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Responding to the Critics: Lance Conley on the Futility of Creation- #6

Responding to the Critics: Lance Conley and the Futility of Creation – #6

As we continue Responding to the Critics, responding to Lance Conley’s article, in which he offered his comments on Romans 8, he claimed that the “futility” that Paul references has to do with material creation: “Creation’s groaning of pain are because of man’s wickedness. “Until now” indicates the end of time will come for the groans and trevails because creation’s hope, the creature’s hope, has been realized in the Incarnation of Christ, the Son of God.”

Now, the reader needs to note that Conley has offered not a word, so far, of any kind of exegetical response to my previous two articles- except to ridicule them. He claims that I lied in the previous article when I pointed out that he defines “corruption” in Romans 8:19f as the physical corruption of material existence. No, I did not lie. I pointed out that was his claim in Romans 8. That is the ONLY point that he made in reference to the word corruption in Romans 8. (Note: he has since reiterated that he believes that physical mortality and decay is the definition of corruption (from phthora) in Romans 8, demonstrating that he knows I did not lie).

I pointed out that he did not even mention the fact that the Greek word translated as corruption (phthora) is used in a great number of verses and contexts that have nothing to do with physical corruption. And he didn’t. I demonstrated exegetically that this word is used in a number of “resurrection” passages and yet, not one of those resurrection texts that mention phthora – not one of them – refers to physical corruption and morality. All Mr. Conley has done is to post repeatedly that my articles are “irrelevant” and prove nothing, and other insulting verbiage. So, per Mr. Conley, even though I examine, linguistically, exegetically, textually and contextually that his claims concerning “corruption” are specious and false, my arguments are irrelevant.

Well, we come now to discuss the “futility” that Paul says “creation” had been subjected to, unwillingly. And don’t forget that Mr. Conley, as usual, simply assumed- with no proof – that creation is referent to material creation, including bugs, slugs and mosquitoes. It is worthwhile to note that in the previous article, I pointed out that Mr. Conley’s doctrine demands the future resurrection of every single living phyto-plankton, every living cell, every dead dog, cat, gerbil, elephant or hippo that has ever lived, died and decayed! After all, per Mr. Conley, they are part of the “creation” that he claims was subjected to futility, but, that will one day be delivered from that bondage of corruption and be manifested as “sons of God.” On 2-16-19, on FaceBook, I asked Mr. Conley, Sam Frost, Ken Palmer, William Vincent, Jeff Cunningham if any of them believed that there is to be a yet future physical resurrection of every living thing that has ever lived, died and decayed. The responses– if you want to call them that, are specious.

It was claimed that creation is not resurrected, but renewed. Ken Palmer assured us that renewal is not resurrection. Sam Frost assured us that resurrection is only for those created in the image of God, and that does not include the bugs and slugs. Below, you will see the refutation of these claims.

But now, we continue our Responding to the Critics work. I will now examine the word “futility” from the Greek metaiotees. Once again, all we find in Mr. Conley’s remarks are unproven assertions. I will give her his comments about “futility.”. I urge the reader to pay particular and close attention to whether Mr. Conley offered any actual linguistic or exegetical proof, or whether he continued his practice of assuming his case to be true without proving it to be true (petitio principii).

<<The “earnest expectation” (apokaradokia) is an anxious looking forward to man finally overcoming all that is contrary to him by and through God. The object of the created world’s expectation/awaiting (apekedechomai) is this appearance or manifestation (apokalypsis).

v.20 The creation was “made subject” (hypotage, aorist passive of hypotasso) to “vanity” (mataioten, dative of mataiotes). Ouch ekousa “unwillingly”. – (DKP–notice that Mr. Conley offers not a syllable of support for his claims that futility is referent to material creation. Now, I fully agree that mataiotees means futility. That is not the issue, just as the word phthora means corruption. The issue is, what did Paul mean by those words in context? For that, Conley offers us nothing).

Ekon is found in 1 Cor 9:17 as unwilling.

This was all done “in hope” (ep’elpidi). The sunjection (sic, DKP) of creation to vanity was not without hope. We “according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness” (2 Peter 3:12-13).

v.21 The creature itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

“Corruption” (phtora, used here for the first and only time in Romans). He terms what was previously vanity to corruption and the creature’s subjection to it now is “bondage” (douleia).

The hope implicit in God’s act of subjecting the creature to corruption was repearedly made explicit in the promises made to Israel through its history.>> (EoQ).

Do you find any exegesis here? No. Do you find any intertextual development with other texts? No. Do you find Conley pointing out how other passages– parallel passages- show that futility is not about the futility of mortal physical futility? No.

I should point out that he does cite Isaiah 61 as somehow supportive of his claims, but then, he destroys his own claims by noting that the key to understanding that text is found in the words “forgiveness”, “freedom”! Well, I would say Amen to that! But, I would point out that when Mr. Conley focuses on these tenets he is abandoning any claim that it refers to the freedom from physical mortality. That is, unless Mr. Conley wants to argue that material creation will one day be forgiven, set free from the bondage of sin– which is what Isaiah is discussing! There is literally not a word in Isaiah to support the idea of being delivered from physical decay, physical death, physical mortality! Not one word! It is all about being set free from the bondage of sin. It is about the Day of Salvation when forgiveness would be given! To put this another way, the only “futility” to be found in this text is the futility of the bondage to sin. Not a word about bugs, slugs and mosquitoes!

What I want to do now is to see how the Bible, both OT and New, uses the word mataiotees / futility. To help us in the study, I am copying and pasting an article from my Logos Bible Study program, and the Holman Treasury of New Testament Words.

Holman Treasury of NT Words
From Logos– Futility in Romans 8
Futility is best pictured in Greek mythology. Doomed to Tatarus (hell) forever, Sisyphus is given the endless task of trying to roll a huge stone up to the top of a mountain. But just when he gets within sight of the pinnacle, the weight of the stone pushes him and the stone all the way down to the bottom, where he begins again the futile attempt to push the stone to the top. Complete futility!

In the New Testament, especially in Paul’s writings, there are two Greek words that convey the idea of futility: kenōs and mataiotēs (in adjectival form, mataios). Kenōs was used by Paul to signify that which is “empty and hollow”—hence, pointless and futile. Mataiotēs was employed by Paul to signify that which is “vain and useless”—hence, ineffective and futile.
In Paul’s writings, kenōs expresses the emptiness of all that is not filled with spiritual substance. Nothing comes from this nothingness; it is futility. Paul also used kenōs to describe the hollow utterances spoken by Judaizers and Gnostics trying to entice the believers with philosophy (1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 2:12) and empty deceit (Col. 2:8). In contrast, Paul claimed that his preaching was not futile, but purposeful and effective (1 Cor. 15:14). He made the same claim for his labor among the believers (1 Thess. 2:1).
Paul’s use of the word mataiotēs was influenced by teachings in Ecclesiastes. In the Greek translation of Ecclesiastes (Eccl. 1:2, 14; 2:1, 11, 15, 17), the expression appears again and again in the refrain,” Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless,” mataios ton mataion, pantas estin mataiotēs (Eccl. 1:2). The idea of this phrase focuses on ideas like “meaninglessness” (niv), “emptiness” (neb), and “uselessness” (tev).
Nowhere in the New Testament is the kind of futility described in Ecclesiastes so characterized as in Romans 8:20: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope.” When Paul said that the creation was subjected to futility, he was focusing on the inability of creation to function as it was originally designed to do. But eventually, all creation will be liberated from mataiotēs by our Savior Jesus.
Paul also used mataiotēs to depict the “meaninglessness” that has its source in the thought-life of fallen human beings. Paul characterized the “thoughts of the wise” as being futile (1 Cor. 3:20), and he described the Gentiles as living “in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding,” because they are “excluded from the life of God” (Eph. 4:17–18, nasb). The ideas of the unregenerate produce a life of purposelessness and ineffectiveness. Salvation from “futility” comes from the indwelling Spirit of Christ in believers (Rom. 8:10–11, 26–27). Thank the Lord for the meaning and purpose which He alone brings to life. (Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of Key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers).

Notice that the article speaks eloquently of “futility” being the failure to reach the intended purpose, being referent to a life of meaninglessness. And then, the author radically shifted gears and said that “all creation will be liberated from mataiotēs by our Savior Jesus.” Do you see what has happened here? A theological assumption has inserted itself!

One has the right to ask, since mataiotēs is futility, not achieving a proper goal, failure to fulfill purpose, then exactly how has the material creation failed in it purpose? How has the physical world failed to live up to its goal? Where are we ever told that the physical world is empty, meaningless, worthless? Simply put, we aren’t – ever.

As with the word corruption that we examined in the last installment, it is significant to examine passages in which mataiotēs and cognates are used, because the word is often used in resurrection contexts. It is used to describe the Old Man, that was to be put off (due to its futility) so that the New Man, remade in the image of God, could be produced.

So, take a look at how mataiotēs and cognates is used in the New Testament.

Vanity: Mataios
Acts 14:15– Paul referred to the idols as “vanities.”
1 Corinthians 3:20 – Vain thoughts (the thoughts of the wise are vain).
1 Corinthians 15– your faith is vain (if Christ is not risen).
Titus 3:9 – avoid endless genealogies for they are useless and vain
James 1:26– vain religion.
1 Peter 1:18– Peter told his audience that “you were redeemed from your vain conversation.”

Romans 8:20– The text before us.
Ephesians 4:17– Paul said that the Gentiles walk in the vanity of their minds. This text is important because, as suggested, it is a resurrection text. It speaks of putting off the Old Man. It talks about the corruption (phthora) of the Old Man. It speaks of putting on Christ, the New Man.
2 Peter 2:18– The apostle condemned the false teachers, the antinomians, that “speak great swelling words of vanity.”

Matthew 15:9– Jesus said of the Pharisees “in vain do they worship me.”

There are vain janglings– mataiologia– 1 Timothy 1:6.

We have vain talkers – mataiologos – Titus 1:10.

We have vain imaginations – metaioomai – Romans 1:21. This text is revealing because those who turned from worshiping the true God became vain in their imaginations, when they turned to worshiping idols. It does not say that material creation was vain, it says that worshiping creation was / is vain!

Now, in not one of these texts do we find a single referent to material creation, the animals, and bugs of natural creation, being “vain.” Not one text refers to physical creation being subjected to futility– unless one can prove that the word is being used in an unprecedented way in Romans 8.

As the article above suggested, there is probably not a better commentary on “vanity” and “futility” than the book of Ecclesiastes. To quote from that article again:

Paul’s use of the word mataiotēs was influenced by teachings in Ecclesiastes. In the Greek translation of Ecclesiastes (Eccl. 1:2, 14; 2:1, 11, 15, 17), the expression appears again and again in the refrain,” Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless,” mataios ton mataion, pantas estin mataiotēs (Eccl. 1:2). The idea of this phrase focuses on ideas like “meaninglessness” (niv), “emptiness” (neb), and “uselessness” (tev).

It is important to note that Solomon said that he set his heart to fulfill every desire of the mind, heart and flesh. He became profligate, indulging in everything that his power, wealth and position could bring him. Did he intend to find futility? Clearly not. Was he then “subjected to vanity, but not willingly”? Who could deny that? No less than six times, the king spoke of the unexpected consequences of a life lived in violation of God’s desire and will. What was the conclusion, the result of that profligacy: It was futility!

Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind. Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. (Ecclesiastes 2:17f).

Now, all of Solomon’s sense of futility agrees perfectly with Paul’s discussion of living “in the flesh” in Romans 8! There is perfect correspondence. Solomon’s futility had nothing– ZERO – to do with his physical body and biological substance! It had everything to do with the reality that living that life of indulgence alienated him from God and God’s purposes for him. He finally came to realize that: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.”

Do you see the contrast between futility (metaiotees) and the “whole of man”? And again, this is precisely what we find in Romans 8– “those who are in the flesh cannot please God”— “you are not in the flesh.” Paul’s words are utterly ridiculous if we take “flesh” (sarx) to refer to biological substance– i.e. material creation! That would mean that no living breathing human can please God! But, Paul contrasted that life of futility and “flesh” with the life of the Spirit, which is life! In other words, it is the opposite of futility!

It is worthwhile to share with my readers some comments from a recent exchange between myself and “former preterits, Sam Frost, Ken Palmer, Lance Conley, and Jeff Cunningham. On the facebook page: “Full Preterism: A Thing of the Past.”

As you can see from this exegetical exercise, “futility” as used in the Bible had nothing to do with not being “tall, dark and handsome” enough. It had absolutely nothing to do with trees not being tall enough, fruitful enough. It has zero to do with mosquitoes feeling futile because they are doomed to bite people! The Bible simply does not use the word “futility” to refer to material creation. It is never used to speak of man being weak in constitution, having cancer, heart problems, etc.. It is used to speak of man, living a life in opposition to the will of God, and as a result of that, not reaching their potential. Thus, Lance Conley’s unsubstantiated claims about the “futility” to which “creation” was subjected is totally misguided.

As I continue Responding to the Critics, in the next installment, I will share with you some of the “responses” that the men mentioned above have offered– when they responded at all. You will be amazed at the lack of logic, abuse of hermeneutic and total failure to engage in exegesis that is being exhibited. It is amazing– and sad– to see such rebellion against God’s word.

Be sure to get a copy of my book, The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat, for a an in-depth examination of the imaginary “end of time.”

The futility of creation is not physical weakness or mortality!
This book shows that the “futility of creation” is not physical mortality!




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