#STRask: February 16, 2017

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Published on 02/16/2017

Greg’s on a timer and answers questions about Christians in vocations that could be problematic, rules of Biblical interpretation, unbiblical vs. non biblical, and extra-biblical historical evidence for the Bible.


  • Can Christians become counselors if the philosophy of counseling states that you must be neutral and not impose your personal values?
  • Where did rules of Bible interpretation come from?
  • What’s the difference between unbiblical and nonbiblical?
  • Is there any historical evidence, outside the Bible, for the tearing of the temple curtain?


Melinda: Hi there. This is Melinda the Enforcer. I’m here with Greg Koukl. Go ahead.

Greg Koukl: I just put my headset on. Yeah, I am here.

Melinda: You can still hear me with your ears. You don’t need your headset to hear me. This is STRask, STR’s short podcast. Send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask. You have a short question because you have less than 140 characters to give it, and then, Greg has only four minutes or less to answer it. We’ve got two episodes every week. You can still call on Tuesdays 4:00-6:00 p.m. Pacific Time and talk to him in person on the phone and have a longer conversation with him. Real quickly, just want to go over a few places he’s speaking, coming up. He’s speaking on Sunday the 19th, this coming Sunday, he’s speaking at The Bridge in Centerville, Utah.

Greg Koukl: The Story of Reality.

Melinda: Yes. The last weekend of the month, he is speaking in Hawaii. Friday and Saturday at a conference in Honolulu. Sunday evening in Lahaina. Tuesday evening, the 28th, in Kihei on Maui. You can find that information along with Brett, Alan, and Tim’s information for their speaking events at

Greg Koukl: Yes. I-

Melinda: If you live in those areas, and we have your address, we will always send you an email to let you know where our guys are speaking in your area.

Greg Koukl: Right. On the 23rd, I’ll be at the University of Hawaii that evening, so I’m not sure the details-

Melinda: Yeah, but that’s just for the crew group.

Greg Koukl: Oh, I see. Okay. All right.

Melinda: Yeah. It’s not open.

Greg Koukl: Not open. Okay.

Melinda: No. Okay, first question: Can Christians become counselors if the philosophy of counseling states that you must be neutral and not impose your personal values?

Greg Koukl: Well, I don’t know how it’s possible to do that, first of all, but I think the answer is, if it is poss...I’m just trying to get my mind around that. You can’t impose your values. Okay. Counsel is for you to give counsel. Counseling is about giving counsel. That means you’re making recommendations. You’re making recommendations based on values. That is, what you think is true about the world. With that in mind, here’s, I think, what could happen. I think it’s hard, depending on how vigorously they enforce certain aspects of this. No counseling is value neutral, okay? Even if somebody, if the counseling says you have to acknowledge and affirm an individual’s autonomy, that, whatever it is they want to get out of a counseling session, you can give that to them, that expresses a value, personal autonomy, that you’re grounding your approach in. No counseling can be done value neutral, first of all. Is it possible to give good counsel to a person if you’re a Christian without explicitly bringing your values, your Christian values, into the conversation? I think that is possible, but I think it’s tricky. This is, by the way, the circumstances that is faced in the military or any other public place where chaplaincies are involved. Prisons and that kind of stuff. More and more, the emphasis is on value-neutral counseling or chaplaincy, which is silly, which is-

Melinda: I was going to say, what do think they’re getting from a chaplain?

Greg Koukl: I know. I know, but this is the politically correct stuff. I think that in a circumstance like that, a person can maneuver effectively for what is good and right and true, if you’re careful not to ground it in a religious way. There’s some exception to that, and that is, you can’t tell a client that their homosexuality is not good for them, even if it’s not. That’s probably going to be against professional standards.

Melinda: Well, it’s not even just homosexuality. Well, a few months ago, Alan Shlemon was telling us all is that the American Psychiatrist Society, something-

Greg Koukl: Association.

Melinda: Association? Not just homosexuality, but anything...adultery, pedophilia, anything. The dysfunction is in how the client feels about that condition, not in the condition itself. The goal is to, whatever their condition is, it isn’t to change a dysfunction.

Greg Koukl: Right.

Melinda: It’s to change their feelings about the function.

Greg Koukl: About whatever it is they’re doing.

Melinda: Right.

Greg Koukl: It’s very interesting. He also told us that the APA, for a short while, had listed pedophilia as a sexual preference until the LGBT crowd climbed all over them because their views, their activities were sexual preferences, and they didn’t want to have pedophilia mixed in with a mere sexual preference. They changed the language a little bit, which just goes to show you how political all of this stuff is.

Melinda: Not medical always.

Greg Koukl: It’s nonsense. I talked to a psychologist once on an airplane. This is many years ago. He told me he was a psychologist. I said, “Psychology’s actually good at evidence for the existence of God.” It peaked his curiosity. He said, “How so?” I said, “Because it presumes there is an optimal human functioning that you move towards, and this is what your psychological efforts are to do, and counseling is to move you through an optical functional as a human being.” He said, “That’s a good point.” Keep in mind, this is about 15 years ago. No psychologists would ever say that now because they’ve completely abandoned the idea of a natural teleology that human beings were made for certain things and that there is such as a thing as health.

Melinda: Optimal functioning. Right.

Greg Koukl: Health. Emotional health.

Melinda: Yeah, Alan said they have specifically jettisoned those ideas.

Greg Koukl: Teleological language.

Melinda: It’s simply to help people feel better about how they feel about what they are.

Greg Koukl: Crazy.

Melinda: Whatever that is.

Greg Koukl: That means there’s a huge liability for anybody in that field, but I encourage them not to abandon the field because we need some voice. As far as you’re able to give the voice, that is a voice of sanity in that field, but best of luck.

Melinda: Next question comes from Hamish. The Hamish Galt. Where did the rules of biblical interpretation come from?

Greg Koukl: Well, it isn’t like somebody said, “I’m gonna just put a bunch of rules together, and this is the rules you follow.” The hermeneutics, which are the discipline or science or practice of interpretation, are based on the conventions of language. What we do is we look at how people use language to communicate ideas. I might be talking to you about something, you know, and there’s a whole bunch of things that are going on. I might be trying to communicate some actual truth, literal truth, if you will, but I use a variety of different means to do it. I might use things like figures of speech. I call my daughters my morning star and my evening star. They’re not stars, but I’m communicating something in particular about my affection for them, using figurative language. Someone listening to that would realize I’m not calling my children solar masses. I’m saying something else with the language. What hermeneutics does is it looks at the, in a sense, inductively at the way we use language to communicate ideas and comes up with some principles that allow us, then, to apply to the language we find in the Bible, which, in some cases, has unique characteristics in the way ancient New Easterners communicated, like with parallelisms, for example. Standard way of communicating and for emphasizing and certain type of hyperbole or exaggeration for the sake emphasis and the like. It isn’t like somebody’s just plucking these rules out of the sky or applying them by the force of human dictate. We are just looking at how language works and how we use language to be able to identify certain patterns that will help us to more clearly understand what the biblical writers had in mind. There you go.

Melinda: There you go. Jinx.

Greg Koukl: Wait. I’m supposed to punch you, I think. That’s what my daughters do.

Melinda: The way my sister and I do it is you say “Jinx,” and the other couldn’t talk until you released the jinx.

Greg Koukl: Oh, see. Back, further than that, it was cokes. Mid-west, you say, “Cokes.” Then, you start counting really fast, and when the person cuts you off, that’s how many cokes they owe you for jumping quickly, when you noticed that you both said the same thing at the same time.

Melinda: No, it’s better to make your sister not talk. Next question comes from Michelle. What’s the difference between unbiblical and non-biblical?

Greg Koukl: This goes to the hermeneutics, by the way. I will tell you what I mean by those terms. When I say a thing is unbiblical, I mean that it is contrary to the Bible, okay? It is inconsistent with biblical teaching. It is unbiblical to do this. What I say it is non-biblical, I mean that the issue does not apply to any biblical teaching at all. Whether we use tissues or a handkerchief, okay, when you have a cold. I don’t know why I just thought of that illustration, but it’s a good one. That’s non-biblical. There’s no biblical injunction regarding those things. We have freedom in non-biblical issues.

Melinda: It’s neutral.

Greg Koukl: Right, right. If someone were to say that Jesus is a separate being from the Father, well, that’s unbiblical. That is contrary to the teaching of scripture. I make the distinction to be able to divide between what the Bible weighs in on, whether grave or weighty matters like the deity of Christ or much more mundane matters that I might not relate to heresy but heterodoxy or just odds and ends, but the Bible is still weighing in on it, that is a biblical issue, the Bible speaks to it. To distinguish that from those things that are in the area of Christian freedom, the Bible does not speak to this, and we have latitude to pursue the direction we want.

Melinda: Okay. Great. Well, yeah, I guess we actually do have time for one more-

Greg Koukl: Yeah, that was quick.

Melinda:...question. It was very quick. This is unusual...have this much, to get five questions in. Okay. Now, I know you can go on and on about this one, but let’s just keep it to three minutes. Because I know you can answer it in three minutes. Is there any historical evidence outside the Bible for the tearing of the temple curtain?

Greg Koukl: I don’t know.

Melinda: Okay. We got that short.

Greg Koukl: There you go. I can’t tell you that. Somebody else...You know who’d probably tell you is Michael Licona would probably know that, but-

Melinda: But he’s not here.

Greg Koukl:...maybe I can...But yeah, he’s not here. I will say something, though, and this sometimes is implicit in questions like this, though I’m not accusing this person of implying this.

Melinda: This is why I actually asked you the question.

Greg Koukl: Okay. What’s implicit is that if there is no corroborating evidence, then we don’t have any good reason to believe that it took place. Atheists or skeptics do this all the time. In fact, there’s a whole school of biblical interpretation called the Biblical Minimalists who will not take, at face value, anything that is said in the ancient documents. That is, the parchments and documentation that we have that has survived in one form or another, that we know as the Bible, unless the things recorded there have corroboration by some other archeological parchment, evidence, stone, whatever, and steel, so whatever, which means that they don’t afford the biblical documents from antiquity any legitimacy at all. There’s no good reason for doing that. There’re all kind of stuff that we unearthed from ancient history that maybe has no other parallel or attestation or substantiation, but we still take it seriously as a testimony of something in the past. We might not take it completely at face value, and there might be reasons for that, but it isn’t just dismissed out of hand. You know what? We don’t take any of that Egyptian stuff seriously. We don’t believe anything that we find in the Egyptian records unless it’s been confirmed in the Bible. Some Bible person said that they would be considered nuts. It wouldn’t be fair, it wouldn’t be an even-handed approach to the evidence, but yet this is the kind of thing that happens all the time, the other way around.

Melinda: Okay. I was trying to form a thought there, but you ended faster than I thought, so, oh well. That was good.

Greg Koukl: I know. It’s a difficult thing to do.

Melinda: It is. Well, because you’re so fascinating to listen to, I can barely have my own thoughts. I was paying attention this time.

Greg Koukl: I did do in under three minutes, though, and even with all this extra babble, it’s only two minutes and 37 seconds, so we’re doing pretty well.

Melinda: Right. Well, I know, but I was thinking...Then, people also, even if they’re willing, grudgingly, perhaps, to give the Bible some historical credence, then when it comes to the supernatural things that reports, then they want to require extra evidence for that. If there’s already good reason to take the non-supernatural things as historically accurate, then you have to accept the same person’s testimony about the supernatural things they saw.

Greg Koukl: Yeah, unless somebody has any pressing reasons to deny it, and I don’t think...I think...

Melinda: Other than being an anti-supernatural.

Greg Koukl: Exactly. That, to me, is not-

Melinda: Which is usually the reason.

Greg Koukl: That is a bias that one brings to the enterprise that, then, disqualifies certain kinds of answers. I think that’s problematic. Everybody comes to texts with a bias. What’s interesting about the Christian bias, and I owe this to J.P. Moreland, is that the Christians bias informs his approach to things like texts like that in a different way than the materialist. The materialist’s bias restricts the possible explanations, and it artificially restricts it.

Melinda: The same, for instance, science. Whether God created, whether there’s a designer.

Greg Koukl: Right, right.

Melinda: It actually restricts the options.

Greg Koukl: Yeah, that one doesn’t count. That’s not science is the way they put it, where the Christian has a bias that expands his option. We can go with a naturalistic explanation or with a supernatural explanation, depending on the evidence. We have the freedom to follow the evidence where it leads. Bias doesn’t always distort. Sometimes, bias opens us up to alternate explanations that can be well-justified, if we allow that to happen.

Melinda: Thank you very much, Greg Koukl.

Greg Koukl: Yes, mam.

Melinda: Here we are at the end of STRask. This episode, the second one this week. Mondays and Thursdays is when we post them. You can send us your questions anytime on Twitter, using #STRask. Sit down with Greg here, shoulder to shoulder, in our tiny little studio with no air ventilation, and he answered your questions in four minutes or less. I’m Melinda the Enforcer, with Greg Koukl, for Stand to Reason.