Epistle to the Romans
|Light iron-age reading
|Gabbin' with God
The Epistle to the Romans is one of St Paul's most significant works, delving more directly into orthodoxy of both theology and church practice. It is one of the seven undisputed letters by Paul of Tarsus in the New Testament (the other six being First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon, and First Thessalonians).
Romans spends a considerable time talking of the nature of sin and redemption, asking the people in the church of Rome (not to be confused with the Church of Rome) consider their wicked ways and take the moment given by Christ to change and become worthy of redemption. "One man, Adam, as brought sin into the world, the Christ will take the sin away from the world". The letter is inclusive of anyone seeking God's salvation through Christ, but it was written primarily for a Jewish audience. Though the Epistle of Romans condemns many sins, including lust and homosexuality, Paul makes the claim that no one sin is worse than the other, and all men sin and all men do all sins at least in the heart — therefore making judgement by man unacceptable. Smart man, that Paul. Paul calls himself the "Chief of sinners" and some people who take pride in their sinless perfection, truthful or not tend to feel bruised when this is pointed out.[note 1]
Historically, Romans was written during a time when so-called "Christianity" was a sect of post-Temple Judaism, and not yet a distinct religion, and the Christ figure was not well fleshed out mythologically. There still exists serious questions about new religion with a founder that was an executed criminal and possibly even illegitimate.
Use by conservative Christians
Because of the particular theme of sin and redemption taken by Paul in this letter to his church, Romans is filled with juicy insights used by both contemporary and historical Christians to put minorities, heretics, and generic miscreants in their place.[note 2]
- Lusters are chastised including anyone who enjoys a good romp in the hay, married or otherwise.
- Homosexuals, male or female are chastised. This is the only place in the Bible lesbians are denounced, or indeed, suggested to exist, unless you read too far into the Book of Ruth.
- Gossips, liars, slanderers, the arrogant, the boastful are, too, denounced. (Are you listening, Conservatives?)
- All the evil ones (even the liars and gossips) should be put to death.
- Romans 2 then jumps right into condemning those who Judge others (similar of course to Jesus' statements regarding those who judge), for only God may rightly judge.
- Practicing Jews feel his wrath, for they follow Law.
- Uncircumcised men are OK. They are one of the few sets of humans to escape his wrath.
- There's no such thing as an atheist. Everyone knows God exists, but a few people deny it to feel important.
The weighty letter has no lack of chastisements, challenges, and praise in it, and quotes for just about anything can be found in Romans. Judgement of others:
“”Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.
“”So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?
Women in the Church (evidence Paul accepted women teachers and leaders):
“”I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant[a] of the church in Cenchrea. 2I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me. 3Greet Priscilla[b] and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus.
“”I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.
The oft-cited "homosexual" quote:
“”Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
Divine right of kings:
“”Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
- Whether or not this is actually possible to do in this life is an age-long theological argument.
- A thorough reading of Romans would suggest that Romans is not specifically condemning any particular behavior but merely listing those on the "tip of his tongue". All humans live in sin, according to Paul.