Greg’s on a timer and answers questions about Biblical inspiration, dispensationalism, and Biblical models for church leadership.
- Do you believe the Bible had redactors? What, if any, are the consequences of thinking so on the doctrine of inspiration?
- As a dispensationalist, what is our current dispensation, when did it begin, when does it end, and what is the next one?
- Is there Scriptural justification for the role of senior pastor vs. a church being led by a co-equal plurality of elders?
Greg Koukl: Sounds like Melinda singing on helium.
Melinda: Yeah, I told him I was going to sing anniversary song, but he downloaded it. I couldn’t have sung that.
Greg Koukl: You could if you sucked up some helium.
Melinda: Well, welcome to the STRask Podcast. I’m Melinda the Enforcer with Greg Koukl, and the day we’re recording this is our staff meeting and we were celebrating our 24th anniversary for Stand to Reason
Greg Koukl: Yes, which was actually yesterday.
Melinda: Right, May 1st.
Greg Koukl: And, wow, and you don’t look a day older.
Melinda: It’s ’cause I color my hair.
Greg Koukl: No, I can honestly-
Melinda: You look a lot of years...days older.
Greg Koukl: ...I- Thank you. I can-
Melinda: It doesn’t feel like that long though does it?
Greg Koukl: ...No, I can say at 24 years working with you, and I have not regretted a single day of it.
Melinda: Me either.
Greg Koukl: That day was September 23rd, 19-
Melinda: That day was May 1st, 1993. The first day.
Greg Koukl: Oh, my goodness. No, it’s quite an amazing thing, what God has accomplished. We were reflecting on that-
Melinda: Had no idea.
Greg Koukl: ...at our staff meeting, or I was, and just...it’s just, to me magnificent. I am largely...I know this sounds odd to a lot of people, but I feel like a spectator to what God is doing. I work for Stand to Reason, and I’m glad to be part of this organization, and to be working with all the wonderful people that we have to serve. And I look at how our staff has expanded, especially in the last three years, and how our impact I think, or our ability to serve the people who look to us has expanded, and I’m just in awe. I’m in awe what God has done. Certainly not in...all myself. I look at all these things around me that are going on that God has done and it’s pretty...it’s awesome. That’s where...this is one case where that word actually appropriately applies, so...
Melinda: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, when we started Stand to Reason...I think you and I are very mission-oriented people. So it’s, you know, we know what we do well, we know what the purpose of Stand to Reason is, and so day in day out we do that. And we judge the opportunities that come our way by the mission. And the increase that God brings from it is totally His working. And there’s no way, even now I would look down the road and say, “Yeah that’s where we’re going,” and that’s, you know, just...so it’s...it is all God’s work and it’s amazing.
Greg Koukl: You know it-
Melinda: You know, and to hear all the people that Stand to Reason’s impacted and had an influence in their lives, it’s all God’s handiwork. We’re just here being faithful.
Greg Koukl: There were some things we brought to the table I think that were some good principles of trying to move forward. And there were certainly a lot of things that we have learned since then, and sometimes people come to us and say, you know, “Can you help us out? Can you give us some feedback with our fledgling organization, and some things that might help us?” and we have some things to say, but it has never been the case that we have planned this big enterprise, sketched it out, and then moved into the future based on this plan.
It was largely serendipitous as God began to use the things that we did. And as I look back I see these tremendous things that happened, I mean I don’t know how else to say it. They were just things that took place that were clearly God’s fortuitous sovereign hand in our circumstances, and that really ended up directing the flow or our development, and the impact that we had. I know people think about being led by the Spirit, you know, I...it’s not been our experience that this is where God has been leading us, but rather where God has taken us, I think is a better...as we are being faithful in the moment trying to bloom-
Melinda: As we look back, and look at it.
Greg Koukl: ...Yes, and it’s very obvious that God has taken us. And I don’t, and you share this conviction, we don’t believe you have to be able to tune into God in order to accomplish great things, and for God to fulfill a sovereign purpose. And that’s what...as we look back we see that wonderful thing.
Melinda: You don’t have to tune into what He wants you to do.
Greg Koukl: Yeah, in that sense.
Melinda: You have to be tuned into God.
Greg Koukl: Well, after a fashion. But even putting it that way people start thinking things-
Melinda: That’s true.
Greg Koukl: ...that we probably don’t mean, but-
Melinda: Yeah, I think for the most part we’ve just tried...we’ve tried to be faithful day in, day out, with-
Greg Koukl: And the gifts that we’ve been given, opportunities that we have, and trying to do-
Melinda: And being good stewards, and-
Greg Koukl: ...excellence to God’s glory, you know.
Melinda: Yeah. And I can say, pretty much every day is a learning curve, I think, in 23 years. I remember those, you know, the early days we basically knew nothing, you know, data bases. The internet came along pretty quickly, we had a webpage, and you know we had a lot of help, volunteers and other people. But I remember early on there were always so many things to learn, how to figure this out and do it, and 23 years later there’s so many things to figure out and learn how to do it.
Greg Koukl: 24 years later.
Melinda: That’s right, 24. Well I keep saying 23, I don’t know why. It’s not even your pension for buying and-
Greg Koukl: We’re in the 25th year now.
Melinda: ...taking credit for an extra year. Yeah.
So, anyways, let’s just move along here-
Greg Koukl: Alrighty.
Melinda: ...to the purpose of this. You send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask, and then I pose them to Greg and he’s got four minutes or less to answer them, so-
Greg Koukl: Mm-hmm.
Melinda: ...first question comes from @Awl4Hymn: “Do you believe the Bible had redactors, and what, if any, are the consequences of thinking so on the doctrine of inspiration?”
Greg Koukl: Well, a redactor is somebody who edits, essentially, and moves things around in an effective way. There’s little question that there’s a literary relationship between Luke, and Matthew, and Mark. That is, Luke and Matthew have a lot of things that are in common with Mark, and in common with each other. So one could say it’s reasonable to conclude that Mark and Matthew redacted things out of...I’m sorry, Matthew and Luke redacted things out of Mark. Mark has primacy here. It’s the oldest, it’s the shortest, and so things were taken there and maybe put in different order and other things appended to it so that Matthew and Luke could make their particular kinds of points, and embellish in ways that were meaningful to them in terms of what they wanted to accomplish. So there was redaction that was going on.
And I just interviewed Larry Hurtado earlier today, and the...he reflected on the fact that when you...if you write a letter, like think about the Book of Romans. I think he pointed out just copying that book takes six or eight hours if you just sit down and write it out by hand. So how long did it have to take for Paul to actually compose it? And it is most likely that he composed it bits and pieces, and in a certain sense redacted his own material, just like I do with an article. I start out with lots of stuff, and then I reduce down.
Melinda: You comparing yourself Paul in Romans?
Greg Koukl: Only in the sense of redacting, that’s it. And, now I guess the more...the bigger concern is when Biblical authors, or someone let’s say, takes inspired writings and organizes and redacts it into something else, and so that looks like tampering from where we sit. The question here is what is the impact regarding inspiration, and I don’t think there is any impact at all. The doctrine of inspiration amounts to, or it speaks to, the final effect, what we have finally delivered to us, as being what God intended us to receive. And so there is a place, there could be a place for redactors. There...look in the Book of Proverbs there are whole sections that are almost identical to secular proverbs in the wisdom literature of the Amenemope, which is an ancient wisdom literature of that time. But these were in a certain sense redacted-
Melinda: Saying the Holy Spirit plagiarized?
Greg Koukl: ...Well I guess you could put it that way. The point is, is that the information was God-breathed, it’s what God wanted to put in, and it was true from God’s perspective. It didn’t matter if...look at, they could...I mean if Ben Franklin said, “A stitch in time saves nine,” if that’s a wise and truthful thing, God’s Spirit can import that into the text and then that is-
Melinda: All truth is God’s truth-
Greg Koukl: ...Yes, all...exactly.
Melinda: ...wherever it’s found.
Greg Koukl: And so, I’m just using that as a fairly well known example to those who have studied the background literature of the time in Proverbs, but it doesn’t, in my mind, undermine the notion of inerrancy at all.
Melinda: So inspiration-
Greg Koukl: Or inspiration.
Melinda: ...is totally compatible with the entire man-made project of writing something. Writing, editing, that kind of thing.
Greg Koukl: Right.
Melinda: Because the inspiration, like as you said, is what guarantees the outcome.
Greg Koukl: Well-
Melinda: Now haven’t there been-
Greg Koukl: ...Well just think about Luke’s...Matthew, Mark, Luke-
Melinda: Right, he did all of his research-
Greg Koukl: ...think about Luke’s opening-
’Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigating everything carefully from the beginning to write it out in consecutive order so that you can know the exact truth.” So there it looks like...you know Mark was not in order, we know this from some of the early Fathers who reflected back on that work, temporally close to Mark’s writing. No Mark didn’t put it all in order, okay, and so here Luke is saying, “I took those things, and now I put them in order.” And so that seems like a redaction process that is being acknowledged right there, in the beginning of Luke.
Greg Koukl: Your turn.
Melinda: ...That is not true.
Greg Koukl: Yeah it was, I’m looking at it.
Melinda: You had 4 minutes and 39 seconds-
Greg Koukl: That’s because-
Melinda: ...but whatever. But there have been some approaches, especially to the Old Testament, where they talk about redactors, that actually have undermined...some of these attempts have actually undermined the authority of scripture, ’cause they actually try to explain how this was...this writer just brought this in, and that writer brought that in, and so this isn’t really historical-
Greg Koukl: Right, yeah but it...I don’t think-
Melinda: ...but redacting’s not synonymous with that attempt.
Greg Koukl: ...No that’s a different...that’s a higher critical approach, where they look at different portions of Genesis, for example, and they see what they think are differences in style that imply different authors. And so they slice and dice an entire text, and they infer, from the way the text is written, a lot of different contributors, that then was all put together I guess by a redactor-
Melinda: You just spit on me.
Greg Koukl: ...And so this process, not the redacting process, but this other process where this whole Genesis account is actually the result of a whole bunch of other stuff kind of pieced together, that I think is troublesome on the issue of inspiration, because the way...and they use it of course to undermine the authority of scripture, just make it a human process. I think a lot of those, you know JPED type historical critical approaches, they have fallen by the wayside largely, just because they’ve been shown to be inaccurate ways of assessing.
Greg Koukl: Redaction itself I don’t think is a problem.
Melinda: Next question comes from STGoff.
(coughs) Excuse me.
“As a dispensationalist, what is our current dispensation, when did it begin, when does it end, and what is the next one?”
Greg Koukl: Well there’s lots of ways to kind of...to break those particular...partly particular things are-
Melinda: Can you tell people what a dispensation is? Some may not know.
Greg Koukl: Well, the key defining factor for dispensationalism is that you view Israel as having a unique role in God’s economy, and that Israel has not been replaced in a certain sense by the Church. And so whatever...however we understand the New Testament Church, the Body Of Christ, there still remains a role for national Israel in virtue of the promises that God made, from Abraham all the way through the Old Testament. And I think that those promises are valid.
Now what I don’t do is I don’t slice and dice all the dispensations down into little bitty pieces. Some people do that. That does not concern me. I don’t really care about that. Some who will say, “Well there’s the Dispensation of Conscience, and there’s the Dispensation of Law, and now the Dispensation of Grace, and etc. etc.” I don’t know about that. Maybe, maybe not. It’s not a concern to me. It doesn’t do any theological work for me, so I don’t pursue any detail in those things. However, what does concern me is the reliability of God’s promises. And when Abraham in Genesis 18, or 15 rather, gets a renewed or a repeated promise from God about making him a great nation, wow he says, “Well, I’m childless. Eliezer of Damascus is the head of my household, and that’s where an inheritance would naturally fall. And is he the one who’s going to be my ’tribe’ or ’nation’ from him?” And God says, “No, it shall be one that comes forth from your own loins.”
So we see that there’s a promise pertaining to the physical seed of Abraham, and later Isaac and Jacob, so the lineage is narrowed down there. I know that there are New Testament qualifications about that, but as I read those they do not eliminate the promise to national Israel. What they do is make clear, essentially, that just because you’re Jewish does not mean you’re automatically saved. You’re not in that salvific relationship with God. And I make a distinction in our material “The Bible: Fast Forward” between being citizens and being sons, so to speak. So you could be a citizen of the nation of Israel in virtue of your birth, and God makes certain promises related to that, but that is not to be confused with the sonship that follows from having a genuine faith of the God of Israel, expressed in one way in the Old Testament and a new way in the New Covenant under Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
So I think that’s the point of those distinctions in the New Testament. The promises to Israel still stand, and as I read the prophets, there are a whole host of promises that are made to bring justice to the planet, and to the nations which cannot spiritualized away as being fulfilled in the Church, it seems to me. That would be the more ad hock, or awkward way of doing it. So consequently I see this distinction between the Body of Christ, which entails Jew and Gentile, under the New Covenant, and some promise to national Israel that God has yet to complete fulfilling. And that would make me a dispensationalist. That was basically all I care about in terms of the distinction at this point.
Melinda: Yeah, you’re kind of guided by the covenants in your dispensationalism in a certain sense, aren’t you?
Greg Koukl: Well, yeah. There is a doctrine call-...I mean a way of approaching this called Covenant Theology, and I don’t hold to that-
Melinda: Right, no.
Greg Koukl: ...because they’re so distinctive, but there are covenants, yeah, I look at the Abrahamic Covenant, I look at the Mosaic Covenant, I look at the New Covenant. And this I cash out in that eight week series-
Melinda: “Bible: Fast Forward,” yeah.
Greg Koukl: ...the “Bible: Fast Forward” which is where we met.
Greg Koukl: Years before Stand to Reason even started.
Melinda: Exactly. I got 100% on the test. And this is what I got for it.
Yeah, but the purpose of “Bible: Fast Forward” is not to teach dispensationalism, but it...kinda the arc of going through the scope of the entire Bible is following the covenants. And s-
Greg Koukl: It’s more of a Biblical theology. You’ve...it unfolds.
Melinda: ...Yes. But you know, you get a sense of your view of dispensationalism just because of the covenants...
All right, next question again comes from STGoff: “Is there scriptural justification for the role of Senior Pastor vs a church being led by a co-equal plurality of Elders?”
Greg Koukl: Well I don’t see a scriptural justification for that. What we see-
Melinda: Do you need one?
Greg Koukl: ...Well, let’s just say I’m more comfortable with that. I-
Melinda: More comfortable with what?
Greg Koukl: What we see as a...I mean what...in American you have Senior Pastors, okay? I mean, that’s just the...and then you have, you know, for the most part you have Senior Pastors. And what happened not too long after the Church started, within a couple hundred years, you see the primacy of individuals in regions, Bishops, that began to command authority over groups of Christians and churches, rather than local autonomy. It just seems to me, in terms of the unfolding of the New Testament details about church ecclesiology, how do you develop...what’s the leadership to look like that you have a plurality of leadership called Elders?
And we see this in Titus and 1st Timothy where Paul directs them to choose Elders that have certain qualities, character qualities, and have one skill quality, and that is able to teach. Not have the gift of teaching, but they have to be able to understand some doctrine and refute those who are contradicting ’cause they’re causing problems. Anything about a Senior Pastor in there? No. But very soon, I mean early second century I think, you see this pre-eminence of certain individuals. Not so much over local churches, but over regions. And so you have the Bishop of this, and the Bishop of that, and Bishop of the other thing. And then this led to a Bishopric kind of church ecclesiology that we see in the Roman Catholic Church and other liturgical churches.
Melinda: Do you think there’s something wrong with the Senior Pastor model? As long as there’s a plurality of Elders in leadership?
Greg Koukl: What I see happen is when you have a Senior Pastor model, I think the Senior Pastor often gets an inordinate amount of say in what goes on. And that I don’t know is a...I don’t think is a good thing. Now that doesn’t mean that every Senior Pastor abuses it. My own church has a Senior Pastor, you know, and he’s a friend of mine, you know, so...But I think that if I were going to be...and my brother is a Senior Pastor of his church. And so this is just kind of the standard. You join any kind of denomination, this is the way it works.
Now I do know that a number of cases of churches from leadership out of Biola, they’re actually a plurality of leadership in those, and they kinda move around. And I just think that that’s the way it was in the New Testament, and I think this creates a healthy environment. And it also takes a whole lot of pressure off a preacher. Look at...I know what it means to have to develop a new talk, preachers have to do that every week. So to be able to share the teaching authority, which many Senior Pastors will do, when they go on vacation or they take a break or whatever, but to do it as a matter of course. So every two months you cycle out one person, you cycle in somebody else to do the Sunday services and gives the pastoral staff more time to kind of work on an idea, and gives them a little more breathing room. Becomes more real, and less stale to them, it seems to me. Some pastors teach Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. That’s three talks a week. I just...it’s hard to believe.
Melinda: And then they’re involved in administrative things too.
Greg Koukl: Right, right. And that’s-
Melinda: And that’s a lot to expect of a single person.
Greg Koukl: It’s a recipe for burn out. And so I am a proponent of the plurality of leadership because that is what is modeled I think in the New Testament, and prescribed in the New Testament. And I think there are less liabilities than with the Senior Pastor or the Bishop over regions model. I think that has created lots of problems, frankly.
Greg Koukl: Although some of the great Church Fathers were all Bishops over regions, you know. Polycarp, and Ignatius, and Tertullian. On and on and on, you know. Augustine of Hippo, you know. These were all, so...
Melinda: Augustine died on this day. Long time ago.
Greg Koukl: On this day?
Melinda: Yeah, saw something on Twitter this morning.
Greg Koukl: May 2nd?
Greg Koukl: Huh.
Melinda: Maybe it was yesterday, I don’t know. But...
So, that’s it for this episode folks. STRask, use the hashtag on Twitter. Send us your questions, and we put Greg on a timer, and he does a really good job of answering them in the short format. You can still call him on Tuesdays, between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. and have a conversation with him.
I’m Melinda the Enforcer with Greg Koukl, for 24 years of Stand to Reason. Bye.