hawking’s new book, “The Grand Design” has been much publicised because of the physicist’s conclusion that God did not design the universe. In September the BBC broadcast the Horizon guide to science and religion where the scientist, Dr Thomas Dixon, stated, “There is no room for the traditional Bible in modern science”. According to the Evangelical Times (November 2010) the programme was one sided with no interviews with leading scientists who believe in God. This should be no surprise. We live in a society where a spiritual battle is being fought on the very being and existence of God. Atheism has never been as powerful in the history of Britain as it is today. Society is suppressing the truth about God.
1: The Method of the God Suppressors
Suppressing the Internal Evidence For God, “that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them” (v19), This is borne out by the consciousness that exists in every culture of a deity or a supreme being.
Suppressing the Natural Evidence For God, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen being understood by the things that are made” (v20). The beauty and effectiveness of the universe argue for a designer who has planned and created; ID = Intelligent Design. John Lennox, Mathematics Professor at Oxford, in an interview with the Times stated that DNA “screams out for input”, because matter doesn’t become so complex without “something special”, which to him must be creation.
2: The Motives of the God Suppressors
What would motivate Richard Dawkins, Biologist and retired Professor of Public Understanding at Oxford, to write his book “The God Delusion” with the fervent hope that “religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down”? Paul explains in v20 that when God is suppressed man attacks the revelation of “his eternal power and Godhead”. James Montgomery Boice argues that the proud heart of man is both repulsed by a Sovereign, Holy, Omnipotent, Omniscient and Immutable Being to whom all men are accountable. Rather than be logical and be obedient followers of such a God, men choose atheism allowing them to go their way.
3: The Manners of the God Suppressors
Such is the clear revelation of God they have no excuse, (v20).
They refuse to glorify God, that is, they refuse to ascribe to God his worth by worshipping him appropriately (v21).
They are not thankful to God, the fount of all life and hope, (v20).
They have become vain (morally wicked) through their imaginations (their thoughts or their reasoning). Through ungodly reasoning society is becoming more sinful. As man decides his own morality and his own ethics apart from scripture, evil will prevail.
This thinking is called “foolish” (without understanding) and he uses the metaphor of darkness to describe its outcome. Much of the ungodly thinking of our age is drawn from a period in in the 17th and 18th Centuries known as “The Enlightenment”. The godless philosophies of this period were the opposite, they took the western world into the darkness.
These people are described as those who consider themselves to be “wise”. The Greek word is “sophia” from which the word philosophy springs. Concepts such as Rationalism (human reasoning is the source of all knowledge), Materialism ( all that exists is matter and there is nothing spiritual), Nihilism (life is an existence without meaning) and Empiricism (the belief that we can only know what we ourselves can sense and experience), all, sadly, have their place in our society. They are basically different ways of interpreting life without God.
Paul teaches that these so called wise men who develop such concepts are “fools”. The Bible interpretation of a fool is one who does not believe in God (Psalm 14v1).
4: The Merchandise of the God Suppressors
Man in his haste to deny the true God will manufacture his own god. Man has in various places and at particular times created deities out of nature (sun, stars, oceans, rivers and animals) and has formed names for his own self appointed gods (as the pagan Romans did in Paul’s day). Today man’s god is self as is manifested in humanism (the elevation of humanity) which is grounded on evolution as its core principle (v23, also v25). Humanism is a distinct world view which is recognised by the US Supreme Court as a religion. It is the ultimate fulfillment of Paul’s analysis of God Suppression.