by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 3 Study # 6 November 20, 2007 Lincolnton, N.C.
(360)Thesis:God subjected His creation to vanity to teach the vanity of vanity.
Introduction:In our studies of Romans 8 we have been focused upon Paul's claim that we ought to live by the Spirit in the context of a world that is living in the flesh. That this will result in varying levels of unpleasant consequences goes without saying. That humanity, including "believers", resists the notion of deliberately doing things that will make their experience unpleasant also goes without saying. This is the difference between the Love of God and the self-centeredness of man. But, Paul insists that we ought to go against the flow and live by the Spirit anyway by understanding that the unpleasantness is temporary and has purpose behind it.
Part of the purpose behind it is the participation in the glory that is downline from it. Eternity is far longer than time and it makes far greater sense to seek the glory of God for all eternity than it does to briefly settle into the pleasantness of time. Thus, Paul declares two things: that the glory that is coming is off the chart in comparison to the unpleasantness of the present; and that we need to be committed to accepting the suffering instead of resisting it.
This evening (in 8:20) we come to another aspect of Paul's teaching. This detail is that God deliberately acted unilaterally to subject His creation to futility for a season. Thus, we want to ask three questions: What does it mean to "subject something to futility"? Why did God subject creation to futility? And, why did God act unilaterally?
I. What is "Being Subject to Futility"?
A. What is "Futility"?
1. This word-group gathers around a central issue with a central characteristic.
a. The central issue is the inability to accomplish objectives.
1) When one of the words in this group pops up in the biblical text, it inserts a sense of hopelessness into the reader's mind.
2) This sense of hopelessness has one of two causes.
a) One reason for hopelessness may be the unreachableness of the "goal" that is seriously desired [the "goal" may actually be outside of Reality].
b) The other reason for hopelessness may be the use of methods that are absolutely unsuited to the accomplishment of the desired goal [the "goal" may be possible, but not by the methods chosen].
b. The central characteristic is the ability to deceive by appearances.
1) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says that this word-group differs from another word-group that has the same basic thesis (unattainable goals; i.e., hopelessness) in one respect: this word group carries the idea of "deceit" with it.
2) The involved issue is this: the hopelessness is presented as not hopeless, just, perhaps, difficult [it is a deception].
a) There are two sides to this deceit.
i. On the one hand, illegitimate goals are presented as possible.
ii. On the other hand, legitimate goals are presented as impossible.
b) There is one basic reason that the deceit is effective: the fact that all but one of the goals of men are simultaneously links in a long goal-chain and exist as both ends and means.
i. When an intermediate end shows a level of effectiveness as a means, it takes on the nature of "an effective means".
ii. But, more times than not, that "effective means" is actually a link in a long chain of deceit that not only cannot bring the ultimate goal to pass, it actually guarantees the non-fulfillment of that ultimate goal.
2. Summary: "Futility" is a "pursuit" (of an objective by means of a multitude of intermediate objectives) that is doomed to fail.
B. What is "Subjection to Futility"?
1. To be "subjected" to futility means that someone/something has been dropped into a situation in which long chains of deception surround him/her/it and the ability to be able to tell what is deceit is severely restricted.
2. To be "subjected" to futility means that failure is almost inevitable.
II. Why Did God Subject His Creation to Futility?
A. By its very nature, "creation" is the generation of an instantaneous complexity of indescribable proportions.
B. By its very nature, the "creation" of "persons" is the generation of "creatures" that can not have "omniscience" [not even God can create Gods].
C. By its very nature, the "creation" of "persons" in a "creation context" (where all that they are involves both the reality of a complexity of needs and a provision for that complexity) is the generation of the need to learn.
D. By its very nature, the "creation" of a "need to learn" is the generation of a necessity to provide an effective method for that learning.
E. The subjection of the creation to futility is God's solution to the issue of an effective method for learning.
1. It is partially by a method of "trial and error" that persons learn.
2. However, one does not have to "reinvent the wheel" for himself if he is willing to take what another tells him for Truth.
3. But taking what another says is true must have this restriction upon it: Godhas to be the "Other" Who is doing the telling.
III. Why Did God Act Unilaterally?
A. Paul deliberately says that the creation did not "volunteer" for this scenario.
B. Paul's deliberateness was created by one most profound fact: men, who desperately need to believe the omniscient Teacher, are remarkably unwilling to accept anything that may lead them into serious suffering.
1. This "remarkable unwillingness" is the reason God did not "ask for volunteers": He would not have gotten any [2 Chronicles 16:9].
2. The need men have to learn to trust the omniscient Teacher only really surfaces when men have no other option.
C. Paul's deliberateness was also created by another most profound fact: God's prerogative is the point of conflict with fallen creatures and until they deal with it, "futility" is going to be their experience because they are "fighting against God".