Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1996
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 3: Disruptive Truths of God’s Kingdom
Chapter 1: The Tragic Flaw in Civilized Society
Lesson 38 – Rise of Paganism in Pre-Abrahamic Civilization
7 November 1996
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’re going to take up the final issue before the call of Abraham, which is why God had to call Abraham in the first place. When we get into the call of Abraham we’re going to cover a number of difficult doctrines, but the most difficult is the simple exclusivism that strikes the non-Christian so terribly offensive, and to see a little bit more the background for that, we want to understand… here’s the problem. We have the flood at a point in time; we have the resurgence of civilization at this point. We have a flourishing of civilizations for 500 years, that’s about the time between the time of Noah and the flood and the time of the call of Abraham, a little more than five centuries. And in that period you have a strange thing going on where the human race is cohabited, there are two different kinds of human beings here. You have the grand old people who lived for 400-500 years, and then you have the younger ones who were dying off earlier. We said that this is a very abnormal period of history, it’s never ever happened in the human race, and it’s inconceivable to people outside of the Bible. To scholars who don’t take the Bible seriously this is just pure fantasy, this is just pure absolute nonsense. But from the Scriptural point of view that’s what the Bible is recording happened. So we have to go along with that, whether people like it or not.
There are two other times in history when something like this happens, and both are really abnormal times. Prior to the flood, so if we diagram the time of creation to the time of the flood, the fall being in there, during that period of time angels cohabitated with the human race, that’s Genesis 6. It’s also the Garden of Eden; any member of the human race at that period could have gone up to the gates of Eden and seen the angelic guards there with swords. So the police function during this period of time was done by angels, and that’s all the Bible tells us about it, we can sit and speculate endlessly about what it must have been like, but we don’t know what it’s like because the only biblical data we have is one verse in Genesis 6 and the other one about the angels guarding the gates of Eden. Presumably during this time something happened in this angelic police function, it broke down somehow. This is why in Genesis just before the flood you have that strange passage about angels taking human females into marriage relationships, that sort of thing, real weird stuff.
There was that period in history when something weird happened by way of a strange nature of who inhabited the planet earth. That was number one period, this is number two and then in the future we’ll have yet another time because when Jesus Christ comes back to establish a thousand year reign, from the time of His return until the time that He does away with the universe and we go into the eternal state, Revelation 22, during that thousand year period the human race also undergoes a strange state of circumstances. During that period you have the resurrected saints cohabiting with natural believers and unbelievers. This is the passage where Jesus promises that you will reign; you will reign with Me while I subdue the nations with a rod of iron. There Jesus Christ is the authority over the entire globe for a thousand years, and the men show their gratitude to His work by rebelling in a massive global rebelling at the end, so man still doesn’t learn the lesson.
So for three periods of history there is this abnormality. We’re studying period number two, this period of 500 years between the flood and Abraham, and during that period there was a transformation that happened. The period started out at the beginning with a revelation available to everyone, so we have a feature at that point, we have universal revelation, or what I will refer to as the Noahic Bible, which equals Genesis 1-9. That Noahic Bible was available to every race, every culture, every continent. That was the corpus of revelation that existed at the beginning of that 500 year period, that five century period. What do you suppose that gospel consisted of? This is the gospel, this is all the Bible they had, no New Testament, didn’t know about Jesus, but it was sufficient in order to be saved. It was the gospel as it was known at that point in the progress of revelation. Let’s think about some of the terms that people had to believe in. One of the things that they had to believe in was obviously creation, that God was the Creator, that they hadn’t come forth from the mud, so they had the idea that there was a personal infinite Creator. They must have known about the fall, that’s in Genesis 3, so they had some idea about sin, they knew about the fact that the Noahic Covenant was installed by a blood sacrifice, they knew the story from Eden when God slew the first animal and gave its skins to man. They had the promise of the Savior given to the woman, the seed of the woman who was yet to come, that seed. So they had a promissory thing going on.
But if you open the New Testament, one of the most interesting passages, and this shows you they knew a lot more than we give them credit for. In Jude 14 there’s a strange verse, really strange, got some stuff in it we don’t know where it came from, nobody knows where this came from, but it’s reporting about Enoch, who was one of the guys that lived before the flood, BEFORE the flood, not in the 500 year period we’re talking about tonight, but before that 500 year period. “… Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying,” now from the quote mark in verse 14 all the way down to the end of the quote in verse 15, gives you the content of how much the people in Noah’s day knew. He said, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones,  to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in all in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him,” etc. It’s a look ahead to the judgment, so it’s an idea there of quite a lot of detail, not reported in Genesis 1-9.
So when we say the Noahic Bible equals Genesis1-9 we have to be a little leery about the “equal,” it might have indicated a lot more than the equal. Maybe I should write it greater or equal to Genesis 1-9 but I hesitate to do that because they really didn’t have much beyond Genesis 10-11. There was a corpus there, sufficient for people to be saved. So the world was not without information, was not without data. We want to see at the beginning of that 500 year period, revelation was available. Toward the end of that 500-year period the world was in a mess, a real mess. That’s why God had to call out Abraham and start all over the process.
The question we want to work with tonight, because it will give us insight into our own system around us, or civilization as we call it, the cosmos, or the world as the Bible says. The world system came into existence by the end of this 500 year period. By the time of Abraham what had promised to be a glorious civilization knew it had started out with all believers, it started out with a complete destruction of all the evil except in the hearts of fallen men, and men were given an opportunity to start from a clean slate. After five centuries, only five centuries, we have a deterioration, and it’s a commentary on what happens to man corporately. This is us, we’re in this; this is what the human race produces. So we want to look at the process of going from a high civilization, which we said before, we’ve looked at maps, we’ve shown you the exploration that these people did, they weren’t stupid, they were well trained, they had high technology, and out of this you come from this great promise down to what we call the world system.
The Bible refers to that world system either as the world, or in the Greek it’s the word cosmos, that’s the lust of the flesh, the pride of life, etc. We want to use this structure, so turn to 1 John:2, and we’ll go through what men produce. This is all preparatory to the call of Abraham and the rest of the Old Testament. I John 2:15-16, a key verse, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” So it’s possible then to love the world. And what he’s saying is you can’t love the world and be in fellowship with the Lord. Why? Who started this? God started it [tape acts up, word or words left out, noted by ?] there’s the civilization. Now what has ? come of it means that if I love the world ? of the Father. We’ve got a dichotomy going on here. That’s what we want to struggle with and find out why, what self-destructive process occurred in civilization. If we can understand that self-destructive process we can understand our own time. Because the self-destructive process occurs over and over, cyclically, we have the rise and fall of nations. And we see this again and again and again. It will happen on every continent, it’s happened dozen of times in Europe, it’s happened dozen of times in Africa, dozens of times in Asia, every continent same old thing, over and over.
But what John does is isolate in verse 16 three categories to watch for. We want to amplify each of these three categories because we’re going to follow Paul’s analysis, based on this. There’s three things here he says that constitute this cosmos. You’ll notice he’s not saying it’s the high technology, he’s not saying that it’s going out and building buildings, he’s not saying it has anything to do with art or architecture, it has nothing to do with the technology, the medical work done, the exploration work done, he doesn’t list those, because those are products of man’s genius, man was created to subdue the earth; nothing wrong with those things. What John singles out as the cosmos, as the world ?, the pieces, it isn’t building here or a boat there, or a vineyard on this guy’s land, or a house, that’s not what he’s talking about. He’s talking about a configuration an agenda, a way of all these components being organized toward different goals.
We see how the Internet can be used. There’s nothing evil about the Internet. The Internet is just another form of communication. And frankly, for some small Christian schools it’s a means where you can get library access that you never could 20-30 years ago. You’ve got a tool here on which we can actually have a lot of resources to home schoolers. So the Internet is a great thing. The Internet itself isn’t part of the world system, it’s the use of the Internet, that can be for good or for evil, and you can’t throw out the technology. During church [?may be history] people do this, we’ve had people get so upset about the evils that go on that they freeze their own culture, the Amish are a good example, they have frozen culture at 19th century levels. That can be evil too; you can do things in a buggy you can do in a car, good and evil. So the point is that it’s not the culture forms that go on, it’s the use of them and the agenda involved.
So three things ? wants to isolate for us, the first is the lust of the flesh, verse 16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” The world produces these and we’re going to look at them kind of in a different order. We’ll see the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. The first place we see this is back in the Garden, so turn back to Genesis 3. You can take John’s three categories, go back to the text, in Genesis 3:6, three elements that the Holy Spirit has described in Eve’s mind. Here is the grand moment of the fall, and isn’t it striking that to look closely at Genesis 3:6 and notice where the commas are and notice where the phrases are, there are three phrases that describe what was going on in Eve. It says “when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise,” do you see the correspondence? The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, always involved in the sinful impulse.
However, we want to learn something about paganism and we want to learn about this thing that’s pressing us as Christians. We want to learn about the enemy, and as we said, sometimes we met the enemy and it’s us. We want to examine that, because our whole sanctification and evangelism and missions, ultimately all are intrusive ? this world system around us. So let’s go to Romans 1 because this is an analysis of ? culture. As a Jew, as an evangelist and as a missionary he goes out and he does an analysis, right at Rome of all places, the head, the fountainhead of culture of his time. If you also follow on your notes on page 19, we are only skimming the surface here, but we want to master some of the big ideas. My desire for you is that when you’ve gone through the notes, gone through the Scriptures that we’ve gone through, and you’ve looked at these events that at least if you don’t remember a lot of the details, you will have in your hearts the basic ideas of Scripture and when you’re in different situations in life, maybe it won’t be clear to you but something will just not hit you right, you’ll say wait a minute, there’s something wrong about what we’re doing here, and be able to go back to a frame of reference and take a contemporary problem and digest it and analyze it in terms of Scriptural categories. It takes work to do that, to see a deception because often times we’re just simply lazy, we’re not alert. Do you know how many times in the New Testament it says be alert, be sober, be vigilant; the idea is if we’re not, we’re going to be had, we’re going to be tempted, we’re going to be deceived. So that’s the whole point here of learning wisdom, how to live in the world system.
Rom. 1, the context, an analysis of Gentile pagan culture, and I want you to examine the text here, one of the things we want to learn, if you haven’t already in some of your other classes is to be able to observe different parts of the text. And one of the things we want to look at is watch the structure, starting in Romans 1:16 is where he says he’s not ashamed of the gospel, but I want to start in Romans 1:18, from verses 18-32 we want to section it off. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,  because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  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.”
Watch the verbs. Watch the flag that tells you where the sections of this text are. Verse 21, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him ad God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools,  and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.  Therefore God gave them over to the lust of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them.  For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.  For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions…” then you read down through verse 27 and verse 28, “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a reprobate mind…” How then would you divide the text?
Let’s give Paul credit that he’s repeating these things because he wants us to see some sort of structure here. The easiest way of unraveling this quickly is to look at the last “give them over.” That particular verb in verse 28 is located further in the sentence, and the verse starts out “and just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over,” so the complete thought includes the giving over, plus the antecedent action, something happened; as a result God gave them over. If that’s the pattern, let’s look back at verse 26, the other “give them over.” What is the antecedent action that precedes the verb to give over? It says “for this reason,” what reason? Go back to verse 25, “they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. And for this reason God gave them over,” now we have a structure, and we want to follow that structure, so we’re going to actually look at it from the bottom side. Romans 1:28 starts that giving over there, because you’ve got the antecedent condition, plus that verb, and then everything else follows describing what it is that God gave them over to. So there’s a section of text, a block of text in verses 28-32.
Now come back up to the second “give them over,” and verse 25 gives you the antecedent activity that led to God giving them over. From verse 25 through verse 27 you have a similar type structure. The first one is a little more difficult because it’s hard, if you look at verse 24 and see that verb “give them over,” what is the antecedent condition? And you can say it’s all of verse 21, 22 and 23, and that may be but I prefer, on the basis of analogy in verse 25, take verse 23 as the antecedent condition that he has specifically in mind. I think verses 20-22 are general, that’s the general apostasy, and then beginning in verse 23 you have the specific parts of that. So we have these three blocks of texts.
Now let’s compare those to John’s categories of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, and see if we can’t see some similarities. If you look at the antecedent action to the first “give over” in verse 23, how would you describe that, if you had to sort it out among John’s three categories? It may not fit, we’re just testing here. In verse 23, what is involved? It’s an image. What has an image done? It’s an image that is seen. So let’s make a hypothesis, let’s just say that verse 23 is talking about something about the lust of the eyes, something about man’s imagination, something about how he views things. Then if we do that, and we come down to verse 25, what would that line up with? “They worshiped and served the creature,” it takes effort, it’s the work of the flesh, so if we make a tentative analogy with the lust of the flesh, then in the third one it’s quite clear there that that lines up very well with the pride of life because you can’t see it so well in the English but let me show you something that happens in the Greek.
In verse 28, “just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer,” that’s a liberal translation, it’s not illegitimate, but literally what is said there is that they did not approve to have God in their epignosis, or their most basic knowledge. They did not approve to have Him in their knowledge. They had Him in their knowledge, because it’s quite clear in verse 32 that they “know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death,” so there’s no question that all men know God, there’s no such thing as an atheist. We have people they say they are atheists, but this verse says they are not atheists, they know the ordinances of God. Unless they’ve had a frontal lobotomy, the conscience still works. But the issue in verse 28 is they don’t like that, they are aware of God but they resist Him actively, they don’t approve of having God in their knowledge. Now if that’s the case, then we have here the issue of authority, which is related to the pride. Here we have the issue of service and here we have the issue of the imagination.
Tentatively accepting that for a moment, let’s come back and look at what God gives them over to. In the notes on page 19 I deal with the first one, dealing with verses 23-24. I say that it’s: “The Corruption of Human Imagination, the lust of the eyes.” And if you look at the first paragraph in the notes there’s an interesting point I try to make about verse 23, Notice where it says change the glory of the incorruptible God “with an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and of four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” A little point about observing lists in the Bible.
Here’s a tip about studying the New Testament. Many times in the New Testament the writer of that text has an Old Testament passage in mind that he doesn’t tell you he has in his mind. He will unconsciously use vocabulary that he has learned out of the Old Testament text. Why? What do you suppose was their Bible? Their Bible was the Old Testament, these guys are Jews, these guys knew their Old Testament very, very well. They had meditated upon it. Can you imagine what it must have been like to become a Christian in a Jewish land? It necessitated you picking up your Bible and rereading the whole thing in the light of Jesus Christ. So it required a lot of thought about different passages, wait a minute, the Messiah, let’s check this out. So these guys went back and meticulously read the Old Testament.
It turns out that if you look at these four things in verse 23, it’s an example of Paul apparently having an Old Testament text in mind that he doesn’t tell us he has in mind, because you look at those four things it recapitulates exactly the text of Genesis 7:23. Those are exactly the four things that God destroyed in the flood. Now that can’t be an accident because there are lots of words, different Hebrew words, different Greek words for animals and everything else, why did he pick out these four. So it just tells you that he had something in mind.
Let’s test our powers of observation. Look carefully again at verse 23 and ask yourself in this exchange that’s going on, what other thing is being exchanged? What’s contrasted, let’s start listing some contrasts in verse 23. “They exchanged the glory,” what corresponds to glory in the other thing that’s replacing it? The image. Some of your Bibles will say likeness of an image, because actually there are two words there, so we have God’s glory and we have an image. Both involve sight, glory is like light. What other things can you develop looking at the first part of this with what is exchanged? The glory corresponds to the image. Do you notice the adjectives; “incorruptible God” for “corruptible” and then it lists four things that are corruptible: man, birds, four-footed animals and crawling things. If he says those four things are corruptible, and we know now Paul, I bet he had Genesis 7 in mind, which means he had the flood in mind; what do you think was going through his mind when he penned those words “the corruptible?” The corruptible man, the corruptible birds, the corruptible things, what do you think the thought is there? Then place that over against “the incorruptible God.” What attribute of God is he getting at? Holiness, justice, righteousness vs. what happens to fallen human creation. So we have the incorruptible exchanging for a corruptible, not a very good exchange.
Notice the things he does not say. Elsewhere in the Bible it says paganism worships the stars, astrology, etc. but why do you suppose he doesn’t mention stars? Why is it that this image is all inclusive? When you think of the things in the stars, the constellations, the constellations are pictures of men, four-footed beasts and creeping things. So the worship of the stars is also included in this imagery. Notice something else. There are four things to the image, but the word “image” is singular, so it’s an image that has all these things in it. If you go to the notes, page 19, we kept showing this last year, what we’re dealing with here is where this came from. I talked about paganism and its hostility to Scripture, both ancient paganism and modern paganism; tonight we’re studying the rise of what is called “paganism.” It arose after the flood, what happened before the flood we don’t know in that era, but after the flood this became the doctrine for the key idea that always opposes God. So we want to zero in on what we mean by Continuity of Being, take it out of the theoretical and try to make it clear so we see this is not just a label Continuity of Being, it really is saying something extremely important about the way you view the world, yourself, God and every other thing. What the Continuity of Being is, is that the creature… if the person decides that our heart, our mind, is the center of our viewpoint, that we are the central point of reference and we look out and we see God, we look out and we see man, we see animals, we see rocks, we see events, we see all these different things, but viewed from our perspective, if we take our perspective as ultimate, we classify all these, we have nouns for them. All these are classified with respect to our mind.
This whole idea that we can classify all these things neatly is actually a perversion. In the Garden what did God tell Adam to do to the animals? He told him to name them, and he was obviously to look at them, think and label them. That was part of his dominion work. It’s still part of our work, to label and categorize things. The problem comes that when we decide that our categories are final, without reference to God, and we build this classification system of nouns in our language, as though we are the ones who are doing the final ultimate classification, there’s the Continuity of Being operating. Very subtle how this happens. If you look at what’s happening here, it’s this person, us, me, you, we look out and we put God in our little classification box; we have the arrogance, the phenomenal arrogance to say that we can make the final determination about who and what God is, who and what man is, who and what animals are like, etc., etc., etc. In other words, our nouns, our names, are the final truth of what’s out there, that we can name all things truly without any help from outside. What happens when we do this is that God, in our brain, God is stuck in a box that we have built. Man is stuck in a box, whatever we don’t know we say, well, there are some empty spots in my box, but the box is okay. This is actually an apostate idea of what man was supposed to do.
The proper issue was Adam was to go out to look at the animals, and what does it say about the animals. There’s a little verse in the Hebrew text, he didn’t just go out and autonomously name them, he named them as who brought them to him? God brought them to him, and the idea there is that he is to respond to what God is doing in his life and name them, but he’s naming them under the authority of the One who is sovereign in bringing him the data and information. It’s a recognition that He, God, is sovereign, and that whatever he names this little thing that’s crawling around, he knows that if God brings this little serpent to him, or this mole, or this cat, or this dog, he knows when he sees that that that’s a creature that God made, the form of that dog, the form of that cat, the form of these things that I see were originally ideas in His mind. I can give them names, yes, but I’m always under the authority of the fact that who gave them the first name, where did the form of a cat come from? Is it just a serendipitous arrangement of DNA that happened because somebody shook the bottle of dice? Or is the form of the cat, or the form of a lamb actually coming out of the mind of God Himself? And that when He designed the protoplasm and the DNA to have the form of a lamb, that what He was doing to the DNA and the structure of the molecules in the body of this lamb was building a structure that was to reveal something. Such that when His Son died on the cross, it can be said of Him that like a lamb He was led to the slaughter. The lamb, in other words, has an animal behavior in it deliberately put there in order to teach us about God and His ways. So that these forms of creatures that we see are not random, they emanate from God Himself.
The other thing to remember about this classification scheme, when we look at it this way, the best way I could describe it is the godly way is that we look at these things, but we always remember that there’s a massive difference right here. Last year we dealt with the fact that God is incomprehensible, that God cannot fully be known. He said the secret things belong to Me; those things which are revealed belong to us, Moses was saying that in Deuteronomy 29. The idea there is that God is incomprehensible in that we can never be omniscient. Our knowledge is derivative, never original.
Let me try to summarize this another way, a mathematician gave me this idea, a very simple idea, he was a pagan man, an unbeliever, and he said after many decades of teaching mathematics, I can’t tell whether mathematics is a search for diamonds or whether we’re manufacturing artificial stones. Think about that statement. Is mathematics a search for diamonds, or is it the manufacture of artificial stones. What does he mean by a search for diamonds or manufacturing an artificial stone? Think about that statement, the guy had something. What’s he saying? [someone says something, can’t hear] Exactly, the diamond is already there whether you discover it or not, and God is the original maker of the diamond, the structure and the form of the diamond is independent of man and independent of your naming it, it’s there, God put it there. But on the other hand, under this idea of paganism what finally happens and it has happened again and again in history, when you do not make this distinction and you include God with all these other categories and you view man as the ultimate arbiter, the problem is man is corruptible and in all these categories depend on this, they can’t be any stronger than this, and that means if this changes, what happens to the categories? They change.
This goes on again and again, it happens in literature, it happens in science, it happens in mathematics, and as you see the quote on page 19, it has happened down through the centuries politically. Look at the quote from Dr. Rushdoony, “Apart from biblically governed thought, the prevailing concept of being has been that being is one and continuous.” See, it’s this idea that we have just this one being that we’re looking at. “God, or the gods, man, and the universe are all aspects of one continuous being; degrees of being may exist, so that a hierarchy of gods as well as a hierarchy of men can be described, but all consist of one, undivided and continuous being.”
What did we say last year, what’s the essence of the biblical worldview? One level or two levels? Two levels, Creator/creature. What’s the essence of paganism? One level. You say this still sounds too theoretical. Look at his next sentence. Here’s what follows, ideas have consequences. If you had only one level of existence, the next sentence of the Rushdoony quote, “the creation of any new aspect of being is thus not a creation out of nothing, but a creation out of being,” it’s a trans-formation. You’d never have any creation. On a pagan basis you don’t have a creation. That’s what so foolish when people talk about ooh, I believe in the big bang theory, and the big bang was creation. No it wasn’t, it was a transformation from a tightly compacted universe to an expanded universe, it’s a transformation, not a creation. Wrong, that’s not true, that idea that you hear about the big bang being analogous to creation, it isn’t. That’s been pointed out again and again.
Going back to the diamonds, let’s think about this so we get this fixed in our minds. If math and these things are synthetic stones, then is truth discovered or is truth invented? [blank spot] Truth is there prior to man and is discovered by man. On the pagan basis man originates the truth. On the biblical basis man discovers the truth, a world of difference. Last year Cindy came up and told about what’s going on in English literature, and this post-modernism that goes on is the idea that literature pour out of the corrupt mind of man and that is really not objectively true. You say that’s still theoretical.
Let me take it closer to home. One area we’re going to get close to in this study, law. Aha, when we read the law are we reading literature? Yes we are. And if you’re going to mess up in the interpretation of literature you’re going to mess up in the interpretation of law, because law is written, and that’s the problem with our courts today. Law is plastic, it’s rubber, it can be stretched any way the judge wants to stretch it. Why? Because the law is not something that is there that man discovers, it is something that man makes. When we get into the Mosaic Law, what are the three divisions of government? Executive, judicial, and legislative. What one is missing in the Old Testament? Did they have courts? Yes, they had a judiciary in the Old Testament. Did they have the executive branch, did they have a king, elders? Yes. Where were their legislators? Oh-oh, no legislature in the Old Testament. Why? Who made the law? God made the law, and what were the judges in the courts to do? Make more law, or interpret it into other law, transform it, or were they to discover what God had put in that law text?
See, a world of difference is going on here, and we could belabor the point but I want to make the point very strongly that even if you don’t buy into this, or you still may be a little bit confused, let me assure you that this is a profound thing that’s going on here, and it controls everything we see bad about our society. It’s rooted in the difference between this: is God the incomprehensible omniscient one who has created everything with meaning and a purpose that we discover, or is man the arrogant finite creature who’s trying to project his universals out of his own finite resources and name everything all by himself, without reference whatsoever to God, the Designer, or anything else. You can’t have it both ways; it’s one way or the other way.
The other thing we observe about verse 23 was not only the image, but we said incorruptible vs. corruptible. The other thing we reviewed this last year, that diagram we showed again and again, on a pagan basis the fall is removed, evil becomes normal. That’s why it says “they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible for a corruptible thing.” If everything is corruptible, then evil is normal. What are the consequences practically for that? Follow on page 19, again I cite Rushdoony. “Both gods and men developed or evolved … out of the original chaos of being…. Chaos or darkness generates life; it is both the source of life and the enemy of life…. Chaos and life are thus in a necessary tension.” Then I add, “Thus paganism always features a return to chaos, Mardi Gras-like orgies, to rejuvenate life. Then, once again, the eternal cycle returns to death.”
Let’s examine that, why that happens, and it explains the drug problem. This business of the drug and alcohol problem, the more you work with it and see people struggling with this thing, this is not something to be removed by some sort of little program, or some 1-2-3 therapy problem. There’s some serious things going on here deep down in the human heart, and people get caught in this, trapped in this thing, but it roots back to the fact that we are made in God’s image, and when we refuse to have Him as our authority we pay all kinds of prices, in every area.
One of the things that paganism has always done, it has this cycle, it looks like this; you always go from order to chaos and then back to order again. The picture is always that man evolved, so you have to have chaos in order to get started. What is drugs or an orgy or going to the Mardi Gras do, it’s time to let off steam, time to blow off, this kind of stuff, then you feel rejuvenated and go on. It’s part and parcel of the same world view. The Romans used to do this, the Greeks used to do this, the Canaanites used to do this, everybody used to do it. Except the Jews, do you know what they did to rejuvenate themselves? What was the requirement in their society to rejuvenate? Sabbath day, they had a rest; they had a way of rejuvenating themselves, but very carefully separated from the orgy type of the Canaanite neighbors that were going at it. Taking drugs or doing these things is a theological statement, it’s not just a social problem, it’s not just something that happened because my dad did it or my mother did it. It’s saying something, and the tragedy is we’re not coming to grips with the spiritual message going on here, because we don’t take seriously the Bible when it says that person, no matter how down in life they are, finally we’re not dealing with an animal, we’re dealing with a person made in God’s image, who has some sort of relationship with God, every person has some sort of relationship with God. What we have to find out is what relationship do they have with God and how did they get in this mess.
Paul tells us one of the things that corrupted civilization, verse 23, after this corruption of the imagination, what did God do in response in verse 24. “He gave them over to their lusts,” and the word “lusts” here is an active lust, you’re going to see the word “lust” in verse 26 and it’s a passive lust, two different words in the original language. The first “lust” in verse 24 is something you choose to do; the “lust” in verse 26 is you can’t help it, it’s a passive thing. So in verse 24 God gave them over to the lust of their hearts” to do the uncleanness, “that their bodies might be dishonored among them.” In other words, it sounds very mean of God here, but God said if you take this position and you’re going to corrupt your imagination, and you’re not going to grant Me the authority as the Creator, and you’re going to try to go out into this world system and do it yourself, name it yourself, you are the final authority, and that’s your imaginative picture of the real world, and you want to build your kingdom, be my guest; and He let them do it.
And it’s that release in verse 24 that historically triggered the rise of paganism in civilization. We don’t know how it happens, but entire nations can go this way, tribes can go this way, families can go this way, where there’s resistance to God and He says that’s it, forget it, boom, and He let them go… He let the nations drift into paganism.
The second one, in verse 25, not only did the vain imagination happen, but we have devotion, “they exchanged the truth of God,” see the word “exchanged” there again, you’ll notice the exchange in verse 23, you’ll notice the exchange in verse 25, in verse 26 you notice the exchange again. It’s not an accident, there’s a pattern to this. “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and they worshiped and served the creature,” so now not only do they see all things as ultimately the same, now we devote ourselves to it, they worshiped and they served. Paul wrote those words, “worshiped and served.” Hold the place and let’s see how he used those exact words in another context, in Rom. 12, it’s one you’ve read a thousand times, but look where it’s used again, how interesting, the same verb, to worship and to serve occurs in Romans 12:1-2, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” And then what does he talk about immediately in verse 2, “And be not conformed to the world,” See the opposition going on between service to the Lord and what we see here in this “God gave them over” thing.
Romans 1:25, the second one, “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,” then in verse 26 and 27, this is where the giving over to homosexuality arises. Notice that the homosexuality is not the original activity that leads to it. Here we’re up against it again. You don’t have to go too far in Scripture before you realize that practically every page puts you in opposition to the world. What is the current propaganda that you read over and over again about homosexuality? I’m not picking on homosexuality, but because of this text we are, what is the idea that even if you withhold behavior, what still can’t you change in the “real” (quote) homosexual? His orientation, his basic pattern, you can’t change that because that’s the way he is. We’re all supposed to know that, and this is giving rise to legislative initiatives in state after state after state, because once you grant that the person has a quote “natural orientation,” how can you make a law against it, because if it’s a natural orientation the guy can’t be guilty of it. You don’t make laws against somebody that has blonde hair, they can’t help that, is everybody going to dye their hair black? So you don’t make laws against that because people can’t help that. And that’s the argument you’re seeing right smack dab in front of our face today.
What does this passage tell us? What does it say? It says before you get to the homosexual problem in verse 26, what preceded the problem in verse 25, it says there was a pattern of selfishness, I want to do it my way and I’m going to do it my way, and God says fine, you do it your way, you ignore the Creator/creature distinction and I’ll make it so you ignore the gender distinction. So homosexuality in this regard is no different than any other sin. You may have a propensity to anger, you could argue the same way, it’s in my genes, I can’t help it, so anger is politically correct now. So you get in an argument with somebody in a traffic jam, can’t help it, it’s in my genes. Can you imagine what society would do if every time we got into something, “oh, it’s in my genes, I can’t help it, it’s all natural?” Bologna. That’s where the Bible, as Christians, we’re going to get caught here, because sure as shootin’ there’s going to be laws made and some day somebody is going to make a big issue out of the fact that some church, some preacher got up and preached on Rom. 1 and it’s illegal now because that’s violating someone’s civil rights to talk that way in a public forum. Incorrect—fines, punishment, jail. Think it’s farfetched? I don’t, because we’ve allowed an idea to just take hold in the society, we’ve let the world system dictate that, and now it’s coming home to roost, because that idea is being used to generate certain legislative forms and watch what happens next. So we can’t get away from this, here’s where things go.
Finally, the third thing. We’ve had the lust of the eyes, God let them go; the lust of the flesh, God let them go. And if we think that doesn’t apply to me, I’m hetero, try verses 28-30 on for size. I guarantee there’s not one in this room that isn’t caught in there somewhere. What is that? It’s just saying that it’s rebellion. Notice what precedes the rebellion in verse 28, [“And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer”] they didn’t want to submit to the authority of what they knew their conscience was telling them, very simple. Then, “God gave them over to a depraved mind,” and the irony in the Greek here is the word “depraved” is the opposite of the word that’s “suppressed” in my translation, my translation says “as they did not see fit,” that’s the Greek word dokimazo which is to test, it comes out of that stem, and the depraved mind is the untested mind. There’s irony here. They didn’t see fit to acknowledge God, so God gave them over to a mind that isn’t fit for anything. There’s poetic irony in all of these three things. So you have the general list.
Let’s look at that list for a minute. Does this describe pagan society, does this describe the result of corporate sin, verse 29, “being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed,” and look at some of the sins here, because often we pooh-pooh sin and we have this preconception of what sin is. Let’s enlarge our horizons about what some of these sins are; “full of envy, murder, strife, deceit,” there’s a good one, deceptive practices, deceptive speech, “malice, they are gossips,  slanderers,” this goes on all the time, talk shows, every newspaper you read, in the office, “haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil,” there’s a good one, in other words, we make new forms of evil, the Internet, a new tool, let’s see what we can do with this one, “disobedient to parents,” look at that one, isn’t that interesting, the basic final authority in society so let’s tear that one up, let’s give the courts the right to have a social worker come in and tear up the authority of the parents, let’s grease the skids in the school system so the kid can go into the teacher and learn all kinds of stuff or get into a counseling situation that the parents are never told about, let’s do that.
Verse 31, “Without understanding, untrustworthy,” and the word “untrustworthy” is a word that means to break a business contract, how many times do you see that going on, breaking a contract. See, it’s very contemporary. And then “unloving, unmerciful, verse 32, “and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things, are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” this is the final twist in verse 32, they not only do it, they approve, and the word “approve” is the word back in verse 28, they don’t approve God in their mind but they approve this. So not only is it done in practice, but we are going to redefine deviancy. What do you see going on now? Now we have alternate lifestyles. What a nice neutral term. Can you imagine somebody on a talk show or interview saying well, I fornicated five times last week. How does that come across? Or does it sound better to say I have an alternate lifestyle. We redefine deviancy. And we do it with our vocabulary, it’s easy to do. You just make up new words, very simple. But it’s being done, and the next step after society redefines a vocabulary is the laws begin to change which they’re now doing, because the laws are written in language, if you’ve changed the language what do you change? The laws that are written in the language. Night follows day.
So that’s the transformation and that’s the rise of paganism. On page 20 the thing we did not cover tonight which we’ll cover next time is the role after the flood of civil government in all this, the power of the state, it’s a political issue. It’s not a knocking of one party or another, it’s just coming up with a biblical, this is one of the first areas where we get into the biblical view of politics and political truth.