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Radical Depravity in Romans (1)

Even though all—including professing atheists—are aware of God’s existence, the innate depravity of the unregenerate mind suppresses the truth about him (Romans 1:18–19). When a god is acknowledged, it is a god of the imagination, fashioned to serve individual desires.


In their depravity, the unregenerate exchange the truth of the glory of God for vanity, darkening their thoughts. Sinful people know about God through His general revelation, but they refuse to acknowledge Him as God:

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. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. —Romans 1:20–23

Unregenerate man defiantly rejects the knowledge of God, thereby plunging into mental dullness, emotional despair, and spiritual depravity. His thinking becomes darker and his will unable to choose rightly. When fallen man rejects the clear knowledge of God, he turns to idols of his own making, whether they be objects made from gold or silver, or inferior speculations about God made in their darkened minds. Hodge writes, “Foolish hearts are hearts destitute of discernment—that is, insight into the nature of divine things. The consequence of this lack of divine knowledge was darkness. The word ‘heart’ stands for the whole soul. . . . It is not merely intellectual darkness or ignorance which the apostle describes in this verse, but the whole moral state. Throughout the Scriptures we find the idea of foolishness and sin, of wisdom and piety, intimately connected.” Such is the next step in the corrupting process of radical depravity.

—Steve Lawson, Foundations of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2006), 345.

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Posted  in: Charles Hodge · Foundations of Grace · Romans · Steve Lawson
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