Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Romans 1

During the last intersemester I blogged my usual reflections on the previous semester's modules at HTC, with one exception. I didn't blog any reflections on the Romans module, taught by Mike Bird. A crime? Probably close. Anyhow, I am now blogging some brief reflections/thoughts on that module over the next few days, in the form of a few thoughts on selected chapters, beginning with Romans 1.

Paul's critique in Romans 1 bears similarities to Jewish renunciations in Wisdom 11-15. Dodd characterises God's wrath (1:18) as the inevitable process of moral forces. Dr Bird's notes rightly reject this. But, I wonder whether perhaps we should add a 'merely'. It is a theme apparent in OT Wisdom that God's order is stamped in the fabric of the world. Therefore God's wrath is not merely eschatological, or a proactive discrete intervention, but also it is outworked in the fabric of the world, in the structure of his order, and in the effects of the disorder of chaos which works against God's order through the forces of darkness. The giving up (or handing over) of 1:24ff suggests God's grace in holding back the consequences of his wrath revealed in the natural order, but when this grace is removed sinful societies as well as people begin to debase and destroy themselves (they receive the due penalty, 1:27). This is an aspect of God's wrath.

If we want to square this with a conception of 'active wrath', it's not difficult. Paul in Colossians writes of the role of Christ in God's maintaining of the order of matter - at that level natural processes are founded on the order generated by God himself.

Perhaps another neglected aspect of God's wrath is its relationship to salvation and the righteousness of God. Part of the function of God's righteousness is to remove (ultimately) from creation all that will despoil it - and to protect the seeds of the new creation in this age in the church. His wrath is the operative energy in this process, the aim of which is to secure the salvation of the cosmos, with the new humanity at its centre in Christ. Only when we keep salvation and judgement connected will we avoid some of the pitfalls in our conceptualisation of God's wrath.

As with all of these, there is much more I could write, but I'll leave it there...