Paul details the human condition apart from and against God in unforgettable ways here. And it all flows from our sinful “silencing” of the truth with “injustice” (1:18).
We are no longer able to see God in the “Book of Nature” (though signs of his presence abound). We are culpable for this ignorance. Our minds are so clouded and shrouded with our folly and godlike pretensions that we can no longer honor God or be grateful.
As godlike as we imagined ourselves to be, we are still creatures. Still created to worship. Only now our worship is perverted – we turn to creatures and imagine the deities. These days we don’t worship the animal world. No we’re more sophisticated than that! We worship ideas, causes, movements – democracy, free enterprise, the Market, winning, success. But we do worship! And corrupted worship corrupts the whole of our lives and our humanity are distorted and perverted. (I’m not talking about homosexuality here; just the fact of distorted sexuality Paul uses here as his most vivid example of our disordered lives. And there’s plenty of that around. You can make up your own minds about exactly what Paul had in mind here!)
So, and here’s the tragic punch line, God gave us what we wanted! Divine judgment here involves God simply letting us go, heart-breaking parental tough love. Letting us “hit bottom” (to use recovery language). If we want to live a lie and worship the creation (with ourselves at its center), so be it. God allows it.
God let us go to our twisted minds and we pay the price in our bodies – false commitments and twisted values always have whole life consequences (v.27)! Standing against God finally eventuates in standing against humanity (v.30). No matter how grand our humanisms, they all lead in an antihuman, inhuman direction! Though we know at some level we are courting our own destruction, we plunge headlong into the abyss anyway.
And God lets us go!
This is how it stands with Gentile humanity in rebellion against God. But not them only! Paul has set up here a powerful rhetorical trap they he about to spring. But more on that next time!