#STRask: February 9, 2017

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Published on 02/09/2017

Greg’s on a timer and answers questions about God’s revelation, prophecy, and Jesus’ deity


  • Greg says Christianity is messy. Why can God create a fine-tuned universe, but can only give us a messy revelation in the Bible?
  • Is Luke 11:50 a prophecy of the events of 70 A.D. when the priests were also killed in the temple before it’s destruction?
  • Mark 13:32 says Jesus does not know when He will return even though the Father knows. How can He not know when He is also God?


Melinda: Hello there. This is STRask. STR’s short podcast. I’m here...This is Melinda, The Enforcer, I’m here with Greg Koukl, who’s grooving in his seat. At least with his arms. Pathetic looking.

Greg: Just getting warmed up for the show.

Melinda: Good. Which one? This one or the long one? The long one’s still coming.

Greg: That’s right. In about 15 or 20 minutes.

Melinda: Right. This is #STRask. You send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask. That’s what helps us find them. Greg and I come here in the studio and he’s on a timer. He’s got four minutes or less to answer these things, unless I want to join in and we extend it a little bit. Let’s just go. First question comes from Mike Peel, Jr. Greg says Christianity is messy. Why can God create a fine-tuned universe, but can only give us a messy revelation in the Bible?

Greg: Well, I’m not suggesting that God’s Revelation is messy on His side. I’m saying that the human condition is such that our minds are fallen and that influences how effectively we assess the nature of the world, even God’s Revelation.

Melinda: You’re not suggesting that on the author’s side?

Greg: No.

Melinda: God accurately worked through them to commit to writing what He wanted them to write. It’s our understanding where the problem is.

Greg: Well, it’s actually in two different areas. One of them is our understanding. There are things that I go to in the text and here, as a gentile, who lives in America, 2000 years after the writing, reading in English, I look at it and I say, “What the heck does that mean?” I have a hard time figuring that out. Now, maybe somebody else has, but I haven’t and part of the reason that I say this is messy is because Christianity’s messy. I usually follow it by saying, “That’s because the world is messy.” There are lots of different things that are hard to understand about the nature of the world and even difficult about God’s Revelation. It isn’t that God has made a mistake, it has to do with the limitations of fallen human beings. The second aspect of it is, though, there are a number of things that God just simply hasn’t told us about Himself and so there are questions that remain open. Sometimes I’ll get calls on the show and they’ll say...People will ask, “My buddy, non-Christian, was saying, ’Why didn’t God do it this way?’” Basically. I said, “Almost every question that starts out, ’Why didn’t God,’ or, ’Why did God,’ can’t be answered because God didn’t tell us.” This leaves outliers for people. That is questions that are unanswered for them and the more outliers there are, the messier things look. Part of what I’m trying to accomplish by saying that is just simply acknowledging that there are limitations to the extent of the Revelation, as Francis Schaeffer put it, “God has given true truth, but not exhaustive truth.” There are also limitations in our ability to understand it under our circumstances. Let’s just make a peace with that. That isn’t a liability of Christianity because the fact is that every philosophy has outliers, has messiness because human knowledge is a limited thing and a fallen thing, no matter what philosophy you have. This is really meant to be a reflection on our circumstance as knowers, either based on limited revelation or revelation we don’t thoroughly understand correctly. It’s also meant to help Christians feel comfortable with that and not feel like, somehow, it’s a shortcoming of Christianity.

Melinda: Okay. Next question.

Greg: Good question, though. I’m glad to clarify that.

Melinda: Good. Good job, Mike. Next question: Is Luke 11:50, open that to your Bible.

Greg: Oh, okay.

Melinda: Is Luke 11:50 a prophecy...

Greg: Almost got it. One page off.

Melinda: Of the events of 70 A.D. when the priests were also killed in the temple before it’s destruction.

Greg: Okay, Luke 11:50 says...Let’s start in Verse 49. The beginning of the sentence at least. “For this reason also, the wisdom of God said, ’I will send to them prophets and apostles and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, so that the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world may be charged against this generation.’” Then it continues from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zacharia, et cetera. Will be charged to this generation. Well, you know, this is Jesus speaking. It’s a section of woe that He is speaking to the Jewish leadership. “Woe to you.” Verse 47. “You build a tomb of prophets and it was your fathers who killed them.” My sense is what Jesus has in mind is all of the prophets, up to the present age or period that He’s in. I guess you could say it may include some of those that are going to be killed...Well, John the Baptist was the great prophet killed during that time, but he was dead by the time Jesus make these comments in Luke 12. What Jesus is simply saying is that the...That the Jews who follow in their father’s footsteps in rejecting God’s prophet or God’s spokesperson, bear the same kind of responsibility, as did their ancestors, who did the same thing. Jesus is speaking regarding the conflict that he’s facing with the Jewish leadership at that time. I don’t have a sense that He’s looking forward to the next generations and prophesying about the future. It wouldn’t serve His purposes to do that. He’s making a critique of the people at the time that are fighting him and he’s saying, “Look, you’re just like the whole lot of them. All of your fathers, your ancestors, et cetera, who persecuted those that I sent to you.” I think that’s all we have to do with it. We don’t have to read any fancy eschatology into it.

Melinda: All righty. I was just going to say eschatology so often is speculative and difficult to understand, isn’t it?

Greg: I agree. I told somebody this last weekend in Jackson, Tennessee, who raised a question or an issue about it. I guess they’re studying it in one of their groups. Who this individual was. I said, “Just remember, anything that’s possible, is possible. Sometimes we just get so rigid in our assessment and it was the rigidness of the Pharisees and the Sadducee in their own assessment of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah’s first coming. Excuse me. That prevented them from seeing the fulfillment of that prophecy when it was right there in front of them.” Pardon me. I would just offer that caution to people who are studying eschatology, prophecy of the end times.

Melinda: Okay. Next question. Mark 13:32 says Jesus does not know when He will return, even though the Father knows. How can He not know when He is also God?

Greg: Yeah, this is a really challenging concept here and it’s been raised many times and people have offered different speculations on it. I think the root to the answer - and I’m not going to be able to provide a definitive statement - but I think the root to the answer has to do with the nature of the incarnation and the dual nature of Jesus. The hypostatic union. Fully God and fully man. One person, two natures. This is the Caledonian formula, what I just cited. Fully God, fully man. One person. Two natures. That’s orthodoxy. That’s called the Caledonian Box, actually, because you put each one of those...

Melinda: Four sides.

Greg: Yeah, on four sides. You can stay inside that box and move all around and speculate.

Melinda: Yeah, there’s some very...There’s some variations and actually how to work some of those details out within that box, but then there is a border. Then you’re outside orthodoxy.

Greg: You’re off the reservation. Right. If you get outside of that. A lot of groups do go outside of it. Then the question becomes, as was raised, how is it within that orthodox box, so to speak, we are to understand the limits of Jesus knowledge when he was on this Earth. A standard way of doing it. This is a little perilous because questions could be raised, but it’s...This is one of those things that’s hard to figure out. One way to say it is that in Jesus’ human nature, He had limited knowledge, even though He remained omniscient in His divine nature. Now, that raises a problem and the problem is, “Well, wait a minute. It’s one person, two natures.” You mean the nature isn’t a separate person that can one body of knowledge and the divine...That being the human nature and the divine nature is another person, that’s two persons. That’s heresy. That’s bad, in other words. That’s off the reservation.

Melinda: It’s outside the box.

Greg: Yeah. Outside the box. Well, okay. Then I don’t know what to say. It’s just hard to know how to parse that. This goes back to an earlier comment about things being a little bit messy. Given the nature, the unique and profound and ineffable, like hard to understand nature of the incarnation, it’s going to be difficult to make sense of this. Somewhere caught up in that God-man, there is a sensibility, there’s a rational...A reasonableness to the idea that Jesus can be fully God, undiminished, and He is not left any of His deity behind. Real important. When He steps down He doesn’t leave any deity behind. He leaves behind privileges of His deity, which includes this it seems to be. How could He leave that behind? Is the question and I don’t know the answer. I don’t know that anybody really knows the answer. I’ve been party to discussions on this and read some things and it just seems to be this is part of the mystery of the Incarnation. We know what the text says. We know the text delivers Jesus of Nazareth to us, as the Lord God. As the uncreated Creator. John 1:3. As one who’s called God frequently in the text and who has divine characteristics and exercises divine prerogatives. These are unmistakable. I talk about this when I do my teaching on the Trinity, which you could find on...I think the title is “The Trinity as a Solution Not a Problem”. That’s a product that we have. That doesn’t mean there aren’t mysteries about it and there are in...What’s the word I’m looking for? Things that you don’t understand. Starts with “N”. These are some of the things that we just have to...I guess here the statement, “Take on faith”, is fully appropriate. The statement, “Taking it on faith”, means that we believe what God says about Himself. Then when we have these other unusual things that we can’t make sense of then we just settle for that. We just relax and let it be.

Melinda: There things aren’t contradictions. They’re not illogical. There are things that are clear that we can state quite clearly and positively that is orthodoxy. We just can’t explain it exhaustively.

Greg: Right. Well, this is true.

Melinda: That doesn’t mean...

Greg: It’s not true.

Melinda: Not being able to explain anything doesn’t mean we can’t believe it.

Greg: Right. Even if not exhaustively. Just trying to put these two things together in a...

Melinda: Conceive of it.

Greg: Yeah.

Melinda: It’s, literally, once in the universe situation.

Greg: That’s right. This is like the Trinity. Okay, we can understand the concept, conceptually of one God in three persons. That is three centers of consciousness in one personal nature or one nature. May be a better way of putting it, but okay, in the abstract I could say that. Trying to picture it or trying to really...“Oh, that’s different. Isn’t it. That’s weird.” Yeah, it is. We just make our peace with that is what I’m saying. We make our peace with the fact it’s a little weird and it’s a little bit of an incomprehensible. Maybe that was the word I was looking for earlier and move forward because I don’t think we can take it any...I don’t think we can cash it out in any more detail than that. Frankly, because we’re talking about the nature of God and a dramatic, once in a universe, once in eternity kind of circumstance, when God became a Man. Wow, that’s a mindblower. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Then what does John say about it. He says, “We beheld His glory is of the only Begotten of the Father.” He doesn’t go into a lot of detail trying to make sense of all of that. He just said, “Wow.” There He was.

Melinda: I believe you said in the past that Jesus laid aside His divine prerogatives, not His...

Greg: Divine nature.

Melinda: When He performed miracles, He did this through the power of the Holy Spirit, not directly in His divine power.

Greg: Yes. Yes. This is a speculation that I’ve said in the past and since then I’ve had other thoughts about this because when you read the record of Jesus doing miracles, you see the disciples saying things like, for example, when he calms the storm, they say, “Who is this man who commands even the forces of nature?” If I were to say, and this is something I learned as an early on as a Christian, but now I’ve since reconsidered this somewhat, so just so people know this is something that’s...It’s not clear. It’s not certainly established. It’s kind of a speculative, but since I learned that then I started thinking about it. It does seem that Jesus and, again, I don’t know whether it’s in the power of the Spirit or in His divine power, I mean that might still be open, but there’s clearly there was a unique capacity that Jesus showed to do things that nobody else was going to do quite the same way. I know He makes a statement about, “You’ll do more things than I do,” and that seems to relate to the number of Christians having a more greater spiritual impact in Him possibly, but...The things that Jesus did, taken as a whole, in one person were unique and uniquely pointed to His divine nature.

Melinda: He was doing it in His own authority, whereas as the disciples and many others were doing it in His authority.

Greg: That’s right. Oh, that’s excellent. Excellent point.

Melinda: Glad to help you out there.

Greg: Yeah. That’s one. Alert the press. She got one.

Melinda: I was thinking about this last night when I was doing my Bible reading. It was the passage where the disciples set off on the Sea of Galilee and a storm comes up and Jesus sees them and He goes walking out on the water, which I think is one of the funniest verses in the Bible, He intends to pass them.

Greg: He was going to walk by.

Melinda: Just keep going and decides to stop and help them out.

Greg: See you there, folks.

Melinda: Anyways, I was just thinking so...

Greg: Good luck.

Melinda: Gosh, I mean, I guess we have heard, if you haven’t seen it yourself, credible stories of other people doing healings and things like this in Jesus’ name. I’ve never heard of anybody else walking on water in Jesus’ name. Well, except Peter, at that time.

Greg: Well, they did in the Shack. In that movie coming out here. Yeah, he’s walking on water, but they’re walking with Jesus. It’s like the Bible account. Yeah.

Melinda: Anyways.

Greg: That’s another issue. No, you’re right. I haven’t heard that either, but if it’s Craig Keener’s book...

Melinda: Yeah. Maybe it’s in there.

Greg: Yeah.

Melinda: If Jesus didn’t have access to His divine knowledge to know when He was coming back, why would He then access it to do these miracles?

Greg: Yeah, like I said a few moments ago or maybe it was the last show when you asked why...

Melinda: We’re at the end of your knowledge.

Greg: Yeah.

Melinda: We’ve finally reached the end of it.

Greg: I think there’s an important point.

Melinda: That’s it.

Greg: It’s a combination of your contribution and something I thought of is that here Jesus...What’s unique about Jesus in these regards, even if these individual miracles are done by other people and some of these things were. I mean the magnification of things. Corrie ten Boom had vitamins in the concentration camp that seemed to be multiplying miraculously for a season. Other things like that seemed to have happened in the case of individual Christians. In this particular case, though, it was Jesus acting under His own authority. These happened in virtue of His authority...

Melinda: As the Messiah.

Greg: Not someone...Exactly. Not somebody...Son of God. Not somebody that is calling on the name of Jesus to accomplish this. Plus, all of these things were there in one person. Jesus...When we talk about other people doing the things like Jesus, there’s one over there and one over here and somebody over there did some of that stuff, but Jesus did it all. He did it naturally. It was a natural outflowing of His supernatural life on Earth, even though He was a true human being.

Melinda: He was the whole package.

Greg: He was the whole package. The whole enchilada, you might say.

Melinda: Well, it’s been a good one for 23 and a half years, but we’ve reached the end of Greg’s knowledge, so we’ll be wrapping up. At least for this episode of STRask. I’m Melinda, The Enforcer, with Greg Koukl, for Stand to Reason.