- Humans Reject the Truth
- God Put the Invisible in Plain Sight
- Moral Creator, Moral Creation: Why Atheists Deny God
- To Reject God is to Dismiss Your Humanity
- Our Strange New World of Foolishness
- Worship God or Creation: The Great Exchange
- Life Brings Its Own Rewards
- Pagan Beliefs Produce Pagan Behaviors
- All Sexual Behavior Has Consequences
- The Defiance of Evil: Human Behavior Hits Bottom
“What is truth?”
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, Romans 1:18
With this overarching statement, Paul opens his short course on worldview (Romans 1:18 -32). God’s wrath stands against the rebellion and disbelief of the whole human race.
God is indignant with sin and sinner alike for two primary reasons. First, human sin violates God’s nature and the moral order of the universe. Second, this rebellion has real-world consequences which are ruinous both for individuals and for society as a whole.
In the modern/postmodern world we cringe at the harshness of the word “wrath.” Yet it reminds us that we live in a moral universe, a cosmos fashioned by a perfect God. This God has expectations for human behavior. Notwithstanding the cultural narrative shaped by atheism, we do not inhabit an amoral universe of our imaginations.
In fact, even though we live in a moral universe and God is angry with our sin, there is hope for us. Paul speaks of a redemption found in “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew and then the Gentile (Romans 1:16).” Indeed, God’s wrath means good news. His wrath at the ungodliness and unrighteousness of mankind reveals God’s righteousness and goodness. The good news is that Jesus takes our sin on himself and his righteousness is imputed to us by faith (Romans 1: 17).
And what is it that so displeases God? Man’s universal rebellion, manifested in two ways: godlessness (attitudinal) and wickedness (behavioral).
The rebellion is against God’s moral order, the 10 Commandments. This Decalogue is divided into two tablets, and human rebellion defies both.
The first tablet contains four commandments describing man’s proper response toward God, i.e. godliness. Man rebels against this frame; he evidences godlessness.
These commands indicate that the highest responsibility of mankind towards God is worship given exclusively to the living God. Violation of these four commands manifests godlessness of the heart and mind. Such a person is without piety, void of both sacred belief and practice.
The second tablet, addressing behavior toward one’s fellow human, is grounded in the first. Thus, a godless attitude, violation of the first tablet, leads to wicked behavior, violation of the second tablet.
The second tablet contains six commandments toward our fellow human beings. These are intended to guard against:
– Dishonoring Parents – the most profound violation of generational respect
– Murder – the most profound injustice against an individual
– Adultery – the most profound violation of the family
– Stealing – the most profound injustice of enterprise and economic prosperity
– Lying (false witness) – the most profound injustice against the rule of law and social cohesion
– Coveting – the most profound injustice toward a person’s social framework.
When we violate these commands we expose our wickedness. These are deeds of injustice. They lead to death, broken families, enslavement and poverty.
Then we come to this fascinating phrase “suppressing the truth.” Our unjust deeds suppress the truth, Paul argues. Let’s explore this phrase.
Note that truth is suppressed. Not ignored. Not abandoned or forgotten. It is suppressed.
The Greek word translated suppress is katechō: “prevent, hinder, restrain, keep from.” The verb is in the present tense and active voice which indicates that human beings are choosing to actively and continually suppress the truth. Humans actively suppress the truth.
As a child I had a Jack-in-the-Box. It was fun to push the Jack in the box and turn the crank to watch him pop up. The Jack was spring loaded. It did not go down easily. You had to push the Jack down and quickly close the lid. Once the Jack was suppressed, it could be released again to my delight.
Truth is like the Jack-in-the Box. It is “spring loaded.” It wants to be out of the box. It is out of the box unless humans suppress it.
The second thing to note is that truth is not static or inert. It is dynamic, forceful. It pops up all over. A person cannot simply ignore the truth. If you do not want to engage with truth, you must actively and continuously suppress it.
Let’s consider the word “truth.” This is the English equivalent of the Greek word alētheia, “truth, i.e., that which is in accord with what really happens, facts that correspond to a reality, whether historical (in the time/space continuum), or an eternal reality not limited to historical fact.”
Truth corresponds to what is real. It has universal character and meaning. Modern and postmodern relativism speaks of “my truth,” but that is a fallacy. Truth is not based on an inner feeling, not grounded in human emotions. Nor is truth merely pragmatic, as in “I tried Christianity but it didn’t work for me.”
No, this concept of truth corresponds with reality. It is objective truth, or as great Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer used to say, “Truth with a capital T, true Truth.”
This remarkable word not only tells what it is, it implies what it is not. The word attaches a negative participle to lanthano which means “to be hidden.” For the Greeks, truth was hidden, “it was out there.” It was mysterious. But Christ, “full of grace and truth,” brought us aletheia, the revealing of what had been hidden.
Lanthano is captured in the unveiling of a new car model. The covering is removed, what has hidden is now revealed. God’s revelation makes known the truth that otherwise we could never know.
That which has been covered is now uncovered so that all can see … and touch. Truth corresponds with reality. It is “hard,” objective truth, not “soft” or fuzzy, not subjective.
We see this hard reality when Jesus greets Thomas after the resurrection. Thomas, of course, was unequivocal in his doubt. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it,” John 20:25 NIV.
But when the skeptical disciple was confronted with the risen Christ, he changed his tune. “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’”
Or as the Apostle John testifies, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life,” 1 John 1:1 NIV.
The resurrection was historically verifiable. It happened in space/time history. This is the nature of Christianity. It comports with reality. It can be seen, touched, felt.
Paul is arguing that God has revealed himself in this way. That human beings have suppressed the truth. They want to keep it hidden, under wraps, so they don’t have to deal with it.
In our next post we will examined how the truth of God is revealed so that everyone might see.
- Darrow Miller
Trevor FaggotterApril 21, 2016 - 3:29 pm
A faithful and truthful exposition,
adminApril 21, 2016 - 3:36 pm
And thank you for reading and responding, Trevor!