#STRask: July 24, 2017

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Published on 07/24/2017

Greg is on a timer and answers questions about God knowing man would sin, patriotic songs in church, Satan reading our minds, and good resources for kids.


  • If God is all-knowing and knew that Adam and Eve would sin, then why did He create them in the first place?
  • How do you feel about patriotic songs during church? My church sang “My Country ’Tis of Thee,” and I believe this is idolatry.
  • Does Satan have access to our thoughts? I’ve heard since he’s not omniscient, he can’t read our minds. Can he insert thoughts or ideas?
  • Can you recommend a Bible/Philosophy/Apologetics resource or memory work for kids in grammar stage (trivium) to help equip them in their faith?


Melinda: Hello there. I’m Melinda the Enforcer and this is #STRAsk. Looky, looky here who wandered into the studio today.

Gregory Koukl: Look what the cat dragged in.

Melinda: Well thanks for showing up. It’s Gregory Koukl.

Gregory Koukl: Yes. Thank you. Thank you. I’ve got to justify that check I get every month from Stand to Reason.

Melinda: Yeah, I was going to stop it because we haven’t seen you in a couple months.

Gregory Koukl: Been a long time, yeah. It’s not been that long, but it’s been a while. Then I was gone at...

Melinda: People miss you when you’re gone. People.

Gregory Koukl: Well that’s sweet.

Melinda: Not me. People.

Gregory Koukl: I don’t miss you.

Melinda: Our listeners really do miss you. They’re not as happy with the substitutes no matter how great they are.

Gregory Koukl: And they, I have great substitutes. Did Jay Warner Wallace do a show? I don’t know if Brett or Alan did anything, but I know you guys are fully capable, but it’s nice to…

Melinda: But people still miss you.

Gregory Koukl: Yeah. Well good. Thank you.

Melinda: But he’s back.

Gregory Koukl: She’s looking at me like I don’t know why. I can’t imagine what they miss, but amazing thing, they do.

Melinda: We always kind of go through this pretty much two month period, May, June every year because you take a couple weeks fishing in May on your own with your brother.

Gregory Koukl: Well I take a couple weeks off to go fishing. This year I didn’t fish that much because the weather was so bad.

Melinda: Isn’t it still called fishing even if you attempt it? It’s not just if you catch something.

Gregory Koukl: Even if you’re not catching, right. No I get the point.

Melinda: The activity is called fishing.

Gregory Koukl: Then the time with my family.

Melinda: Then you come back and then you go back to the cabin with your family.

Gregory Koukl: Yeah.

Melinda: In this case then, you got back from that trip, which again you still didn’t catch any fish, and then you went up to Hume Lake to teach for a week.

Gregory Koukl: Yeah, for the same reason I didn’t get any in May. It was just raining the whole time. Then I was back on the 4th of July, which was a Tuesday, so that was a day off. Then I went to Hume Lake.

Melinda: That one wasn’t your fault.

Gregory Koukl: No.

Melinda: It was the country’s fault. Well let’s get going.

Gregory Koukl: Sure.

Melinda: I don’t know if you recall. This is where we limit the length of your answer.

Gregory Koukl: Okay.

Melinda: Remember that concept?

Gregory Koukl: That’s right. It’s vaguely familiar.

Melinda: Four minutes or less. You’re on a timer.

Gregory Koukl: Oh that’s what this timer’s for, okay.

Melinda: And I enforce it because you have named me the enforcer.

Gregory Koukl: Yes ma’am.

Melinda: People send us their questions on Twitter using #STRask and we’ve got a bunch of them, so let’s get going. Alice Zeeden asks, “If God is all-knowing and knew that Adam and Eve would sin, then why did he create them in the first place?”

Gregory Koukl: Well see this question is a category of question that I get with some frequency.

Melinda: I knew you were going to say this.

Gregory Koukl: I have a standard answer, which is I think the appropriate answer. Almost every question that starts out or includes in it somewhere essentially “why did God…” can’t be answered because the answer is in the mind of God and God hasn’t told us.

Melinda: He hasn’t told us everything. He’s told us a bunch of stuff, in the books of the bible.

Gregory Koukl: No, most of the time he hasn’t told us the answers to those questions that I hear. Why did God, why didn’t God save everybody? Why did God just save some? Why did God allow Adam and Eve to fall? Why did God create anybody at all if he knew that this mess would take place? The answer that I give in talks when I touch on these things is a general answer. I don’t know but apparently he considered it worth the risk. In fact, saying it’s worth the risk is a way of speaking, but it was no risk for God at all because he knew everything that would eventuate from the wisdom of his decisions. According to the kind intention of his will, Ephesians 1, he rescued the church, the bride of Christ, and why he allowed this to happen, well we could speculate to some degree.

Melinda: Well, go ahead.

Gregory Koukl: Well I say in the book, The Story of Reality, that God, out of the excess in a certain sense of his love, that is the overflowing of his love, he wanted to share his happiness with others. He wanted us to participate. He didn’t need anything.

Melinda: He wasn’t lonely.

Gregory Koukl: He wasn’t lonely.

Melinda: There are three persons of the trinity.

Gregory Koukl: Exactly. He had two other folks ...

Melinda: Eternal love.

Gregory Koukl: Others to hang around with. Right. I almost said folks but ...

Melinda: They were perfect company.

Gregory Koukl: They’re not really folks. They were perfect company. they never had any arguments. I just was thinking the other day that Jesus never had to apologize to anybody.

Melinda: He’s perfect.

Gregory Koukl: Yeah. He never did anything wrong, so he can’t say, “You know, my bad.” You know he couldn’t say that.

Melinda: Think how frustrating that was for his mom and dad.

Gregory Koukl: I know. I know. But in any event, there they were in perfect harmony. They didn’t need anything. The God had, God in his essential nature himself. He was perfectly complete. He was a perfect being. Perfectly happy. But as a part of the, in a certain sense, the overflow of his love, he desired to share his happiness, and again you got to be careful how you talk about these things.

In a desire to share his happiness, he created man to share in communion with him and to experience his happiness. Now this is my, this is my conjecture, okay. I think there’s good reason for it, but again, you can’t give definitive answers to some of these things if God hasn’t told you himself some of his reasons. So he created man to enjoy his, share his happiness with, but his happiness is grounded in his moral perfections, and so this is why there needed to be a moral creature to share the kind of, made in God’s image, to share the kind of happiness God shared and to be an apt friend with God. To be a certain type of creature if you will that could actually have this friendship with God.

I develop this notion a bit in The Story of Reality but even there I saw we have to be careful with some of these things because it’s hard to know for sure, but this is, I think a reasonable conjecture and it also helps to explain the importance of moral freedom and I talk about that in the book as well. But as a category, a broader category, I think we have to be careful. Why did he create Adam and Eve? The safe answer is the kind of answer that is a blanket answer for every one of these questions, is to bring himself more glory. I mean he does it to his glory. So that would be a fair answer in general, but as to the specifics, how did he figure it was worth the risk? What is the calculus entirely like? This we can’t figure out.

Melinda: Until he tells us when we get to heaven.

Gregory Koukl: Right. Maybe. Maybe then we won’t even know. It’s hard to know.

Melinda: Yeah. We’ll be satisfied too.

Gregory Koukl: Right.

Melinda: Too busy praising him, doing stuff. Okay. Next question comes from Shane Ballard on Twitter. How do you feel about patriotic songs during church? My church sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” and I’m lead to believe this is idolatry.

Gregory Koukl: Well I don’t know why it would be idolatry. I mean idolatry is when you worship something that’s not God. I don’t know that singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” is a ...

Melinda: Worship song.

Gregory Koukl: Example of idolatry. But that song, now I’m trying to remember all the lyrics. Who is the “thee” that is being sung of? It’s God. It is ... Look it, I’m thinking back in Psalms. You have songs that are sung to God that are nationalistic about the nation of Israel, and someone might say, well God chose Israel. Right, but I don’t know that that’s relevant to this particular point. One can sing about one’s country in the sense that God is intimately involved in the country and doing things to his glory. The national anthem of New Zealand, ironically, is one big long prayer. It’s ironic because it’s a godless country.

Melinda: They haven’t repealed it yet?

Gregory Koukl: Very secular. No they haven’t. It’s very secular. Those are the kinds of things that are hard to repeal because they’re such an inbred portion of the, part of the national…

Melinda: Do you know for sure “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” the thee is God? Because I’m just running through the lines. “My country ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.” What’s the whole song about? The country. I think the thee is the country.

Gregory Koukl: Okay. Maybe you’re right. Maybe you’re right. But the question was, let me just back off on that then. The question was about patriotic songs, and I do know there are patriotic songs that have to do, that talk about God being involved in the liberty.

Melinda: Oh sure.

Gregory Koukl: In general, I don’t think that’s the case. Now if it’s just a song about our country and there’s no reference to God, I don’t know why it’s being sung in a church at a worship service, okay, but I think that there are patriotic songs that could be sung there if they’re an appropriate expression of the role of God in the not only the founding and maintaining of the country, but also ennobling the enterprise of the country. I personally as a –  I believe in American exceptionalism. I think America’s been a great force of good in the world, but it’s principally been a force of good because it was grounded in a Christian worldview, and that momentum has carried it forward.

Melinda: It has allowed for the most religious freedom in history. And up until now at least, it’s been the context for the greatest religious freedom in history.

Gregory Koukl: That’s right. That’s right.

Melinda: Things could be changing.

Gregory Koukl: In general then I don’t think it’s idolatrous to sing a patriotic song in church, but I think that some songs, patriotic songs, would be out of place in church, if all they’re doing is extolling the virtues of the country instead of ...

Melinda: Not thanking God.

Gregory Koukl: Which might have been the case in “My Country ‘Tis ...”

Melinda: “Of thee.”

Gregory Koukl: “Of thee.” I’m just… “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

Melinda: Yeah I don’t under ... I understand the first line, but if you continue on, of thee I sing. Well what’s the whole song about? It’s the country.

Gregory Koukl: “Land where my fathers died ...”

Melinda: So who are we singing about? The country.

Gregory Koukl: Yeah. Of thee I sing. Yeah, you’re probably right about that one. But the, what was the one that the gal ...

Melinda: Isn’t it four minutes yet?

Gregory Koukl: Yeah, well I got 30 seconds to go. I’m trying to think of another one, of the, of you know, for some reason I’m associating this with Pike’s Peak. I don’t know why but ...

Melinda: I don’t know if it’s “My Country ’Tis of...”  “America the Beautiful.”

Gregory Koukl: Yeah, “America the Beautiful.”

Melinda: The song was written by a woman who visited Pike’s Peak and saw the country laid out there.

Gregory Koukl: But as I recall, I have to look again at the lyrics. I think this is somehow involved. “Onward Christian Solider, marching us to war.” I mean a lot of songs during The Civil War had spiritual significance to them. You want me to hit the bell? Okay. Come on.

Melinda: Okay. Moving on.

Gregory Koukl: You get the point.

Melinda: I do. I got it. About a half minute ago. AlisonK18 asks, “Does Satan have access to our thoughts? I’ve heard since he’s not omniscient, he can’t read our minds, and can he insert thoughts or ideas in our minds?”

Gregory Koukl: Well, Satan is not omniscient, but that doesn’t mean he can’t read our minds. I mean, the two are unrelated. Omniscience means you know everything, and so therefore you would know the contents of somebody’s minds, but if you’re not omniscient, it doesn’t mean you don’t know the contents of people’s minds.

Melinda: So does he, can he read our minds?

Gregory Koukl: I think he can. I don’t know exactly how that’s grounded. I don’t know how he has access to our minds.

Melinda: Why do you think he does?

Gregory Koukl: Well part of the question here, can he put things into our minds, and the answer is he can put things in. Satan put it into Judas’ mind to betray Christ.

Melinda: Okay. But can he read our minds?

Gregory Koukl: Then there’s, when you think of the nature of the tempter, the tempter is someone, how does he tempt? I know people who push back on this want to say, “Well he’ll make a girl walk in front of you and that will tempt you to lust,” or something like that, but it seems to me that his temptations are much more thorough going than that.

I know that he can access our minds because of what it says there about Judas. So if he can put things into our mind, I don’t see why he couldn’t take anything out of our mind. It isn’t like there’s, our minds are hermetically sealed and so he has no access there.

Melinda: You don’t mean like remove thoughts? You mean pull information out.

Gregory Koukl: Correct. It’s what I mean, right.

Melinda: Okay. Well I don’t know about that.

Gregory Koukl: If he is able to place ideas in our minds, that means he’s got access there somehow.

Melinda: Well I have access to your mind in that case. I can suggest something and I put a thought in your mind.

Gregory Koukl: Well you have to talk to me. You have to talk to me.

Melinda: I know. So maybe he, you know, I just don’t know that the corollary goes along.

Gregory Koukl: Well, when it says in the gospels that, exactly the wording I don’t know, but he said Satan put it in his mind to ...

Melinda: I’m not disagreeing on the in part. I’m, I’m not saying, I don’t know that that means that the out part also works.

Gregory Koukl: Yeah, well it strikes me that both are equally ...

Melinda: Access to the mind.

Gregory Koukl: Well it’s access to the mind and if you think, how do you get something into somebody’s mind? You could tell me something and I could tell you something and then we have the medium of communication, verbal or otherwise, that allows us to exchange ideas, but he is able to accomplish an exchange of ideas or content without any verbal communication. Without any communication like that at all. That’s why I’m thinking that avenue is open. I don’t have any other verse at my fingertips that says he can pull this out of our minds, but certainly that one indicates he can put it in. So if he knows what we’re thinking I mean I ... That’s the avenue I’m taking.

Melinda: Okay.

Gregory Koukl: I’m pretty confident that he does. At least some of our thoughts.

Melinda: Well if it’s some of them, he’s got all of them.

Gregory Koukl: Well I don’t know if he’s got them all, but the question is whether he has, can he read our minds?

Melinda: Yes.

Gregory Koukl: Look if The Great Crezcan can read some people’s minds, it doesn’t mean he reads everybody’s mind all the time. And people are thinking who is The Great Crezcan? Well, it’s a fictitious character, but the point is, just because you could read part doesn’t mean you could read all.

Melinda: It’s also begging the question that he read their mind in the first place. I mean, you have Crezcans.

Gregory Koukl: I’m just making the point. Forget about Crezcan for a minute.

Melinda: Okay.

Gregory Koukl: I’m just making the point that simply because you can have some access doesn’t therefore mean that you have complete and perfect access. That’s all I’m saying.

Melinda: All righty.

Gregory Koukl: I think he has some access. Whether he can follow everything and read everything and we’re an open book to him, that I don’t know.

Melinda: Two minutes on this next one. Christine Sader, “Can you recommend a bible philosophy apologetics resource or memory work for kids in the grammar stage of trivium to help equip them in their faith?”

Gregory Koukl: Well it seems to me, I’m thinking now, there’s a couple of things that I’ve seen, but I just can’t recall them. Jay Warner Wallace’s friend, gal, wrote a book on ... She’s got a new book out. We’ll have to post this because I can’t remember her name. But I know she asked, she’s got a new one coming out too, but well Jim’s book on...

Melinda: Oh yeah.

Gregory Koukl: He’s done children’s version of that.

Melinda: Yeah and they’re coming out with more stuff.

Gregory Koukl: So that I recommend. World-Proofing Your Kids is another book, but that’s more for parents. For children, but this is just for children. The “I, Resurrection,” you know we think of Doug.

Melinda: Right. Doug Powell.

Gregory Koukl: Doug Powell’s book, “I, Resurrection,” and that could be used by adults or children.

Melinda: You might also check Mama Bear Apologetics. It’s a good site. They post a lot of apologetics contents but also resources for parents.

Gregory Koukl: Yeah. There you go.

Melinda: Okay. Well, that’s it for this week, folks. Your kids have been through the grammar stage already, so ...

Gregory Koukl: Yeah. True. They’re moving fast.

Melinda: By the way, Koukl cat had kittens, so if anybody wants a Koukl cat, you can contact the office.

Gregory Koukl: You can have them all.

Melinda: Yeah, six of them.

Gregory Koukl: Immediately.

Melinda: Well, one, at least one or two are spoken for.

Gregory Koukl: Kind of, yeah.

Melinda: Yeah. They have, I mean you know they have to ...

Gregory Koukl: It looks like one is gone. You’re right.

Melinda: They have to be weaned, so you can just throw them out tomorrow.

Gregory Koukl: They’re pretty much weaned now.

Melinda: Okay.

Gregory Koukl: Yeah, you take mama cat away. They’re weaned.

Melinda: Okay. And alive?

Gregory Koukl: Yeah. They’re alive. They eat food. They eat stuff.

Melinda: Okay.

Gregory Koukl: They eat the curtains.

Melinda: Okay. Well that’s it for this episode folks. Nice to have Greg back. He’ll be back pretty much consistently through the end of the year. Send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask. New episodes, you know back on the regular schedule, Mondays and Thursdays and we might be turning this into a video resource.

Gregory Koukl: Yes.

Melinda: Before too long.

Gregory Koukl: Which is fine with me. Melinda’s not too happy about it but I think it will be a lot more fun.

Melinda: So that’s it for this episode folks. I’m Melinda the Enforcer with Greg Koukl for Stand to Reason.