Monday, July 19, 2021

Anonymous Asks (154)

“What is a reprobate mind?”

The phrase “reprobate mind” comes from the old English translation of Romans 1:28, where Paul declares that when men and women reject the knowledge of God and refuse to honor and give thanks to him, God gives them up to a “reprobate mind”.

The Greek word underlying the translation is adokimos, which means literally “not approved”, and refers to something that does not meet objective standards of acceptability; for example, a counterfeit coin, a metal alloy which doesn’t hold up when subjected to stress, or soil that looks normal but in which nothing can grow.

The Third Phase

Modern translations go with “debased”, “depraved”, “corrupt” or “worthless”, all of which either introduce other elements into our understanding of adokimos, or, like the word “worthless”, narrow the semantic range of the Greek unreasonably. Counterfeit coins, flawed metals and soil with no nutrients are indeed worthless, but they are also deceptive and may even be dangerous. You don’t want to be standing under an iron bridge when it reveals itself to be adokimos.

The reprobate mind is the final step in a three phase process of being “given up” by God. Step 1 is impurity, the dishonoring of one’s body. Step 2 is out-of-control passions and shamelessness. Step 3 is the reprobate mindset, in which God-given human intelligence purports to function normally but really doesn’t. Instead, it rationalizes and justifies all its aforementioned evil impulses, rather than despising them and crying out to God for help. It is adokimos. Those who will not honor their Creator are condemned to deceive others and to deceive themselves. Paul writes, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Herein lies the rationalization, a product of dysfunctional thought processes which are not in every case glaringly obvious. The reprobate mind may appear to be functioning as designed, but it isn’t.

Reframing, Redefining and Rationalizing

In case we want a better idea what sort of behavior a reprobate mind is capable of condoning and excusing, Paul closes the chapter with a lengthy list: unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness, gossip, slander, hatred of God, insolence, haughtiness, boastfulness, creativity in evil, disobedience to God-given authority, foolishness, faithlessness, heartlessness and ruthlessness.

A reprobate mind is so damaged that it attempts to justify any and all these behaviors. When we hear such things praised and defended, we know we are in reprobate territory. This is how we get sodomy publicly repackaged as an act of love and indifference to abominable behavior redefined as tolerance. It is how we get murder reframed as something to celebrate or joke about. It is how we get disloyalty rationalized as “following my heart”. The reprobate mindset is why the latest PC blatherings of the woke crowd sound insane to Christians, and why we sound equally loopy to them.

In short, the reprobate mind is something a Christian wants no part of. In fact, the argument can be made that for those in whom Christ dwells by his Spirit, a reprobate mind is not even possible.

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