Context – Arguing from the lesser to the greater

Text: Romans 1:16-25 (also Jeremiah 2:11-13)

Between being sick and what seemed like a random bunch of texts the last couple of weeks in devotion have not been very fruitful. It looks like the daily readings are bringing a couple of heavyweights out for a little while. Jeremiah will be the OT reading and Romans the Epistle all the way until Holy Week. Prayfully this will be more fruitful.

Arguments or apologies for God while good things are by necessity secondary. Nobody has ever come to belief because of the perfect argument. Faith itself is a miracle. It is the work of the Holy Spirit and the gift of God. Think Luther’s explanation to the 3rd article of the Creed. What they are good for is a calling back to faith. They speak to Spirit within us. Our baptisms are not in vain.

Aquinas classically outlined five arguments. These arguments have been restated and retold and refuted over and over. Of the five the one that always made the most sense to me is the argument from degree. Stated simply – we make judgements every day on the qualities of objects. That woman is evil/good. That sermon was heretical/truthful. That woman is ugly/beautiful. Those judgements assume a standard of perfection; There is standard of good/true/beautiful. Therefore there must be an ultimate good/true/beautiful. We call that ultimate God.

That is what Paul says. Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible nature, his power and diety, has been clearly perceived. We should, by just looking around us, understand that there is something greater. To deny that is to make our thinking futile. To deny that is to exchange the creator (the highest) for the created (things of lesser quality). In a way, God Himself makes that argument through Jeremiah. Even though they are false, does a nation change its gods? – rhetorical question with assumed answer of no. But Israel has given up the God who saves, who made them a people and brought them out of slavery, for things that do not profit. They have given up the living water for broken cisterns that can’t even hold water.

The first call of Jesus is to repent. Turn from the broken cisterns and futile thinking toward the one. The one incarnated for us and revealed for us on the cross.