Greg answers questions in 4 minutes or less on lying, social justice, common descent, and reformed theology.
Melinda Penner: Okay, set, go. First question comes from Coso Franklin on Twitter. In one of your talks you said you should never deny Christ to save your life. I believe this came up a number years ago when the Fox News reporters were taken captive. He says but sometimes lying is okay, so what about Peter? So why... I guess why couldn’t you lie to save your life?
Greg Koukl: Well no one’s suggesting that what Peter did denying Christ was right. He was lying then but that was a wrong thing to do. Peter is an example of my point it seems. There are times when lying is permissible but in my view and the kind of a standard it’s a standard view of a moral hierarchy when a person’s in a moral dilemma between a rock and a hard place that is they have one of two choices to make and they have to make one or the other. They’re forced into one or the other and both in isolation would be wrong to do. Gosh then what?
Well then what you do is you do the greater good. It is the right thing to do the lesser evil but it’s construed I think in that circumstance as the greater good. That isn’t a situation it seems to me when somebody is confronted with recanting their own conviction about Christ publicly. There has got to be a good that is at the top of the heap so to speak. If there are greater goods that means pretty soon you get to the top one, you get to an untrumpable good. The final [sunumble 00:04:29], the greatest good or whatever. It seems to me in this kind of issue that one thing that you could never do and justify doing this bad thing because there was a greater good that was at stake would be faithfulness to God in this kind of circumstance. You can’t deny Christ. If you could it would only be because there was a greater good at stake. What would be the greater good? Certainly not saving someone’s life.
Revelation talks about the saints who did not love their lives even to the death. They were faithful. They loved Christ more their own lives so I don’t see how any characterization of greater good ethics could justify denying Christ.
Melinda Penner: I remember when this came up several years ago. This is been over ten years now since the Fox News Reporter and his cameraman were taken captive. Initially I agreed with Cosos Franklin. Because I was thinking, “Well obviously if somebody’s threatening your life nobody can take your denial seriously”, but then when you talked about this on the air I realized I was completely wrong. So-
Melinda Penner: This is an unique case because allegiance to Jesus is the highest good that is untrumpable.
Greg Koukl: There you go. Yeah you said it better than I did. Exactly right. Allegiance to Jesus is the highest good that is not trumpable by a greater good. I can’t imagine it, I don’t know what it would be. It isn’t my life, is the greater good. It isn’t my family’s life. I can’t deny Christ to save my children’s lives. Now if I did that it’s a forgivable sin but it would be a sin.
Melinda Penner: I don’t think we mentioned this on the air. Alan, our speaker Alan Sheman just got back from Lebanon-
Greg Koukl: Right.
Melinda Penner: And he was telling us last week I believe it was about his trip. He told us a really profound story, you want to mention that because it fits in here.
Greg Koukl: Yes-
Melinda Penner: This doesn’t count against your time so don’t worry.
Greg Koukl: Some weeks ago, it was a very public execution of some was a ten or twenty?
Melinda Penner: Twenty-three.
Greg Koukl: Twenty-three Christians on a beach by ISIS. I’m not sure if it entailed beheading but it was an execution. They lost their lives and they had been in custody of ISIS for some time. Of course there are Christian families were praying fervently for their their release that God would see to it that they got released. Let me just back up for a moment. The reason that this all happened is because Alan was there in Beirut in the general vicinity where these families of those that had been executed, martyred lived. He went with other-
Melinda Penner: They live in Egypt but he was teaching the Egyptian students came over to Lebanon, they were no where in the vicinity.
Greg Koukl: Right, that’s right. Okay, my point really is that he went with Christians to be an encouragement to these who had lost their loved ones to martyrdom. That was kind of the point I was making. While he was in Lebanon he had this opportunity to do that but then-
Greg Koukl: Yes. What really matters is the mentality of the sentiments of the believers in the circumstance because when it became clear that ISIS was not going to release them unless they recanted their faith, they quit praying for their release. They prayed for the faithfulness of those Christians that none would recant and they would be faithful to the death. Which every single one of them was. Those who had gone, apparently not Alan, but those who had gone to be an encouragement to these families who were bereaved because of the loss of their family members to this execution. They were the ones who are encouraged by the family members they were deeply touched by the power their faith and their convictions and this is very very telling I think. This was the right response. They understood the point that we’re talking about now.
Melinda Penner: Right. To these Christians who actually live with this possibility of a threat to their lives, these wives, the honor of being faithful to Christ was more important than their husbands lives and going back to them.
Greg Koukl: Right and so what they were praying for entailed a sacrifice they would be making too, the loss of their loved ones. It would count against them. They would hurt them. It was a price they were paying but it was a better price to pay that than to have their loved ones recant.
Melinda Penner: I pray for that kind of courage.
Greg Koukl: Oh my goodness.
Melinda Penner: Next question so start the timer again. What is the church’s responsibility to social justice?
Greg Koukl: I guess it depends on what one means by social justice. Dennis Prager said if you had any adjective to the word justice you corrupt it. Is it racial justice, sexual justice, social justice these things turn out to be in actual practice dubious virtues because there’s all kinds of political things that are attached to this. Let me just change the word and let’s say what obligation do we have towards the poor? Part of what’s entailed in the term social justice is this notion that people are poor because of the injustice done to them. I don’t think that’s the case. That is usually-
Melinda Penner: Not always the case.
Greg Koukl: And there’s a lot of Marxism that’s built into this notion of social justice. I’m just going to set all of that aside and I’m saying what is the church... What obligation does the church have to the poor or the downcast or the needy or those who have been an inappropriately abused or something like that? For whom injustice has in fact happened.
Well it is our job to help the downtrodden. To encourage the weak to help the poor. When the early church was debating the galation problem there in Acts 10, I think was the Jerusalem Council and they were giving instructions on a theological issue. Part of what they included in their letter that they circulated in Asia Minor to the new churches there is that you don’t neglect the poor. I think that was part of that.
Clearly we see in the New Testament and Old Testament ethic that we are to help those who need help. So yeah, gleaning laws or you had provision for gleaning in the Old Testament law which says don’t harvest everything leave a little bit around the edges so that people can benefit from that now. Notice that in even in that case, they had to work to get some food but they had to work in the harvest didn’t work in the planting. There’s provision but it wasn’t just straight up welfare. This is an ethic that we find throughout Scripture. We have an obligation to help those who need help. I do like the way Paul puts it in Galatians 6. He says that we should carry... bear one another’s burdens but then a few verses later he says we should each carrier on load. We practice this with our children. There is a standard load that everybody’s to carry. Nobody gets a free ride but there are sometimes excessive burdens that we are to help people with. We see the early church meeting the needs of those burdens.
Curiously, they started first with their own. With the widows who are widows indeed. That is widows who did not have family members that could help them and who had served the church. You seek all kinds of... In the New Testament there’s these qualifiers in there and how this has to be done and meted out. If any man doesn’t work he should not eat and stuff like that. I actually think the church has historically stepped up very well to these obligations. The need is always greater than the resources or than our effort. There’s no question there more could be done but I think that the church has acquitted itself well on helping the poor in many cases.
Melinda Penner: Reading church history really in the early centuries and all the way up to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it was Christians who actually instigated the social reforms. That created institutions. That used their personal wealth in some cases to build the institutions that helped the poor. That changed society.
Greg Koukl: Well think about... Two things like that come to mind, in England one of them is... Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. If you think about it, he wrote this is a Christian and he drew tremendous attention to the plight of the poor there in England during the early throes of the industrial revolution. Then John Wesley with the Wesleyan revivals there in England. Some historians say that the transformation of England in social ways as a result of the transformation of people to become Christians saved England from a Civil War. There we see those kinds of things actually being played out.
You look at suffrage or rather suffrage but the anti-slavery movement both in the United Kingdom and in the States. Driven largely by Christians know most notably in the U. K. by William Wilberforce but also in the States, the Underground Railroad all of that stuff. Before FDR there wasn’t really government social care that is given. It was these things were done by the Y.M.C.A. Young Men’s Christian Association and a whole host of other agencies that in virtue of their Christian conviction were reaching out to those people who were in need.
Melinda Penner: Next question. Must Christians believe the Genesis common descent story?
Greg Koukl: The Genesis common descent. Do you mean specifically of human being’s-
Melinda Penner: One couple, Adam and Eve.
Greg Koukl: Well I wrote about this Melinda about three years ago in a piece titled Drifting Towards Darwin. It was reflecting my concern that many notable Christians seem to be flirting with theological theistic evolution and big organization led by Francis Collins was making inroads into Christian thinkers in that regard. I spent some time talking about this issue in my article. It seems to me theologically that if there was not an Adam and Eve that with the first people, the first human beings from whom all other humans descended, you cannot make sense of hardly anything else in the Bible with regard to salvation.
Here I’m leaning on Francis Shaffer who made this observation and it impacted me long ago and I thought it made so much sense. He said what Genesis is a, is a history of beginnings, how the world began, how human beings began, how sin began. It’s meant to describe how the problem got started so that the rest of the book explaining how the problem gets solved makes sense. If it turns out then that the fall is not historical and that we are not descendants of Adam and Eve, then it’s hard to see how the rest of this story, the narrative answers the questions it intends to answer.
Here’s the illustration I’ve given. It’s like a dad who has a scar and his son eight years old, ten years old, always mystified by this scar on his dad. He said, “Papa I want to know how did you get that scar?” His dad says, “Well once upon a time.” His son stops him and says, “Pop I don’t want to hear a fairy tale, I want to know how you got that scar.” If he’s got a real scar on his body and he tells a fairy tale. The fairy tale doesn’t explain the physical scars his body can’t do that. This is an illustration of what happens when you try to explain away the historical features of the fall in particular. That Adam and Eve weren’t our parents who fell and every one of us now is fallen in Adam which strikes me as good New Testament theology, Romans 5 for example.
If Genesis... Human beings have a scar, they have a deep wound. What Genesis is meant to answer is where the wound came from. If Genesis is a myth then it never answers that question. This means then Shaffer points out, it seems to suggest then that not only do we not have an answer for where the wound came from, it starts to look like the wound is inherent to being human. It’s not accidental. It’s a necessary human trait. Theology says sin is not necessary, it’s accidental. We started out right and then we made choices that wounded us. Shaffer says if that isn’t the way it happened well then that really puts question of hope in the future for us to change.
However, if we are not essentially like this then Jesus could be a true human. He’s not flawed in that way. Also there is hope for change. We can’t be restored to what God originally intended for us. That all makes sense given in a historical fall but if there’s no historical fall, makes no sense whatsoever. That’s the first time I got dinged.
Melinda Penner: No you got dinged last week.
Greg Koukl: Did I really?
Melinda Penner: It was during a very serious question so we didn’t make a big deal.
Greg Koukl: Okay.
Melinda Penner: But yes. Next question from Nathan. Concerning the Reformed view of theology, how would you then explain Second Peter 3:9 saying, “God is not willing for any to perish”?
Greg Koukl: Okay. Somebody asked me this question just the other day and there are two ways to deal with this. Specifically talking about the second Peter passage. One is to understand that there are two ways that the Will of God is characterized in the scripture. In fact that is it’s equivocal it could mean this or it could mean that depending. If you don’t acknowledge that there are two ways at least that the phrase Will of God could be understood then you have a contradiction. Daniel I think says or maybe it’s David says that who can resist His Will? It’s a rhetorical question presumes the answer no one. God is God, in the heaven above and the earth below. He’s the one who gets his job done. Whatever he wants he gets. Whatever he wants in that way, that is whatever he wants in a way that he sets his desire and his intentions and his power to accomplish he gets it.
There is a Will of God in which God gets his way because he is the one who is going to fulfill that thing. But there’s another Will of God in which God doesn’t always get his way and this is clear, this is the Will of God for you even your sanctification that you abstain from sexual immorality first. That’s Thessalonians 4. Well gosh there are a lot of people who are sexually immoral so there’s a Will of God that God doesn’t get what he wants. Why not because in this case God isn’t getting what he wants because he is not committed to doing it. He is telling us to do it. In the first case you might call it the Sovereign Will of God. In the second case you might call it the Moral Will of God. That is it’s something he wants but he is going to allow us to fulfill it or not fulfill it.
Now this brings us to the question of the Will of God with regards to salvation. It strikes me that it makes perfect sense to say that God morally wills everyone to follow him. He is not willing that any to perish would perish. It’s not his Will that people would perish but that people would come to repentance. This is what he wants. In the sense of his Moral Will. When it comes to his sovereign decree for salvation. There is some that he guarantees will be rescued. The ones that he it lacks. This is on the reform view.
One way of solving this problem is by understanding that there are two different Wills of God and this is a necessary feature of scripture understanding. This answer I just gave was the same answer that Jon Piper gives on this and I think it’s completely legitimate. However, I don’t think that’s what’s going on in first Peter. You could opt for that, it would make sense but in first... I’m sorry second Peter. In second Peter there is something different going on. I will confess to you the first time that I heard this I thought it was kind of a lame reform Calvinistic response. When he says, “I’m not willing for all, for any to perish”, he means any of the elect.
I’m looking and it doesn’t say any of the elect, it just says any. I went back to the passage and I started looking at it. One of the things I noticed is that it doesn’t say any of the elect but it doesn’t say not willing to let any perish but all [inaudible 00:23:27]. It doesn’t say any of the elect perish or all the elect count but it doesn’t say any people either. There is no object to this in both of those occasions. I’m thinking well who is it that he’s referring to? Any what? All what or who? I’ll finish the thought here quickly-
Melinda Penner: Quickly.
Greg Koukl: I went back to the first verse of the book and I started following the pronoun.
Melinda Penner: Second Peter talks a lot about the elect doesn’t it?
Greg Koukl: Well second Peter is written by Peter to Christians. He identifies them as such and Christians are also known by the senate of the elect. I don’t know if the word itself comes up but it is clear that he is speaking to the Body of Christ, the bride of Christ also known as the elect through the entire thing. Every pronoun is referring back to that particular audience and so when you give to this first-
Melinda Penner: Any of those that already belong to Christ.
Greg Koukl: That’s right. So when he says God is not willing that any should perish, it’s any of the bride of Christ and all of the bride of Christ come in. That makes perfect sense in the context. If he’s talking about any person at all, the reason he’s saying this is because some people are saying Jesus is delayed and Paul says, “When’s he coming?” Peter says, “God is not slow according to his promise but he’s long suffering not willing that any should perish.” That means he will come-
Greg Koukl: I’ll finish the sentence. He will come when that purpose is fulfilled and that purpose will only be fulfilled, the Armenian view, when the whole world becomes believers. That’s not ever going to happen so that couldn’t be the meaning that Peter has.
Melinda Penner: That’s not a lame answer. Shame on you for saying that about Jon Piper.
Greg Koukl: No Jon Piper didn’t offer that he offer that. He offered the other thing and I thought that was good but I think-
Melinda Penner: What about the other thing? It strikes me just taken as a the straight wording God is not willing that any perish, Armenians usually pose this to the reformed or Calvinist. Armenians have to answer it and their answer’s going to have to be in the same... I mean the first part of your answer about the different Wills of God. Just as that verse, God is not willing that any should perish, I mean obviously on the Armenian side they’re going to say that our will comes and we can reject it-
Greg Koukl: Right.
Melinda Penner: That kind of thing but you’re still dealing with two Wills of God.
Greg Koukl: Yeah well, I don’t think that is sound Biblical it could be invade here but that’s not what I think. I think the problem for Armenians with this verse is that Peter is explaining why Jesus is delaying. He’s delaying because God is long suffering and the fullness has to come in. If the fullness is everybody then that’ll never happen. Everybody’s not going to believe. If the fullness is the elect well that will happen when the fullness of the bride comes in. That’s what I think he’s actually talking.
Melinda Penner: That’s good. I’ve actually had not heard that explanation. I actually learned something from you today. Thank you.
Greg Koukl: Even a blind dog finds a bone once in awhile.
Melinda Penner: Good for you. That’s it for this week. You can send your questions on Twitter, use hashtag... Oh before I finish, Greg tell us who you’re interviewing this week for the weekly podcast so people definitely tune in to that one.
Greg Koukl: Right. The next podcast Jay Warner Wallace for two hours.
Melinda Penner: Right.
Greg Koukl: I have only done two hours maybe twice before in my entire career. This is a significant podcast. It’s one of my favorite guys, fabulous interview and he’s going to be on his new book “God’s Crime Scene”. You don’t want to miss this interview. You just do not. It’s going to be fabulous.
Melinda Penner: That’s the weekly... The regular weekly podcast. One hour will be posted Wednesday, the second hour posted on Friday. Okay that’s really it now for this week. Send your questions for the STRask podcast on Twitter using hashtag (#) STRask. That’s how we get questions for this program. It’s posted Mondays, you can also check it out at STR.org, in iTunes any podcast app you use and also on the STR app. I’m Melinda The Enforcer with Greg Koukl for the STRask podcast.