Christian Living

#STRask: March 21, 2016

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Published on 03/21/2016

Greg talks about if Jesus is less than equal to the Father, if churches should host Easter egg hunts, why Noah had to build an ark instead of just moving, burial vs. cremation, and how God is providing if one is doing the work for the check to buy necessities


  • If the Son is begotten, then He is dependent upon the Father for existence. Does this make Him less than equal to the Father?
  • Should churches host Easter egg hunts?
  • If it was a local flood, why not just move Noah and family to an unaffected area - why spend decades building the ark?
  • Is there any hard biblical stance on burial vs. cremation? If so, what happens to saved Christians who die in fires, etc?
  • How is God providing when I am the one working for a check to buy housing, food etc. Do I have the wrong understanding?


Melinda: Hey, there. This is the STRask podcast. This is Melinda the Enforcer, with Greg Koukl. What’s so funny?

Greg: Hey, there.

Melinda: Hey, there. That’s hilarious?

Greg: No, I’m just saying hey there, Mindy.

Melinda: Alrighty.

Greg: So sparky today.

Melinda: I’m just trying to be energetic. You’ve always said you have to bring energy to radio or podcast.

Greg: That’s right.

Melinda: I think you just have been in this enclosed room for 2 hours already. I think you’ve just been breathing carbon dioxide. Going crazy.

Greg: Well, good to have you share my carbon dioxide here in the booth.

Melinda: I brought my own oxygen mask, so... Okay. Anyways. This is the STRask podcast and it’s called that because that’s how you send your questions to us on Twitter. Use #STRask and Greg answers them in 4 minutes or less on this short podcast which we post every Tuesday, and also don’t forget, we still have the regular podcast. Call in and talk to Greg. You get more thorough answers, more discussion, and...

Greg: You don’t have to put up with Melinda.

Melinda: Exactly. Okay. Ready to go, Greg?

Greg: Okay. Rock and Roll.

Melinda: First question comes from Answers Ready on Twitter. If the Son is begotten, then he is dependent upon the father for existence. Does this make him less than equal to the Father?

Greg: Well...

Melinda: We always play that.

Greg: I know, just always catches me by surprise. All right. Okay, so...

Melinda: Turn up your hearing aid.

Greg: We have to use the word begotten. That’s an English word. That’s a translation from monogenes, I think is the Greek word in the New Testament. What we can’t do is we can’t import our English understandings of this word into the theology of the doctrine of Christ. We have to, if we have to let the text speak itself about these things and define our words for us.

Melinda: Sorry. Just something really quickly. The council in Nicaea...

Greg: Stop my timer there.

Melinda: Yeah, really, they did struggle with finding the best language that they could because we don’t have completely accurate words to describe all this.

Greg: Yes, and it’s difficult and monogenes could be one of a kind, the one and only, or the only generated one. Anyway, the language historically has been begottenness and the way it’s been characterized by the theologians is that Jesus is eternally begotten of the Father, so there’s a... Whatever this begottenness relationship amounts to, it’s something that’s eternal, and it’s meant not to communicate a dependency, but a way of distinguishing members of the Trinity.

If Jesus has all the attributes of God, and the Father does, and so does the Spirit, then in what ways do we ground a distinction between the persons? One of the ways has been to ground it by their... I almost said behaviors, but what I really mean is their job, so to speak. This is called the economic Trinity. Each does something different. They have different functions, so to speak. The Father gives, the Holy Spirit draws, the Son redeems, and things like that.

There’s a way in terms of activities there, or the part they play, to distinguish, but a deeper, more ontological distinction, metaphysical maybe distinction that has been made is that the Son is different from the Father in that the Son is eternally begotten from the Father, and the Spirit is distinguished because he is spirited from either the Father or the Father and the Son, depending on whether you are in the Eastern or the Western tradition, so that was the distinction that caused the great schism on the first millennium.

The point I’m making here is that these are attempts to try to find words as you mentioned earlier, to try to make distinctions based on things we see in scripture, so we are not using an English word begotten, and importing our understanding of that. The Jehovah’s witnesses do this. He’s begotten, that means he was made, but the counsel specifically says begotten, not made, so there isn’t that confusion. That’s, I think, the counsel and I see it and agree.

Begotten, not made. There’s something about the relationship between the Father and the Son that distinguishes them, but it does not detract at all from their sharing of the Divine nature. The early fathers understood this, and so they worded these words in that particular way. What Jehovah’s witnesses do, for example, is they go to John, chapter 1 and they see the one and begotten, and they say, “See, begotten means to have a child.” That means he must have been created, but they are importing our common sense notions, or our common understanding of the meanings of those English words into the concept of the text, but the text itself doesn’t teach that thing.

The text isn’t teaching that Jesus was begotten in that sense. In fact, it teaches the opposite. Chapter 1, just above that verse in question – it says, “in the beginning there was the word, the word was with God, the word was God, He was in the beginning with God and all things came to being through Him. Apart from Him nothing came to being that has come into being.” First 3 verses there, John, the point being that the one call the word is the uncreated creator, so whatever that relationship of begottenness amounts to between the Father and the Son, it can’t amount to a created dependent being in that sense. Jesus is still fully God according to the testimony of John in chapter 1.

Melinda: You have an article in our website people can go to called “Christianity, Case Closed” that goes through this verse.

Greg: “Deity of Christ: Case Closed.”

Melinda: “Deity of Christ: Case Closed” – thank you, and two authors that we really like their books on the Trinity are Fred Sanders and James White.

Greg: Yes. Right.

Melinda: They both have short books on the Trinity.

Greg: Yeah. James is really good in dealing with the bare bones facts of the Trinity and all that common stuff. I like the way Fred Sanders... What’s the word?

Melinda: Really delves into the meaning and the implications.

Greg: The Trinity blossoms. Blossoms for you.

Melinda: It really talks about how it shows and how it affects all theology. How it really affects our lives and lives it out.

Greg: Right.

Melinda: Given that I think a lot of churches don’t actually teach on particulars of theology anymore, people need to start with the basics.

Greg: I like the way Fred Sanders helps us to see the elegance of the Trinity and the usefulness for our spiritual development, and it’s not that James White... He’s trying to do a different thing with his book.

Melinda: Yeah, they are different books, both.

Greg: We commend them both.

Melinda: Yeah. Get them both, because they do different things.

Greg: James White was The Forgotten Trinity and Sanders...

Melinda: He’s got a few, so...

Greg: Yeah, I’m trying...

Melinda: Just go look them up.

Greg: Yeah. Fred Sanders.

Melinda: Yeah. Fred. I don’t know if it’s still in print. Fred even had a children’s comic book on Trinity.

Greg: That’s true. He’s actually publishing another book. Zondervan publishes his book on the Trinity. I just found out last week when we saw them in Nashville that that’s coming out, so here you go.

Melinda: Next question comes from A.J. Rhodes on Twitter. Should Christians hold Easter egg hunts?

Greg: I don’t have any objection to it. In fact, we’ve had them in our family. The question would be what is the principal objection to that kind of thing.

Melinda: Probably it comes from a pagan practice.

Greg: Maybe it came from a pagan practice, but it is not a pagan practice when we do it. This is an important distinction. Just because certain behaviors are done by others in association with a pagan practice, doesn’t mean that when we mimic those behaviors that we are somehow participating in those same things, like Christmas trees. People have claimed there’s some kind of pagan origin to that, or Jack-o-lanterns at Halloween, et cetera, et cetera, same thing with eggs during Christmas as fertility.

Melinda: You do eggs at Christmas?

Greg: No, I’m sorry. For Easter.

Melinda: I was going to say... What kinds of practices does your family have?

Greg: That’s really pagan then. That’s right.

We hard boil eggs, color them, and hide them.

Melinda: And then find them.

Greg: And then eat them.

Melinda: There are a few times we didn’t find them all. I couldn’t eat them once they’re colored.

Greg: You couldn’t?

Melinda: No. To me they were gross then. My parents didn’t make us eat them, either. Thank goodness.

Greg: Well, if they’re cracked sometimes the color goes through, but don’t tell my girls that because then...

Melinda: Do they listen to this podcast?

Greg: No, but they listen to you, and you might say “I don’t eat them.”

Melinda: I think I actually told them already and they thought it was weird, too, so you trained them well.

Greg: Yes, but the point is we’re just chasing eggs; it’s no big deal. In fact, in many cases they’re not even real eggs, they’re just plastic eggs with little toys inside of them or something like that, so no, I don’t...

Melinda: I remember when Annabeth would...

Greg: The thinking is wrong and it’s going to create all kinds of problems if you go on that route.

Melinda: I remember when Annabeth was 3 and she came over and I hid eggs and she went hunting for them, she called them “picken” eggs at the time, but I remember I hid their plastic eggs and I had put little marshmallows, little Easter marshmallows in there. I remember junk food.

Greg: That’s what Auntie Mindy does to my daughters.

Melinda: Excuse me. It’s Easter.

Greg: That...

Melinda: Greg says “Why couldn’t you put grapes in there?” He wanted me to put grapes inside Easter eggs.

Greg: This is just the Easter excuse for junk food. There’s always an excuse or some, you know, some kind of sweet.

Melinda: Well, I don’t see them every day, so...

Greg: Yeah.

Melinda: I know some people are concerned that doing some of these practices on Easter or Christmas, Santa Claus at Christmas, can confuse children because you talk about the Easter bunny, you talk about Santa Claus, you talk about Jesus.

A long time ago, I remember we were discussing Santa and you said you had a friend who said when she found out Santa wasn’t real, she figured Jesus wasn’t real either.

Greg: Well, that’s not the only person how that happened.

Melinda: No, I know, but I think it’s a minority. I have to say in those cases I wonder how Jesus is being talked about, you know?

Greg: Mm-hmm.

Melinda: Not to also give an anecdotal reason as those are. I was raised as a Christian. We did Santa Claus, we did the Easter bunny, but you know what? We worshiped Jesus. We went to church every Sunday for Jesus. It was never remotely in my mind that my parents were talking about them in the same way.

Greg: Yeah. Okay.

Melinda: Jesus never hid Easter eggs.

Greg: Yeah. I just say, with regards to that issue...

Melinda: He did something better.

Greg: Yeah. When I... There was no Easter for Jesus, you know? He invented Easter.

Melinda: Exactly. He is risen.

Greg: Yeah.

Melinda: What do you say? He is risen.

Greg: Indeed. Indeed.

Melinda: “He is risen indeed, hallelujah.” I haven’t trained you right.

Greg: I know the response. I’m just trying to manage a train of thought here with you whacking me for not getting the indeed part out. All right.

I just wanted to go back to this comment about... My difficulty with Santa Claus was affirming the existence of someone who did not exist. We have things from Santa... It’s part of the whole make believe thing about Christmas and... My girls understand that Jesus is not make believe, but Santa is, so we can enjoy the good parts without running that other risk, but that’s all I have to say about that. Indeed.

Melinda: All right. Indeed. Hallelujah.

Next question from JohnHay40. If it was a local flood, and we talked about this on the show probably last week, or no, it was a video blog. If it was a local flood, why not just move Noah and his family to an unaffected area? Why spend decades building the Ark? I thought this was a very good question. If you wanted to save Noah and his family and these animals, why not just give them a secret map to a location that wasn’t going to be flooded?

Greg: Well, or let’s just say He did that.

Melinda: Yeah.

Greg: And then I can say “Why didn’t He just have them build an Ark?”

The point of this response is that you can always ask the question regardless of what took place, you can always ask the question of “Why didn’t God do it otherwise?”

I can imagine there is a reason for building the Ark for the 100 years or so. For one, it carried all the animals, okay? All the animals in that region would have been underwater and killed if he didn’t have an ark. It wasn’t just to save Adam, or rather, Noah. It was also the animals.

Melinda: God brought them to the ark. He could have made them follow Noah to a safer place.

Greg: Yeah, he could have. That’s not what he chose to do. He chose to make the ark.

Melinda: I think there was a purpose for the ark.

Greg: I think so, too.

Melinda: Wasn’t the ark supposed to be a witness to the...

Greg: I’m not finished, yet.

Melinda: Go ahead. Well, you looked...

Greg: I have 59 seconds that I used up. I still got 3 more minutes.

Yes. I am working towards that conclusion in my 4 minute response. There was also...

Melinda: I just found a weakness in your argument before you got too far.

Greg: But there wasn’t any weakness in the argument.

Melinda: Yes, there was.

Greg: It was just something that I hadn’t gotten to yet, so as I was saying, I need a credit for the last 20 seconds. As I was saying, there is another element, and that is this testimony to the people who are watching, okay, for 120 years, there was a kind of a preachment, and I don’t know where... How much is in the book of Genesis and how much is made reference to in the New Testament, but as I recall there was kind of a testimony there.

The point is we don’t, just because we can’t answer the why question – why didn’t God do it this way rather than that way – doesn’t mean that we’re not justified the whole view. We do hold it in the face of these unanswered questions and what I have said is it could be either. It could be a global flood, or it could be a localized flood that I characterize in the world that it was. The way Peter described in 2 Peter.

It could be either. I don’t really have a horse in this race. My understanding is the geology does not substantiate a universal or a world-wide flood or global flood, rather, and so I’m just going to follow the facts, but it can go either way for me. I don’t see why it has to be one or the other. The text certainly leaves it open for that and if the geological evidence supports the notion, I don’t see why I should go that way. Because I can’t answer why didn’t God just give him a secret map and have him hike a couple of months or a year to get out of the region that was going to be flooded, I don’t know why he didn’t do that. He decided to do it otherwise. Who knows what God is up to? I can’t figure it out most of the time.

Melinda: It’s true. We have two books of revelation. The specific verbal one in the Bible, but also creation.

Greg: Right.

Melinda: When the bible leaves some open for figuring...

Greg: Some latitude.

Melinda: Some latitude, we can then bring in some facts from the... And the world doesn’t necessarily... The reading of that does not require the entire world. It can mean the known world.

Greg: I recently read back over this material and again, even from the internal evidence of the text itself, one is not required to presume that the entire globe was covered with water because the way the words, these universal words are used. It’s clear that they don’t always mean that, so it would take me time to go over the particulars, but I’m looking at Genesis 8 right now and it just isn’t the case that the wording internally requires that interpretation.

Melinda: I guess I’ve always... This is, you don’t have to. I don’t expect you to answer this necessarily. I guess I always just sort of wondered, and I have no idea what the science is on this, if it was not a global flood, if it was a local flood, how did the water stay that high for so long after it stopped raining?

Greg: Yeah.

Melinda: It seems like if there was some place for it to go, it would have dispersed.

Greg: Right. Right. I just found this verse. This chapter 8, verse 5. “The water decreased steadily until the 10th month. In the 10th month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains became visible.” Okay. Pretty clear. There was visible land identified in verse 5. “Then it came about the end of 40 days, Noah opened the window of the ark, which he had made and he sent out a raven and flew here and there until the waters dried up from the Earth. He sent out a dove to see if the water was abated from the face of the Earth, but the dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot. She returned into the ark for the water was on the surface of all of the Earth.”

Wait a minute. Verse 9 says it was on the surface of all the Earth, and verse 5 says the tops of the mountains became visible. Now, that’s either a contradiction, verse 5 the mountains are visible, verse 9 says the water...

Melinda: No, I don’t think so. You can say it’s covering the whole Earth while the peaks are still showing.

Greg: That’s exactly the point I’m making, that the phrase covering all the Earth is a flexible verse and it doesn’t mean that the entire geography is underwater.

Melinda: No. I mean I agree with you.

Greg: That’s the point that I’m making. It’s exactly the point I’m making. Even with the internal context of that account itself we have...

Melinda: The use of words.

Greg: The way the words are used does not require a universal flood. Yeah. That’s it.

Melinda: Okay. Is there hard biblical stance on burial versus cremation, and if there is a hard biblical stance against cremation, what happens to, say, Christians who die in fires.

Greg: I don’t know of any hard biblical evidence against cremation. I’ve never seen it, and I don’t even think those people who are against cremation argue that way. That is, they don’t say here is where the bible says you shouldn’t be cremated. I think that the problem is not God’s ability to reconstruct the original body because all decay is slow cremation. It’s still oxidation whether it happens fast or whether it’s slow, that the... From dust man came, into dust he shall return. So, this all gets the body, generally speaking, get recycled. That was the standard until people were put into coffins.

It was hard for their parts to go anywhere, but still they decomposed even so. The so-called Christian burial had to do with their dignity the body had because of the unity of the soul, which was made in the image of God, and I used to be fine with cremation. I didn’t have any difficulty. Disposal of the body as inexpensively as possible was my view, and then I heard some arguments against cremation that traded on this notion that I just described, and I thought they were compelling.

I think that burying the body in a certain way, even though in the long run the end result is the same, there seems to be more dignity that it communicated regarding the physical body that... I don’t want to say quite housed the soul, because that’s kind of Cartesian dualism, but there is a deep unity and so let’s just acknowledge the unit of the soul with the body. Just leave it at that. The soul made the image of God. That dignifies the human body in a way that it’s properly acknowledged in a so-called Christian burial, where it seems to many, and I can understand the point, that it is not acknowledged in a cremation, which cremation never does the job entirely anyway, and so they have to find a way to dispose of what’s left. I won’t describe that here, but it’s not very pretty.

Melinda: Yeah.

Greg: I can certainly see the point. I can see the point, but there’s no hard biblical evidence.

Melinda: No, there isn’t. I think what you brought up, the importance of the dignity of the body, because it is also created by God in good, is something that I, the first time, I think I lost sight of in favor of cremation, but I think that’s just an attitude adjustment. I don’t think that necessarily argues against cremation. I mean, your last point, after all cremation is just making happen faster what would happen slowly, you know? In a certain sense I think it’s even more dignified, anyways.

Greg: Alright. I’ll let you have the last word.

Melinda: Oh, thank you. Yeah. I don’t mean to jump in on every one of these, but I think it’s possible to still show proper respect for the body in cremation.

Last question from Jay Otterman. How is God providing when I am the one working for a check to buy housing, food, et cetera. Do I have the wrong understanding?

Greg: Yeah. I dealt with that today in a video blog. The answer is that God ordains means and ends. Let’s say for example that we say that my dad provided a car for me. Wow. You are given the keys, right? We don’t say “Dad, it’s not really a provision of transportation unless you drive the car.” “You mean you want me to get in and turn the wheel and all that?” “No, I’m going to sit in the back seat. You are not providing for me if you don’t drive the car.”

I think that’s a parallel to this kind of circumstance. God provides jobs for us, opportunities to labor and work with our hands in order to make a living. That’s a provision. That’s a bona fide legitimate provision. I don’t think we are justified in questioning whether it is really provision, when we’re the ones that have to follow up and do the work. I just don’t see it that way.

God has not promised to provide in the sense that we are couch potatoes and spoon fed everything we need, like invalids. He has constructed us to be... He has created us with ends in mind and one of the ends that is a natural end for human nature is to be involved in meaningful activity. Work. That didn’t come from the fall. Toil came from the fall.

Melinda: There’s going to be work in Heaven. The new creation.

Greg: Exactly right. There’s going to be work in Heaven. There’s going to be meaningful activity for us and that’s...

Melinda: Working with you is going to be so much easier then.

Greg: That’s good. I’ll just let that one slide. The work part is good and so it is a good thing that even though there’s toil involved, it is a good thing that we have a contribution to make in the midst of God’s provision.

“Look, I provided you a whole field of wheat to be able to make bread with.” “God, that’s not real provision. You have to go and harvest for me and cook the bread and then put it in my mouth and move my jaws.” No, that isn’t the sense of provision that God has for us. We participate in it and thank God for all that He’s given us, but we still have responsibility as well.

Melinda: This kind of makes me think of the decision making teaching and the wisdom model. Instead of expecting God to hand us our decisions and direct every decision, instead He gives us other things to use wisdom. He gives us opportunity, he gives us counsel, he gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us, he gives us insight.

He gives us the tools to make our decisions in the same way. He provides all kinds of resources to give us work.

Greg: That’s right. That’s right. There’s no inconsistency there with us working and God providing. The two go hand in hand.

Melinda: That’s it for this week, folks. You can send us your questions on Twitter. Use #STRask. That’s the name of the podcast. We post a new episode every Monday. I am Melinda, the Enforcer, with Greg Koukl for the STRask podcast.