Active resistance in Romans 1:18-27
Among the multitudes of problems oppressing humanity, in Romans 1:18-27 repression is described as the most catastrophic. The problem of repression is introduced in verse 18:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
This text assumes that people already know something about God, for otherwise there would be nothing to suppress. It also presupposes that the act of repression has become a persistent rejection of the evidence for God in creation. In verses 19-20 Paul continues saying:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
People simply refuse to act on what creation tells them about God. Repression, in Paul's psychology then, is an intense resistance to the natural contents of consciousness regarding God. The divine properties of God are clearly visible in the physical environment. This knowledge is part of our life. It’s displayed everywhere in the created order. It provides reliable information about the Creator. Paul tells us that through the created things God has made it perfectly clear that he is a Being of incomparable power and intelligence. But human beings insist on their excessive attempts to ignore God.
This cognitive effort traps the person in an endless tension of opposites. As long as people experience this conflict, that is, the tension between the inescapable presence of God and the persistent repression of God’s self-revelation in nature, they will always live in opposition to God and in opposition to themselves. When there is tension in consciousness, life cannot be enriched. On the contrary, life is impoverished. Paul tells us that this useless attempt to empty consciousness of the knowledge of God makes an outlet for itself in repulsive acts of theriomorphic worship (verse 23), and attempts to seek enrichment of life in sexual acts outside the psychophysical operations determined by the biological structure of the individual (verses 26 and 27). That’s the consequence of personal repression. Humans are sexually confused. They deify visible things. Even worse. They give themselves passionately to the creature, instead of acknowledging God. This strategy of ignoring God by numbing the human conscience with forbidden behaviours very quickly loses its charm and after a while what promises freedom turns out to be slavery. The evidence is all around us: boredom, the endless search for cheap thrills, the pursue of pleasures that offer no deep, lasting fulfilment. As long as humanity is fully occupied with repressing the knowledge of God, it will experience a sense of lack.
The inborn tendency of consciousness is to recognise God in the world. Repression, however, encourages the misuse of the body and mind, and degrades human life with all the despicable and irrational things that God rejects. If there is a certain amount of knowledge about God and his properties to be perceived in the data of physical world, and, therefore, in consciousness, the entire world must accept the truth that everything in universe is a declaration of the glory of God. While it’s true that the natural knowledge of God is not enough to save people and make them feel his fatherly love, it’s an important fact; a fact that must be recognised if the human population wants to recover social morality, sustain mental wellbeing and avoid idolatry. Of course, this can only be done by giving up active resistance to the evidence of God in the external world. In the end, Romans 1:18-27 makes one thing pretty clear. It’s a historical certainty that if the natural knowledge of God is suppress, the world is always dysfunctional.