Friday, June 22, 2012

Read Along: 13—Is God a Genocidal Bully?

Today we continue with Chapter Thirteen in the Read Along with Apologetics 315 project. This is a chapter-by-chapter study through the book Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists by Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow. (Hear an interview about the book here.) Below you will find an audio intro for Chapter Thirteen, a brief summary of the chapter, a PDF workbook with questions for the chapter, and some notable quotes. You're also encouraged to share your comments and feedback for each chapter in the comment section below. Feel free to interact!  Index page here.

[Audio Intro] - Sean McDowell introduces this chapter.
[Chapter 13 Study Questions] (with kindle locations) - PDF study guide.
[Podcast Feed RSS | Podcast in iTunes] - Click to subscribe to the audio.

Summary
Chapter Thirteen: Is God a Genocidal Bully?
(pages 172-184]

Chapter 13 addresses the claim that the God presented in the Old Testament is evil and genocidal. In particular, this chapter looks at the specific instance of the judgment of the Canaanites. The context of the passage is explored, along with noting the cultural climate of the day. In addition, the authors look at the way that language is used in the Ancient Near East. The sinful depravity of the Canaanites, the special circumstance of Israel being a theocracy at the time, and other key factors are taken into account. This discussion provides a better backdrop for understanding the passage in a fair light, putting to rest many misunderstandings common to superficial readings of the passage.

Clay Jones offers an essay reflecting on seven key points to take away from the example of the Canaanites. This section offers a sobering perspective on the seriousness and destructive nature of sin, as well as the judgment and mercy of God.

Notable quotes:
To read the New Atheists' treatment of the Bible and its moral vision, one would think that obedience to Jesus means killing your neighbors rather than loving them. (p. 172)
So the conquest of Canaan, as a unique and limited historical event, was never meant to become a model for how all future generations were to behave toward their contemporary enemies. (Christopher J. Wright, quoted on p. 176)

God as the creator of life has the right to take life, and during this unique occasion of judgment, that prerogative was temporarily extended to the people of Israel since Yahweh was their king (e.g., a theocracy). (p. 178)

It will not do, as some have done when approaching this topic, to make the God of the Old Testament a God of judgment and the Jesus of the New Testament a God of love. God is both loving and just. (p. 182)
Discuss
  1. How has the language of genocide and ethnic cleaning been misused regarding the Old Testament?
  2. Why is the conquest of Canaan not analogous to Islamic jihad?
  3. How do you respond to the claim that God is genocidal?
Recommended Reading
Next Week: Chapter 14—Is Christianity the Cause of Dangerous Sexual Repression?

4 comments :

Michael said...

I'm curious how the notion that God has the right to take life whenever he pleases can be squared with ordering the tribes of Israel to take life in His behalf. The very tribes He commanded 'thou shalt not commit murder.'
Unique? What about the Amalekites?[Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey." (1 Sam. 15:2-3)]
Not meant to be a model? Talk about being given conflicting orders. On the one hand COMMANDED not to murder and then being ordered to commit the most atrocious acts of murder against women and children. Children. And then, after all that...to love one's enemy. With God, it seems, all things are permissible.

MaryLou said...

Hi, Michael!

Try to look at it this way: God implemented his plan of salvation for humanity through the nation of Israel. If he lost Israel, he lost his plan of salvation. Therefore, he HAD to protect Israel from being destroyed by other nations.

God always warned pagan nations which threatened Israel that, if they did not desist from evil, he would act against them. He always gave them plenty of time (often over several generations) to heed his warning and change. When they did not, he dealt with him just as he said he would.

I'll use bin Laden as a contemporary example of the same thing. Let's say you told him that you would forgive him his evil deeds when he repented and changed. But you also told him that, if he didn't, you would have to hunt him down and either imprison or kill him to protect others from him. If he continued to kill and endanger others, would you be wrong to follow through on your promise and remove him from the picture? Would you just let him destroy others and do nothing? That's what critics are saying they think God should have done in the Old Testament days when they say he was wrong to command Israel to deal harshly with enemies.

To put it another way, let's say that the man who raped and murdered a number of women, including your sister and your mother, appears before a judge. The judge says, "I am a loving judge. Therefore, I will not punish you. I will let you go free."

I suspect that you would be furious and appalled if he did that, especially since the man would go right ahead and rape and kill others. Yet, many atheists think God should do just that with the evildoers in the Bible if he is a "loving" God. What's loving about not stopping someone evil from hurting other people and meting out justice?

As for women and children being killed, bear in mind that we are all born sinners, that God can see into a person's soul and can see the corruption there, knowing what kind of person he or she is and what threat a baby or child will present in the future. There are no "innocent" people.


When Jesus came, God's plan of salvation was fulfilled in him and the nation of Israel no longer had to be protected as before. He ushered in a new era in which the rule became "love your enemies".


The bottom line is this: Perfect love has to include justice. It HAS to!

Brian Auten said...

It's also important to note that killing is not the same as murder.

Hausdorff said...

"But you also told him that, if he didn't, you would have to hunt him down and either imprison or kill him to protect others from him. If he continued to kill and endanger others, would you be wrong to follow through on your promise and remove him from the picture?"

If you killed every man woman and child in the city he was in to do it, then yes, it would be wrong.

"As for women and children being killed, bear in mind that we are all born sinners, that God can see into a person's soul and can see the corruption there, knowing what kind of person he or she is and what threat a baby or child will present in the future. There are no "innocent" people."

This idea is probably the one that I find most offensive from all of Christianity. The idea that we all are so evil that we deserve to burn in hell forever. That there are no innocent people. That babies deserve to die. When I was a Christian, I bought the idea that it shows how great God is that he lets some of us into heaven anyway. But now, I just find it sad that so many people think we are so evil. I mean, look at the current conversation. You are using this idea to justify a genocide.

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