#STRask: January 18, 2016

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Published on 01/18/2016

Greg answers questions about if Christians and Muslims worship the same God, if it is probably that man can sin in Heaven, how the Samaritans in Acts 8 were baptized and believed but didn’t receive the Holy Spirit, if it’s okay for Christians to swear, and how to prove that the New Testament is God’s word.


  • Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?
  • Is it probable that man can sin once in Heaven? If not, will we no longer have free will to choose to sin?
  • In Acts 8 when Phillip preached Christ, Samaritans believed and were baptized, but didn’t receive the Holy Spirit. How can that be?
  • Did Paul use the equivalent of the s-word in 1 Cor 4:13 and is it okay for Christians to swear?
  • Can one prove that the New Testament is God’s Word? A study of New Testament history shows that it was assembled by man’s effort by voting.


Melinda: Hey there folks. This is STR ask. I’m Melinda the Enforcer with Greg playing air guitar for the opening, and not very convincingly actually – I might say goofily.

Greg: Air guitar is air guitar. It’s air. It’s not supposed to be like a real guitar.

Melinda: You see people do it on TV or whatever, and fortunately I’ve never seen it in real life, but some people seem to do it seriously. They’re like really into it.

Greg: If I did it seriously it wouldn’t have got you laughing.

Melinda: No, I know. You were purposely goofing off, but you know. You see that, and it’s just like, these people are a little too serious. Anyways, so Greg was playing air guitar to that. 

Here we are with a #STRask podcast. Our Stand to Reason short podcast, because we have Greg on a timer, and I saw some people Saturday and they asked me, “Is Greg really on a timer?” Yes, literally. We have a timer going.

Greg: That’s right. 

Melinda: In my role as the host, I can decide if I give you extra time or not, and sometimes I ask you, we discuss it a little bit more, but yes Greg is really on a timer. He’s got 4 minutes, and if you listened to last week actually, he only gave 2 points of a 4 point answer. I wouldn’t let him go any further. 

Greg: She’s so cruel.

Melinda: And we actually never found out the answer of when you questioned your faith, what’s your answer, because the timer ran out. We’ll just have to keep wondering about that one. 

The program is every week. You submit your questions on Twitter, and use the hashtag STRask. That’s how we find your questions, and pose them to Greg. The first thing, just to sort of get back to last week’s show too-

Greg: I can’t remember that far back.

Melinda: I know. I’m about to remind you. I don’t expect you to remember anything. The continuing saga -- this one’s not much of a saga though – of my Christmas present. Stewart asked last week if you’d made good on my Christmas present of fixing a couple of the door jambs in my house that I couldn’t quite fix. And yes, he did. He did it Sunday. I posted a picture on Facebook. 

Greg: Not much to see, but at least the doors latch. 

Melinda: Yeah. Well, they latched before, but this way somebody can’t force the latch if they were trying to break in. 

Greg: Yeah.

Melinda: Yeah. Not complicated-

Greg: The bolts now work. The deadbolts, the whole thing, long screws.

Melinda: Well, they worked before too.

Greg: Okay. 

Melinda: It needed the plates on the door jamb so they couldn’t be forced.

Greg: All that work just for a cosmetic.

Melinda: It’s not cosmetic. That’s what makes a deadbolt a deadbolt is that plate on there. It’s a safeguard. 

Greg: Got it. Yeah, you’re right. Long screws, the whole bit.

Melinda: Yeah, not a complicated job, but a particular job that I don’t have the skills or the tools for and Greg did an excellent job. 

Greg: Does take a touch. 

Melinda: It did, and I watched you, and I learned it, but you’ll still have to do it again next time for me. 

Greg: I’m glad that debt is covered.

Melinda: Yes, thank you very much. It was a perfect Christmas present. I appreciate it. It is finished. Not as finished as Jesus work, but yes, it’s finished. I have... Oh and ironically, I think it was the day before or it was that day, that Facebook popped up my memory from 3 years ago, when you actually gave me the bread board you’d promised me 8 years before. 

Greg: Uh-huh. Okay.

Melinda: That he made. It’s kind of ironic.

Greg: Let me ask you a question. When is the statute of limitations on that particular crime?

Melinda: Never.

Greg: Well I continue to hear-

Melinda: The second coming. 

Greg: Okay. 

Melinda: We’re going to be in heaven talking about it. 

Greg: You may be. I have better things to do.

Melinda: A bunch of us will be. Other people are interested.

Greg: A bunch of us will be. 

Melinda: People ask about it. People bring it up. 

Greg: I’m just telling you nobody wants to look forward to a heaven where they’re talking about that, but...

Melinda: It’s heaven for me, maybe hell for you, but you can go somewhere else. Okay, anyways, let’s get on to real questions. The first question comes from our friend Vahee Sargsion, and I’m sorry. We know him, but name’s hard to pronounce. On Twitter Vahee Sargsion, so anyways, his question is, do Christians and Muslims worship the same god?

Greg: Well, actually this is timely questioned because Wheaton College recently there was a big hullabaloo there. A professor is facing dismissal because she allegedly, or apparently is claiming that they’re the same god and she’s trying to... The Muslims are people of the book and so they are basically in the same deal, and there are 2 parts to this answer. I’ll give it quickly because maybe next week I’ll go into more detail on this. 

The first part is, are they the same god, and the second part is does it matter? When it comes to Muslims and Christians I think the answer is no. It does not matter to me if somebody says, “I worship the same god as you.” What matters is whether they do, and the only way to find that out is to get their conception of what God is like, okay? The conception of the god of Islam is very different from the conception of the god of the Bible. In a number of things. No, they’re both monotheistic faiths. They believe that God, for example, is a just god and He cares about moral behavior. That’s true for both of them, but just because they share certain types of characteristic doesn’t mean they share identity. 

That’s an entirely different thing. You and I have the same values about many things. Doesn’t mean we’re identical. We’re different individuals, because there are difference between us that allow us to identify this distinction. 

Melinda: Yeah, I give Christmas presents in a timely way. You take 8 years.

Greg: Regardless, the point is this is the case. This is on my time here, so I got to keep going. There are significant difference, and for one, if the god of Islam is the god of Christianity, then the god of Christianity would identify Mohammed as a prophet of his, okay? But Mohammed said that Jesus did not die on the cross. That in fact Jesus didn’t die for our sins and wasn’t the son of God. These are really important differences and distinctions between our views and understandings of God. 

The god of the Bible is interested in relationship with us, but you would never talk about a relationship with God in Islam, because that would be a diminishing of God, and it would be committing the sin of shirk. There are certain points of significant departure from Christianity, and to say that, “we worship the god of all creation, and you say that you worship the god of creation, so we must be worshiping the same god,” is to commit a fallacy. Just because we both think we’re worshiping the same, doesn’t mean we are. 

Mormons say they’re Christian because they believe in Jesus, and I’m Christian because I believe in Jesus. We both believe in Jesus, but then I can ask what Jesus do you believe in. You believe in Jesus the eternal son of God who created all things, and was himself un-created, or do you believe in Jesus as the created spirit brother of Lucifer? Okay, we both say we believe in Jesus, but when you look at the details they are very, very different, and the same things is true here. 

Now, to the second part. Does it matter? No, it doesn’t matter. Even if the Muslims and the Christians worship the same god, the key question is not what they believe about God. The key question is what they believe about Jesus. There are many people, the Jews all worshiped the same God there in the time of Jesus, okay, but Paul called them the God of our fathers, but that doesn’t mean that did the Jews of that time any good since they had rejected Jesus, and so the same thing is true here. 

The question about the Muslims is not whether they get their god right. The question about the Muslims is whether they got Jesus right. Even when you have people believing in the same god, they could have different beliefs about Jesus and that’s the belief that matters.

Melinda: Do Christians and Jews believe in the same god since we share the Old Testament?

Greg: To me, it’s a bit of a different issue. The distinction that I would make is since we are both people of the same book, and only the same book, not like the Muslims who give lip service to the Bible, but they are really governed by the Koran and the Hadith, etc. The Jews, we share that entire testament with them. Now there is a detail about the god we worship that they don’t acknowledge, and that’s he’s triune, but that wasn’t an explicit part of the revelation of their book either. In a certain sense I could say that’s understandable, and that doesn’t help them because they still have rejected Christ, but-

Melinda: Get back to your point, is what you believe about Jesus is what matters.

Greg: But I would say in our case we do believe. Even though the god of Christianity’s triune, the god of Judaism is not, therefore, they can’t be the same. Well, we can’t all, both be right on that. Someone’s mistaken, but in this particular case because of the very intimate shared history, and shared testament, I’m willing to say that in their case, even though they reject the trinity, they are worshiping the same god. They are directing their worship to the same god, but there is something really important. I would say 2 things that they don’t get.

One of them is that God is triune. The second one is that Jesus is God’s messiah. Not only God’s son, but also God’s messiah, and those things matter, both of those.


Melinda: Next question comes from Joshua L Blue on Twitter. Is it probable that man can sin at least once in heaven? If not, will we no longer have free will to choose sin? His 11 year old son is asking this.

Greg: Yeah. That's a great question, and the answer to both is no. The first one, will we be able to sin even once in heaven, and I think the answer is no, and that's a good thing. The reason the answer is no is that we will not be capable of sinning in the same way that God is not capable of sinning. When we see Him, we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is. We will be transformed in the resurrection so that our natures are morally pure, immutably so. God's nature is morally pure, immutably so. He cannot sin. It's impossible for Him to sin. He can only do that which is consistent with His nature, and we will share the holiness of God in heaven, and so we will not be able to sin. 

Now, if one construes freedom, particularly moral freedom, as the ability to do otherwise, you could do good, but you could do not good too, you could do bad, well then, no, we don't have that kind of freedom in heaven. I have never construed that I can recall, certainly not in the last 25 or 30 years, when I've been thinking a little more clearly about a lot of these things, I have never construed freedom as being ... 

Let me back up and put it this way. I have never construed the ability to be capable of sinning and choosing the wrong, as a characteristic or a pre-requirement, a prerequisite of the ability to love, because if that were the case, then God can't love. God can't sin, therefore God can't love. I think you can love without the possibility of sinning. I don't think you can call moral freedom free, unless there is at least one characterization of freedom, which is the could have done otherwise condition, the CDU condition, then I don't think that God has that freedom, and I don't think that we'll have that freedom in heaven.

We will have the ability to do lots of different things, or other things, but none of them will include things that are sinful, and I'm glad for that, because I do not want to be plagued with that thing anymore. One lifetime was enough. 

Melinda: Yeah. One difference between Adam and Eve and their perfect state in the garden, and our perfect state in heaven, would be they laced immutability in their moral state. We will have immutability in heaven.

Greg: That's correct. 

Melinda: Which is a greater moral state. 

Greg: One could argue that it's a-

Melinda: I mean God's immutability is something great about Him.

Greg: JP Moreland has talked about this – that in a certain sense there is a greater freedom when you can't do evil. That is you have the freedom always to do good. 

Melinda: Right. 

Greg: You have the freedom to be the good all the time. That's another way of understanding freedom. The way the ancients put it was posse peccare. Adam had the possibility of sinning. After the fall, it was non-posse non-peccare. There is no possibility for sinning for us now. Adam actually had it both ways. Posse peccare posse, but not peccare. Either way he could go, but in heaven it will be non-posse peccare. We will not be able to sin, and that is part of the promise, I think of the resurrection. 

Melinda: I think also we should look at sin ... I mean the ability to lose sin it's not a capability, it's a lack of capability of choosing the good. It's not an ability, it's an inability. 

Greg: It's a disability. Yeah.

Melinda: It's not freedom to be able to choose sin. It's actually a lack of free, it's our slavery that makes us choose-

Greg: I remember one person saying, "Well God must be able to sin, because if he can't then I can do something he can't do." That's upside down, because it is a negative thing, expressed in a positive way. When you say I can sin, that's just another way of saying I can't always do what's right. I'm prone to failure morally speaking, and so you're right. That is a lack of ability, not an ability. 

Melinda: Next question comes from Welch 64. In Acts 8, when Phillip preached Christ, Samaritans believed and were baptized, but they didn't receive the Holy Spirit, how can that be? How can they be baptized, and not receive the Holy Spirit?

Greg: Yeah. This is a perceptive question, and it raises a question about the transition between the Old Testament economy and the New Testament economy, and you see an odd set of circumstances early on, pardon me, in the book of Acts. You see Peter preaching there on Pentecost, and that's when the Holy Spirit is given and the whole new covenant is initiated. It's actually formally kicked off. Jesus secured the provision of the new covenant on the cross, but it isn't until Pentecost that this thing is actually launched, and then the Jews in Jerusalem believe and receive the Spirit, believe and receive the Spirit. That's what Paul says, or Peter says. 

Then, you have this thing going on with the Samaritans, and you've got Phillip going down there, and if you recall from the account, I think Peter went down and followed them. Course the difficulty is that, this is the rational, it's hard to know precisely what's going on, but this is as good an explanation as I've heard. Since the scripture does seem to teach in other places, Ephesians for example, that when you believe you receive the Holy Spirit of promise. This was written quite a bit later, and the transition states it didn't always work like that. 

What seems to have happened, is they believed. They put their faith in Jesus, but they're still kind of not, they haven't kind of covered the bases yet there, in terms of regeneration, and someone pointed out what would have happened if they had. Well, then you would have had the Samaritans, they have their church, and then you have the Jews, and they have their church, and never the twain shall meet kind of thing. That is the hostilities between those 2 groups would have continued even into the church age, even among those who believed in Jesus. 

The suggestion is, what happened is that it was Peter and some of the chief disciples went down, and in a certain sense, authenticated what Phillip had initiated there in Samaria, and then when they laid hands on them, then they received the Holy Spirit, just as the Jews had. Now they are included, and then you have a similar thing happening. A transition into the Gentiles, Acts chapter 10 and Cornelius, and as they're preaching the Holy Spirit falls upon them. They receive the Spirit. Peter later talks with the leadership there in Acts chapter 15 at the Jerusalem counsel. He said, look this is the way God did it. He gave them the Spirit the same way He gave them to us. How could I refuse water to baptize them?

Now you have the Jews. Then you have the half-Jews, half-Gentiles, and you have Gentiles, kind of all maneuvered in now into one body, all having the Spirit, and kind of a nice neat package, when it could have been very divided up. Peter was a lynch pin of it all. He was the one there, the chief disciple at that point. 

The only exception you have then, you have the only other outlier is later on in the book of Acts, there was an encounter by Paul, I think with some who were believers, but only prior to Jesus. They were believers in John's baptism. They didn't know anything about the Holy Spirit, so they had gotten as far as they could get based on what they had learned from John, but they hadn't hung around long in at Jerusalem to get the whole package with Jesus, and now they're encountering this message, this richer fuller message, this complete message, and they had hands laid on them, and they believed and received the Holy Spirit. That kind of completes the circle.

After that, it seems like everyone simply, in virtue of believing in Jesus, then received the Spirit and are baptized by one's Spirit into the larger corporate body of Christ. That's the best explanation that I've ever heard. It is a little bit of an anomaly, and some Pentecostal types have I think, gone off the deep end by saying, see there is this belief in Jesus, then there's this second experience, this baptism that allows you a deeper and more powerful spiritual life, and so we have to seek this. In the modern period at least, into the 20th century, that has been-

Melinda: Second baptism.

Greg: Yeah, but that's been characterized as speaking in tongues. Prior to that in the 19th century there was the same idea of a second baptism, but it had a very different characterization. Part of the deeper- 

Melinda: Your time’s up. Okay. Next question, Eva Beers, open up your bible to first Corinthians 4:13.

Greg: Yes, ma'am. 

Melinda: Did Paul-

Greg: I actually usually tell my children to say please at least. 

Melinda: Well, I'm sorry. It's implied. 

Greg: First Corinthians, what is it?

Melinda: It's implied. Please is implied. No, first Corinthians 4:13.

Greg: 4:13, okay. Oh, man. All right, got it. 

Melinda: Did Paul use the equivalent of the “S word” in that passage, and is it okay for Christians to swear?

Greg: Well there's two “S words” here in English. One is scum, the other one is slandered. “When we are slandered, we try to conciliate. We have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.” I presume-

Melinda: I don't know the Greek there, but I know in a lot of passages, especially in the Old Testament, the language in Hebrew is actually much more graphic than it is in English.

Greg: Earthy, maybe.

Melinda: It's earthy. That's what I mean. It's earthier. So I don't know.

Greg: Paul says, this Paul here is the one who says, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, except when ..." Adequate for, I don't know how it goes-

Melinda: Teaching, reprove, correction.

Greg: No, no, that's a different verse.

Melinda: Oh, sorry.

Greg: But this is, edification is the word I was looking for, so anyway. I mean Paul cares about the language that he uses. Now sometimes he gets a little earthy and when he's talking about the Judaizers, who are making a big deal about circumcision. He kind of makes a comment there at the end of Galatians, which say, why don't you cut the whole thing off if you want to show your spirituality by that kind of thing, so borderline, earthy stuff. 

I don't think that's what's going on here if the word in question is scum of the world. We use the word scum of the world, and that isn't the “S word,” although the “S word” would be a synonym in this kind of situation. Making a reference to refuse itself, is not in itself, I think, bad. It is in the eyes and the ears of the community that you live in, what is considered course and unacceptable, and this is going to be different for different cultures. I think saying scum certainly isn't a problem, but to most people's ears the “S word” is overly course. It's the kind of thing that still a lot of people would think shouldn't be used in polite company, and if it shouldn't be used in polite company, then we shouldn't use it. It's a way of loving our neighbor, and I think the issue is how our neighbor's responding to it, not something else. 

Melinda: Last question, can one prove that the New Testament is God's word? A study of New Testament history shows that the New Testament was assembled by man's effort, that is voting on it. 

Greg: There's a couple things going on there. First of all, “prove” – depends what you mean by prove. That's my first qualifier. I'd need more clarification on that. Can you demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the scripture’s God's word, okay. That may be the question, but then there's the counter. The answer is no, because after all it was assembled by men, by voting. This is a false dichotomy. It isn't as if either it's inspired by God, or men voted on it and it was assembled by them. That does not reflect an accurate understanding of inspiration given the Christian view. 

This is really important, Melinda. If a person wants to go after our view, they have to go after our view. They cannot twist our view and make into their view, and then tell us according to their view of it, that doesn't make sense. On our view, scripture is written by human beings. They pen it down, and Paul wasn't in a trance, it wasn't automatic writing. No one's saying, "What are you writing Paul?" "I don't know it's in Greek," and he's writing in a trance. No, it wasn't given that way. Our understanding of inspiration is that there's a con-cursive operation. There's a dual effort by God and man, and God is the one who trumps man's efforts. So we can see Pauline literature has a certain look and a sound to it as opposed to Johannine. So John and Paul write differently, and we can see those characterizations. Their personality comes through, but ultimately God is still responsible to carry them along so that their words are God's words. That's our view. 

What you can't do is undo our view, by saying human beings are somehow involved in the process of giving scripture. Oh, they voted on it. That actually isn't what happened, but even if it were the case that humans just voted on what was God's word and what wasn't, that is not inconsistent with our understanding about how inspiration works, because after all, it was human beings writing the words down to begin with. 

They had to make their own decisions as to what words they would use, and so the concept of biblical inspiration properly understood, as our view, is not vulnerable to the charge that it couldn't be inspired because humans voted on the books, and it turns out that isn't the way the cannon was assembled, but regardless, even it was assembled by that, we understand there to be a significant component of human interaction that God Himself superintended, and over saw just like this so that what they ended up with, both the words and the books, was exactly what God originally intended. 

Here's the way I kind of like to cap this off. If God inspired the text, it doesn't matter whether men or monkeys wrote it, or monkeys voted on it for that matter. God is still capable of preserving his word. 

Melinda: The counsel supposedly where they voted on, it wasn't a vote. It was really more of just a recognizing and consensus of the authority of the authors that was already there. 

Greg: Right, there was a general consensus, but there wasn't an absolute consensus, but yeah-

Melinda: The practice of using these particular books over others, had been common in the church for a couple hundred years already. 

Greg: I think it would be fair to say that there's a certain sense that the scripture was self-authenticating. People were recognizing what was authoritative. They weren't just voting, and based on their authority, then they convey their authority to the books as authoritative. This is the way some people think the Catholic church has worked. The Catholic church has authority, and then they convey authority to the books by saying, yeah that's the right book, but that isn't how it worked, and in fact they’re basing their authority on a line in the book. If that's the way it worked, it's suspiciously circular. It isn't. These are books that presented themselves largely in virtue of their apostolic authorship as authoritative just as authoritative as those same apostle were from the very beginning. If they were here on earth, they had authority because they were sent out by Jesus, and once they died, their writings carried the same authority as they did.

Melinda: A really good website to check out for some of this information is called canon fodder, C-A-N-O-N fodder, that's Michael J Kruger dot com. Michael J Kruger is a bible scholar. We've had him on the show a few times. 

Greg: Many times.

Melinda: Writes about the canon, and he's got a series of articles on there, something like 10 facts about the canon every Christian should know, or something, but he hits some of these kinds of question in a very brief order, and gives the facts and some clarity there. I feel like there was one other thing. 

Oh, I was going to mention before we close, that's the last question, but before we close, I was going to just remind people who listen to this podcast, and maybe we've got some new people listening to this one, that never listened to the long one. The long one, we're still in, for those of you who do listen to it, we still take calls on that show. If you want to talk to Greg directly, and if you want to have a little more time to tease out your question or comment, or to challenge Greg, call on Tuesday afternoons, 4-6 pm Pacific time. The information's on the website. 

I saw some atheist post on one of our social media sites this week saying something about, "Well, Greg since you insulate yourself, I'll have to post something here." Greg doesn't insulate himself. He takes ... There's hardly ever a call we turn down on the regular podcast. He's available Tuesdays 4-6, and that's what makes that show work, are the call-ins. There's good opportunity to talk to Greg and have a longer conversation. 

Greg: In about 2 weeks we'll be starting our 27th year in radio.

Melinda: Why do ... This has driven me crazy for years. Why do you always talk about anniversaries about ... Instead of saying I'm completing my 26th year, I'm starting my 27th year-

Greg: Because it's an extra number.

Melinda: But I also notice it confuses you too. It's like 26, 27. It's the milestone of completing 26 years. Nobody says on their birthday I'm starting my 57th year.

Greg: Well, they could. Maybe people don't like being 57. They don't want to remind themselves. They want to be 29 a whole bunch of times. 

Melinda: Do you remember when you were 57? No, you're too old to remember. Okay, well that's it.

Greg: I'm trying to do the math. How long was it.

Melinda: 8 years ago. Yeah, because you're saying you're starting your 66th year. See, you get confused. 

Greg: That's amazing. How she could subtract that. 57 from 65, she got it so quickly. How does she do that? Wow. Let's see if she's that good when she's 50 ... Wait, how old am I?

Melinda: 65.

Greg: Okay, never mind. I'm going to lose this one. 

Melinda: You'll always be older than me, so I'll always be smarter than you, and my memory's better to begin with. Well that's it for this week folks. You can send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask, the name of the podcast. We post a new episode every Monday. I'm Melinda the Enforcer with Greg Koukl, who's 65, at the STRask podcast.