Reflecting on the past several decades of Western culture reveals a strategy at play among those driving the revolution. First, there have been efforts to make sure the broader society sympathizes with their struggles—both of a personal and societal nature. (And Christians surely ought to lead the world in sympathy, but only of the Christlike sort.) Second, there was and is a clear desire to normalize homosexuality and transgenderism through media and individuals’ platforms. And third, there has been and continues to be a concerted effort to demonize those who oppose the revolution. Dissenters will be canceled at a high cost.
Writing on the state of Western civilization a little more than a decade ago, English journalist Melanie Phillips observed, “Society seems to be in the grip of a mass derangement.” There’s a “sense that the world has slipped off the axis of reason,” causing many to wonder, “How is anyone to work out who is right in such a babble of ‘experts’ and with so much conflicting information?”
As I started to reread this book recently, I was struck by what’s missing. Phillips writes as an agnostic but observant Jew, and many of her points are profoundly helpful. Noticeably absent from her analysis, though, is any biblical recognition of how the world could’ve gone so haywire (à la Gen. 3)—in the realm of human sexuality.
The subject of sexuality as described and prescribed by Scripture is not just difficult—to address it is also unpopular and in large measure offensive. I come to it with caution and, I hope, with a measure of compassion, but also with the conviction that God’s Word and way are absolutely perfect—and that he knew exactly what he was doing when he put humanity together. Thankfully, one of the passages that speaks most pointedly to how God’s wrath is revealed against sin (Rom. 1:16–28) is both preceded and followed by the amazing offer of God’s grace.
Living in a Runaway World
Paul’s argument in Romans 1 unfolds from his great declaration in verse 16: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Why is the gospel for everyone? Because everyone needs the gospel. Each of us is born in the same hopeless and helpless situation: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (v. 18).
Simply put, mankind lives in a runaway world. Some of us like to suggest God is hiding, but we have been the hiders since nearly the beginning of time (Gen. 3:8–10). We “suppress the truth” he’s shown us about himself (Rom. 1:18). We deny he’s made himself clearly known in the universe we inhabit—that “his eternal power and divine nature” (v. 20) are evident all around—and, as a result, we’re utterly “without excuse” (v. 20) when we refuse to worship him or thank him. When we refuse to know God as he’s revealed himself, we don’t give up on worship—we just worship something or someone else.
Which brings us to the matter of human sexuality—not because it’s a hobbyhorse or because we get some (perverse) sense of satisfaction out of being controversial but because that’s what comes next in God’s Word. If we simply choose the parts of the Bible we like and reject the parts we don’t, we don’t really believe the Bible; we believe ourselves. Why would we ever want to consider a passage like Romans 1 unless we believed Scripture is God’s Word, it’s unerring, and it speaks life-giving truth—even in our 21st-century Western world? We’re not at liberty to rewrite the Bible to accommodate godless perspectives on abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, transgenderism, and the like. We’re not free to tamper with God’s Word.
As we continue reading Paul’s inspired words, it’s clear that having broken our connection with the Creator—who made us purposefully for himself—we struggle to know who we are. As the apostle goes on to explain, when men turned from God toward idols, including the idol of self, God
gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves. . . . God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (vv. 24, 26–27)
The exchange of the normal, natural function of human sexuality for that which is contrary isn’t the first “exchange.” Paul has already described mankind as exchanging “the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (v. 23)—the exchange of the Creator God for created idols. We have also “exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (v. 25)—the exchange of knowledge for ignorance.