#STRask: February 13, 2017

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Published on 02/13/2017

In 4 min. or less, Greg talks about end of life issues, referring to God as she, and science and a Designer.


  • If a Christians real “home” is in Heaven. Is it possible that medical advances have extended our lives beyond what is good for us?
  • What do think of the trend in some circles to refer to God as ’she’?
  • In a Facebook discussion with a scientist, he said ’no literate scientist has ever believed in teleology.’ Why is this important to them?


Melinda: Hello there. This is Melinda, the Enforcer. I’m here with Greg Koukl. We’re both with Stand to Reason.

Greg Koukl: Hi Enforcer.

Melinda: Hello, Mr. President. Speaker. Author. By the way, you were in Canada this last weekend and I asked you if you could, could you bring me back some Victoria Creams. You bought me a whole box. Thank you!

Greg Koukl: I bought you? You’re not going to pay me back?

Melinda: I assume you bought it at a steal.

Greg Koukl: No, those are for you.

Melinda: I’m not paying you back.

Greg Koukl: Okay. You deserved it. As it turned out, I was on the ferry going across from Vancouver to Victoria Island. I got your email. Right then, they made an announcement about chocolates on sale about five yards away from where I was sitting. I walked in there and fulfilled your request immediately. It worked out really nicely.

Melinda: God must have wanted me to have Victoria Creams.

Greg Koukl: God must have wanted it, right.

Melinda: Made it that easy for you.

Greg Koukl: Yeah.

Melinda: Thanks very much.

Greg Koukl: Yeah.

Melinda: This is the STR Podcast, #STRask, because you send us your questions on Twitter and you need to include hashtag, STRask, so we can retrieve them and find them. Then, I present them to Greg and he has four minutes or less to answer the questions. Two episodes every week, posted Mondays and Thursdays. I guess we can get going on this.

Greg Koukl: Okay. Rock-and-roll. I’m ready for you.

Melinda: First question comes from Callerr 88. There’s two Rs. “If a Christian’s real home is in heaven, is it possible that medical advances have extended our lives beyond what is good for us and we should just go home at an appropriate age?”

Greg Koukl: I don’t know what an appropriate age is frankly. I mean, the fact is, that medical advances, principally in the area of child mortality, infant mortality and child mortality, have extended our average lifespan considerably. I don’t see any reason to complain about that. It isn’t...

Melinda: He’s probably asking more about end-of-life medicine that’s able to keep people alive a lot longer, which, you know is a good thing, but does there come a time where maybe it’s appropriate to just go home to heaven since we know we’re going rather than...

Greg Koukl: Yeah. I think when we die. I mean, to put it simply, when we die. We’ve had...It sounds maybe a little bit curt to respond that way or cheeky, but in our conversations in the past about this, when people say to us, “Well, they’re going to die anyway, so then that justifies taking their life a little earlier, they’re terminal or whatever. This is an argument for doctor-assisted suicide.” Not that this is the way your question is going...

Melinda: No.

Greg Koukl: My response is, then, let them die in their own time instead of taking their life. If they’re going to die, then let them die. Then, we are morally clear in the process. We give care and comfort, palliative care, pain control when necessary and when possible and treat the human being like a valuable human being. I think this is more probably in the direction of, “Well, since our real home is in heaven, then we should be eager to go there in a timely fashion.”, I guess, but my question is, I don’t really know what my concern is. I don’t really know what a timely fashion is...

Melinda: Well, I added the word timely, but

Greg Koukl: But, we have the opportunity to...

Melinda: Here’s how I took his question. I’ve thought about this. I know we’ve discussed it. You thought about it because we both have had...Both of our parents have passed away. We’ve helped care for them to the end. I guess the question, I think the question is, “Are we obligated to accept all medical care that can keep us alive? Are there things morally that we can turn down?” I mean, because there are...I mean, I’ve thought about this with my mother. There are probably a lot of ways in the past people, elderly people, just quietly died in their sleep from things that are not too difficult now to actually correct, like low potassium, or you can put in pacemakers and ICDs and things like that to keep the heart going when otherwise it would have stopped. It keeps people along a whole lot longer and therefore, they’re experiencing other illnesses and problems. Are we obligated to make use of all those medical interventions, I guess, when there is a condition that otherwise we would die from?

Greg Koukl: Right. I don’t think we are obligated in every case and I think the general guidelines that we use for other people apply also to ourselves. Those guidelines are, if the medical modality has a reasonable expectation of medical benefit - reasonable expectation of medical benefit, that means it can solve the medical problem, and secondarily, does not create an undue burden. Of course, both of the phrases have fudge factors built in. We have to be careful of them.

Melinda: Big judgment call.

Greg Koukl: Yeah, but at least there is something there. Then, I think we’re obliged to use them on others and ourselves. I remember you saying yourself as you’re working through some of these things with your mom, that as long as the Lord is allowing your mom to stay here on this Earth, he’s got a purpose for you. If there is reasonable medical care that could be given to extend your life, that’s what was happening. She had a pacemaker thing.

Melinda: She had an ICD, a defibrillator, basically.

Greg Koukl: For most of her life.

Melinda: The last years, she’d often have low potassium or other...Basically, she had congestive heart failure. There were very minor things. I mean, look all of this was a big burden on her. I mean, I don’t want to make light of this. It was very difficult for her to slowly go downhill, but nothing ever took like resuscitating her or anything like that. When there was a condition, we simply treated it. When it got to the point that there was no more treatment, then we let that go. She often would ask me, “Why am I still here?”, because she was suffering. It was difficult. I would always encourage her. This was absolutely the truth. As long as she was here, God had a purpose for her. I told her that as long as the means of correcting the problem were reasonable, we were going to take them. None of these things, she was actually dying from. I told her, I said, “When you’re dying, we’ll let you go. For right now, we’re just taking care of you.”

Greg Koukl: That’s right. That’s right. This underscores something that I said earlier, but maybe some people missed it. I said, “reasonable expectation of medical benefit.” It is not to be construed in quality of life terms because people will say, “Well, I’m not getting any better. I don’t like my life right now.” Listen, if we are followers of Christ, then we take the life that God gives us at any stage, whatever it happens to be. We make the best of it for his glory. Sometimes, that’s hard. No question, but this is especially the case when it’s the trend now, or let’s say, “It’s trendy. It’s legal.”, to just say, “Okay, I’ve had enough. I want to take my own life.” If we are dying, we can die a natural death, but there are so many things as you mentioned that were fatal before, that now we have fairly simple cures for or modalities for that can...

Melinda: Potassium injection.

Greg Koukl: Exactly....can sustain us for much longer. There is, and I don’t want to miss one underlying, I think, point that was made, implicit in the question. That is that we are going to glory. We do have a home that we’re going to. We have our final resurrection. All of that. We can look forward to that. If God asks us, so to speak, to hang on a little bit longer for whatever purposes that he may have in mind and we don’t know what those are, but we responsively care for our lives until our natural deaths. Then, that’s not the end of it. The momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal way to glory, Paul says in 2 Corinthians, the end of Chapter 4. I think that that serves us well on these kinds of questions.

Melinda: I remember...Well, there’s a commentary you did on the radio years ago. It’s an article on our website. I can’t remember the name of it. “Obtaining a better resurrection.” You make the point in there, I think it’s from Corinthians or something Paul says, that it seems as though our souls grow and develop, our character, our virtue, our spiritual capacities grow here on Earth. Then, they’re set once we die. Every moment...I would try to encourage my mother, every moment that God keeps us here, he’s working on us to make us more fit for heaven.

Greg Koukl: Yes, perfectly put. I got that actually from J.P. Moreland, our board mentor. The passages that resonated was from Hebrews 11, a better resurrection and also, I think, at 1 Timothy, it talks about godliness is a means of great gain because it holds a promise not just for this life, but also for the life to come. I think this is a very legitimate part of our Christian growth that almost never gets mentioned. I’m very thankful that J.P. Moreland brought our attention to this particular thing. The soul growth element because it’s really had an influence on my own life.

Melinda: Right. When we talk about that, we’re not saying how that affects your salvation.

Greg Koukl: No.

Melinda: Believe in Jesus is the only thing. Forgiveness of your sins. It’s like the only thing that gives you access to heaven.

Greg Koukl: Right.

Melinda: But, our souls survive our bodies. Our souls are what persist in heaven and all the qualities and things we have here or lack of them. Yeah, knowing both my parents are completely healed and well in heaven. I often think about them and think, “Wow! They get to see Jesus. They get to see God face-to-face.” Somebody, about six months after my mom died, I think we had a board meeting. One of the board members says, “Well, how’s your mom?” In all seriousness, I said, “She’s doing great. She’s in heaven.” I knew that that board member would understand.

Greg Koukl: Right. Right.

Melinda: I didn’t mean it glibly in the least.

Greg Koukl: I remember one guy saying, reflecting on a cartoon, two guys up in heaven, sitting on the clouds, enjoying themselves. One guy said, “Man, it’s great up here.” The other guy says, “Yeah, and if we hadn’t eaten all that health food, we’d have been here a lot sooner.” Anyway...By the way, that was more than four minutes.

Melinda: I’m keeping all my gluten on this side. Next question comes from Friar Gayland. “What do you think of the trend in some circles to refer to God as ’she’?”

Greg Koukl: Well, I think it’s silly. I think it’s irreverent. God identifies himself as a he. Now, that doesn’t mean that he is a male gender, that he’s a man, because he’s not. He’s a divine spirit, an infinite spirit, but he chooses to identify himself in that way, even though we know from his revelation of himself, that there are feminine qualities that he has. We read about being protected by his pinions or his feathers like a mother hen protecting her chicks. We see things like this all the time in Scripture. Arguably, the image of God and man is best captured by both sexes together, the male and the female. Alright? The fact is, God is the one who has characterized himself with the male gender. I don’t know why we should change that. Some people don’t like it. It’s politically incorrect. I don’t care. My job is...

Melinda: To be more inclusive.

Greg Koukl: It’s not my job to be more inclusive. It’s my job to be more...We can be inclusive in ways that are appropriate to be inclusive, but when God’s talking about himself, isn’t the trend now to let people identify their own genders for themselves?

Melinda: That’s true. God identified.

Greg Koukl: Right. Let’s just so with God.

Melinda: Self-identified.

Greg Koukl: That’s right.

Melinda: Right. Yeah. I mean, we believe, Christians believe in verbal, plenary inspiration. Every word is inspired.

Greg Koukl: Mm-hmm. The whole thing is.

Melinda: Therefore, the pronouns are too. We take every word of it seriously. Speaking as a she, thinking of God as a she doesn’t make me feel any closer to him.

Greg Koukl: I know.

Melinda: Knowing him and following him is what makes me feel closer. I never liked all the trend like in philosophy classes of using female pronouns either. You know, being inclusive and stuff. I adamantly use male pronouns all the way through. I refuse to use she.

Greg Koukl: Right. That’s a different issue.

Melinda: I think that’s kind of...

Greg Koukl: There may be some...

Melinda: I know it’s different.

Greg Koukl:...legitimacy to that.

Melinda: I just think a lot of it...

Greg Koukl: When it comes to God’s self-revelation, that’s a whole class by itself.

Melinda: Exactly. Right. Right. Some of these efforts, as a woman, I just think are silly and even kind of condescending to the sex.

Greg Koukl: Yeah, patronizing.

Melinda: Patronizing’s the right word.

Greg Koukl: I think that’s the case.

Melinda: Next question. Comes from Doug Smith. I can’t figure out the other word, the name of Twitter. In a Facebook discussion with a scientist, he said, “No literate scientist has ever believed in teleology. Is that true? Why is that important to an atheist scientist to make that point?”

Greg Koukl: What the atheist scientist is going there is simply enforcing a philosophic point of view onto science. That’s all he’s saying. He’s saying that if you believe in teleology, which means design, that things were made for purposes, then you are not a literate scientist. Now, it’s unusual that he uses the word literate, because literate means that you can read or maybe when specifying a particular area, it means that you are well-read in your discipline. What’s curious is, is that those who are in a sense literate, by that definition, that is that they are let’s say, card-carrying materialist atheistic scientists, are constantly talking about the apparent teleology. Alright? Look at here, Richard Dawkins, you can’t get more card-carrying materialistic than Richard Dawkins. He starts out his famous book, The Blind Watchmaker, with these words: “The biological realm is a complex world that gives the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” But, then he goes onto explain, “We know better. It’s not been designed for a purpose. There is no design. It’s the blind watchmaker of natural selection that is doing the so-called designing.” Notice, by the way, that he’s taking it as de facto evident. It’s clear when you look at things that, “Boy, they sure look designed.”, but here is where there’s going to be a debate and whether his mechanism can accomplish what he thinks it can accomplish. I don’t think it can. I think it’s driven by a philosophy that wants to deny teleology, but nevertheless, he’s acknowledging it and people do it all the time. Nancy Pearcey’s latest book, and I can’t remember the title right now. I think it’s something truth. She’s got the truth series thing. Sorry, Nancy. I can’t remember. We interviewed her. It is chocked full with statements of scientists that say things like, “I’ve got to keep reminding myself that the things I’m looking at are not designed for a purpose because they sure do look that way.” Now, why do they say they’re not designed for a purpose, because they’re philosophy required...

Melinda: Finding truth.

Greg Koukl: Finding truth. Thank you. Because, their philosophy requires it, but their common sense realism delivers to them the obvious sense that the world is designed for a purpose, that thumbs are made for grasping, that eyes are made for seeing, that legs are made for walking, that minds are made for thinking, all kinds of stuff like that. Indeed, it’s only an intellectual - as one writer, Orson Wells, or somebody said, George Orwell, maybe said - “Only an intellectual would say something like that, but ordinary folk are not that stupid.”

Melinda: Well, not only that, we’ve got many, many examples, I mean, giants in the field of science and history, who believed in God and believed that he had designed the Earth.

Greg Koukl: You’re right.

Melinda: I’d like this guy to talk to John Newton and say that to him. “You’re not literate, John Newton.”

Greg Koukl: Not John Newton.

Melinda: Not Newton. Isaac Newton.

Greg Koukl: Isaac Newton.

Melinda: Right. The guy with the apple. Before we wrap up here, and he’s not the only one, there’s lot of them.

Greg Koukl: Well, John Newton would also affirm that, but for different reasons.

Melinda: He would say, “No, I’m not literate in science.”, maybe. Before we wrap up here, just wanted to mention a few places where Greg’s speaking. Actually, this week, when this airs, Wednesday night, the 15th, he’s going to be speaking at his own church, Living Oaks Community Church in Newbury Park. Sunday, the 19th...

Greg Koukl: Let me say something about that. I’m going to be talking about...

Melinda: Really quickly.

Greg Koukl:...The Story of Reality. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Melinda: Don’t you have a book by that title?

Greg Koukl: I do, as a matter of fact. I do. You know, I thought it sounded familiar, but I love giving this talk. I hope if you’re within striking distance, you’ll show up on Wednesday night, at 6:30. It starts at 6:30. You’ve got to get there early.

Melinda: You’re also giving it in Centerville, Utah.

Greg Koukl: Great.

Melinda: At The Bridge on Sunday the 19th. Then, at the end of the month, Greg’s going to be in Hawaii, the 24th and 25th, he’s going to be in Honolulu. The 26th, he’s going to be in Lahaina and the 28th, he’s going to be speaking in Kihei. Both of those on Maui. You can go to find details on our website, and you’ll see also Brett, Alan, and Tim’s schedules there too. That’s it for this episode, folks. Send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask. I’m Melinda the Enforcer, with Greg Koukl, for Stand to Reason.