#STRask: February 8, 2016

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Published on 02/08/2016

Greg talks about friends who live in sin, temptation from man’s nature, Roman Catholic doctrine and practices, and how one should handle relatives who undermine the teaching of one’s child.


  • What do you do when you have a business relationship with a friend who is or was a professing Christian but is now living in sin?
  • How much temptation is from man’s nature as opposed to Satan? Is there anyway to measure this? Is Satan given too much credit?
  • Roman Catholics often defend their doctrine, practices and authority by saying something like, “it’s been that way since the early church.” Is this sort of reasoning sound?
  • How should one handle close relatives who have radically different theologies and try to undermine the teaching of one’s child?


Melinda: Hey there folks, this is the STRask podcast. I’m Melinda the Enforcer, with Greg Koukl. He’s going to answer your questions on a timer in four minutes or less. It’s a short podcast and unlike... Tim Barnett tweeted, it’s a short podcast for short people, but that’s not true. It’s for all sizes of people. Just short answers.

Greg, this podcast is... We post new podcast every Monday. This will be going up Monday, which is February 8th. Isn’t February 11th one of your radio anniversaries or something?

Greg: It is. It is my radio anniversary. I’ll be starting my 20... 27th year I think.

Melinda: You’ll be celebrating your 26th year. Anniversaries are for completing... What you complete. I told you this before. It drives me crazy when you do that.

Greg: I’m just saying. I know, that’s why I do it.

Melinda: I know you’re saying it right now to annoy me, but you’re saying it... You’ve always said it and I just recently told you that it annoys me.

Greg: No, no. I just had this instinct that it would bother you so I’ve done that.

Melinda: Anniversaries are for the completion of the year, not the beginning. You don’t get to steal next year’s credit.

Greg: Yes, mom.

Melinda: Well, it’s 26 years. I think things should be done properly. Anyways, 26 years doing radio.

Greg: What is next Monday?

Melinda: February 8th. I just said that.

Greg: No, but we had this before. Next, isn’t the one coming up.

Melinda: Oh.

Greg: It’s the following one. It’s Monday and then next Monday is a week and a half away. That was your deal.

Melinda: No, it’s...

Greg: I always think it’s the next, next Monday is the next Monday, but you said, “no, that’s not right.” Monday is Monday and the next Monday is the Monday after.

Melinda: It’s this Monday and next Monday.

Greg: Gosh.

Melinda: Anyways.

Greg: That’s why I get the big bucks.

Melinda: Is that why? I was wondering. Why don’t you just give people short... This is short answers. How you got on radio.

Greg: I can’t remember.

Melinda: I can tell you. You forgot.

Greg: That was in... Almost 27 years ago.

Melinda: You were talking... You had interviewed a longer podcast, Dr. Hue Ross, about God’s providence in his life through something usual. This is another... This is example God’s providence in your life.

Greg: There was a convergence of things that were happening. One of them was, I got a phone call in the evening. I can kind of still picture it. I had a piece of pizza in my hand and somebody asked me, is it okay if we put your name in on a radio program there in Southern California, the ABC affiliate called Religion On The Line. They had a Pastor, and a Priest, and a Rabbi, and a Jewish talk-show host who was Dennis Prager. Way back when in the 80’s.

Melinda: He was the local guy then.

Greg: The local guy at the ABC here in Los Angeles, and I said sure put my name in as a Pastor. Then I get invited to do the show and then I turned out I did about 25 shows over the next three or four years. This is where I built my relationship with Dennis. That was happening, and at the same time I was teaching at my church at Hope Chapel, Hermosa Beach. Where I was a Pastor, and I’d be filling in for the Pastor on days he was gone. It turned out that the programming director for a local Christian station.

Melinda: KBRT.

Greg: Here in California, KBRT, went to our church and when one of their main talents was moving on from there left a big hole in the lineup, and so she said would you mind testing for a radio show. This was the end of 1999. December 1999.

Melinda: February 11, 1990. 26 years ago.

Greg: I mean, not 1999. ‘89.

Melinda: ‘89.

Greg: That’s right, so I said, “Why not? What the heck.” This is another serendipitous thing. I went and I tested and they gave me the job. That was 20... Almost 26 years ago.

Melinda: 26 years ago. That’s what we were talking about.

Greg: I was just trying to find a way to say it that would annoy you.

Melinda: I know you were.

Greg: But I couldn’t... I wasn’t that quick...

Melinda: There’s no way to do it.

Greg: ...on my feet. Then one year passed, then two years, then three years. It was actually about a year or so into doing talk radio. Saturday and Sunday for three hours from 3 to 6, that I... Before I found the format that came to be the Stand to Reason format, answering questions, interacting and stuff. Before that it was news talk. We did a different topic every hour and I really did not like that. I did that for 8 years with the Crawford Network and then in the meantime, 3 years into that or 4 years into that we started Stand to Reason and that became a problem working for 2 people and so I quit with Crawford and we, as an organization bought the same time back one day a week.

Melinda: For a long time actually, after we started Stand to Reason, but you were still working for them.

Greg: We did call it that.

Melinda: Then, after a few years.

Greg: Correct, yeah.

Melinda: Then we wanted to do... We had some volunteers early on who were tech people and one of them... before the word podcast existed some of them said, “Hey we should be posting these shows online.”

Greg: Yeah, real audio.

Melinda: Right. Then it was important. We had to own the programming. You were already doing radio when we started Stand to Reason, and then that became and integral part of Stand to Reason. Then also we were... We were already transcribing commentaries and that was some of our very first material. We used to copy them and mail them out before there was... Email was brand new.

Greg: We captured the name.

Melinda: Yeah, and as soon as we had... Again, some of these same early volunteers built us a website in 1995 or ‘96, and those articles became the first content on our website.

Greg: Those articles are still there.

Melinda: Having already been in radio...

Greg: Most of them probably.

Melinda: We had momentum going on.

Greg: These were all... And I’m glad the way you introduce this was the providential elements. Apparently serendipitous events that all kind of converged to really make a fertile ground for Stand to Reason to grow. Having this radio background and these relationships with Dennis that has continued all these years. Having that opportunity to develop a little bit on air in a... Not competitive, what’s the word I’m looking for? We had different ideas being aired by Rabbi, Roman Catholic Priest, Protestant, Dennis. Interacting in that situation then doing our own show and having these commentaries. Mailing them out as people sent in an envelope to get the commentary. We captured the name and all of this became the raw material for the organizations Stand to Reason when we started in May 1st 1993.

None of this was planned. I didn’t plan to construct this organization by setting up this step by step enterprise. I just was... I was blooming where I was planted. Taking the opportunities that God had for me. God and his providence brought all this together and has continued it all these years. These now 27...

Melinda: 26 years.

Greg: Well, actually it won’t be turning 27 until February 11th. I guess...

Melinda: It won’t be the 26th until February 11th. It’s a good thing you answered the phone instead of eating your pizza that night. Okay, never mind. Let’s just get down to work now, okay?

First question comes from idLanderson2016. What do you do when you have a business... Greg by the way, Greg runs this phone so he’s timing himself. He’s quickly grabbing his phone. He forgot to get it going. What do you do when you have a business relationship with a friend who is or was a professing Christian but is now living in sin? And he doesn’t specify what kind of sin.

Greg: What is that noise? Is that my phone?

Melinda: No, it’s broke. We always play it at every show.

Greg: I never had heard this before. I thought, now you’re trying to keep me honest.

Melinda: No, she plays that the first answer of every show.

Greg: She stopped it.

Melinda: You’re using your time. We only play a short bit of it.

Greg: Oh, I get it.

Melinda: So it doesn’t distract you like apparently it did.

Greg: There it is again. I feel like Captain Hook.

Melinda: You’ve used 30 seconds of your time.

Greg: All right. If the person professes to be a Christian, in some sense I think it is appropriate to confront the person on the conflict between their behavior and their profession. “If a brother is caught in a trespass, you who are spiritual restore such as the one looking to yourself. Lest you also be tempted.” Galatians 6. This is the job that we have. If the person has just completely abandoned the faith then we are to treat them like a non-believer it seems to me.

What that means is not that we treat them badly. It’s just that we don’t expect them to live the way a Christian is supposed to live. A lot depends on what his assessment is or maybe what the business partner’s declaration is. If the business partner still considers himself a Christian, then I think it’s appropriate to have a conversation about the behavior. If he does not consider himself a Christian, then the circumstances are different. Then evangelism is the appropriate thing there not discipline. Maybe since he’s already been there done that in his own mind that evangelism is going to be difficult, but not impossible in that situation. I guess my response is it depends on what that person declared about his own situation. Whether he really believes himself to be a Christian or not anymore.

Melinda: Do you think being unequally yoked applies to business relationships?

Greg: I think it does apply to business relationships but I don’t think it means that one can never have business relationships with a non-Christian. It just depends on the nature of the yoking. I mean, the fact is we’re... most of us are in business relationships of some sort with non-Christians. The point of the... this is Corinthians chapter 6 I think, or 5 maybe. What Paul says, the illustration of unequally yoked is a pair of oxen that are in the same yoke, where one oxen could pull the other one off the trail.

What God doesn’t want us to be in is in the kind of relationship that ties us to someone in a way that they could then pull us off the track. That would apply to certain types of business relations where you’re contractually connected with somebody who may, or the possibility is that you’re contractually connected with them in a way that’s going to compromise your Christian convictions in some sense. Certainly this applies to marriage very clearly.

Some relationships are not like that. People have to make their own assessment. We want to be protected though so that we are not walking into the council of the wicked as Psalm 1 says. So that would enter into this assessment as well.

Melinda: Good. Next questions comes from.

Greg: 3 minutes and 41 seconds there by the way. Even with the diversion. Still got it.

Melinda: We’re not scoring you. It’s not a game. Next question comes from TacoTerrence. How much temptation is for man’s nature as opposed to Satan? Is there any way to measure this? Is Satan given too much credit for temptation?

Greg: I don’t see how there’s a way to measure it. I actually think. Is he given too much credit? I don’t think he’s given hardly any credit.

Melinda: Phil Wilson in the 70’s said, “The devil made me do it.”

Greg: Yeah, the devil made me do it, right. I don’t think most people think that way now. I honestly don’t. I could be wrong on this, but I don’t...

Melinda: Probably in some denominational circles they think that much more.

Greg: Maybe, I don’t know. It seems to me if anything the devil’s got the short shrift. In fact in the Credo book I talk about this a little bit because he’s the third player in our drama, our narrative. You got God, man, devil. He’s an important player and if we give him the short shrift, if we don’t take him seriously this is dangerous because one of his devices is stealth. If he can operate below the radar he can do lots of damage. This is why we have to be so reminded about him. I think it’s hard to know in any situation the role the devil has in that. I don’t... As I recall the scripture doesn’t give us a whole lot of insight in that. That is the particular he has in given situations. It gives us general ideas. He’s a deceiver, a liar, a tempter. We don’t want to have a root of bitterness so we don’t give the devil an opportunity. That’s a hint. That’s something that he might take advantage of, unforgiveness and the like.

But these are all general things. I think that we are not as alert as we might be to his deceptive influence. I think, if anything, we’re giving him less attention than... Or we figure it... What I’m looking for... We factor him in too little to the influence he has on men now-a-days because we’re just modern folk so we don’t take that so seriously anymore, but we ought to. It’s dangerous that we don’t. Other than that I don’t think there’s really any way to quantify the role that Satan has in our temptations as opposed to our flesh.

We are plenty capable of doing lots of bad things. In fact, Jesus himself says, “what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out of him.” In James chapter 1 there’s discussion about how temptation develops and progresses towards sin and there’s no mention of the devil there either. We’re plenty capable all on our own.

Melinda: In any given temptation, not necessarily important to figure out, oh is it coming from me, or from the devil?

Greg: I don’t see why, yes.

Melinda: We simply, we resist it. We stand on our word.

Greg: Exactly. Yes. Well put. Give yourself a raise.

Melinda: Roman Catholics often defend their doctrine practices and authority by saying something like, it’s been that way since the early church. They do claim, history all the way going all the way to the apostles are on their side. Is this sort of reasoning sound? Is it proper and effective logic to appeal to historical continuity?

Greg: I think there’s merit to those kind of arguments, but I think these are more important... These kind of arguments are more important when we talk about the anti-Nicene fathers. That is the fathers before the council of Nicaea. We’re talking about Polycarp, and Irenaeus, and Tertullian, and those of that like second century era. I think it’s safer because these, in some cases, were disciples of apostles, or disciples of the disciples of apostles.

You’re not as far removed from the Apostolic witness and the personalities that were actually trained by Jesus themselves. We know by looking at the book of, say, First Corinthians that it didn’t take long for Christians to get really screwed up in the things they believed and the way they practiced their faith, and so First Corinthians is huge corrective of abuse. Other books contain some of that as well.

That’s why when you get much further down the line it becomes much more risky to say, well this is the way the church has always done it. Because it might be they’ve been doing it wrong for a long time. It’s like the carpenter who’s just doing it wrong. We say, maybe we ought to put the nail this way and that. Well, I’ve been doing it this way for 20 years, as if just the length of time is the thing that gives it credibility. Of course I’m thinking, hey well you’ve been doing it wrong for 20 years.

The same thing I think applies with tradition. It might be that the wrong traditions got started fairly early and then they just continued, and so looking at the duration of the tradition itself is not enough to make the case. The biblical warrant I think is the thing that matters because this takes you back to the cannon, the rule, that which adjudicated these matters. That would be the apostles – or in the absence of the apostles, since their demise, the things that the apostles wrote. That would be the standard.

Sometimes you have traditions that are not addressed in one way or another by any of the writings. They strike me as rather benign. If they are not addressed one way or another then nothing wrong with doing them as long as they don’t purport to have... I’m trying to think of how I want to put this. If the Bible doesn’t speak to it, it’s okay to do it, but we don’t want to hang on to it like this is God’s word or God’s principle as opposed to man principles. Lots of things that men come up with, that’s fine. But very quickly they can get in the way of God’s teaching and actually contravene it and this is what Jesus spoke to frequently.

Just one other thought...

Melinda: Pharisees are doing the same thing.

Greg: Exactly. You have your tradition and it cancels out the law of God. That’s what he said. I think this happens, especially in the Roman Catholic Church lots of times. The tradition contravenes the teaching of scripture. I will say this though…

Melinda: Partly because they think the church produced the Bible, so therefore their authority is over the Bible, right?

Greg: Yes. To qualify though, the Roman Catholic Church produced the Bible.

Melinda: That’s what I meant.

Greg: And once the Church did. If you’re thinking of the Church universal.

Melinda: No, I mean the Roman Catholic Church.

Greg: This is a distinction though. It’s an equivocation though – that is important point in this discussion, because in one sense, yes. It was the church that produced the Bible, but it wasn’t an ecclesiastical authority, like the Roman Church that identified with and in-virtue of its authority, invested authority in the writing. It was just the other way around.

Melinda: Just the authority of the writings that the church recognized.

Greg: That’s exactly right. It’s the writings that create the church in a certain sense. Not the... Well, I was going to say not the church that creates writing, but the opposite is true too. These have to be carefully qualified.

I wanted to add one other thing though, if I may, and that is there is a test of Catholicity that’s an important factor. If one person comes up with a Doctrine that is contrary to what the church has always believed, it’s not likely that Doctrine is going to be sound. There’s a huge red flag against it.

Melinda: I was going to say, you’re not arguing that tradition isn’t important. You’re saying tradition alone is not enough to establish something as a good teaching. Tradition that can be traced back to biblical teaching is important. We recognize the important of Christian tradition in their teaching that’s been passed down, and like you’re saying novelty and theology is not a good thing.

Greg: That’s right. If the tradition is a sound one, it’s because it is grounded in a biblical teaching that we can discover. Some have said...

Melinda: We can check it out in the bible.

Greg: Correct. Some have said, the apostles themselves – I just read this not too long ago – one of the epistles followed the tradition that we handed down to you and then this gives some Roman Catholics liberty then to authenticate the traditions of their church as the traditions spoken of there. But of course that doesn’t follow. There are traditions that are handed down, but that doesn’t mean that traditions are other than those things taught in the scriptures. That’s a whole different enterprise. If there’s a tradition that is not taught, then what is it that gives that tradition some kind of divine authority? The Roman Church says, the Magisterium. I just don’t think that’s adequate. There’s all kinds of mischief that results when that practice is put into place, and historically that’s been the case as well.

Melinda: Next questions comes from Twitter. Chris M. How should one handle close relatives who have radically different theology and try to undermine the teaching of one’s child?

Greg: I guess this person means their child’s teaching is being undermined by the radically different theology of some other adults in their family community, right?

Melinda: Right.

Greg: Well, I guess that depends on how old the child is. What is the nature of the disagreement and how aggressive the people are. I think there is a place that one might come to where they say to the other adults and family members involved, you just can’t go there with my kid. I am responsible. I am over my child and so I’m going to take responsibility to train up the child in the way I think the child should go. It’s not your responsibility, it’s mine. I think there’s a place for parent to tell a relative to stand down theologically.

On the other hand, I’m thinking of my Annabeth, who you know so well. Eleven years old now. I’m not troubled that my daughter would be exposed to alternate views. My role in her life is going to be trying to adjudicate those views in private with her and talk her through it. Normally, I think it’s really not until you get to almost the rhetoric stage, so early high-school, where I think it’s going to be most appropriate for there to be a large scale interaction with ideas.

The grammar stage, and the rhetoric stage have to be in place before your kids are going to...

Melinda: The logic stage.

Greg: What did I say?

Melinda: Rhetoric. Rhetoric comes third.

Greg: Grammar school, middle school, the contemporary characterizations have to be in place. The tools of those years have to be in place. The particulars and the organizational ability. The ability to think through, that has to be all in place so that when they get to the stage of assessing ideas, and governing ideas, and interacting, and debating ideas, and stuff like that they have the tools to do it. That’s usually the rhetoric stage.

I would allow exposure of my child to these more aggressive attempts to persuade proportionate to the age and development of the child. At any stage that the child is under my care I might deem that the circumstances are not age appropriate and I’ll say, “Okay, stand down.” I think that’s entirely right. Parents are responsible for their kids.

Melinda: Okay. That’s the last question. Time went by fast. I just want to mention. I won’t get into all the specifics, but our speakers, our four speakers Greg, Brett, Allen, and Tim all speak around the United States and Canada, sometimes around the world. You can find the information on our page. Go to and you can see their schedule.

Greg: By the way, around the world, I’ll be Norway at the end of May. I will be in the UK, London in particular for sure now first week of July. First weekend of July. Just to toss it out for those who might be in those areas. They can check our website.

Melinda: Al is going to Australia. Going with Rodney Lake in May.

Greg: That’s right. Let’s see any others on the schedule. I guess that’s it.

Melinda: Anyways.

Greg: New Zealand. Rodney Lake.

Melinda: I’m sorry. It’s all down under there. You can find information go to to get information. That’s the show for this week folks. You can send us your questions on Twitter. Use #STRask. That’s the name of the podcast and that’s how we find your questions. It’s posted every Monday. Available on all the usual places. I’m Melinda the Enforcer with Greg Koukl for Stand to Reason.