Sunday, November 20, 2011

Is God a fair judge? Did he or did he not order genocide?

I discovered an article that is well worth reading. It deals with the problem of "alleged genocide" in the bible. I'll try to make this post short since the insights and exegesis are not mine.

This is the article. If you have any sort of open mind at all, please take the time to read all the way through it. It is long, but very thorough and very well researched:

Genocide in the Bible, argument refuted.

The summary of it is something like this:

1) God gave the Canaanites many opportunities to repent.
These were-
a) The forty years following Israel's exodus from Egypt.
b) The 400 years from when Abraham's descendants left Canaan, coming up to the exodus.
The Canaanites were fully aware of the judgement of God on Egypt. In fact Rahab is a really good example of this. Rahab tells the Israelite spies that they have heard of God's judgement on Egypt, and that their hearts melted with fear at a God powerful enough to defeat Egypt (who were the most powerful in the world). Rahab chooses the side of Israel, and she and her family are spared.
Rahab is also a good example of someone who did repent.

2) There are other examples of judgement in the Old Testament. In each occasion there is a LOT of opportunity for repentance.
a) Before the flood in Noah's day there was 120 years given for people to repent. Noah and his family were spared. (I.e not all were destroyed.)
b) At Sodom and Gomorrah, the people were given 25 years to repent, through the righteous warnings of Lot. Lot and his family were spared.
c) At Nineveh, the people were warned of the coming destruction by the prophet Jonah, and the people of Nineveh DID repent. God spared ALL of them. He is just.

3) In the case of the Canaanites they have a long list of societal wide rampant sins:

a) Every kind of immoral sexual relationship thinkable was occurring, people having sex with their parents, siblings, aunties and uncles etc, etc. Rampant incest.
b) That wasn't enough for the Canaanites, they had to have sex with animals too.
c) They were also homosexual.
d) They had cultic prostitution in their temples.
e) They sacrificed their babies to their god Molech.
f) They were systematic in their violence towards other nations around them.

They were viewed even by the other nations around them as particularly evil.

4) As said earlier, the Canaanites were give a long period of warning to repent. Some of them (Rahab and her family) even did.

God's plan was to drive them from the land, to disperse their culture so that their wicked ways would cease. They were to be subsumed by the many nations around them. Some of the people did indeed leave before the Israelites arrived. It was the people who refused to leave, who refused to repent of their wicked practices that were to be destroyed. These were the stubborn and most wicked who stayed behind, not the entire Canaanite people.
God told the Israelites to kill all the Canaanites that stayed behind, that is who refused to give up their wicked ways. These people would have taught the Israelites wicked practices. This was God's reason for removing the last of the Canaanites left behind.

God is very clear to the Israelites to leave certain areas of the land alone for descendants of Esau and Lot. The goal was never complete annihilation. The Israelites were also not meant to hunt down Canaanites who had already left the land.

5) The best example of God's fair practice is that the same judgement he carried out on the Canaanites he later carried out on Israel. God detested the wicked practices of the Canaanites and he warned Israel not to behave that way. Over the generations Israel largely ignored the many prophets that God sent them to warn them away from their wicked practices of idol worship and baby sacrifices. The Israelites practised the same sin as the Canaanites. Israel suffered the same judgement, first the northern kingdom of Israel was attacked by the Assyrians and the remainder carried off into slavery. Later the southern kingdom of Judah was attacked by the Babylonians and the remainder carried off into slavery.

It was only through the painful judgement of deportation, and many being destroyed that the Jews learnt what it really meant to be a righteous people.


God never ordered the total destruction of the Canaanite nation, he ordered the destruction of the ones who had stayed behind. God's goal was for the Canaanite sin to be removed from the land so that Israel could grow into a righteous nation. When Israel did not do this, God also carried out a fair judgement on Israel. God treated all nations the same.

For any of us to say that the Canaanites did not deserve judgement is to say that (a) their sins were nothing and (b) God has no right to judge. God indeed does have a right to judge, he is always patient, he always calls on people to repent. Ultimately there are always some who are spared because they do repent.

It would also be wrong of us to say that our own nations will escape judgement if we do not cease our detestable practices. The rise of homosexuality, abortion and the approval of society towards these practices, sees us on a slippery slope in the same direction as Canaan and Israel. The Lord is patient, not willing that any of us should perish, and it is waiting as long as possible for us to come to repentance so that he would not have to destroy our nations. I really hope that our nations in the west do repent.


Martin said...

I didn't even know there was a debate about this. It seems to me that if God is sovereign (and I accept that He is) then what is it to us what He should decide to do? Firstly, if He wants to annihilate someone, that's His business. Secondly, he doesn't need my defense. And besides, when it comes to spreading the good news, very little, if anything, is accomplished by winning arguments (not to mention losing arguments).

Pasha said...

There's a lot of liberal theologians and atheist out there who thick God is nasty and genocidal. The article was an excellent rebuttal. I appreciated it a lot, and it gave me fresh insight into God's consistency.

ruth said...

Okay, explain away the whole Plagues Of Egypt thing for me, then.
God inflicts all of these horrors on the people of Egypt. Why? Because their (unelected) ruler had "hardened his heart" against the Israelites. Why did Pharaoh harden his heart against the Israelites? Because God made him harden his heart so that He'd have an excuse to show off his vengeful mightiness for the benefit of the Israelites.
There's not really any way to spin that into a positive. That's the sociopathic mass murdering and torturing equivalent of that bully at school who grabbed your arm and forced your own hand against your head repeatedly while gleefully chanting "stop hitting yourself! stop hitting yourself! stop hitting yourself!", and it takes some serious intellectual damage and a couple of well-policed blind spots to interpret that as anything other than deeply disturbing.

ruth said...

"what is it to us what He should decide to do?"

That's adorably infantile, but... hmm... how about because if we're to take the text as literally true, then He's a fickle narcissistic psychopath, and you have no reason for assuming you're not going to be next? Or someone you love? Regardless of what you or they do or don't believe or accept?
He does seem to enjoy inflicting pain and misery just to make some point or no perceivable point at all (childhood leukaemia, anyone?), and that's a fate that strikes virtuous believers and everyone else alike.

Pasha said...

Bit angry at God are you Ruth?

I'm sad to hear that. There really are simple explanations if you would want to take the time to understand them, but I fear don't.

But for now, let me assure that God absolutely does love you.

You probably don't believe in God, but if God is real would you not rather imagine him to be loving and kind, yet hate what is evil?

As for Pharaoh, let me assure you that he hardened his heart against God first.

Sorry to know that you have so much pain inside of you. And let me guarantee you that God does feel people's pain, and is right there with a child when they are suffering leukaemia.

Someone said, "There is so much suffering in the world that God should get off his butt and do something about it."
God replied, "well I am doing something about it, are you getting off your own butt to do something about the suffering in the world?"

Anonymous said...

So that's it then, Pasha? That's what you've got? Somebody questions *your* beliefs - very soundly and rationally, I might at - and that's what you've got for them? Haughty condescension? And based on what? *Your* beliefs. That's it?

Come on. You at least owe you're own blog more than that.

I guess I don't envy you. It must be pretty hard work defending the atrocities of a god we read about with horror in the Bible. Thank *god* he's a fictional character, like all the other gods that other people passionately defend the actions of.

Pasha said...

No, I don't have to defend God, and as I said, you are not interested in a rational conversation.
You came here with anger and malice and you are spitting it at me now.

Please, go ahead and spit it at God as much as you like, he can take it. But please don't stop until you have said everything to God (not to me). When you have said it all, dare him to do something about it in your life.

There is nothing condescending about saying you are angry at God, because you are.

If you didn't believe the bible you would not be so angry. I did not write it. Your issue is with God, not with me. So I think we should close this conversation and you should go have it out with God.

We will not get any further and I won't go round in circles.

Please have a nice day and cordially end it here.

Pasha said...

Tim, I just figured out that last person was you. It's a good thing we don't try to have these conversations without the anonymous barrier as it seems we would not get very far.

For the record, I think you are very intelligent too.

I do respect your right not to believe, but I also know you are angry with God. Why, I don't quite know.

It's pretty hard to say "Dear God, I don't believe in you..."

The only true atheist never talks about God, and leaves those alone who do. We will never convince everyone to be the same, that is what makes the world such an interesting place.

Like I said last time, have a nice day, and we don't ever have to speak about this again, unless you want to. Remember, I did not send this blog post to you, so I didn't start this conversation with you.

ruth said...

"He started it"? Really? That's the best you've got? I think that you can do better than that, and I know God can.

For the record, I have nothing to be angry about -- I suspect you may be projecting, but obviously don't know you well enough for that to be anything more than an educated guess. No, what puzzles me is what looks from the outside like yet another example of the seemly bottomless human capacity to embroider lunacy with idiocy just for the sake of it. Or, more fairly, our human tendency to allow Pride to dig us into an even deeper hole, when humility could help raise us out of it and into God's real love. God doesn't need to make you crazy to make you believe, but your Church does.
Seriously: the thing I don't understand is why you have to believe that either it's all true or none of it's true. I mean, I understand why the Church as an organisation and power-structure would want to encourage that idea -- keeps everyone in line, after all -- but I don't see why it's so hard for actual individual people to break out of. I mean, if you want to keep your belief in the just and loving God you claim to follow... how can you not see that those bits of the text that completely contradict and disprove that justice and love might point to corruption at the hands of human self-interest? It's not like powerful and influential people haven't profited many times over from twisting the text to suit their own ends, after all. Even a text of Divine origin has still had to make its way through any number of faulty and corruptible human conduits before it ended up as the version you now hold in your hands. How else can you account for changes (sometimes 180 degree changes) in direction of dogma within the Church (any Church, they've all had them)? If God's omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal, it's not like He made a mistake the first time, is it? So one must edict be true and one not, and there must be something that explains the inconsistency. Something less reliant on systematic illogic than "but if you squint at it and concentrate really hard on not seeing straight, that black thing is totally white". Human error or basic meddling evil would totally cover it, and would call for much less exhausting mental gymnastics than the line of denial you're working so hard to shore up.


ruth said...

(pt 2)
Even though my own childhood was blessedly free of it, allowing me to come to the Truth in my own time and with my eyes and heart open, I do understand, and have compassion for, the effect that a certain kind of religious indoctrination has on the vulnerable young. There you are, small and helpless and entirely at the mercy of bigger more powerful people, people who tell you they love you and want what's best for you... and then those same people, people you trust, tell you there's an all-seeing all-watching all-knowing being that's wise and loving and cruelly murderously vengeful, that all of the evidence that your senses and emerging intellect are delivering to you about how the world and reality works are misleading and unreliable, that you can't trust yourself or outsiders but only them, and that if you express doubt about this fantastical being's existence or goodness (even in your most secret heart) then it and they will know and judge you and reject you, and then you will be all alone with nothing and no-one in a confusing and hostile world. That taps into some very primal fears, and that's a powerful incentive to learn how to Not Think The Bad Thoughts, no matter what the cost to logic or reason or compassion.
But you're not that tiny child any more. Coming to terms with the fact that you were raised in an abusive situation is really tough and really confronting, especially if the things your childhood taught you were normal and right have lead you to become an abuser of a similar stripe yourself. But it's never too late. You don't have to twist your children's minds with paranoia and fear. You don't have to go to such convoluted lengths to have the world make sense. You can trust the evidence of your own mind and heart. You can have God's love without having to learn how to believe that repellent acts and petty cruelties are evidence of love.

You don't have to spend the rest of your life being that scared child who's afraid that his beautiful capacity for truth-seeing will damn him -- you can use the mind and the heart and the senses that God gave you, and grow up and become a true Christian. It's never too late.

Pasha said...


Why don't you come over to my house for a coffee so we can talk about this more civilly?

Ok. :)

Have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

Ruth, where'd that "Like" button get to, then? Oh... wrong site.

You may not have been brought up with it, but I was, and I couldn't put it any better than that.

But I am free from it now. The fear lingers - it wouldn't have worked if it didn't - but I'm free.

Paul, I don't, sort of, do labels. I don't consider myself an atheist, because it gives people like you a handle to grab. Why do I have to consider myself anything? I'm also not a stamp collector. I'm just a guy. Am I angry at god? Well, no. Are you angry at pixies? I'd imagine not. Be if you were blackmailed to believe in them as a child for fear of an eternity of agonising pain, well i reckon you'd be pretty angry at the institution(s) that did the blackmailing, once you allowed yourself to realise it was all smoke and mirrors.

So, that's where I'm at. For the record, I like this blog. I usually only read your secular stuff (car-less cities and the like), but tonight this blog post came up on my internet personalised-newspaper-website thingy. And with a title like "Is God a fair judge? Did he or did he not order genocide?", well - what could I do? My hands were tied! I had to read it! And, so here we are.

Anyway, well busted (It was the XTC post on FB, wasn't it? You don't even have an account!) Lots of love to you, Paul. As always.

Kate said...

Thank-you for your post, Paul, and your thoughtful comments.
There are many things about God that I don't understand, but I'm well aware that I'm not omniscient.
I believe God is all-loving and want to be in relationship with him.
I have a couple of atheist friends friends and they don't feel any need to discuss or argue about a god they don't believe in.
The opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference...