In the light of the ongoing crisis of the Anglican Communion and indeed every other major denomination regarding the issue of human sexuality it is worth engaging in some serious study of what Paul has to say in Romans 1.
Of course, he is talking about the Roman Empire but the reality is that very little of Scripture is context limited. Most Scripture is timeless, as eternal as God Himself and meant to be understood as such.
Let’s start with Romans 1:20-24. It is clear here that Paul is describing a state of the extreme alienation from God to the point of naked idolotary:
Professing to be wise, they became fools and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like a corruptiable man – and birds and four-footed and creeping things.
Now who can seriously not see the parraells here? Idolatary is rampant in modern society be it money, celebrity, fashion, cars, nature (overt paganism and environmentalism), social systems like capitalism, socialism, etc, etc. I am also controversially going to say idolotary of the Church (seeing the Church as supreme authority) is rampant in faith communities. Whatever it is, the important thing to note is that man is worshipping himself and his creation over the Creator which is the net outcome in every case. So, what happens next?
Therefore God also gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men leaving the natural use of the women burned in their lust for one another, men with men, committing what is shameful and receiving in themselves the penalty which is due.
First thing that is important to note is that God does nothing to stop all this, in fact, God says ‘if that’s what you want then fine, fill your boots’. A far cry from a capricious, domineering deity. If people make a choice to reject Him and their heart is hard in that He will not push matters further, in fact, He will let you walk away – He just won’t spare them the consequences of that decision and no fair minded person with even a tiny sense of justice can say that is nothing if not fair.
Then we have the confusion of gender roles as they were assigned at the moment of Creation by God. Not inequality but the acceptance that we each have our different parts to play. No serious doubts can again exist that since the rise of feminism in modern society gender roles have become less clearly defined and accepted both within the Church and without. Finally, we have the outbreak of homosexual practice as a completely logical consequence of everything that has gone before and also transgenderism which again is another completely logical consequence of the decimation of the binary division of the two genders.
It all starts at the beginning with rebellion against and rejection of God and leads to the dehumanising lawlessness described above not just in regards to God but with regards to each other. Who can turn on the news and deny that this is the world in which we live now? Life is cheap, brutish and short, conditioned by endless consumerist thrill seeking but still at its heart that knawing sense of abandonment and loneliness. It is, if you study Scripture seriously, everything the Apostles, Paul include, prophesies it will be during the last days, in the lead up to the tribulation and the eventual end of this world and the beginning of one made anew.
I have no doubt that Paul knew as he wrote these words that Rome would fall, and it did, just as surely as it needs to be said that Western civilisation will fall, it is falling and this downward spiral cannot be averted, eaten away by the cancer of its dark heart of its immortality which starts with the rejection of God. The Church needs to know this but it does not want to know it because it is so intimately invested with this whole process that it will go down with the ship. It is our job as faithful defenders of the Kingdom of God that it doesn’t take a single one of those with faithful and true hearts with it and this is the task at hand.