"Total Depravity" and Romans 1:20
I have had a LinkedIn site for about a year now because an old Baylor friend wanted to link to me, but I did little with it until recently, when I began filling in my page with a few details, including my publications.
I decided to fill it in with more details only after I received a link request from Adolfo García de la Sienra, professor of philosophy and economic theory at Universidad Veracruzana in Mexico. I'm not sure why he wanted a link . . . though I might have had contact with him several years ago when I was doing some research concerning John Milton's views on divine grace and human free will, for his name is somehow familiar to me.
Anyway, I had a bit of time to spare when I received his link request, so I took a look at his paper on "Christian Faith as Trust" (Balkan Journal of Philosophy, Volume 2, Issue 1, 2010) and noticed that in one of his quotes from the Greek New Testament, he'd left off a verb. I therefore sent him a note on that and asked a few questions:
I read your article "Christian Faith as Trust" a few moments ago. Interesting, if a bit over my head. I happened to notice that your quote of Romans 1:19 on page 15B was missing the Greek verb "ἐφανέρωσεν" (showed [aorist]). This verb, by the way, is aorist.I received an answer fairly quickly:
The translation is not greatly affected, though I would use past (made it plain) rather than present perfect (has made it plain). Here are verses 19-20:
1:19 διότι τὸ γνωστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ φανερόν ἐστιν ἐν αὐτοῖς ὁ γὰρ θεὸς αὐτοῖς ἐφανέρωσενI have a question, however. The translation of "καθορᾶται" in verse 20 is given as "have been clearly seen" in your paper, but this is a present tense and should read "are clearly seen." Does this affect your argument, which seems to depend upon God's eternal power and divine nature to have been "originally visible, manifest and evident to all men" (emphasis mine)? The verb "καθορᾶται" would seem to imply that God's eternal power and divine nature are currently "visible, manifest and evident to all men."
1:20 τὰ γὰρ ἀόρατα αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ κτίσεως κόσμου τοῖς ποιήμασιν νοούμενα καθορᾶται ἥ τε ἀΐδιος αὐτοῦ δύναμις καὶ θειότης εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἀναπολογήτους.
I hope that this email is of some use.
Your translation makes sense to me and I will certainly take it into account in my Spanish translation of the paper. The point is that God's eternal power and divine nature "are there" to be seen by men. The problem is that men can't see it due to a corruption of their spirit caused by sin. This is what Reformed theology calls "total depravity" (an inappropriate term for a clear concept). Spiritual regeneration removes this incapacity.I understand his point. However, I don't see that this passage in Romans provides strong evidence for the Reformed (i.e., Calvinist) view. Look again at Romans chapter 1, verse 20, quoting this time from the Morphological Greek New Testament (though it looks to be identical this time to the Textus Receptus):
τὰ γὰρ ἀόρατα αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ κτίσεως κόσμου τοῖς ποιήμασιν νοούμενα καθορᾶται ἥ τε ἀΐδιος αὐτοῦ δύναμις καὶ θειότης εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἀναπολογήτους.I'll just borrow a translation from the New King James Version:
For since the creation of the world His invisible [attributes] are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.As I noted above, the translation of "καθορᾶται" in verse 20 reads "are clearly seen." The Greek verb comes from καθοράω and means "to see thoroughly, perceive clearly, understand." The sense of this verb seems to run counter to the Reformed view of "total depravity" since it appears to insist that human beings can infer the invisible attributes of God from the visible creation, and this human capacity for natural theology is precisely what leaves human beings "without excuse."
Whether or not Paul is right about this human capacity, his argument seems to assume that humans have the ability even in their sinful state, and that doesn't appear to be consistent with Reformed views on "total depravity."
But I'm no expert, and Professor Adolfo García de la Sienra may very well have an answer.