Romans 1

Bible opened to Romans 1 with chocolate heart on wood table

Today’s Passage: Romans 1

Verses 18-23 jumped out at me. Let’s take a closer look at 19-21:

19 …[T]hat which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Is the universe really, clearly, the sort of universe which could only have been created by God? Are those who think it isn’t simply refusing to see the evidences of its design? Paul seems to think so. As for me, sometimes I still wonder. God hasn’t come right out and signed his name to every tree and mountain.

Yet, I remain convinced by the Kalām: “Whatever begins to exist has a cause; the universe began to exist; therefore the universe has a cause,” and that cause must be an uncaused Creator. There are some who don’t find this argument compelling, and I don’t understand why.

I should not have eaten that entire heart. Now I feel sick. Also I’m out of chocolate, so I don’t know what I’m going to eat for tomorrow’s post.

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7 thoughts on “Romans 1

  1. Paul seems to say that their self-delusion becomes sincere. “Their foolish hearts were darkened” when they failed to honor God. However, I think this is more of a statement on the human collective than upon human individuals, which could allow for some wiggle room in how we apply this to atheist friends and neighbors.

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  2. One might say that you ate your heart out.

    I have always found this passage compelling. Creation is screaming God’s glory to us and we have made ourselves deaf to it. I love this allegory from CS Lewis:

    “He thinks great folly, child,’ said Aslan. “This world is bursting with life for these few days because the song with which I called it into life still hangs in the air and rumbles in the ground. It will not be so for long. But I cannot tell that to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh, Adam’s son, how cleverly you defend yourself against all that might do you good!”

    C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew (The Chronicles of Narnia, #1)

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    1. That’s a good passage from The Magician’s Nephew. I’d forgotten how Uncle Andrew persisted in self-delusion through his entire stay in Narnia. One similar bit from the Chronicles of Narnia that stuck with me was in The Last Battle, when the dwarves enter Aslan’s Country through the stable, but remain convinced they are in a stable and remain oblivious to the magnificent new world around them.

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  3. I don’t particularly find the Kalam cosmological argument compelling. Even if you grant that the universe had a creator, that doesn’t answer the question of why anything exists at all. Why does the creator exist? If the creator could be uncreated, why couldn’t we suppose that the universe is uncreated? That is, if something could exist uncreated, without a beginning, why not assume that that something is the universe, which we already know to exist, rather than proposing the existence of some being (that we do not know to exist) outside of the universe as creator of the universe, as proof of that being’s existence?

    The thing that I find most unsatisfying about the Kalam, however, is this: Even if you grant the Kalam cosmological argument for the existence of a creator deity, how do you know that that creator deity is any one of the various human conceptions of deity? Could that argument not apply just as easily to any belief system which includes a creator deity, from the Abrahamic faiths to ancient Greek religion to deism? How do you get from the philosophical creator deity of the Kalam to any specific conception of God or gods?

    Does this help to understand why some might not find the Kalam cosmological argument convincing? Is there anything I should clarify?

    This discussion does remind me a bit of every single philosophy class I have ever attended. Generally, the first part of each class is spent explaining whatever argument was put forth in the reading, and later in the class, we look at flaws in the argument or objections to it. I have yet to see a philosophical argument that was flawless and to which no one had any objections.

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    1. Hey again, Alex. Thanks for checking out the post and sharing your thoughts.

      I get what you’re saying on your first objection. You and I (and most people who give the Kalam argument its due consideration) at least both agree that there has to be some non-contingent entity, something that doesn’t require something else in order to exist. The difference is that I’d say it’s an uncreated creator, while you’d say it’s the universe as a whole. Based on what I know of physics, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the Big Bang model and the expansion of the universe, the science seems to point to a universe with a beginning, the First Event. But scientists are constantly discovering new data and amending their conclusions, so while I’m fairly confident there’s an entity at the top of the chain that’s an uncaused cause, I have to admit that my conclusions are provisional.

      Your second objection does a good job of pointing out the limitations of the Kalam. All it guarantees–if it’s valid–is the existence of some entity that brought everything else into being. It in itself can’t tell you if the Uncaused Cause is intelligent, or personal, or benevolent or any of the other attributes that we Christians would be quick to ascribe to him. One would have to adduce other arguments in order to demonstrate anything else about this Uncaused Cause.

      People will always have objections to philosophical arguments, whether the arguments are good, bad, or green. So often these discussions feel like two people arguing over whether a coffee cup has a handle or not. From where I’m standing, it looks like it has a handle! From where you are, it looks like it doesn’t. Perhaps the handle is on the opposite side of the cup from you. Perhaps the cup is so far away from me that I’ve merely thought I’ve seen a handle. And since the cup’s handle is not, in fact, a physical object we can see, but a metaphor for an invisible Uncreated Creator whose existence is in question, the business of circling around the cup for a better view is much trickier than simply physically walking up to it and concluding, “Son of a gun! It really does/doesn’t have a handle!”

      I will probably spend the rest of my life circling the cup, trying to figure out why it looks to some people like it doesn’t have a handle and to me it (for the most part) looks like it does, but for the moment I’ve got to go write today’s blog post. Thanks again for taking the time to articulate your thoughts on the coffee cup and its alleged handle. :)

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