It is self-evident that an individual’s worldview affects their thought, behavior and action. One’s worldview is a major component of personality formation. Of the many parameters that constitute one’s worldview, belief in God is a crucial one. The worldview of a believer is sharply contrasted to that of a non-believer. Apostle Paul expounds on this point in his esteemed epistle addressed to the Romans. In Romans (1-8) he outlines how the worldview of a Christian is shaped with respect to the natural world, human identity, human relationships and culture. This essay will highlight St. Paul’s theological insights into each of these domains, as articulated in the Romans (1-8).
The Natural World
Paul believes how ‘justification’ of the penalty of sin is part of the divine order of things. He sees no marked difference between the divine mandate and the natural order of things. Paul informs the faithful that those among them who succumb to temptation can still salvage their soul. They can free themselves from the burden of their sins by joining with the spirit of Jesus. Since all individuals have sinned in one fashion or another, it is essential for all to seek salvation. Paul thus presents a pessimistic view of the nature of man. Man’s natural instincts are poisoned by lust, sloth, envy and other sinful tendencies, that he is seldom able to keep the law in front of God. (7:2) The faithful can hope to be secure in the material world, only when they aspire to conquer their natural degradations. Hence, Paul’s view of the natural world is that of a cynic, although, salvation is possible for those who obey the laws proscribed in the scriptures.
Paul suggests that ungodliness will lead to severe divine reprimand. By not acknowledging God’s omnipotent force, the doubters invoke the wrath of God. Paul cites from the Wisdom of Solomon in explaining how faith is central to human identity. In terms of character traits, Paul attacks hypocrisy in humans, especially the pompous variety exhibited by Jews. He recalls how Jews have been critical of others for not obeying laws, when in truth they are none better at it. He implores Christians and Jews alike not to be hypocritical. (2:2) Paul brings to bear his own composite identity on the content of the epistle. Paul was a Hellenistic Jew coming from a Pharisaic stock. Hence, even though a proponent of the message of Jesus Christ, Paul remembers his Jewish heritage. In an implicit fashion, Paul urges his audience to think about their identities in such broad and composite terms. In this way, the tensions experienced across communal fault lines can be made to dissipate.