Responding to the Critics: Lance Conley and The Redemption of Creation in Romans 8
A Response to Lance Conley- #5
Before, offering more on Romans 8 I should note that Mr. Conley wrote a response to the previous article that is in fact not a response. He still did not exegesis. He still did no linguistic analysis. He still did no logical analysis of my arguments. In fact, on 1-25-19, I posted this brief (but more than sufficient response to his “no response, response.”
Ah, a response that is no response! As expected. No exegesis. No exposition– claims and assertions– and naturally telling us that he could cite the uninspired writings in confirmation, but no proof.
Did anyone read any proof that the creation must include animals? No, but he says that since material creation is part of the creation that must mean that it is included in Paul’s promise. Petitio principii fully at work.
And it is abundantly strange that he castigates me for discussing Romans 8 because after all, he was writing on Romans 11. Well, if he was writing on Romans 11, why did HE run to Romans 8 to prove his point?
And of course, he says I deny the humanity of Jesus, which is simply false and he knows it. I deny that Jesus has a flesh and blood body, but, I do not deny that he is fully human.
And then he tells us that Jesus is the “image” of God. Tell us, Mr. Conley, are you seriously claiming that the physical man, the 5’5″ Jewish man, Jesus, is the very image of God? Is that what Jesus meant when he said “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father”?
I hope that everyone will spend time reading my last response to Mr. Conley, and notice the stark contrast in style. I actually go to the scriptures. I actually engage in exegesis. I actually do linguistic studies. Mr. Conley? Not so much.
In my exegesis, I cited the verses, several of them, where Paul and Peter said that the first century saints were, right then, being transformed into the image of God. I challenged Mr. Conley to show us where he, or any saint, is right now, being physically transformed into the image of God. No response, naturally. If Mr. Conley is, right now, being transformed physically, biologically, then why is he growing older? Why is he totally susceptible to the human condition of physical frailty? Where is the physical transformation, Mr. Conley? I have asked you repeatedly to prove your case and you have never even tried.
Oh, and did you notice that he initially denied that man lost the image of God through sin, but now, he says: “Man is made in the image of God and humanity did not lose the image of God in the Fall entirely.” So, he has to admit that man did, after all lose the image of God to some degree, contradicting his earlier denial.
In addition to all of this, I would take note again that Mr. Conley admits, again, that he ignored the context setting, context controlling verses prior to Romans 8:19. He tells us was unnecessary to include them. And once again, he merely scoffs at the importance of the Shame-Versus-Glory motif that dominates the text of Romans 8. Of course, the irony here is that Conley himself believes that the “shame” of Romans 8 will one day, by and by, turned to Glory! So, on the one hand he totally ignores that motif (and of course its contemporary application) while on the other hand insisting that that very motif is what Paul is discussing! Yet, he did not feel it necessary to explore in his “exegesis, that is no exegesis.” So, I ask again, how can you claim to have even remotely done an exegesis of a text when you admit that you have ignored the contextual controls of the text and when you scoff at the dominant motif of the text! Yet, this is precisely what Mr. Conley has done– and what he admits to doing!
Let me now continue with Responding to the Critics by an examination of Mr. Conley’s claim that material creation must be redeemed. Mr. Conley will doubtless claim that all of this is promised in the promises of the New Heaven and Earth. He will likely argue that a New Creation demands the dismantling of the Old and the creation of the new. And of course, there is a “logical” necessity of that. But, here is the problem.
Mr. Conley completely misidentifies the Old Creation that was to be destroyed and “recreated.” Keep in mind that his argument on Romans 8 is that “creation” (ktisis) is the natural, material creation, “bugs, slugs and mosquitoes.” And, keep in mind that he did not even try to prove that assertion, he just claimed it. Look at his quote above and see for yourself. I would remind Mr. Conley that assertion is not proof. It is not evidence of proof.But let’s continue Responding to the Critics, shall we?
However, his problem is that in the OT prophecies of the New Heaven that Old Creation that was to be recreated was not material, physical creation! It was the Old Covenant Creation of Israel! Isaiah 65 is almost universally admitted to be the source for instance of 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21. With that in mind, look at Isaiah 65:8-19:
As the new wine is found in the cluster, And one says, ‘Do not destroy it For a blessing is in it, So will I do for My servants’ sake, That I may not destroy them all. I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, And from Judah an heir of My mountains; My elect shall inherit it, And My servants shall dwell there. Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, And the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, For My people who have sought Me. “But you are those who forsake the Lord, Who forget My holy mountain, Who prepare a table for Gad, And who furnish a drink offering for Meni. Therefore I will number you for the sword, And you shall all bow down to the slaughter; Because, when I called, you did not answer; When I spoke, you did not hear, But did evil before My eyes, And chose that in which I do not delight.” Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, My servants shall eat, But you shall be hungry; Behold, My servants shall drink, But you shall be thirsty; Behold, My servants shall rejoice, But you shall be ashamed; Behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart, But you shall cry for sorrow of heart, And wail for grief of spirit. You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; For the Lord God will slay you And call His servants by another name; So that he who blesses himself in the earth Shall bless himself in the God of truth; And he who swears in the earth Shall swear by the God of truth; Because the former troubles are forgotten, And because they are hidden from My eyes. “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, And joy in My people; The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, Nor the voice of crying.
Look at the contextual points of the text:
✤ YHVH is addressing Old Covenant Israel.
✤ He laments that He had called them repeatedly, but they refused to answer, but rebelled. In Romans 10:20-21 Paul quotes verbatim from this passage (Isaiah 65:1-2) and applies it to Israel of his day. There can therefore be no doubt that Isaiah 65 was a prophecy of Paul’s generation.
✤ He promised not to destroy them all, but to save a remnant (v. 8). Paul repeatedly spoke of the salvation of the remnant and said it was on-going in his day. He cited several OT prophecies in support of what was happening (Romans 9-11). Thus, once again, there is no doubt that for Paul, Isaiah’s prophecy was being fulfilled in his day. Not only that, but, in Romans 9:28 he is very clear that the anticipated and prophesied salvation of the remnant would not be a long drawn out process– in other words, it would not take 2000 years and counting as Mr. Conley wants to suggest. Paul is clear: “For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth.” Contra Mr. Conley, Paul was not looking to the conversion of an occasional Jew throughout the Christian age. He was focused on the “end time” finalization of God’s Old Covenant dealings with Israel.
✤ The Lord accused Israel- not the church – but Old Covenant Israel not only of rebellion but of overt sins of immorality.
✤ The Lord then promised that as a result of their rebellion and sin,
Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, My servants shall eat, But you shall be hungry; Behold, My servants shall drink, But you shall be thirsty; Behold, My servants shall rejoice, But you shall be ashamed; Behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart, But you shall cry for sorrow of heart, And wail for grief of spirit. You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; For the Lord God will slay you And call His servants by another name.
There is a not a syllable of evidence to suggest that Paul is looking beyond the destruction of Old Covenant Israel, to some imaginary “end of time” judgment. He is focused, laser focused, on the coming judgment of Old Covenant Israel for rejecting His call.
✤ Then the Lord promised that out of that destruction, a New Creation would arise:
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy.
Notice that connective particle “for” (like the ones in Romans 8 that Conley still refuses to honor, or to even mention!). It directly connects the destruction of Old Covenant Israel with the New Creation! In other words, Old Covenant Israel would be destroyed and God would create a New Creation. And we are remiss if we fail to see that this is a covenantal judgment on Old Covenant Israel. Now, if Mr. Conley places the New Creation in our future, then of logical necessity he is placing the destruction of national Israel in our future? Will he address this crucial, undeniable issue? I doubt it.
The covenantal nature of this Old Creation and the New, is born out by the use of the word “remembered”; the Old Creation would not be remembered. The word is zakar (Strong’s #02142). As Jason Meyers notes:
“‘Remember’ is a common term associated with covenants. It does not mean that God forgets and needs a reminder. The verb could be idiomatically rendered ‘to act in order to fulfill the covenantal oath or obligations.” (Jason Meyer, The End of the Law, NAC Studies in Bible and Theology, (Nashville, TN; B and H Academic, 2009), 245, n. 41).
David Chilton, commenting on Revelation 16:19 where God would “remember” the city of Babylon for her sins, calls attention to this covenant connection of “remember”:
He cites M. Ford (p. 275) – “The phrase suits the liturgical setting of the text. The libations have been poured out, but instead of the memorial being a turning of God towards his people with grace and mercy, it is for judgment. God’s ‘remembering’ is always an efficacious and creative act, not a mere intellectual activity; he remembers in the act of blessing (transmitting vitality or life) and cursing (destroying). The irony of v. 19 lies in the exhortation to Israel to ‘remember’ God’s covenant and kindness in general She was especially admonished, as in Deuteronomy 6, to keep a perpetual remembrance of the Exodus and Sinai events, to recall them day and night, and never to forget God who brought them to pass… In this chapter the author intimates that because Israel forgot and became arrogant, the Egyptian plagues were turned back on her. Even then she did not repent but blasphemed (cf. Job 1:22; 2:10), and God remembered her for judgment.” (David Chilton, Days of Vengeance, (Ft. Worth; Dominion Press, 1987), 416).
The point here is that when the Lord would destroy the Old Heaven and Earth, it would “no longer be remembered.” That means that the Old Creation would no longer be recognized as a covenant creation! The destruction of that Creation would be the end of the Covenant! And, since the subject and context is the destruction of Old Covenant Israel, that means – it demands – that this destruction is the end of the Old Covenant.
Now, unless Conley can show that Isaiah 65 and Romans 8 are two totally different “creations” that would be “redeemed” and produce sons of God, then of logical necessity that demands that Romans 8 is not speaking of a yet future redemption of material creation, as Conley claims, but, it speaks of the Old Covenant Creation of Israel that passed away, giving way to the everlasting, unending New Covenant Creation of Jesus the Messiah, the savior of all who will heed his call!
More to come as we continue Responding to the Critics. In the meantime, get a copy of my book, The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat, for an in-depth analysis of the “creation” that was to pass away. (And don’t you find it revealing, judgmental and childish, when instead of offering actual argumentation, that Mr. Conley claims in his article that my motivation for all of this is to sell another book??)