#STRask: March 9, 2017

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Published on 03/09/2017

Brett is on a timer this week and answers questions about God’s emotions and argument for the soul.


  • Is God sad when people sin? If so, He must be always sad because people always sin. My 9 year old asks.
  • On naturalism, every atom and cell in my body changes over time so identity is an illusion. Does that strengthen the argument for dualism?


Melinda: Hi there, this is Melinda the Enforcer. I’m here this time with Brett Kunkle and this is the STRask Podcast. I’m laughing because our engineer on the other side was sort of rocking out for the five seconds of that music, and he’s sort of like the whole totally opposite persona of rock out person.

Brett Kunkle: Yeah, he’s pretty stiff.

Melinda: It’s just sort of funny. He actually looks, Derek, actually looks a lot like the Fred Astaire puppet in the Christmas Special, the abominable, the snowman or something like that, which one.

Brett Kunkle: He does.

Melinda: I know that because he actually uses it as his picture on Facebook for a while. It’s like, “Oh yeah, he does look like that.”

Brett Kunkle: Don’t they call that a doppelganger?

Melinda: I don’t know anybody else who’s a doppelganger for a puppet though. Well this is the STRask Podcast and this is where you send us your questions on Twitter, and then whoever I’m asking the question to has four minutes to answer. It’s no different than-

Brett Kunkle: It’s the longest four minutes of my life.

Melinda: So we all know that Greg recently wrote a book, but people who already don’t know yet, Brett Kunkle has a book coming out in June. Why don’t you tell them a little bit about the book.

Brett Kunkle: That’s right. I co-wrote a book with John Stonestreet, who’s the President of the Colson Center, and it’s called A Practical Guide to Culture, subtitled, Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World. It’s out June 1st, it’s actually available for pre-order on Amazon. And what we wanted to do was really come alongside parents and youth leaders and pastors and try to help get a read on culture, where culture is at. What are some of the main ideas dominating culture? How does culture shape us, how do we make sense of the Christian view of reality, the story of reality in light of today’s culture? Then what are some of the specific issues that are our young people have to face and how do they navigate that? Then some really practical ways to help them navigate those issues. Yeah, I’m excited that we finally got it done.

Melinda: Of course. Yeah, really. All of us are facing this now, but especially students are facing a culture that really comes from a radically different worldview than we’ve sort of had the benefit of in most of our lives. It takes a lot more navigation because there aren’t even like any, very few shared values or principles we can agree on anymore.

Brett Kunkle: Yeah, I think that’s a key. You don’t have kind of these shared values that you can kind of rely on the public school teacher to be instilling and people in the community to be instilling. Or you see things on TV or shows-

Melinda: Music and everything now.

Brett Kunkle: Music, all of the stuff actually is often just antithetical, the Christian worldview. It’s continually grinding against the Christian worldview, and I think it forces us to have to be more intentional. So we try to give some very practical ways for parents to be intentional with their students.

Melinda: Great. I read it. It’s good and we’ll be selling it here at Stand To Reason too, when it comes out. First question comes from Samson L. Is God sad when people sin? If so, he must always be sad because people always sin? My nine-year-old asked this question.

Brett Kunkle: Yeah, great question from the nine year old. One of the passages that this brought to mind was Ephesians, chapter four, where it talks about grieving the Holy Spirit, and I was looking at the context of that passage is its kind of a Christian instruction and there’s a discussion of sin in that passage. It says, I think the phrase is, “and do not grieve the Holy Spirit.” It seems like there’s a connection between our sin, how we live, and grieving the Holy Spirit. The phrase actually isn’t, looking for the phrase in the Scriptures, as far as I’m aware it doesn’t occur too often in the Scripture. There’s another place in Isaiah, I think, where he talks about grieving, reference to grieving the Holy Spirit, but it’s not like that’s in there a lot.

I’m trying to think, off the top of my head, passages where it communicates kind of the sadness of God, but given those two passages, there does seem to be something about our sin grieving the Holy Spirit. If you want to characterize that as making God sad, that might be part of the equation. I think of the nine-year-old is kind of saying, “Well isn’t God sad all the time?”, because people are sinning all the time. Well in the, I don’t know if there’s a difference. I’m thinking out loud here, but maybe you can weigh in Melinda. If he would see the sin or if the sin - because I’m thinking in the Ephesians 4 passage is instructions to believers, and it uses the phrase “do not grieve the Holy Spirit” and then it says, “with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” and if there’s a difference in his posture towards the sin of believers and the sin of unbelievers, or just kind of all sins equally grieve God.

I’m curious what your thought is on that, but certainly I think Scripture does seem to give some indication that there is some kind of grieving or sadness that is associated with human sin that God has. Is God perpetually sad? I don’t think so, but I think he is sad at the sins of humanity, and also in addition to that though, he’s not just sad, he’s also righteously angry about it. So there’s other emotions that we would say, “He’s angry as well because he’s just.” Maybe the grief comes from, maybe that’s kind of associated with maybe his attribute of love. As a loving and a merciful God, seeing the death and destruction and all that’s associated with sin, maybe some of that grieving flows out of his attributes of love. So yeah, it seems to be, there’s some indication in Scripture there’s some sadness associated with sin that God has.

Melinda: Yeah. Now we should say that God doesn’t experience emotions the way we do, so it’s, I don’t know quite how to explain how that makes a difference on this, but it’s not like sadness, God’s sadness, it doesn’t like sort of depress him or bring him down or anything like that. Yeah, I was thinking while you were talking, while the sins of the believer might grieve the Holy Spirit, the sins of an unbeliever make God angry and that’s sort of the difference between being in Christ and not being in Christ. Even though we sin, God is not angry at us anymore because he’s not going to take the righteous justice of our sin out on us.

I was listening to a sermon the other day and the - it was about the union with Christ, our union with Christ, and seeing our identities as our union in Christ - and one of the points he made was just sort of a practical at working of that is when we really live as though we are in union with Christ, it should actually affect whether we follow through on temptation or not. He wasn’t talking about necessarily that, that sin would make Jesus sad, but more just that, that’s not consistent with our new identity in Christ, if we are really in him.

Brett Kunkle: I was just thinking about making sure you distinguish between kind of human emotion and-

Melinda: God’s emotion.

Brett Kunkle: What God experiences. I think that’s where it’s helpful to use the biblical language because it doesn’t say, “God is sad and upset about you know.”

Melinda: And then he’s going to get happy after.

Brett Kunkle: Right and then this made him happy, but it uses the phrase “grieve.” There seems to be a little more depth in what that means versus just, “Oh I’m sad about something.”

Melinda: Yeah because I guess what I was thinking made that comment is our emotions are, I can’t think of the proper words I know I learned in theology class, but our emotions are always up and down, they’re fleeting, they’re here and there. God’s emotions aren’t that way. God is steady, unchanging in his internal condition. Yeah, so he’s not sad in the same way we would be sad. When kids are little, maybe that’s a way of talking to them about sin, but as they grow, you help them to think it through and more depth. Yeah.

Brett Kunkle: Yep. Absolutely.

Melinda: Okay, next question comes from Ken Acker. On naturalism. Every atom and cell in my body changes over time so identity is an illusion. Does that strengthen the argument for dualism?

Brett Kunkle: Simply put, yes. Yes, I think that, given a kind of a naturalistic account, you don’t have anything that anchors identity because yes, as your body changes, if that’s all we amount to then eventually identity is gone over time. What helps us to maintain identity, what gives this kind of an enduring self over time, and if the physical can’t anchor it then, I think, then you have to look beyond that. You have an enduring self or soul that does anchor identity. Yeah I think that is a good reason to think that dualism can account for this when naturalism can’t.

Melinda: Yeah, because the soul is the continuous, unchanging part of a human being.

Brett Kunkle: Yeah.

Melinda: Well we’re actually going to make this a really short episode because we actually have to record the long podcast in like 12 minutes, and I want to give you a few minutes to prepare for that.

Brett Kunkle: Yes.

Melinda: We just like went on and on. So this has been fun, thank you Brett for doing this.

Brett Kunkle: Yeah. Thanks for letting me sit in.

Melinda: That was Brett Kunkle, STR’s student speaker. I’m Melinda the Enforcer and this is Stand to Reason.