Brett’s on a timer and answers questions about free will, Psalms, and Satan.
- If we sin because God gave us free will, does that mean there will be no free will in Heaven?
- How would you apply Psalm 91 if you were preaching on it?
- If God is all knowing, why didn’t He banish Satan to Hell after they originally rebelled? Why just cast them to Earth?
Melinda: Hi there, I’m Melinda the Enforcer, and I’m here with Brett Kunkle. Not Greg Koukl, not Brett Koukl, Brett Kunkle.
Brett: No relation whatsoever.
Melinda: Except in the Lord.
Brett: That’s right.
Melinda: In the same family in Christ.
Brett: Yeah. No blood relation. I get that question all the time.
Melinda: You still do?
Brett: Yeah, “So, what’s it like working for your dad?”
Melinda: So what is it like? Are you Brett’s real dad...
Brett: I say, “Oh, you mean my granddad?”
Melinda: Oh gosh. Yeah, Kunkle and Koukl. It’s just like, they both have too many k’s and l’s and not enough vowels in there somewhere. But Brett’s real dad is Santa Claus.
Brett: That’s right. You can actually book him for your next Christmas party. Go to santaslittlecorner.com and book Gary Kunkle.
Melinda: Yeah, you see pictures of him, he totally looks like Santa. He’s gray, he’s got the big beard, and he really enjoys it.
Brett: Oh yeah. He sees it as a ministry, he gets to work with a lot of kids.
Melinda: Yeah, that’s good. So this is STR Ask, #STRask, it’s the short podcast with short answers, and your questions come from Twitter. Use #STRask, and we’ll find them. And here we go. First question, Brett. I see, what...Here we go. If we sin because God gave us free will, does that mean there will be no free will in heaven, because we can’t sin?
Brett: Okay, so there’s...I’ve heard two responses to this, and I’m not exactly sure where I fall. I think I lean probably towards the first response, is that we will...I hear some philosophers say, “We’ll have a different ontological status.”
Melinda: What does that mean?
Brett: In that...I suppose they explain it, I’m not sure exactly what that means.
Melinda: Philosophers, and we love philosophy, can be very good at hiding behind fancy terms.
Brett: It seems like...Okay, so this one, clearly there’s no clear answer in scripture on this. But I think...So we’re gonna kind of have to infer, gonna have to reason through this, but it could be the case that we know we’re gonna have resurrected bodies. We know there’s gonna be a change in our human nature. We’re no longer gonna have a fallen human nature that has inclined us towards sin, we’re gonna have a different human nature, a resurrected body.
So, some will want to say that free will is simply uncoerced choice. So, there’s no coercion, and you freely choose. And in that case, we will have free will. We won’t be coerced to choose, but we will choose what is simply consistent with our nature. And our nature will be such that we will choose righteousness all the rest of eternity. And so if that’s what free will is, then that’s consistent with having free will in heaven, because we’ll have a new human nature.
Others have said that our access to God...I’ve heard this response. This one I don’t think is as compelling. I think the first one...I think that one is more satisfying to me. But the second response I’ve heard is that, well, we will have this kind of libertarian freedom where you got the CDO condition, “could’ve done other,” but because of our access to God, kind of the close relationship we’ll enter into, what I think the medieval call the “Beatific Vision” will be so overwhelming, and so we will be so immersed in kind of that close, deep relationship with the lord, that we will want nothing other than to choose righteousness.
So that’s another response I’ve heard, that you could...That yeah, that’s what then somehow secures freedom that always chooses righteousness. I think I’m more compelled by the second one, we get a new human nature.
Melinda: I agree with you. Because I think the problem with the “could’ve done otherwise” condition for free will is that God can’t do otherwise, and yet, I think we all want to say, he has free will.
Brett: Yeah. That’s why, I think the CDO condition can be problematic, and I think if we just talk about free will, and define it as uncoerced choice, that seems to be, then, consistent with God as well, who cannot sin.
Melinda: And a good thing he can’t.
Melinda: Okay good, thanks. Next question comes from Allforhim. How would you apply Psalm 91 if you were preaching on it? So what does Psalm 91 say, you have it open there?
Brett: Yeah, I’ll read the psalm. It’s Psalm 91, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust. For it is he who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wing, you will seek refuge. His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day, of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.”
“A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand. But it shall not approach you. You will only look on with your eyes, and see the recompense of the wicked. For you have made the Lord, my refuge, even the Most High your dwelling place. No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent. For He will give his angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in your hands, lest you strike your foot against the stone.”
“You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down. Because He has loved me, therefore, I will deliver him. I will set him securely on High, because he has known my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer Him. I will be with Him in trouble. I will rescue Him and honor Him with a long life. I will satisfy Him and let him behold my salvation.”
Okay. So I think...Start with the genre. I think we step back here, and we look at just good biblical interpretation. And one of the things you’ve gotta consider is the genre, the type of writing it is. So this is wisdom literature, but specifically, it is a collection of songs and poems that people - David writing many of them - but many of them we don’t know who the authors are. They’re writing songs and poems that then Israel set to music, and would sing these as worship to the Lord.
And so, we start there. And what they give us then, these songs and poems, are people kind of speaking back to the Lord, right? And so they give us a real good theology of who God is. So I think when we go to the psalms, one of the primary things we’re looking for there is a theology of God. What does this reveal about who God is?
Melinda: I have to say, most of, I guess, how I think about God is formed by the psalms.
Brett: Yeah. There’s so much there. There’s so much theology in the psalms, and it really gives us a good picture of who God is. So I think that’s the starting place. If I’m gonna preach from this psalm, I’m gonna first look and say, “Well what does this tell me about the Lord?”
And in here, there’s kind of a conversation, in a sense, where the psalmist is writing things about God, but then also writing about the things that God is saying back. So it gives us a good theology of God as, number one, one thing that stands out is God is protector, right? God is one who, under his wings you may seek refuge. And so he’s our protector, he is sovereign, he watches over us...So then, from that, there’s application we can draw. We can go to Him when we’re in trouble, as this psalmist says. We can trust in his protection.
But then also, I think, a second thing that we see that psalms do for us, is not only does it give us theology, but oftentimes, it brings...It kind of connects emotion, I think, with theology. And I think that’s really good for those of us in the apologetics world, the philosophical world, right, to tie those two things together, because you have, sometimes, just very raw expression of emotion, and very celebratory praise of God, and you can almost see the shouting and joyfulness that kind of comes with this.
So I think that the emotional response is modeled for us on what these truths, how transformative these truths are for us. So I think, first and foremost, if I’m gonna teach on Psalm 91, I’m gonna say, this is what it tells us about the Lord, and then look at the response, here’s the proper response. Yeah, I think that’s it. That’s all I got.
Melinda: That’s pretty good. One of the things I like about many of the psalms, is I think they’re good for self-instruction and self-exhortation to instruct our souls. So you know, like in this psalm, this psalm refers to the terrors, and the things that are fearful...Those things are still there, but we exhort ourselves to hide under God’s wing behind his shield, to think of all these things about God that does reassure us, and keep us safe, despite all of these things.
So a lot times, I’ve used the psalms to counsel myself, and to counsel my soul when it’s not feeling very safe or comfortable, or whatever.
Melinda: Psalm 19 and Psalm 119, you know, that’s good instruction. It’s more left brain instruction about loving the law of the Lord, and that’s a different kind of exhortation about reminding myself to cultivate a love for that and stuff.
So that’s one of the things I really love about the psalms, is just instructing my soul.
Brett: Yeah, and there’s hope even when you’re realistic about the things that you face...Just thinking about kind of our current culture, in that the tendency for us as Christians to despair, right? Well here you have someone who is saying, “Do not be afraid,” or “You will not be afraid of the terror by night, the arrow that flies by day, the pestilence that stalks in darkness, destruction that lays waste at noon, a thousand may fall at your side...”
I mean, okay, if we think we’ve got it bad, you know, in American culture in all that we see, well, we can go back and realize, hey, for many believers, probably the vast majority of believers, it was a lot worse, and the Lord was still there protecting and sovereign, and in control. So I think that’s a good word.
Melinda: Next question. Last question, and then you’re off the hook today.
Melinda: If God is all-knowing, why didn’t he banish Satan to Hell after they originally rebelled? Why just cast them to earth and let Satan still have some free activity to do harm?
Brett: Yeah, well this doesn’t seem to be something that we have kind of clear insight from scripture on. We do know that Hell is the final banishment of unbelievers, and of...Hades and Satan are all thrown into the Lake of Fire, or Hell, at the end of the judgment. So Hell actually didn’t exist when Satan rebelled, it’s the final punishment, the final banishment.
Now, I guess you could kind of play this one out and say, “Well, why didn’t God create Hell at that point, and just get it over with?” And that seems to me to be one of those questions that we could maybe try to infer some things, and reason through some things, but there’s certainly, clearly, no clear answer. It seems to me, given God’s nature, who He is in terms of His holiness and His justice, His mercy, that He has...He’s got good reasons. He has morally sufficient reasons to allow the kinds of things that he allows, or to cause the things that he causes. Both fall under his will, what he causes and he allows. And he has morally sufficient reasons, given his nature, and given his omniscience, that we simply just don’t know what the goods are that he is accomplishing through those things.
So to allow Satan to rule this earth, and to cause the havoc he’s caused, and for the evil that he’s helped perpetrate, we don’t know what all the goods are, we can’t see. And certainly, therefore, we can’t say that God is not justified in this, because how could you ever do that calculus? You just couldn’t.
And I always think about my kids as kind of a rough analogy for this. Because there are certain things that I do that my kids...They have no clue why I’m doing it, even if I were to cause them pain, or to allow them to suffer a little bit, I have greater goods in mind, and even if I...Even when I try to explain to them when they’re young enough, that they’re mind’s capacity is such that they can’t even understand it, even when I’m giving them an explanation.
So in the same way, there’s kind of this, you know, epistemological gap between me and my child. Well what about a finite being and an infinite being, who sees all things? And often we, I think, somewhat, we focus on kind of the bad and the evil that we see, but oftentimes, what goes under-reported, or unreported, is all the goods that come from some catastrophe, or years later even. And we just don’t know how some, you know, horrible evil, can change the course of history. So in the same way, we don’t know how God is using Satan, and the demons to ultimately accomplish his purposes.
Melinda: And even if, in any particular evil, there’s no specific redemptive good that comes out of that particular situation, just...You’re talking about the entire situation that we have, this world will lead to the best of all possible worlds, because God has allowed all these things in the meantime. It all has an ultimate purpose in producing goods that would never have come if we didn’t live in a fallen world.
Melinda: I mean, there are some virtues that don’t exist without evil.
Brett: Yeah, that’s right.
Melinda: And those things would never come about, we’d never develop those things if we didn’t live in circumstances that challenged us.
Brett: Yeah, if you think about something like courage, right? Courage developed in the face of danger, or in the face of evil, where you then have these heroic acts. Heroic acts are often done in the face of great evil or challenges, and so yeah, there’s certain moral virtues that it doesn’t seem like we could really hone and develop, or they would even exist without the existence of evil.
So that’s us kind of speculating on the kinds of goods that God may have in mind, and why he allows certain things, why he allows Satan to roam.
Melinda: So, okay, you’re off the hook now Brett.
Brett: Woo hoo!
Melinda: So that’s it for this episode. Send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask, and still call in on Tuesdays, we’ve got our long podcast. Brett’s doing it today, but you can talk to Greg normally. I’m Melinda the Enforcer, with Brett Kunkle for Stand to Reason.