Did God command genocide in the Bible?

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Photo: "The Victory of Joshua over the Amalekites" by Nicolas Poussin (c. 1624) / Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo: "The Victory of Joshua over the Amalekites" by Nicolas Poussin (c. 1624) / Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo: "The Victory of Joshua over the Amalekites" by Nicolas Poussin (c. 1624) / Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo: “The Victory of Joshua over the Amalekites” by Nicolas Poussin (c. 1624) / Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever wondered why there are no Amalekites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites today? If you believe the Biblical accounts of history in the Old Testament are accurate, it may be because God commanded the Israelites to slaughter those people groups–men, women, children, infants, and animals.

Can you imagine someone ripping a newborn baby from its mother’s breast and severing its head from it’s body? The Bible seems to say that God once commanded such actions. How do we reconcile those passages with a belief that God is unconditionally loving to all human beings? Such passages are among the least discussed and most ethically problematic in the Bible, but they cannot be ignored just because we don’t like what they say.

Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan have sought to address the existence of these passages with the idea of a loving God in their book, Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms With the Justice of God, and here we discuss their views on the matter. Take a look and decide for yourself what you believe about these scandalous Scripture passages.

RNS: Paul, there are some really horrible scripture passages in the Bible–especially the Old Testament. What is the worst or most difficult?

Paul Copan (PC): Definitely making the list are questions related to “slavery” or servitude, God’s seeming harshness in judgments and punishments, and God’s command to sacrifice Isaac. But perhaps the most troubling question from the Old Testament is God’s command to kill and drive out the Canaanites and perhaps even innocent ones—and there are similar commands concerning the Midianites and Amalekites as well. Some have suggested that this is a command to commit genocide, although we dispute this in our book and attempt to bring clarity to this and related questions.

Image courtesy of Baker Books

Image courtesy of Baker Books

RNS: In these passages, the text says God told them the Israelites to slaughter children, women, even animals. How do we even begin to process this? 

PC: We must first understand that the Canaanites engaged in acts that would be considered criminal in any civilized society–incest, infant sacrifice, ritual prostitution, bestiality. Also, God waited over 400 years for Canaan to hit moral rock-bottom before commanding they be driven out (Gen. 15:16). In addition, things are less straightforward than what first appears. Tensions exist within the biblical text itself:

First, the Israelites were commanded to “drive out” or “dispossess” the Canaanites, but this assumes Canaanites would be alive—not killed—if driven out. Second, the “utterly destroy” or “leave alive nothing that breathes” language is hyperbolic in Scripture’s war texts as in other ancient Near Eastern war texts. It typically stands alongside mention of many survivors—like when sports teams use the language of “totally slaughtering” their opponents. The land has “rest from war” (Joshua 21:44), yet Joshua says nations still remain in Israel’s midst (23:12); Judges 1-2 regularly repeats “they could not drive them out.”  The book addresses more of these nuances.

RNS: Matt, you write, “In the Bible, God appropriates the writing of a human being with the writer’s own personality, character, and writing style.” Does this change the way we might read passages where God seemingly commands violence?

Matthew Flannagan (MF): Those passages occur in the context of a historical narrative. We are reading history, not as a 21st century writer would write it, but history written by the literary conventions, style of narration and level of precision used by an the ancient Near Eastern writer. We, therefore, need to ask how phrases such as “they completely destroyed everyone in it” or “he left no survivors” or “not sparing anyone who breathed” or “until they exterminated them” functioned in this sort of literature. It is not always as one might assume.

RNS: You also talk about “hagiographic hyperbole.” What is this and why does it matter?

MF: Hagiographic hyperbole is a term used by philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff to describe the kind of historical writing you see in the book of Joshua. The basic idea is that the accounts of Israel’s early battles in Canaan are narrated in a particular style, which is not intended to be literal in all of its details and contains a lot of hyperbole, formulaic language and literary expressions for rhetorical effect. We argue in our book that the evidence both from within the Bible and from other ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts supports this conclusion.

When biblical authors use phrases such as “They totally destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed” (Josh 11:11), which are later followed by passages that presuppose that the same areas are still inhabited by the same peoples, they cannot be affirming that literally every man, woman and child was killed at God’s command. It is a mistake to take them as affirming that Israel literally engaged in complete annihilation at God’s command. They are exaggerating for rhetorical effect.

RNS: An entire section of the book addresses the question, “Is it always wrong to kill innocent people?” Well, is it, Paul?

PC: Let’s draw some distinctions. There are (a) absolute duties to love God and avoid idolatry, (b) general duties that, all things being equal, ought to be obeyed such as “don’t deceive” and “don’t kill,” and (c) unusual cases of supreme emergency, in which some general duties may be overridden. For example, to save innocent human life from would-be killers, deception would be morally permissible (cp. Ex. 1:15-21; 1 Sam. 16:1-2).

Likewise, God issues a unique command to drive out a wicked people; if they stay behind—despite the obvious divine public signs and wonders–Red Sea crossing, pillar and fire cloud, manna—they make themselves vulnerable to Israelite attack. God didn’t command something intrinsically evil, though difficult, it was morally justifiable; God had good reason for issuing this command.

RNS: Matt, people often point out that God is both loving and just. I agree, but commanding the slaughter of children, innocents, and animals by other sinners, is neither in my book. What am I missing?

MF: There are two claims. First, a loving and just person would absolutely never endorse killing innocents no matter what the circumstances. Second, a loving and just person would endorse a strong presumption against such actions but could, in principle, support them in rare circumstances if there is some greater good that overrides this presumption.

The existence of cases such as those where a woman in childbirth will die unless her child’s head is crushed, both conjoined twins will die unless one is deprived of access to a vital organ, on a crowded life-boat one has to decide which people to push over, or on a plane doomed to crash who gets a parachute and who does not, suggest that the second claim and not first that is true. This means that while a loving and just God does endorse a general rule against killing the innocent, he could allow exceptions to it in rare, unusual occasions.

  • Ben in oakland

    More weasily stuff claiming that the bible doesn’t say what it so clearly says, and that it must really mean something else whenever it is inconvenient.

    A god that commanded the deaths of the entire world population, except for the family of an old drunk, including the little babies who couldn’t have sinned even if they wanted to, is a god capable of telling others to do the same.

    A god who sends the angel of death to murder the first born sons of a people who don’t know who he is, when those first born sons had little if anything to do with any of the situations at hand, who hardens the heart of a leader in order to punish him and his people more, is not someone that I would look to for fairness.

    A god that loves you so much that if you don’t get the messaqe of how much he loves you, you will burn in hell forever as a demonstration of his love, is not a god I would go to for moral advice.

  • Larry

    “As messes go, Copan’s book (his previous work “s God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God.”) is certainly a doozie. An apologist par excellence, Copan pulls out all the stops to argue that God as pictured in the Old Testament is not in conflict with the God most Christians worship as the foundation of absolute morality. With Copan’s guide in hand, you’ll be more than equipped to do battle with non-inerrantists and other atheists who raise objections about the morality of the Old Testament:
    Q: Why did God tell the Israelites to slaughter people groups wholesale?

    A: He didn’t! Unless He did, or commanded something marginally less unconscionable, in which case it was unfortunate but necessary.

    Q: Wasn’t Torah misogynistic, responsible for the institutionalization of slavery, and the product of benighted ethnocentrism?
    A: Au contraire, the laws of Torah were wonderfully enlightened! Except when they weren’t, in which case they were the best thing going at the time.

    And much, much more!

    From the article:

    “God issues a unique command to drive out a wicked people; if they stay behind—despite the obvious divine public signs and wonders–Red Sea crossing, pillar and fire cloud, manna—they make themselves vulnerable to Israelite attack.”

    And therein lies the slippery relativistic garbage that typifies the notions of morality stated by many Christians. Somehow being worthy of dignity and made in the image of God (the ever illusive “Imago Dei”) gives way to having divine pronouncements of being unworthy of life and fair game for genocide.

    Paul Copan has also given a great excuse for murderous jihadis. Using the same bible they consider all non-muslims to be idolatorous wicked people who are flouting God’s commandments. Therefore as a wicked people who remain after divine pronouncements and public signs, God/Allah has granted permission for them to be murdered en masse.

  • One perspective that seems to be missing from the entire conversation:

    God is God. We are not.

    If (because of their depravity) God allows an ISIS terrorist or an abortionist to decapitate innocent children, then you really can’t get around the possibility that he might also allow the death of other innocents for far better reasons (for instance, to put an end once and for all to a culture that commits such atrocities on a daily basis).

    400 years is a long time indeed. I think perhaps only God could wait that long.

    I’m fascinated that (as the final paragraph in Mr. Merritt’s interview alludes), we excuse ourselves for having to make such horrific decisions, but then blame God (the very one who alone has the ultimate right to take life, because he alone gave it) if he (under the most dire circumstances imaginable) does the same.

  • Jack

    The answers of Copan and Flannagan, while far from satisfactory, are valuable and vital because they move (some of) us away from easy moralizing and into more rigorous and thoughtful engagement with the problematic texts.

    Those who despise the Bible for other — and often opposite — reasons won’t give these two the time of day, but most fair-minded people will. (On what I mean by “opposite,” more on that later in subsequent posts…..lots more…..this is going to be one lively set of discussions given the topic.)

    As to the crimes of the Canaanites and others, both the Biblical text and the two authors are quite shy about the issue, leaving it up to the imagination of the reader. Suffice to say, mass infant sacrifice wasn’t the end of it. Their “worship” services included such niceties as leading terrified children, usually captured in war, through gauntlets of torture at the hands of temple priests and temple prostitutes while audiences cheered lustily.

    In other words, the crimes of the Canaanites and neighboring cultures were the kinds that would outrage any person of conscience, no matter their beliefs or lack thereof. Even the most committed cultural relativist of today would have shrunk back in horror and revulsion. Canaanite religion was quite possibly the lowest that humanity had ever sunk. It was utterly grotesque and horrific.

    Obviously, on a scale of 1 to 100, if 100 means resolving the seeming moral dilemma of God’s commands, if 1 means no resolution and 100 means total resolution, such explanations — by providing context we didn’t previously have — take us far up the ladder, but still not near 100.

    From the perspective of a believer in God, we are in the position of a child who understands some but not all of what their parents are doing. A child whose parents have shown love to him or her will naturally trust the parents in areas that seem puzzling….a child who doesn’t trust his parents to begin with will not.

  • Jack

    There is one scene in the Bible which alludes to the depravity of the culture and religion of the area. When the Philistines capture Samson, an Israelite, they drag him into one of their temples, blind him, put him in a cage, and force him to “perform” in front of them. The original Hebrew makes it clear we’re not talking about magical tricks for the kiddies.

  • Jack

    At some point, the attacks on the morality of the God of the Bible lead to the despicable sentiment that “Jews suck,” since it wasn’t aliens from Pluto, but the ancestors of the Jewish people, who wrote this down — and the reason there are Jews in the world today is that Jews through the centuries and millennia have kept their identity and existence intact precisely by believing in the Torah which includes the controversial passages.

    In other words, the attacks on the God of the Bible at some point become inseparable from attacks on the Jews who, if you don’t believe in God, are the sole, unassisted authors of the Bible.

    More….much more….on this later. We’re all just getting started….on both sides.

  • Jack

    Someone once said that on 9/11, America’s enemies didn’t attack the nation for the evil it allegedly committed, but for the good it actually did.

    The same is true of those who attack the God of the Bible. The God of Scripture is not attacked because His standards are too low, but because they’re too high. When you’re ripping off your neighbor on a house deal, the last thing in the world you want to hear is “you shall not steal.” When you cheat on your wife or husband, then divorce him or her and steal someone else’s spouse, the last thing you want to hear is “you shall not commit adultery.” When you’re covetous of the rich person down the block or rich people in general and cloak your covetousness in phony moral garb by saying you want to help the poor and needy, the last thing you want to hear is “you shall not covet.” When you love things and use people, and when you worship money or sex or power or your self above all else, the last thing you want to hear is “you shall have no other gods but Me.”

    To put it mildly, we humans are far from objective judges when it comes to confronting God. The opposite is the case. We have every reason in the world to go against Him, not because his standards are too low, but again, because they are too high. We want to do what we want, to whomever we want, whenever we want it, for purposes that we ourselves determine.

    That’s been much of the story of human history….even when civilization and progress happens, it ends up sliding back down again. Eventually, the most selfish and foolish people rise to the top, while the least selfish and most wise people fall from power or are killed. That is the story across the planet, across the millennia.

    And everybody thinks it’s not they, but the other person, who’s at fault.

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  • samuel Johnston

    This promise of this article, that a/the God(s) directed the actions described in the Bible is as ridiculous it is ignorant. Perhaps there are Gods, and perhaps not, but they are certainly innocent of these charges!

  • samuel Johnston

    “The God of Scripture is not attacked because His standards are too low, but because they’re too high.”
    Socrates taught that principles were superior to the Gods. He claimed that God must be just, because if he is/were not, then he/it/she is a mere demon (and not worthy of respect).
    So I suppose with your logic the Jews were attacked by the Greeks! Funny how Socrates was so respected by Christians, that for Centuries, that his views guided much of Christian theology, and he was so revered, that it was commonplace for monks to pray that God admit him into heaven. The idea that men cannot judge God is also ridiculous.
    “..we humans are far from objective judges…” True Dat.
    But Judge we must anyway. To live is to make judgments. If you creator God is so loving.and fair, why are his creations so flawed?
    P.S. He made the devil too. The whole scheme is childish.

  • Larry

    Jack, quit it with trying to tar and feather people as anti-semites. You have no idea what you are talking about. Its especially galling and ridiculous coming from a wannabe Christian zionist being directed at someone who has a far closer connection to Judaism than you have.

    Your assertion is nonsense. Jewish scholars openly criticize the parts of the Torah concerning genocide. They openly criticize and debate the entire Torah. Its what they do. Its what they are expected to do. Your whole premise that criticizing the Bible is somehow an attack on Jews is crap. You know nothing about how Jews treat their own scripture.

    You are applying conservative inerrantist Christian insecurities to the situation. Any little deviation from their interpretations of the Bible sends them into a tizzy of “if this is not correct, then the entire faith is wrong!!!”

    Jews don’t try to sugar coat the nasty passages or make excuses for it like Copan has. Most importantly Jewish scholars acknowledge their religion as they know today is far far different than what is depicted in the Bible.

    Christians apologetics like Copan tend to look for easy answers and elaborate excuses rather than seek debate or straightforward discussion.

  • Larry

    “the crimes of the Canaanites and neighboring cultures were the kinds that would outrage any person of conscience, no matter their beliefs or lack thereof.”

    Sorry, but excuses for genocide do not wash. Not back then, not now, not ever.

    There are no transgressions which require an entire people to be wiped off the map as a form of collective punishment. The only thing worse than the act are the revisionist liars making excuses for such actions. Genocide deniers and people who make up stories to excuse genocide are the lowest form of humanity.

    If your God commands such acts, he is worthy of scorn and criticism to say the least. Especially if one expects him to give commands like that presently or in the near future. Modern Jews reconcile with it by saying that God is not like that anymore, neither are his adherents. Christian apologetics just engage in bad excuses, denial or when in doubt just say Jesus made it all better now.

    Your post is about setting a dangerously immoral precedent of setting a threshold where an entire people can be justified in being destroyed.

    In modern terms even the worst excesses of the Nazis and Communists could never be used as excuses to wipe out their entire populations to a man. Even their most ardent opponents never considered such things.
    Admiral Halsey’s remark of “Japanese will be only spoken in Hell” was a prideful boast not a credible threat.

  • Larry

    So Jack, what modern culture do you think are so depraved and transgressive that they would be worthy of genocide of the likes visited upon the Canaanites?

    Would you believe such acts could be considered moral in this day and age?

    Were they ever?

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  • John Smith

    How do we reconcile those passages with a belief that God is unconditionally loving to all human beings? –

    Since this is a false statement there is no need to. Until people get past the whole love is god problem they will never see a god who is more than a big marshmellow.

  • Andrew

    Not all Christians would completely agree with this defense /explanation. For a response to Copan and a different view, see: http://www.therebelgod.com/2014/04/an-apologist-for-genocide-paul-copans.html?m=1. The works of both Peter Enns and Derek Flood provide an alternative understanding of the OT that doesn’t require justifying the horrible acts that takes place therein. It would be interesting to see an interview with those scholars as a counterpoint to this article.

  • Larry

    That was a good article in counterpoint to Copan’s views.

    “our [Christians] response should be one of listening and where appropriate repentance, not one of seeking to justify things that we would in any other context condemn as being profoundly immoral. This is where I think Christian Apologetics has lost its way. Rather than being about articulating the faith in a thoughtful way, it instead echoes our culture’s tendency to set up an us versus them situation where the result is to “win” the argument rather than the person.”

    One of the comments on the article gives the sanest answer to how one can maintain belief in God yet acknowledge such terrible acts at his command:

    “Gregory of Nyssa about this, contemplating the story of the killing of the Egyptian children during passover:

    “It does not seem good to me to pass tis interpretation without further contemplation. How would a concept worthy of God be preserved in the description of what happened if one only looked at history? The Egyptian [Pharaoh] acts unjusty, and in his place is punished the newborn child, who in his infancy cannot discern what is good and what is not…If such a one now pays the penalty of his father’s wickedness, where is justice? Where is piety? Where is holiness? Where is Ezekiel, who cries: ‘The man who sinned is the man who must die, and a son is not to suffer for the sins of his father”? How can the history so contradict reason?”

    His answer was to read this not as history but as “typologically,” or perhaps what we’d call “allegorical.”

    Biblical inerrency is the bane of Biblical scholarship and any attempt at sane belief.

  • BP

    Death exists. If you are going to accuse God of being immoral (or defend Him against that charge), why not just begin and end with that?

    Also, it’s the question is kinda like an insect questioning a human about why that human’s actions do not appear “moral” to its (the insect’s) sensibilities.

  • Jon

    Oh of course –

    Because abuse of a prisoner justifies the murder of innocent civilians. Right. You yourself have proven how depraved the god of the Bibles is – and by example, how these Bibles destroy the morality of humans who fall for them.

  • Larry

    Depends on the cause of death.

    If it is at the hands of people who murdered others because they were acting in God’s name then you definitely blame God and the religious which inspired the murderers.

    “Also, it’s the question is kinda like an insect questioning a human about why that human’s actions do not appear “moral” to its (the insect’s) sensibilities.”

    And there you forgo all the pretenses of Christian faith. That God’s will and love is knowable to all those willing to listen and follow it. Way to shoot your religious belief in the foot.

  • BP

    “Shoot yourself in the religious foot” Atheists are always the kindest people; its totally conceivable that if religious folks like me didn’t exist there would be universal peace between all. 🙂

    Regardless, I never said God’s will and love is knowable to all those who are willing to listen and follow it. That is NOT all (or any one) of the pretenses of the Christian faith. In fact, who can deny that God does not reveal Himself to everyone, but to only those He chooses? He certainly seems to be hiding from most RNS readers!

    It doesn’t matter how a person dies. God declared that death exists. All death, so to speak, can be laid at His feet.

  • Larry

    I can’t help it if your attempt to defend scripture accidentally undermined tenets of your faith.

    Your words were, “kinda like an insect questioning a human about why that human’s actions do not appear “moral” to its (the insect’s) sensibilities”.

    Does an insect understand the motivations of a human?
    Would an insect be expected to?
    Would a human really be knowable from the perspective of an insect?

    If God is so vastly greater than human conception, even in his morality, he is unknowable to us. One who is so far beyond humanity that we cannot truly know his will or actions. Thus violating claims as every Christian makes.

    Now that we have strayed off topic, Mr. Copan makes poor excuses for actions which defy excuses. All in the name of intellectually dishonest apologia and biblical inerrancy.

    Sane, non-fundamentalist, religious belief tends to undermine most anti-theist arguments. These “troublesome” scriptural passages are not such a big deal to believers who are willing to take things metaphorically or examine passages in a critical light. Those who chalk it up to bits which should be de-emphasized or ignored for the sake of modern living.

  • Tim

    Interesting point about how the narrative is in the context of the writer in that culture. Another example of how that affects the text is Psalm 137; the writer was speaking of his own desires, and they are similar to the way the writers expressed the historical narrative in Joshua.

  • BP

    I take these “troublesome” passages at face value. I don’t try to re-make who God is to fit my preconceived idea of who He is. Trying to twist out difficult passages by saying they’re “metaphorical” (or any other trope methodology) is certainly not looking at them critically. Quite the opposite, I would say.

    Regarding your three “insect” questions. The answers are yes, yes, and no. An insect can see, feel, taste, and hear me. So I am not totally unknowable to an insect. But largely so. And primarily unknowable to the insect is my total perspective. So, to say God has not revealed His full reality and His working out of His unstoppable will is not the same thing as being totally “unknowable”. In fact, He has revealed much to us.

    You are confusing “not revealing everything” with “totally unknowable”. They are not the same thing.

    An insect has limited

  • Larry

    You try to make excuses for the passages and justify the actions of those depicted in them.

    “Face value” means taking scripture to an absurdly and unworkably literal degree. Such belief promotes the kind of intellectual wankery that Copan engaged in. Too busy trying to defend the faith that they make arguments which undermine it.

    Defending genocidal actions as moral destroys any notion of “God based morality” you can think of. It puts your belief on par with ISIS thuggery. Any notion of “dignity coming from being made in God’s image” goes down the drain. Rather than keep digging that hole, maybe drop the shovel and try something different.

    Like it or not, defending religiously inspired genocidal actions are not going to make your faith look reasonable or moral in any way. So you are left with a quandry. Either engage in denial or find a useful workaround. Sane non-fundamentalist belief uses a workaround. Not taking passages literally, not ascribing such actions as moral, maybe not even as divinely inspired.

    The problem is not Christian belief, its fundamentalist belief which does not provide a sane philosophical exit strategy to such a moral quicksand.

  • BP

    You are mischaracterizing my point. I’m not defending the genocide, per se. If His goodness is (humanly speaking) questionable because of that, why not go to the root: question His goodness (I don’t) because of death in the first place.

  • Larry have you actually read the book your responding to here or are you just dismissing it with pejorative rhetoric having never read it?

  • Larry

    Copan’s views in this interview and ones he has used in prior works give one sufficient information to make judgments on the subject. What he said here alone allows me to dismiss it as apologetic garbage. Maybe you should read what people are writing about him as well.:)

  • Larry

    “why not go to the root: question His goodness (I don’t) because of death in the first place. ”

    Because it is an extreme exaggeration of the arguments involved. Copan was defending genocide in a manner usually seen by the likes of David Irving or Republika Srpska. It was ridiculous. Jack was throwing even more gasoline on the fire by discussing some kind of mythical threshold where an entire people can be justifiably destroyed. (Which was Coplan’s argument)

    There are far better ways to deal with those Biblical passages and maintain belief. As I said before using these passages as justification for atheism doesn’t work unless you are talking to fundamentalists/Biblical literalists. People with a more reasonable take on scripture can come up with ways to deal with them. Ones which do not require either justifying or denying the genocide in those passages as Copan has done here and done in the past.

  • Joshua

    “Copan’s views in this interview and ones he has used in prior works give one sufficient information to make judgments on the subject.”

    So if I dismiss everything Dawkins has said because of his abhorrent Down Syndrome tweets, that’s ok too?

  • Larry

    If you wish. Personally, I don’t take Dawkin’s views seriously unless the subject is Evolutionary biology. The guy is a klutz when it comes to giving his personal views in public.

  • BP

    The arguments involved are deck chairs. My question addresses the gash in the hull.

    What you call a more reasonable take on scripture is, essentially, NOT taking it. Changing it. Make it say something different than what is on the page. Scripture can then be made to say anything.

  • ben in oakland

    Scripture can always be made to say anything. That’s the problem with it.

    you’d think the creator of the entire universe would have an easier time of speaking clearly.

  • Larry

    You have a high opinion of yourself and your argument, but it is ultimately a hyperbole and an irrelevance.

    The existence of death in of itself is not evil or immoral. It is simply the inevitability of what lives. Amoral or transmoral so to speak.

    Death due to atrocity carries with it moral weight. It is intentionally causing the death and doing so for reasons which require some justification if it is not to be considered evil. Those giving and those following the orders to commit atrocity must answer for their actions.

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  • Jack

    That’s it? Just 35 comments? I’d have guessed it would be more.


  • BP

    I’m afraid you cannot see the conceptual box you in which you seem to be trapped. Death is an atrocity.

  • Jack

    Sorry, Larry, but “at some point” (quoting myself) the two worlds collide — the world of hyper-criticism of the God of the Jews and the world of hatred of the Jews. There is absolutely no way around this….and logically and historically, we have seen the anti-Semitism that comes straight out of the view that the God of the Old Testament is a “vengeful God.” as contrasted with that of the New. Anyone who knows anything about the history of both European Christendom and European Jewry knows this only too well.

    As Solomon Schechter, a founding of the modern Conservative Jewish movement once wrote, “higher criticism is higher anti-Semitism.” He was referring to those saying the Old Testament was largely a myth, but how much closer to anti-Semitism is the literal bashing of the God of the Old Testament, whom the bashers believe was invented whole cloth by the Jews?

    Schechter was hardly a “Christian inerrantist.” He wasn’t even an Orthodox Jew, but a reformer. He was simply staring reality in the face and reporting what he saw — something you refuse to do when it won’t suit your views.

  • Jack

    Samuel, I’m not sure what your ultimate point is, but if I understand you correctly, we might a small measure of agreement regarding God and standards. A person who, for example, takes Calvinism to an absurd extreme might think that goodness is whatever God says it is and that’s that. He or she would say that murder, for instance, is wrong because God says it’s wrong.

    But most theists, Christians and non-Christians alike, would say two things: Yes, murder is wrong because God says it’s wrong, but God says it’s wrong because, in fact, it is wrong. God is the final authority, but God’s authority is inherently good and not evil. Put another way, His highest standards are not foreign to us…..our conscience, unless it becomes seared, recognizes them, agrees with them and welcomes them. We don’t need a Bible to know that murder or theft or betrayal is wrong.

    In that sense, the Bible confirms what we already know to be so. But more than that, it says that what we already know to be right is backed up by the most powerful being in the Universe. It invests what we know to be so with the power and authority of a being who made us and the universe and all that is or will be.

    And that is why so many people hate it….it convicts them, it troubles them, it puts a mirror up to them that reflects back their rebellion and selfishness, and it demands they repent from same.

    An honest atheist, along with an honest agnostic or theist, would have to admit as a simple psychological fact that because of the Bible’s stark and unflattering portrayal of the moral and ethical state of humanity, human beings have a vested interest in rejecting it.

    And Samuel, you know that as well as anyone does.

  • Jack

    Larry, I don’t know of any culture today that corresponds to that of ancient Canaanite culture.

    Maybe you can think of one.

  • Jack

    Jon, even you know we’re not talking about one prisoner. Before even a single Israelite who set foot in Canaan and its environs was abused by any of its inhabitants, the Bible portrays God as warning the Israelites about the singular horrors of that culture. It was in a class of its own, far worse than even Egypt from whence they came, after being freed from slavery there.

  • Jack

    Come off your silly faux-moral-indignation, Larry. It’s about as genuine as a dollar bill with your own face on it.

    I was simply narrowing the seemingly gargantuan gap between the belief that God is good and the reality of His commanding the deaths of the Canaanites. I wasn’t claiming to eliminate it. I made that as clear as a bell in one of my first posts here.

    My goal was to show that the gap was narrower than we think. The authors being interviewed for the above article narrowed the gap in terms of how sweeping God’s command actually was, and I narrowed the gap in terms of the extent of the depravity of the culture in question.

    In other words…….read before commenting. It will do you good. It’s one reason God gave you eyes.

  • Jack

    How utterly simplistic on every level.

  • Jack

    That’s the ultimate point, BP.

    If an infant’s understanding of loving parents is so obviously limited, how much more would our understanding be of the infinite Creator of all that is?

    The gap in understanding between parents and infants has to be miniscule compared to the gap between human beings of all ages and their Creator.

  • Jack

    The immediate issue is not “inerrant” vs. “flawed,” but literal vs. allegorical. I think you’re confusing one set of issues with another.

    The problem is that the troubling texts cannot be easily allegorized away. In terms of literary genre, they are written as straightforward, literal accounts of what God commanded and what happened. While there is ample room to ask whether “all” means “all,” or is a hyperbolic way of saying “lots,” that is not the same as saying the depictions are allegorical.

    If Gregory of Nyysa, however, is saying that what the OT represents as God’s commands are simply a way of the biblical writer’s looking back from the carnage and telling the reader that God is somehow sovereign over literally everything that happens on earth, that’s an interesting argument, but it still falls far short of the simple and common-sense, but morally troubling answer that the God of the Bible did command something extremely drastic against a depraved culture.

  • Jack

    A perhaps telling aside: When the Bible depicts God as commanding the complete destruction of the Canaanite culture and people, the detailed totality of the description — the text specifying even babies, even livestock, etc. — makes it clear to the reader that such a thing is normally wrong and horrifying. It shows that both the writer and God know for a fact that this is a total and complete departure from the norm.

    It should lead the perceptive reader not to say, “what a creep that God person is,” but “why then, and why those people, and why the seemingly complete departure from what God knows perfectly well is right and good?”

    Those are the logical questions to ask, ones that would naturally occur to an honest person reading the text.

    But an intellectually dishonest and biased person doesn’t ask such obvious questions. Instead, he says, “a ha! So much for your good God!”

  • Jack

    Put another way, if killing babies were the normal way of doing business on the part of the God of the Bible, the command to kill even babies would never have been specified….it would have been enough to have said, “kill all” without any specifying.

    So the moral question is not how the God of the Bible could be so evil, but how the God of the Bible who in countless other ways appears as good could have issued such seemingly evil commands.

    And again, the honest human response is to probe more deeply, because of the obvious incongruity.

  • Larry

    Why is death an atrocity in of itself? You are trying to define an argument purely by stipulation rather than making a coherent point.

    I am sure it worked as a canned argument by someone or makes sense in your head, but what you are putting on the page hardly constitutes a well thought out point.

  • Jack

    There is an obvious difference between saying we can’t know anything about someone and saying we can know some, not all, things about that person.

    Larry seems blind to such nuances in the same way that some people are color-blind.

  • Jack

    Wrong, Larry. I was not making an argument that justified the total destruction of a people. I am under no such illusions that I am capable of it.

    All I was doing is showing how the gap between good God and commanded destruction is more narrow than appears at first glance. There are missing pieces to the puzzle that neither I nor anyone else has. But not every piece is missing….we do have some pieces, and that’s the point of the article and of posts such as my own.

  • Larry

    Cute dodge, but I see you don’t really want to own up to your own statements.

    No culture ever meets the threshold of being genocide-worthy. The act is so far beyond the pale that it is never justified. Even if by divine command.

    How would you know if Canaanite culture was so much worse than any other culture you can think of? You only have the word of its destroyers to go on. Its as if Nazi Germany won WWII and was discussing the Jews.

    The idea that any culture can be considered so depraved that genocide is morally justifiable is atrocious. Its exactly the kind of moral relativism that religious belief demands. All acts, no matter how bad can be considered right and moral if God commands it. A philosophy at home with any number of anti-social fanatics these days.

  • Larry

    So you think genocide can be justified if God commands it. That there is somehow a threshold where it becomes acceptable behavior. That is a pretty immoral line of argument to take.

    So any act is “moral” if you are doing so in God’s name.

  • ben in oakland


    So is eternal life.

  • Larry

    Nothing faux about my indignation. I am not the one who claims there is a point where genocide can be justified. I am not the one who can justify crimes against humanity as divine will.

    You claimed there was a moral threshold to justify genocide. There is no way you can possibly declare your religious belief has any moral authority with such a statement. That is why the majority of Christians would probably avoid such a take on the subject.

    Sorry, but there can never be a culture so depraved that it justifies its destruction to the last person. The idea that there is such a threshold is a moral horror in of itself.

    “I was simply narrowing the seemingly gargantuan gap between the belief that God is good and the reality of His commanding the deaths of the Canaanites.”

    You were doing a lousy job of it.

    All at the expense of any sane moral belief. Copan’s take on doing so is by making ridiculous, dishonest and repugnant arguments. Instead of defensive apologia, a saner take on the subject would be an acknowledgment that such an act (and many depicted in the Bible) is at odds with modern life and troublesome.

  • Larry

    ” In terms of literary genre, they are written as straightforward, literal accounts of what God commanded and what happened. ”

    Not really. Again Biblical inerrancy getting in the way of sane scholarship and interpretation. Much of it can be seen as post-facto prideful boasting or winners revisionism of a conflict.

    “but morally troubling answer that the God of the Bible did command something extremely drastic against a depraved culture.”

    The answer which puts the God in the Bible in an immoral sense and undermines any moral authority its adherents have. If one does not allegorize it away or find some workaround from a literalist/inerrant take, it becomes a great argument to make AGAINST belief in such a god.

    You are not doing yourself any favors with this nonsense that the Canaanites were so much worse than any civilization on the planet that genocide would seem like a good idea.

  • Larry

    Jack, you were quite clear about a genocide threshold where a culture is so depraved God’s command to wipe it out can be justified.

    “Bible portrays God as warning the Israelites about the singular horrors of that culture. It was in a class of its own, far worse than even Egypt from whence they came, after being freed from slavery there.”

    “In other words, the crimes of the Canaanites and neighboring cultures were the kinds that would outrage any person of conscience, no matter their beliefs or lack thereof. Even the most committed cultural relativist of today would have shrunk back in horror and revulsion. Canaanite religion was quite possibly the lowest that humanity had ever sunk. It was utterly grotesque and horrific.”

    If the gap between a good God and one which commands genocide is more narrow than at first glance it is a far WORSE take on belief. It puts atrocity far closer to beneficence than one should be comfortable with.

  • samuel Johnston

    So many circular arguments, so little time.
    Killing another human is not necessarily immoral (war, execution, accident, duty). Murder (the unexcused killing of a human), is illegal. Murder can also be morally wrong as well.
    We can play this sort of word game as long as we wish. The simple fact is that
    law, morality, and social sanction are inexorably intertwined. Supernatural beings are not necessary, nor are they likely participants.
    Finally, God is like the tar baby- he don’t say nothing. Jews from long ago wrote, rewrote, and have agued about these matters through the Centuries (just read Job the most interesting booklet of the 67). “God” says the whole lot of the Job’s friends are wrong. Then he appears with the “you should have been there argument.”
    I for one am looking forward to the last Judgment. “At least then God will be forced to speak clearly”. Crackpots like Martin Luther get “inspired” in the toilet. Inspiration is neither reliable, nor limited to Christians. Something I wish folks like you would take seriously is: I have no wish to go to a Christian heaven and spend eternity with nut cases. I am neither immoral, lazy, or stupid, or at least no more than most. My father used to say that God must have loved fools, because he made so many. He was too optimistic. I am ready to meet any and all Gods at any time. I am even anxious to, but I am sick and tired of those who live on rumors and superstition and act as if they are entitled to have power over others. They claim to know all about the Gods, the truth, and the meaning of life. Like Mark Twain, I hope these old hypocrites get what they ask for, and have to sing the praises of God in a Celestial choir FOREVER! Me, I will be in the bar.

  • ben in oakland

    A rough quote of Mr. Twain– I can’t quite remember the original.

    They will be praying and praying, singing and singing, praising and praising, and playing the harp for all eternity.

    And if that ain’t hell, I don’t know what is.

    There’s also one of my favorites, which I do remember:

    There you have it. Heaven for climate. Hell for society.

  • Jack

    Samuel, you sound like you just came from the bar. I hope you’re at home and not about to drive somewhere.

  • Jack

    Larry, it is no dodge at all. If you think it is, you’re not reading very attentively.

    Canaanite culture was horribly unique and there’s nothing in the world like it today. No culture comes close.

  • samuel Johnston

    As I say, you do not take me seriously enough when I say:
    1. I have no wish to go to Christian heaven.
    2. Your great desire is to run other peoples lives.
    (“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master”)

    FWIW: “Beer is proof that God loves up and wants us to be happy”
    You take yourself WAY to seriously.

  • Jack

    Larry, look at the history and current behavior of the Jewish people.

    Are they a people with a never-ending history of wiping out entire races in God’s name? The question answers itself. The supposedly worst we have about them is the conquest of Canaan. There is no ongoing Jewish impetus to conquer other nations or regions. Every subsequent war was at most a battle within the original boundaries laid out in Scripture.

    Surely that should make you step back and think for a moment.

    Both today and in ancient days, Jews were noted for having more, not less, respect for human life than other peoples. While other nations, including supposedly civilized ones like Rome, left unwanted infants out to die, Jews valued (and still value) the lives of children.

    Based on your logic, this should not be so. If the Bible is so awful, and the conquest of Canaan so typical, and so easy to repeat if done in God’s name, then why is it that the Jews — the same people who wrote the Bible and who conquered Canaan — have not repeated it?

    Why have they had such a distinctly different view of the value of life and civilization than nearly any other group, even, and especially, in ancient times?

    The answer may be found in the very Bible you’re attacking. While other nations (including the Canaanite nations) regularly engaged in human sacrifice, Jews mostly did not.

    Why was that, Larry?

    Look in the Bible, specifically the Torah.

    Nearly alone among books of that region, it barred human sacrifice. Eventually, they developed a culture where the practice became utterly unthinkable.

    You’re trying to divorce the Bible from the Jewish people — and that’s a laughably lost cause. You can’t speak of one without speaking about the other. They’re tied inextricably together….and so if you think the Bible and its God is so awful, you’re going to have to explain why you don’t think likewise about the people who are most clearly identified, not just with its writing, but with its values and mores. Its story is their story, all the way through. Talking intelligently about Jewish values aside from the Jewish God, Jewish law, and the Jewish Bible is flatly impossible.

    If this were real combat, you’d be flat on your back by now, but since it’s just intellectual discussion, you can ignore all of this if you wish and pretend you’re still on your feet…..

    But reality is reality….The story of the people of the Bible is a serious refutation of arguments attacking the morals of the God of the Bible. And the more you delve into it, the easier the refutation becomes. Ultimately, the only way out is to paint the Jews as a terrible people….and the name for that is anti-Semitism. It might as well be called belief in invisible monkeys…..it can be maintained only by ignoring the facts of history, from ancient to modern times.

  • Jack

    Wrong Larry. You have it exactly backwards. Objective historical and archeological evidence makes it abundantly clear, apart from what happened to them eventually, that the Canaanite peoples had sunk to a level of utter depravity, unlike anything we see in today’s world, for example.

    It is disingenuous to speak about the commands of the God of the Bible regarding the Canaanite peoples while blithely ignoring what the Canaanite peoples had become.

    It’s even more disingenuous to talk about the whole episode apart from the Jewish people, who, far from being noted for killing people because God told them so, have always been known for their respect for human life and for their prophets and poets who speak about a final end to war.

    It is the Jewish people who are unwitting proof that the conquest of Canaan was not some “let’s-go-kill-for-God” spree, but rather, an event that was atypical of both them and their God. And again the double proof is in (1) their subsequent history, one of respect for life and (2) the other commands of their God, including the absolute ban on human sacrifice and the demands that the poor and needy, widows and orphans be taken care of.

  • Jack

    I am simply looking at two pieces here — the commands of the God of the Bible and the behavior of the Canaanite peoples.

    The question is how big is the gap between the two….how hard is it to justify what God commanded.

    The authors interviewed in the article, focusing on the command of God, suggested that “all” may not mean “all” but “lots,” are suggesting that the gap is more narrow than we think because God may not have commanded literal genocide.

    I am focused on the behavior of the Canaanites, and suggeseting the gap is more narrow than we think because, based on historical and archeological evidence, they behaved far worse than most people would guess.

    Put the two observations together and what do you have?

    – a command that may not have been as total as we think

    – against a collection of peoples who behaved far worse than we would think.

    The result is a narrowing of what we thought to be an infinite gap between the command of God and the behavior of people.

    That is not justifying it. I still believe that with those two facts, the gap still exists. We need more info to say that this justifies it.

    But I trust that the God of the Bible is a good God who would not order something that is wrong, and my trust is enhanced by the above — by the narrowing of the gap between command and conduct.

    And my trust is further confirmed by my observation that the same God of the Bible, just as the conquest of Canaan was ahead of them, gave the Jews a law, a Torah, which distinguished them morally from all the peoples of the region…..eventually making them the one people which said no to human sacrifice, no to leaving infants out to die, no to the worst forms of mistreatment of other people, especially women, that characterized the ancient world.

    And my trust is also vindicated by the behavior of this same people through time — almost from the beginning. No people is perfect…..just as no one person is. But through time, the Jewish people in startling ways have been a light to the nations, as the Bible calls them. Their history is not stained with the blood of countless Canaan-like conquests. Rather, the Canaan conquest is the interesting exception to the rule…..And again, the exact same thing can be said of the God of the Jews.

    So that is why I believe that the God of the Bible and the Jews was and is just. I have enough data to satisfy me on that score. No, I don’t have every piece to the puzzle, but I have enough to figure out what it would look like if I did. And every bit of information we do have ends up narrowing, not widening the gap we’re discussing.

  • Cat

    “The existence of cases such as those where a woman in childbirth will die unless her child’s head is crushed, both conjoined twins will die unless one is deprived of access to a vital organ, on a crowded life-boat one has to decide which people to push over, or on a plane doomed to crash who gets a parachute and who does not, suggest that the second claim and not first that is true. This means that while a loving and just God does endorse a general rule against killing the innocent, he could allow exceptions to it in rare, unusual occasions.”

    Sounds like God is Pro-Choice.

  • I think that in the modern era we individualize and privatize morality to such an extent that we fail to understand past historical events when morality is collectivized. That is, entire groups are judged, not just individuals. From a large picture point of view, the Canaanite issue tells us that whole societies can be judged, not just “individuals,” God judges not only individual “men” but also societies and nations. The Sodom and Gomorrah and the Canannite narravite tells us that an entire society can sink to such a level of reprobation that judgement befalls them. I think that is an important cautionary note for us to think about today in cozy hyper-individualized suburbia.

    The command of Duet 12:31, “Don’t sacrifice you children in the fire” was written about Canaanite child sacrifice. One non-biblical account I read said that the priests of Moleck beat drums so the screams of the burning children could not be heard……..

  • God clearly is pro-choice.

    He’s also pro-life.

  • Larry

    “Canaanite culture was horribly unique and there’s nothing in the world like it today. No culture comes close.”

    …”And therefore its genocide was justifiable” is the rest of the argument you are trying to say. Meaning genocide can be excused if a culture is depraved enough.

    Again it begs the question of how could you possibly compare Canaanite culture to any other since your knowledge of them only comes from one extremely biased source?

    No, you are just trying to make a blanket declaration in order to find genocide an excusable act.

  • Larry

    “The supposedly worst we have about them is the conquest of Canaan.”

    Other than the genocide of the Jews, the Nazis were no different from any other aggressive imperialist nation. A really a great bunch of guys. /sarcasm

    “Are they a people with a never-ending history of wiping out entire races in God’s name? ”

    You seem to forget the effects of the Diaspora. In any event their more powerful “spiritual successors” have a never ending history of wiping out entire races in God’s name. It is the nature of monotheism entwined with political power.

    “then why is it that the Jews — the same people who wrote the Bible and who conquered Canaan — have not repeated it? ”

    The Diaspora. Again, it bares repeating that the Jews do not consider themselves the same people spiritually or culturally as the ancient Israelites. Times have changed for them and ideas about belief and the religion have changed with them. The Jews don’t excuse these passages or the horrific acts therein. They mitigate them by saying “we aren’t like them anymore”.

    You are also deliberately misstating my argument. I am not attacking the Bible. I am attacking an interpretation of it which is immoral and justifies atrocities. That is the problem with Biblical inerrancy and literalism. They think their take on the Bible is the only one out there.

    You like to speak for the Jewish people without any knowledge of them outside of the Bible. You really have no point of reference or even a modicum of education on the subject. You have no clue what Jewish values or what their interpretations of the Bible are. You have no idea how they approach the subject. You are merely tacking on your Christian fundamentalist viewpoint to a group being idolized but not in any way understood.

  • philip

    Another whack by nasty Jack!

    Ad Hominem Jack is back with more personal attacks in 2015! Fling those insults, Jackie…so much for your new year resolutions.

  • philip

    Another whack by nasty Jack!

    Ad Hominem Jack is back and more whacky, with more personal attacks in 2015! Fling those insults, nasty Christian Jackie…so much for your new year resolutions.

  • philip

    Another whack by nasty Jack!

    Ad Hominem Jack is back with more personal attacks in 2015! Fling those insults, Ad Hominem Jackie

  • Peter

    Where in the story of Noah was he described as a drunk? He wasn’t. He was described as the only righteous man on earth.

    The Bible is not clear with regard to how God treats those who have not directly heard of his redemption story. It is possible that many or all of those babies who died in the flood and many of those firstborn children in Egypt went to be with him. As for the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, the only explanation I have is what the Bible says. God did it so that his “wonders might be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”

    And yes, God does love us – more than we can imagine. The Bible describes him *as* love. But he is not *only* love. He is also justice and holiness and much more. Don’t take love out of context. He is love to the righteous, but he is anger toward the unloving and unrighteous.

    Besides, in the grand scheme of things, if God doesn’t exist, none of the things that you just described can even be called immoral, because there is no objective morality. It would just be your personal preference that makes those things sound so terrible. And if we’re saying that morality is whatever we want it to be, then why can’t God do what he wants to do? Who are we to tell another person that they’re evil – especially if that other person is God?

  • Peter

    I should have checked my first statement before I posted it. Sorry about that. B The Bible does describe an instance where he became drunk. Still, becoming drunk once does not make a person “a drunk”.

  • Ben in oakland

    If you’re going to insist that the bible says this or that, perhaps you should read it first.

    “The Bible is not clear with regard to how God treats those who have not directly heard of his redemption story.” If that’s true, then a lot of fundelibangelists are putting words into the mouth of god, because they claim otherwise. If it’s not true, then Peter lied. You might want to visit 2 Peter 2:1. If it’s not true, then Jesus lied. Matthew 12:31-32, John 14:6, and a host of other passages.

    “if God doesn’t exist, none of the things that you just described can even be called immoral, because there is no objective morality.” You don’t believe that yourself. sure there is. Start with this, old when Jesus first preached it: “Do as you would be done by.”

    If the only thing that keeps you from murder and rapine is heavenly surveillance, than I think I’ll just keep on the anonymous side of my keyboard, and avoid you.

  • Peter

    Claiming that I haven’t read the Bible is not useful for discussion. I’ll try to refrain from making claims without backing them up, but like I said, Noah was not described as a drunk.

    As for those who haven’t heard, you’re making inferences from texts and claiming they are saying something that they do not explicitly state. There are various thoughts on this, and even fundamentalists do not agree. Some say it’s a mystery, and others claim they know for sure. I haven’t looked into it enough to have a strong opinion either way, but I know there’s no simple answer. As for the texts, I don’t see how 2 Peter 2:1 relates much to this at all. To be clear, I am not talking about people who have heard the gospel and rejected it. And I’m also not saying that everyone who has not heard will be saved. I’m talking about people who have not heard, but yet recognize their need for a Savior. “Denying the sovereign Lord who bought them…” Denying involves hearing of him first, so it does not apply. And for Matthew 12:31-32, what exactly is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? Jesus describes it as attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to the devil. And I’ve heard it talked about as merely the sin that pushes you beyond the point of ever returning to God. I don’t see how either of those relate to those who have not heard. And as for John 14:6, I’ll quote C. S. Lewis: “We do know that no person can be saved except through Christ. We do not know that only those who know Him can be saved by Him.”

    Of course I don’t believe that morality is subjective, because I believe in God. I said if God doesn’t exist, then morality is subjective. It doesn’t matter how old a saying is or where it originated from. Without a moral code that exists outside of mere naturalistic processes, no one has any right to say that someone’s actions are good or evil. They’re just the result of molecules bumping into each other.

    Heavenly surveillance is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about objective morality. For it to be objective, there has to be some grand moral code that sets the rules of what is right and what is wrong. Without that, murder is no more evil than a tree falling down in a forest is evil. How can someone claim that one particular action is evil and another is not? Their feelings?

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  • Peter

    Umm – what?
    I find it amazing how people can create strange, divergent notions about God while still drawing facts and ideas from the Bible.

    If you take some ideas presented by the Bible as true, you can’t go back and say that other ideas in the text are wrong. What template are you using to decide what to pick and choose as truth?

    You cite John’s gospel to make the claim that the Jews worshiped some other God rather than Yaweh. Certainly John would not have claimed that, as evidenced by everything else he said in his gospel. Why do you choose this portion of the text to back your claim and ignore the rest?

  • Peter

    Why do you choose to make things more complicated than they already are?

    Here’s a short article addressing some of your ideas: https://1peter315.wordpress.com/2008/04/17/the-raising-of-el-asar-us/

    I’ll admit, it didn’t provide a knock down case, but that’s probably because, as he says at the beginning, “the suggestion of equating the raising of Lazarus and the raising of Osiris is ludicrous.”

    You’re like a conspiracy theorist. Sure, there’s no way anyone could completely disprove any of your wild claims, but is it reasonable to think that John has all these allusions to these other ideas? I prefer to read it as it is.

  • Peter

    I have to resort to pleading with you now, as I can tell you are really deep into your ideas.

    What you are saying comes across as something they would be discussing in the movie National Treasure, or what some paranoid Americans have come up with regarding the Illuminati.

    So I beg of you, please consider what you’re saying. And then reconsider it. Think about how logical it seems in relation to how life works day to day. It is not as complicated as you make it out to be. You have come up with elaborate, complex theories explaining things in the Bible, when the generally accepted explanations form a much more coherent story.

    I wish I could try responding to some of your questions/claims, but your grammar makes it very difficult. I feel like you asked why are there no historical records of Jesus, Paul, or Peter doing things. There are historical records, some of which written by Josephus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus.

    I have no idea what got you into thinking the way that you are right now, but I pray you will abandon these ideas. Please don’t become like this man: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Icke

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  • samuel Johnston

    Hi Peter,
    “God does love us – more than we can imagine”
    On what basis do you make such a judgment, Peter?
    Are you not just parroting what you have been told?
    Conditional love (love me or I wiliness you to hell) is a contradiction
    in terms, as is the notion of objective morality.
    If you will give up your desperate needs for long enough to actually THINK about what you have been told, you are likely to see that is does not correspond to your actual experience of living- it rather expresses desire for a different reality.

  • The claim of God’s love is evidence-based. Romans 5:8 says “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” The fact that we are all sinners is obvious to everyone who takes an objective look at his or her own life, and the lives of those around them. The Bible teaches that God is utterly holy, and in order to live as He created us to live we must be holy as well. And it is to make us holy that Christ suffered and died for our sins. “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10).

    In addition to the historical evidence (and the Bible is an historical record, just like any other only subjected to a much greater standard of rigor in its validation), for me there is personal evidence of His love for me. I woke up this morning with the peace of God, ruling in my heart, knowing that my sins are forgiven and my future is bright. Even though it’s raining in Seattle, I know that whatever the day ahead brings will be, for me and mine, “all things worked together for good” because of His love for us.

    His mercies are new every morning. You can walk through life with a sour face, attributing it all to chance and grumbling with anger at a God who supposedly isn’t there, or you can wake up each day with a smile on your face, knowing that each new sunrise brings a new opportunity to experience the rewards of a relationship with your Creator and to express His love to others. As I said earlier, God is both pro-choice and pro-life. He allows us to choose love, and life … or not.

  • Peter

    Hi Samuel,

    I have thought about this a lot. I’m not merely parroting things I’ve been told. There is certainly more thinking I can do, but there always will be.

    How is objective morality a contradiction in terms?
    And as far as conditional love is concerned, contradictions in terms are part of the God game. God is infinite in all his characteristics, so his love, justice, holiness, etc are all infinite. In order for this to be so, things may appear to be contradictory, but they’re really not. It’s not the most satisfying answer, but would you really expect an infinite being to make sense all the time?

  • So your answer is that you havent read the argument. But because you dislike what one author said in previous works, and have read a short interview of a few hundred words, you can dismiss it without actually bothering to read it.

    As to being familar with what others say about Paul, I am actually more interested in whether people can actually offer arguments against what he and I actually wrote rather than just rant stuff off the top of there head which fails to engage our argument because they cant be bothered reading it before they say how terrible it is.

  • PolishKnight

    Theological arguments are fun and simultaneously worthless. “God is god” is the ultimate expression of the lack of rationality to deist based religions. Any logical shortcomings are going to be basically dismissed basically with: “Because God says so, that’s why!” Therefore, no rational discussion is possible. Ultimately then, all deist religions become of equal stature except, of course, the one (or many) that actually have God behind them. Since man themselves are not qualified to make this determination, the only (logical) way to pick the proper deist religion is to throw a dart at a random set of selections and hope for the best. In theory, God himself should then make the dart land on the right selection.

    Or not.

    One of the arguments often made for the deist religions is that they help to make men into better people (assuming, of course, they don’t find passages in the Bible to justify acting badly), but even then, the religions themselves are apocalyptic and ultimately amoral. If the world is to end a fiery death, doing good in the world and building a better society becomes meaningless since it will all come down anyway and God will just fix things or wrap them up. One way to guarantee ones’ children will go to heaven is to kill them while they’re still young and innocent and occasionally, some nutcase gets this idea and puts it into action but no theologian says this won’t work. Suicide was banned by the Christian church after too many people engaged in it hoping to avoid sinning in the future and going to hell or dealing with the oppression of daily life.