#STRask: February 22, 2016

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Published on 02/22/2016

Greg talks about the extermination of the Canaanites, the magic in exodus, faith through argument, Paul’s dispute with the Grecians, and developing joy in sufferings.


  • If Genesis was written post exilic, couldn’t 15:16 have been put there to justify the extermination of Canaanite groups?
  • Was Pharaoh’s magicians magic in Exodus 7 and 8 real? The text seems to indicate that it is. Could this magic be accessed today?
  • How do you respond when apologetics comes up at a Bible study and someone says, “No one comes to faith through arguments”?
  • Why did Paul dispute with the Grecians for two years?
  • How can someone develop joy in sufferings? All I can seem to muster is weeping and anger.


Melinda: Hello there. This is Stand to Reason. We’re an STRask podcast. I’m Melinda, The Enforcer, that’s not my real last name, with Greg Koukl. That is his real last name. Hi Greg.

Greg: Hello Miss Enforcer.

Melinda: This is STR’s podcast for people who want shorter answers, pickier answers, short on time, and yes, Greg can actually answer in less than 35 minutes. He’s limited to four minutes on this one. The name of the podcast is #STRask because that’s how you send us your questions. Go to Twitter and use #STRask.

You know what a hashtag is Greg?

Greg: I still am confused about that whole thing. I know what you mean when you say it. I saw a, not a poster, but a billboard, and something about somebody and he had #bestdad or something like that. Apparently that means something, but I can’t figure it out.

Melinda: It’s okay.

Greg: Whatever.

Melinda: You don’t have to worry your pretty little head about it. I thought I’d just take a moment here and announce Greg’s upcoming events. You can go to our website and find out where, not just Greg, but Brett, Alan, and Tim, all four of our STR speakers, are going to be. You go to

Greg’s going to be... I’m thinking, we’re posting this Monday so two of these will be done. The weekend of February 26th, you’re going to be speaking at the Ligonier National Conference in Orlando Florida.

Greg: Right. Right.

Melinda: It’s a great conference, go to the whole thing, not just Greg’s session.

Greg: Which is actually rather short.

Melinda: Right, but honored to be asked.

Greg: Yes.

Melinda: March 3rd and 4th, Greg is going to be speaking at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Mission Viejo for Friday and Saturday night.

Greg: Southern California. Right.

Melinda: Then the 11th and 12th, he’s doing a Tactics course with Biola Apologetics in La Mirada, California. Sign up ahead for that one. Then on March 17th through the 20th, four days, he’s going to be at Elgin First Baptist in Elgin, Iowa.

As I said, find out where Greg and all the other speakers are going to be at

Greg: That’s right. Plus I have officially started my 27th year of broadcasting.

Melinda: You don’t get credit for that until next year.

Greg: Just for the record. Just for the record.

Melinda: You have completed your 26th year of broadcasting.

Okay. Better grab your Bible, Greg.

Greg: Oh all right.

Melinda: Genesis 15:16. This is going to start with a hard one. Comes from, on Twitter, myplumbertim. Maybe that’s advertising if he’s a plumber. @myplumbertim.

If Genesis was written post-exilic, could Genesis 15:16 have been put there to justify the extermination of Canaanite groups?

Greg: All right. The passage I should read is-

Melinda: Don’t read a Bible verse.

Greg: “God said to Abram, ’Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs. They will be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. But I will also judge that nation whom they serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. But as for you, you should go to your fathers in peace;’” et cetera. Verse 16. “’Then in the fourth generation they will return here,’” That means come out of that place where they were, which would be Egypt. “’For the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.’”

The question is, if this was all written post-exilic, after the exile, then could this have been written to look back on what the Jews did and to offer a justification for what they had done to the Canaanites?

Melinda: Post hoc.

Greg: Pardon me?

Melinda: Post hoc, right? After the fact.

Greg: Yeah. Yeah. I remember one person saying regarding if questions, if such and so, then such and so. He said if my mother were a trolley car, would she have wheels? I think the point-

Melinda: Would she?

Greg: Yes. The point is, you can make anything sound believable if you simply stipulate it to begin with. If this was not written by Moses, but actually was written post-exilic, so that would be like a thousand years later, could that have been put in there that the iniquity of the Amorites is not complete to justify the assault on the Canaanites when they went into the land prior to the long part of the exile. I guess yeah. Anything’s possible if you stipulate that.

The question is do we have any good reason to believe that that’s what happened. It seems to me that explanation raises some problems. For one, the phrase, in the fourth generation they will return here for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete, tells you nothing about God’s judgement on the Amorites. It’s vague enough, it seems to me, as to not be an action guide for anything. If this was written afterwards, it seems to me the person writing it would’ve said, and the iniquity of the Amorite was not yet complete, but when you go there it will be complete and you’re going to wipe them out.

Melinda: It would actually say something more specific to justify it.

Greg: Exactly.

Melinda: This doesn’t have enough specificity to justify it right?

Greg: It doesn’t. In fact, even when I read this passage to other people and I employ it to explain what happened to the Canaanites, I have to explain it because it’s not obvious. The point here is that God is waiting for four hundred years until they’ve gotten so bad that he finally lowers the boom on them in judgement. It isn’t a precipitous act by God; it is, after a tremendous amount of divine patience, that one thing that weighs against that.

Secondly, I don’t have any good reason the whole thing was written after the exile. Thirdly, if the whole thing was written after the exile, then all of the material that talks about the attack on the Canaanites was written after the exile as well. Which means why would anybody invent a whole story about the Jews attacking the Canaanites and then invent an explanation for it?

Melinda: Yeah. It would all have been written a thousand years later.

Greg: Sure.

Melinda: Then they’re not necessarily even writing about what really happened, they’re just making the whole thing up.

Greg: Why would you believe that they even did this to the Canaanites, because this record is not historically trustworthy, and then have them try to explain it away by putting this other verse in there. That is so implausible, it seems to me. I sometimes thought of asking the question when somebody raises the issue of the Canaanites, “do you believe that the Old Testament records accurate history?” and see what they say. I suspect they say, no I don’t believe in all that stuff. I say, well if you don’t believe it happened, then why are you raising the objection? If it didn’t happen then... Whatever. No I guess they could say you think it happened so how do you make sense of it? I’m going to make sense of it in light of our narrative.

If you don’t believe the narrative at all, then you can’t blame anybody for something you don’t believe actually happened. If you want to ask questions about coherence of our narrative, then you’re going to have to take the narrative as a whole. The narrative seems to explain that these were really, really bad people who deserved to get judged and they just got their just desserts after a long time of divine patience.

That’s my take on it at least and there is some, for the record I think, there is some disagreement on exactly what took place. I know people like Paul Copan in his book, a very fine book I think, Is God a Moral Monster, takes a different approach to this. He doesn’t think that they were annihilated, he thinks it was a military action that was really meant to push them out of the land and that what we see in the scripture is kind of an ancient military hyperbole that’s expressed there. They wiped out every man, woman, and child kind of thing. There are indications from the text that that isn’t what took place.

There is a difference of opinion here, I do think there is some hyperbole in the text, but I think the principle purpose of this was judgement on a people that were extremely wicked and God, at the end of His patience, delivered a judgement there. Just for the record. Yeah.

Melinda: Okay. Next question comes from Twitter. Were Pharaoh’s magician’s magic- I guess was Pharaoh’s magician’s magic in Exodus 7 and 8 real? The text seems to indicate that it was. Could this magic be accessed today?

Greg: Yeah. As I look at the text and as I think as I recalled the details when Moses made a staff into a snake and did a miracle that God had directed him to do that Pharaoh’s magicians did the same thing. What happened is that Moses’ snake ate up their snakes. I don’t have any reason not to take the entire account at face value.

There are supernatural powers in the world and God is not the only one who has access to them. Satan is supernatural and he’s a very powerful being. There are no hooves, there are no horns, there are no red tights and no pitchfork. He is a real powerful spiritual being that affects the destinies of men and nations indeed. This is the testimony of the scripture on this matter.

I have every reason to believe that these things described happened just as they were described. Keep in mind, by the way, that virtually every one of the ten plagues- not virtually, but every single one of them, was directed at an Egyptian deity. What God is saying to the Egyptians and the Jews who were raised for four centuries in this environment have a different worldview taught to them, they absorbed from their culture, that the God of Israel, the God of the Hebrews, is really stronger than all the gods of the Egyptians. If they deified the Nile River, then God will change the river to blood. If they deify the sun, God will put the sun out, or they deify life, God will take the life of the first born.

We shouldn’t be surprised then when Pharaoh’s magicians counter with another sign that God’s response is that their sign is gobbled up by His sign, because it continues to make the same point that our God is God, the true God, and this is something they can know.

I just take it at face value. I have no reason to take it otherwise.

Melinda: The Bible warns us to stay away from psychics and magic and these things because it is real. There’s real power in the world that is from an evil source.

Greg: That’s right.

Melinda: If these things weren’t real, we wouldn’t have to be warned to stay away from it because they’d be impotent.

Greg: The miracles that Jesus performed is a Greek word – semeion, I think is the pronunciation. It means attesting miracles. It’s interesting that when, in the Olivet Discourse, and the most well-known iteration of that is in Matthew 24, he says that in the last days “false Christs, false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders.” In other words, the same word for signs there is the ones that is used to describe Jesus’ signs, attesting miracles. “So as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.”

I think the implication there is that the elect, those that are Jesus own will not be misled, but it is so compelling, these supernatural signs and evidences, that on their own they might have, had not God protected them. I think we have every reason to believe that God is not the only one that is capable of supernatural demonstrations of power and in the end times, apparently that will take place.

Melinda: Next question comes from RyanPauly3. How do you respond when apologetics comes up at a Bible study and somebody says, no one comes to faith through arguments?

Greg: This is a good place for a question, where did you get that idea? I would like them- I’ve never- I’m just going to try to guess what they might respond. Notice that’s just a question you’d toss- where did you get the idea that no one comes to faith through arguments?

Melinda: Right. They might say the Bible. You just preach the Gospel.

Greg: Wait. In the Bible people do come to faith through arguments. We see it in... we see it in Mars Hill for example, where Paul then gives his sermon to an unknown god and he declares that God has affirmed this one man having raised him from the dead. Okay?

Then it says some believed and followed him. Those people seem to have been persuaded by the content there. The Bible gives evidence that people are persuaded by evidence. I like to go back just to the Pentecostal Sunday sermon because it is so well known. There you have the Holy Spirit coming down in power upon the disciples in Acts Chapter 2. There is a physical manifestation. There is a sound of rushing wind, there’s a noise, and then there’s the conduct of the disciples as they spill out of the upper room into the community where all these people are.

They think they’re drunk and Peter says we’re not drunk, it’s only nine in the morning. This is the Holy Spirit. The things that you see and hear. He’s making reference to a physical manifestation. That’s an evidence. Then he says here’s why this is happening – by the way that’s the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel, that’s evidence. He says this is happening because the Jesus whom you crucified rose from the dead and we are witnesses to His resurrection.

Just there in the first sermon of the new covenant period in Acts Chapter 2, we have multiple uses of apologetics and the consequence is when Peter gives his, if you will, invitation, although it isn’t quite that. He says, “’let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified.’” They’re cut to the quick and they say what shall we do, and thousands are added.

There’s another example. They are persuaded by apologetics, they’re right there in the account. Look at Jesus’ life. Jesus raises Lazarus. No, some people weren’t persuaded by the raising of Lazarus, but many people were. We see that in John Chapter 12 because the Pharisees were trying to put Jesus to death and Lazarus too because he’s the evidence that Jesus raised a man from the dead which was changing people’s minds about Jesus.

Where people get this idea, you know where they get it? They get it from other people who make the same mistake. Nobody comes to Christ through an argument. This is just false.

Melinda: I was just going to say, tying back to the last question about the plagues and then your point that Jesus’ miracles were called signs in some cases. These are signs. This may not be an argument with words, but they were an argument by demonstration saying look-

Greg: Yes. I agree.

Melinda: In the plagues, I’m the true God, your gods are useless. Jesus is saying I’m the son of God and I’m going to prove it.

Greg: Absolutely. John says as much in his gospel. Sometimes we have a written piece like a gospel or a letter or something where the writer actually tells you why he has written the piece. Here’s the goal, here’s the purpose. John does in John 21, rather John 20:30, 31.

Here’s what he writes: “Many other signs” – attesting miracles – “Jesus performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe” Believe what? “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, you may have life in His name.”

Melinda: Are you timing him? He’s at four minutes and 10 seconds.

Greg: 4:15 right now. Also you jumped in with a couple of thoughts. Notice this... aha, thank you. Thank you.

Melinda: Now now.

Greg: Just to finish the thought though, for the person who says that people cannot be won to Christ by an argument, John says I have given supernatural evidences as arguments to win people to Christ and it’s the reason I wrote my gospel. These folk are just simply mistaken. It happens all the time. It happened in the Bible and it also happens in real life. People are won to Christ through arguments.

Now, not in isolation. Of course the Holy Spirit’s got to be involved, but their point is just false.

Melinda: Yeah. I was just thinking I wonder if they mean no one comes through faith through arguments only. Nobody ever claims it’s through arguments only. It’s through the preaching-

Greg: None of us certainly right.

Melinda: Yeah. It’s the gospel and through the work of the Holy Spirit and loving people. It’s all those things.

Greg: All kinds of things that God uses. Right.

Melinda: Here’s a good follow up question. Not meant as a follow up question. Comes from Tim Tomahan. Why did Paul dispute with the Grecians for two years?

Greg: With the Grecians? With the Greeks.

Melinda: The Greeks. I’m just reading his question.

Greg: Did he give you the reference? This is the book of Acts somewhere, but I think this is in... It might be when he’s in Ephesus. Again, I don’t have the reference there, but Paul did set up a school, I think the School of Tyrannus in Ephesus where he stayed for two years and he used that as a base of operation training Christians and also engaging.

I guess I’m not- there’s an ambiguity here. Is the question why did he dispute for two years, or why did he stay in Ephesus for two years and set up this operation?

Melinda: Why did he dispute for two years I think.

Greg: This was the location where he engaged the culture. I take this to mean that he was just engaging the culture for two years, not that there was a same person he was necessarily talking with. This is the Grecians, that’s the skeptics university he engaged in for two years. I think he was dealing with the skeptics in general.

Had he, if that meant he engaged them for two years, I don’t see anything amiss there. It might be that some people, on campus, that’s where they’re planted for the moment, have an ongoing engagement with the skeptics club on their campus. That’s because the witness is needed for that amount of time that’s why.

Melinda: Yeah. If there’s genuine interest, continuing interest, you could stick with people. It’s not on a clock. Okay.

Next question comes from soulwinningmen. How can someone develop joy in sufferings? All I can seem to muster is weeping and anger.

Greg: Wow. I actually did some reading this morning on this very issue and I was reading John Owen. It was a Puritan – wasn’t Valley of Vision, it was a different devotional of writings from Puritans. As I recall, and I can’t answer this from my own victory stories, okay. I’m not going to say here’s how I accomplished that wonderful feat. I think this is a struggle for all Christians. I don’t think joy comes automatically. You think of James by the way, “Consider it joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” Et cetera.

What the scripture is enjoining us to do is to think about it and to count it, to try to inform our minds about the nature of reality. This is what John Owen was kind of getting at. He said we have to stir up our own faith, we have to reflect on the goodness of God and the things, the works of God, and the things that He’s done in our lives. We have to nurture that ourselves.

You’ve actually talked to me about this in the past, this idea of nurturing this. Do I get angry? That was part of the question. Yes. I was angry today for goodness sake. What did I do with that? I had to take my anger to the Lord and confess it and say God I cannot, on my own strength, conjure up some different response to this circumstance. I need you to help me.

If God is asking for a response from us that we are not in the moment giving, and I think He does do that, then we have at least two things that we have to enjoin. One of them is a confession that we’re not doing what He wants us to do. I have to confess my anger. The anger of man does not fulfill the righteousness of God. I was actually reading in Proverbs today too, other passages about anger. I know that my anger is not a right response. I’ve got to confess that, I have to put that forward and acknowledge my own failure and weakness there. Just so you know friends, this is not self-flagellation. I’m not beating myself up about it. I’m just acknowledging, yes this is the reality God, this is me, this is my fallen self.

Then the second thing is that I need to begin to hold onto and reach out and try to grab those kinds of things that are going to affirm the truth rather than affirm a lie. I think our temptation when we’re in difficult times is to lick our wounds. Oh poor me. This is my temptation. It’s not just my temptation, it’s what I fall prey to. I have to work at that.

Oh poor me, oh poor me, oh poor me. Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. David does say oh poor me a bit in the Psalms, but then he comes back and he straightens himself out. He comes back, how long oh Lord, how long oh Lord, how long oh Lord, and then he comes back and he, as he put it in one case, encouraged himself in the Lord.

There is a place for our will being applied to doing what’s right. I’m not saying that’s a panacea. I’m not saying if you just confess your sin of anger and not trusting God and then you try to encourage yourself in the Lord, all of a sudden the sun will come out. I don’t think it works that way, but I do think that we can build a habit a bit of being stronger in these things. I see for myself over time, when I say over time I mean over years and years of struggling with hard things, and I’m like anybody else in this regard, I’m struggling with hard things, I see movement. Oh so slow, but I see movement in my own character and my own self as I try to do those things I just described.

You’ve been encouragement to me on this as well, Melinda.

Melinda: I’ve been learning a lot more.

Greg: I don’t know if you have something you want to add.

Melinda: I’ve been learning a lot more about it. I think one of the biggest things you’re saying is if you look at the Psalms, we are to instruct our hearts, not let our hearts lead us. Then the other thing, especially with dealing with anger that I’ve had to practice that I’ve found – I found it helpful – is surrendering myself to the sovereignty of God. Just saying, whenever I get frustrated and angry of being in a situation I’m in just say Lord this is where you have me and if this is where you’re going to keep me, just okay. I’ll accept that.

A lot of times, in my case, a lot of the anger is fighting against my circumstances and fighting against what apparently God wants. I think we mentioned this a few weeks ago, the interview recently on the Gospel Coalition website with J.I. Packer ending his career at the age of 90 something, ending it because he can’t see anymore because he has glaucoma. One of the questions on there was something about what is the most important lesson you could tell another Christian. He said learn to practice surrendering to the sovereignty of God throughout your life. He said because I’ve tried to practice that my whole life, I can surrender now and accept God’s will.

Greg: It’s become a habit, right.

Melinda: Yeah. It doesn’t come naturally, it’s something we’re constantly doing.

Greg: Yeah. One final comment on this, if I may, and that is that when we read in the Old Testament or any Biblical material at all about the heart, they do not mean what we mean by the heart.

Melinda: Right.

Greg: In our Western culture, the heart is the organ that we use to describe the center of our affections or our feelings. The heart in the Old Testament was the center of one’s being, the will and the action, et cetera. The bowels were really the center of one’s affections. It’s just different body parts they’re using. The reason I say this is because when the scriptures says for example guard your heart, it is not talking about guarding your emotions and that’s the way a lot of people read it. It is talking about the center, the kind of thing that you and I are describing now, that must stand up and take control over the emotions and instruct the emotions like David did. Just don’t be confused about that. It’s kind of anachronistic to read a modern day definition into an ancient term.

Melinda: Okay. On that, I think, deep question and hopefully answer, we’ll end. That’s it for this week. You can send us your questions on Twitter. Just use #STRask. That’s the name of the podcast. We’ll get to them week by week. This podcast is posted every Monday so look for it fresh every single Monday, especially on the STR app.

I’m Melinda the Enforcer, with Greg Koukl, for Stand to Reason and STRask podcast.