Friday, November 12, 2010

all still means all, right?

First Move: Reduce Jew and Gentile to the same level of need (Rom. 1:18-3:20). After his introduction, Paul describes Greco-Roman culture in graphic detail going from moral catastrophe to moral catastrophe. He invited disgust as he details the horrible way pagan sinners suppress God's revelation in creation. They obsess over idols, indulge in sexual orgies, and display a shocking range of depraved behavior--including envy, strife, malice, deceit, covetousness, lack of compassion, and gossip...
Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity, p 147

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be know 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 men 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 mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped tand served created things rather than the Cretor--who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these things but also approve of those who practice them
Romans 1:18-2

In one sense, McLaren's statement is correct. Paul was giving a description of the society in which he was most familar, that of the Roman Empire, with it's various cultures and subcultures--Roman, Greek, Corinthian, Hebrew, North African, et al.

But his statement is, I think, incorrect. If I may add one little word, McLaren is essentially saying that Paul "describes (only) Greco-Roman culture in graphic detail going from moral catastrophe to moral catastrophe".

But what are the words of Paul, translated in English? "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness". I would contend that "all" means, well, all, which while including the people in the Greek and Roman cultures, is not in any way limited to them.

This is important, because things Greco-Roman seems to be the big bogey-man for McLaren in this book (though maybe he has nothing against Greco-Roman wrestling, unless wrestling is too violent for him).

And let us leave aside the fiction that the only world known to people in the Roman Empire at that time was that of the Roman Empire. Alexander the Great had taken his own empire to parts of India, and trade was going on with China. I remember in listening to an audio book of Will Durant's works on history, in which he says that Buddhist monks had come to Egypt long before. And, of course, those things come up when people want to say that, for example, Jesus was influenced by Buddhism, or Jesus had travelled to places like India and Tibet, or what have you.

And Paul seems to have been a well-educated person. When he uses the word "all", I'm reasonably certain that he knew he was including much more than just those in the Roman Empire.

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