Humanity’s Rejection of God’s Moral Absolutes
Humanity’s refusal to accept God’s wisdom has led people to reject His moral absolutes. Consequently, individuals engage in practices that violate what God ordained for mankind. They commit fornication, adultery, incest, pedophilia, and bestiality, as addressed in previous articles.
This article addresses two additional violations and the consequences.
Rape. Rape is the act of forcefully violating someone sexually against his or her will.
Before God gave the Mosaic Law to Israel, Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, was raped by a young Hivite prince. Jacob’s sons were so grieved and angry because their sister had been deﬁled that two of them killed her rapist, his father, and all the men of the Hivite city (Gen. 34).
While the Mosaic Law was in eﬀect in Israel, God required that rape be dealt with as follows:
- If a man raped a betrothed young woman in a rural area where her cries for help could not be heard, the rapist was to be executed (Dt. 22:25–27).
- If a man raped a young virgin who was not betrothed, he had to pay her father a betrothal price and marry her for life. He was not permitted to divorce her because he had humbled her through rape (vv. 28–29).
During the time of the judges, perverted men of the Benjamite city of Gibeah raped and ravished the concubine of a Levite all night until morning. The woman died from the abuse. In response to this lewd, outrageous deed, the other tribes of Israel sent men throughout the tribe of Benjamin, demanding they turn over the rapists of Gibeah to them for execution, thereby removing this evil from Israel.
The Benjamite men refused. So a war broke out between the Benjamites and the other tribes. Many people died, and Gibeah and other Benjamite cities were destroyed (Jud. 19—20).
King David’s ﬁrstborn son, Amnon, raped his half sister, Tamar, despite her desperate pleas for him to stop. As a result, her brother, Absalom, hated Amnon and had him murdered (2 Sam. 13:1–29).
When the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC, they raped women in Jerusalem and other cities of Judah (Lam. 5:11).
The Israelites used the following terms to describe some of these instances of rape: disgraceful (Gen. 34:7; 2 Sam. 13:12), wicked deed (Jud. 20:3), lewdness and outrage (v. 6), vileness (v. 10), and evil (v. 13).
In addition, they emphasized that these rapes were committed “in Israel” (vv. 6, 10), that “no such thing should be done in Israel” (2 Sam. 13:12), and that they wanted to “remove the evil from Israel” (Jud. 20:13). Their conviction was that God regarded rape as immoral and contrary to what He had ordained for their nation.
Homosexuality. In Romans 1 the apostle Paul addressed the ultimate cause of the breakdown of morality and order in Gentile society in ancient times: the rebellion of people against the sovereign God who created the universe.
Paul indicated that God responded to this rebellion with wrathful judgment (Rom. 1:18). He emphasized that judgment by using the same Greek verb three times. In verses 24 and 26 it is translated “gave them up,” and in verse 28 “gave them over.” The Greek verb means “he abandoned them” and is used “of a God who punishes evil-doers.”1
Abandonment to a Debased Mind
In conjunction with Paul’s third use of the verb (v. 28), he used a term related to testing, signifying that for a while, these rebels tested the knowledge of God they had received by observing His created universe (cf. vv. 19–21).2 The test was to determine how they would respond to that knowledge.
They responded by concluding it was not ﬁtting or suitable to have God in their knowledge system or worldview (v. 28; cf. v. 21). To expunge Him, they willfully suppressed the revelation of God’s existence and power that is displayed through the universe He created (vv.18–20).3 They even claimed they were wise to do so (v. 22). Some fashioned images of animals and humans to worship in place of God (v. 23).
Greek language scholar Hans Conzelmann observed that the foolish heart of verse 21 “is practically synonymous with” the debased mind of verse 28.4 In the Bible, he said, “the organ of understanding is the heart, R[om]. 1:21; cf. Col. 2:2. Understanding and conduct are an indissoluble unity. To be without understanding is not just a partial deﬁciency which might be overcome; it is total darkening, and as such the work of God, who can darken.”5 Thus, darkening of the heart “is a punishment for the perversion of the knowledge of God.”6
Paul indicated the purpose or result of this punishment. Since these rebels rejected God in their knowledge, God abandoned them to a debased mind or foolish heart “to do those things which are not ﬁ tting” (Rom. 1:28). Greek language scholar Heinrich Schlier stated that by “not ﬁtting,” Paul meant the following:
That which is oﬀensive to man even according to the popular moral sense of the Gentiles, i.e., what even natural human judgment regards as vicious and wrong. In accordance with the decision which they have made against the Creator, God ﬁnally abandons them to a blunted sensibility. Religious indiﬀerence is followed by moral corruption. Perverted by a wrong basic attitude, the Gentile is possessed by destructive passions and overthrown by all kinds of vices. He thus loses all vestiges of the humanity which even the healthy pagan respects.7
Those passions and vices include perverted lifestyles, actions, and attitudes that destroy individuals and societies.8
Because of their conclusion and willful suppression, God abandoned these rebels to “a debased mind”9 (v. 28; cf. 21). The word translated “debased” means “not standing the test” and, therefore, “unqualiﬁed, worthless, base.”10 This implies that God’s test demonstrates that this type of mind disqualiﬁes a person from inheriting the Kingdom of God. As Paul wrote,
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctiﬁed, but you were justiﬁed in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:9–11).
Abandonment to Vile Passions
These rebels exchanged the reality of God’s existence for the lie that He does not exist. Therefore, God abandoned them to vile “passions of a sexual nature.”11 In Romans 1:26 Paul described lesbianism, the female form of homosexuality: “For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.” The word translated “use” referred to “relations, function, especially of se-ual intercourse.” Women exchanged the natural function of their sexuality (relations with a male) for what is contrary to nature (relations with a woman).12
In verse 27 Paul described the male form of homosexuality. The male rebels abandoned the natural sexual relationship with women and “burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” The word translated “burned” indicates they were “inﬂamed” with sexual desire for other men.13 The word translated “error” refers to a “wandering from the path of truth.”14 Paul indicated the abuse their bodies received from their homosexual relationships was the necessary, divine penalty for willfully exchanging God’s truth for the lie.
Romans 1 is not the only passage in which Paul referred to homosexual-ty. In 1 Corinthians 6:9 he included “homosexuals” and “sodomites” in a list of the “unrighteous” who will not inherit the Kingdom of God. The word translated “homosexuals” means “soft, eﬀeminate, especially of catamites, men and boys who allow themselves to be misused homosexually.”15 The word translated “sodomites” refers to “a male homosexual.”16 Paul used the same word again in 1 Timothy 1:10.
The apostle’s teaching in Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 indicates that unnatural, perverted sexual relationships are the result of people not paying God the honor He is due. Where men worship idols instead of God, human society deteriorates (Rom. 1:28); and misuse of the body is the divinely willed recompense for turning aside from the true knowledge and worship of God.
- William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, eds./trans., “paradidomi,” A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (1952: translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur, 4th ed.; Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 620.
- Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1931), 4:331.
- Arndt and Gingrich, “adokimos,” 18.
- Hans Conzelmann, “suniemi,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (hereafter cited as TDNT), ed. Gerhard Friedrich, ed./trans. Geoﬀ rey W. Bromiley, translated from Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1971), 7:895
- Heinrich Schlier, “katheko,” TDNT, ed. Gerhard Kittel, ed./trans. Geoﬀ rey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965), 3:440.
- Arndt and Gingrich, “adokimos,” 18.
- Ibid., “chrasis,” 894.
- Ibid., “epithumia,” 293.
- Ibid., “plana,” 671.
- Ibid., “malakos,” 489.
- Ibid., “arsenokoites,” 109.