A Calvinist Reading of Romans 1:19-32?
Weird Creation as Intelligent Design?
Some weeks ago, I questioned a Calvinist reading of Romans 1:19-20:
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):My interlocutor, Professor Adolfo García de la Sienra, responded:
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."
You cannot interpret Romans 1:20 leaving aside the next verse, 1:21, where it is said that "their foolish hearts were darkened". The whole passage seems to describe the condition of the human race which, at the beginning, had the capability to find God in creation.I've only now had some time to reply to the professor's remark. The verse that he cites occurs within a longer passage that speaks of God allowing human beings to descend into reprobation. It does not seem to refer to a one-time event, such as the Fall, but to a process of darkening described in verses 21 through 32. But even this darkening of the heart, i.e., the understanding, does not extinguish knowledge of God, notes Paul, nor even of God's judgment concerning their sin, for verse 32 points out:
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.The word Greek term here for "knowing" (ἐπιγινώσκω, epiginōskō) means not only "to know" but even "to become thoroughly acquainted with, to know thoroughly." The tense of the Greek is "second aorist active participle," which I suppose could be translated as "having known," as in Young's Literal Translation, but the other eleven translations offered by the Blue Letter Bible prefer "knowing" or "know." Even the YLT, however, presupposes that those whose hearts were darkened had known of God's judgment, and given that verses 21-32 describe a process that does not seem relegated to a one-time event, then I would read this process as one that every individual might undergo.
Moreover, even if individuals "did not like (cf. οὐ, ou + δοκιμάζω, dokimazō) to retain God in [their] knowledge" (verse 28), this translation seems to imply a choice in the matter, a point that the other eleven translations offered seem to agree upon.
The natural man can therefore gaze at the form of the galaxy in the image above and see the hand of God forming a cosmic man, for the skull and brain are already visible! Okay, just kidding about the specifics there. But I would like to note that Christianity has from its inception argued for a natural theology and has developed this form of theology rather highly. Modern theologians such as William Lane Craig engage in such theological reasoning as evidence for God's existence, pointing to the so-called "fine-tuning" of the universe's fundamental constants as suggesting an intelligence designing the world. Whatever one might think of the particular arguments, the presupposition seems to be that Christianity can defend God's existence on the basis of evidence interpreted by reason and that the non-Christians are capable of following such reasoning.
I suppose that some Calvinists would disagree . . .