Greg’s on a timer and answers questions about neo-Darwinism and free will, getting baptized, why God created man, and how to apply Scripture personally.
- Would you consider neo-Darwinian explanations for human behaviors to essentially undermine any standard definition of human freedom?
- Do you think one should be baptised even if you’re not connected in your church and have been a follower of Christ for many years?
- Why did God choose to create humans when he was already in perfect harmony in the Trinity?
- I understand that many Scriptures are not directly meant for us, but how can we know that the promises in the New Testament are meant for us?
Melinda: Hello. I'm Melinda, the Enforcer. Greg Koukl is here and this is #STRask, the short podcast of Stand to Reason.
Greg Koukl: Why are you looking at me?
Melinda: 'Cause you're looking at me.
Greg Koukl: I'm playing the straight man today. No jokes.
Melinda: Yeah, I noticed that. Send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask. The regular podcast – live Tuesdays 4 to 6 p.m. – Greg has longer conversations, goes more in-depth and we all know how long and deep he can go, but he can also go short and that's what we do on this podcast.
Greg Koukl: I can be very shallow sometimes.
Melinda: You can be deep and short too.
Greg Koukl: Yeah, that's kind of a ...
Melinda: No it's not.
Greg Koukl: Okay.
Melinda: You were going to say contradiction.
Greg Koukl: No.
Melinda: What were you going to say?
Greg Koukl: I was going to say if it's a pool and it's deep and you're short, you're dead.
Melinda: Well, we won't throw you into the deep water.
Greg Koukl: Okay.
Melinda: 'Cause you're shrinking aren't you?
Greg Koukl: I am. I've lost an inch and a half since high school. This is not a good thing.
Melinda: That's called life.
Greg Koukl: Yeah. It's called disintegrating, what do they call it?
Greg Koukl: Disks. Yeah.
Melinda: Mm-hmm. Alright. Let's get going.
Greg Koukl: Okay.
Melinda: First question comes from Daniel B. Hannon in Pennsylvania: Would you consider neo-Darwinian explanations for human behaviors to essentially undermine any standard definition of human freedom?
Greg Koukl: Hmm. I thought it was going one place and then it ended up going to another place. Generally speaking, the neo-Darwinian model is materialistic, although there are Christians that believe in it, but neo-Darwinism is that evolution advanced through mutation and natural selection. Now, if you think about it that is a materialistic process, that is just atoms moving around in different ways. Atoms move around in particular ways based on fixed scientific law. That means physical systems are deterministic, therefore if physical systems are deterministic and we are completely a physical system that was developed through physicalistic processes, there is no room in that equation for freedom because freedom requires agency, agent initiates causal change, the way philosophers put it, it makes things happen.
If physicalism is true, which is a companion to the Darwinian project, materialism, well then there are no agents, there are just ...
Melinda: There's no freedom.
Greg Koukl: ... Fixed physical causal change. It's just sophisticated dominoes falling and there's a whole bunch of people that acknowledge that that follows. From the atheist Sam Harris, one of the new atheists who ... Steven Hawking, who says determinism is true in a book where he apparently made choices as to which words he would use to write his book, now there's a contradiction.
Melinda: To try to persuade people.
Greg Koukl: Yeah. It's just rife with contradiction, but he does follow ...
Melinda: Rationality is based on the idea of freedom.
Greg Koukl: Yes it is because ...
Melinda: 'Cause we can choose what to believe is true.
Greg Koukl: We choose beliefs based on reason.
Melinda: Reason, right.
Greg Koukl: Maybe 'choose beliefs' isn't the right way to put it, but the point is we weigh things. We are not just deterministically believing based on the physical circumstances that led up to that moment and that's what physicalism requires and that's what Darwinism leads to. Like I said, a whole lot of people have acknowledged this. If we have free will, demonstrably, and if neo-Darwinism dictates determinism with regards to human freedom, then Darwinism is false. This is an external conceptual problem to Darwinism. This is another way of inveighing against the process. I think Darwinism fails on the scientific merits, but this is another concern because it takes ... If you take it seriously it makes something like science not possible.
Melinda: It undermines its own enterprise.
Greg Koukl: It does because you have to have the faculties of freedom in order to come to the conclusion that we evolved in a Darwinian sense.
Melinda: To actually analyze data and draw conclusions.
Greg Koukl: Exactly. Right. The questioner was onto something important and valuable.
Melinda: Next question enabled by him. Do you think one should be baptized even if you're not connected in your church and have been a follower of Christ for many years.
Greg Koukl: Do I think they should be baptized?
Greg Koukl: If they're Christian, yes, but they haven't been connected to a local body?
Greg Koukl: Yeah, I don't see why not. The early Christians were baptized immediately and they weren't part of a local body, they got tied into a local body afterwards. There's no prima facie requirement for being part of a church in order to get baptized. This is what ended up happening in the early church, they banded together in community and it was their baptism and faith in Christ kind of taken in conjunction that was the thing that helped define the community. I'm not saying they're isolated from each other but strictly speaking, a person who is a believer should get baptized, even if they're not part of a local community.
Melinda: Getting baptized is a command, isn't it?
Greg Koukl: Yeah. It's an important submission and identification with Christ publicly and it is a way of identifying locally with a body. I think that the notion of being part of the community is implicit in the kind of change of life that baptism signals, but I don't think it's required for baptism.
Melinda: Next question comes from Riley JMU.
Greg Koukl: Hey, that was like one minute and twenty-five seconds so can I count that for the two minute one at the end and at the end I get a four minute one?
Melinda: We'll see how the overall time goes. Why did Jesus choose to create humans when he was already in perfect harmony with eternity?
Greg Koukl: Well, this is going to be speculative. I've said this many times and I'll say it again: 'Why did God' or 'Why did Jesus' kind of questions can almost never be answered because if they could be answered, because God has already told us, the person wouldn’t be asking the question. That is, this is something that God has not revealed to us. I do have a speculation about it that I think is a fair one.
Melinda: We can also rule out some answers.
Greg Koukl: He doesn't need, he didn't need human beings.
Melinda: He wasn't lonely.
Greg Koukl: He wasn't lonely.
Melinda: 'Cause he was in community already.
Greg Koukl: Exactly, and this is a very-
Melinda: There were three of them.
Greg Koukl: Right. This is a very-
Melinda: Plus, God doesn't lack anything.
Greg Koukl: That's right. This is a very important kind of feature or ... Sometimes people think, "Why does the Trinity matter?" Here's where it matters. It shows that God didn't need human beings in order to love. I think that's a problem for a unitarian concept of God like you have, for example, in Islam. God can't love until He creates, so love is not essential to His character. We could say love is essential to God of the Bible's character because His love was expressed eternally between the three persons. He did not need anything. Why did He create? It appears that He created, and I developed this a little bit in the story of reality. He created in order to share His happiness with us, not as a need He had, not as a requirement, He wasn't obliged to do it, but as kind of an overflowing of His virtue, His goodness. In philosophy they call it a supererogatory act, that is something that's done above and beyond the call. It's not morally required but it's morally laudatory when it's done.
In this case, there was no requirement for God to create human beings. He didn't improve His situation at all, He didn't need it, but what it afforded Him was an opportunity to show the greatness of His love by sharing His happiness in relationship with other humans. Now again, this is speculation, but I think it's as good as any.
Melinda: All right. Next question.
Greg Koukl: Oh, that's another two and a half minutes. That was good.
Melinda: I was going to say, given our overall time you can have up to four minutes on our extra bonus question. This comes from DROD1414: I understand that many scriptures are not directly meant for us, but how can we know that the promises in the New Testament are meant for us?
Greg Koukl: The promises in scripture are given to a subject, are spoken for a subject. When Abraham, in Genesis 15, is given a promise by God, "I will make you a great nation, et cetera ... In you all the nations of the earth will be blessed." That is a promise made, and you can see this just by looking at the content of it and the circumstances. That is a promise made to Abraham as an individual, "from your loins this progeny will come forth ..." it clarifies a couple of chapters later. This is obviously for Abraham. If I grabbed it for my own promise and just hitchhiked on it, "Well I'm going to have lots of kids and blah, blah, blah ...", it's an illicit use of that promise, application.
Now there are other promises in the Old Testament, though, that seem to be for a larger subject, the group of Jews. Deuteronomy 28 through 30: Blessings and cursings. If you follow this, you ... The people, the nation ... If you follow this law that has just been repeated there in Deuteronomy, then I will bless you, and if you don't, then I will curse you. There are promises given to the larger group. When we go to the New Testament, the question is: What is the subject of the promises in the New Testament? Sometimes the subject of the promise is going to be an individual.
For example, when Paul, Saul was blinded and then he was visited by Ananias, then God told Ananias to tell Paul, "I will show him how much he's going to suffer for my sake." It's not appropriate to take that promise such as it is and say, "Well this is the promise for everybody." There are other verses that indicate that Christians will experience suffering, but this was for Paul, it was a specific directive regarding Paul. However, there are many other things in the New Testament that are given to individuals, not as individuals, but as members of a larger group. That group is the redeemed, or the body of Christ, to the Church and most of the time I don't think this is difficult.
I'll give you one example where I think it is, and that is in the upper room discourse, where in John 15 or so Jesus is talking about another comforter that will come, He's going to send the Holy Spirit, and He will lead you or guide you unto all truth. Now I think Christians take that indiscriminately as being a promise for them, but you see it's obvious, it seems to me, that if that was a promise for us, then God has failed because we don't all agree.
What does that mean? There is a promise made to everybody about the giving of the Spirit, the Spirit will be given to them and as part of the New Covenant will be given to the rest of the Church, right? That particular promise that the Spirit would help them be led in all truth and He would bring into remembrance all the things that I have taught you, that I think was specifically for that group. The disciples have the promise of having inerrant revelation, information and understanding insofar as they expressed it to the Body of Christ, but we don't have that. However, we do have the promise of the Spirit because there is more detail about that that is given for all of us and that is a unique provision of the New Covenant that Jesus initiated at the Last Supper and we see spoken of in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36 or so.
Sometimes you just kind of have to step through some of these things to try to figure out what applies and what doesn't. Sometimes it's a little tricky, but for the most part you just ask: Who is the subject of the words or the promise? Is it an individual or is it a group that the individual is a member of? If we're a member of the same group, then the promise applies to us too.
Melinda: Alistair Begg has made the point that, you know, 'cause all of scripture was given for our benefit, so if there's a promise to a different audience, especially in the Old Testament, well what good is that for us? Alistair Begg has made the point that, especially in the Old Testament, when God makes a promise to a different audience, a different subject, to understand how that would apply to us you would ask: What does that promise to that individual tell us about God and then what does that generality then teach us about God that we can then apply or understand?
Greg Koukl: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right. That's right. This is good because you don't go from the text to the Christian, you go from the text in the Old Testament to the Jews, then you go from the Jews to God, and then you go from God to the Christian.
Greg Koukl: In that process, of course, then there are details that are not going to apply the same way that they did to the Jews.
Melinda: This is just a question that came in my mind 'cause all scripture is given for our benefit and stuff, so I've been reading through the Old Testament in Kings and then Chronicles. Why in the world do we have to hear about some of this stuff twice?
Greg Koukl: Mm-hmm.
Melinda: Are you going to answer me?
Greg Koukl: You mean-
Melinda: Or are you just agreeing?
Greg Koukl: Well I'm just thinking about the parallel accounts that you find in Kings and Chronicles where you have…
Melinda: Yeah, it's just like some of this stuff's odd and weird to begin with and then it's kind like, and then we hear it twice. Like, oh jeez.
Greg Koukl: One thing to remember about this principle of 'all scripture is for us' is we have to forget about the numbers, and this isn't quite your concern here, but let me just say this, you have to forget about the numbers, the verse numbers, because it isn't like indiscreet phrases and sentences were meant for our personal application.
Melinda: No, I'm reading in sections.
Greg Koukl: I know you are, but I'm just going to build to that.
Greg Koukl: It is the narrative that has application for us, not necessarily a particular line. So then-
Melinda: A lot of Chronicles is a repetition of Kings.
Greg Koukl: No, that's true but Chronicles speaks from a little different perspective than Kings. It speaks more from the priestly perspective. I can't tell you much about that, but the point is there was a broader purpose for delivering the same content in this kind of format that wasn't captured in quite the same way in the Kings. In the Chronicles you have, yeah, a repetition of things but it's part of a larger explanation that served a little different purpose. That's all I'm saying.
Melinda: Yeah. I'm especially enjoying the return and the building of the walls and the temples and stuff. Just thinking, and some of the narrative there is just what joy they approach this with, returning to God's city and rebuilding His temple and stuff-
Greg Koukl: Some do that.
Greg Koukl: Not everybody was so thrilled about it.
Melinda: Well the ones that did.
Greg Koukl: Right.
Melinda: Well that's what I mean, the ones who did and then rediscovering the books and reading them and stuff. It's just really heartening to just contemplate their joy in that and it's instructive to me too.
Greg Koukl: One of the things I noticed when I was reading that section years ago is that we lose track of how much time has passed. The amount of time since the deportation 'til the final restoration was about the same amount of time as the United States has been in existence, like 250 years or something. It just is amazing to me how we think in such a way as to collapse these events down. Look at from the time of the Exodus to the time of, let's see, the Exodus was about roughly 1500, some debate about this, but then David is like 1000 BC so there's 500 years, that goes back to the printing press, from the time of the Exodus before you get to the United Kingdom. So anyway, that just caught me, I thought that was interesting.
Melinda: Good. All right. That's it for this episode, folks. Send questions on Twitter using #STRask. We post two episodes every Monday and Thursday and we're still doing the long podcast on Tuesdays where you can have a conversation with Greg, so tune in and call in Tuesdays 4 to 6 p.m. I'm Melinda, the Enforcer, with Greg Koukl, for Stand to Reason.