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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Grasping at Straws Part Four--Evangelicals Defend Genocide

In yesterday's post, I examined three of the reasons that William Craig, arguably the leading evangelical apologist, gives in defense of the genocides ordered by his God. Today, I will look at Craig's six other arguments for believing his God is good in spite of ordering the killing of children.

4. God delayed the genocide for 400 years showing his long-suffering.

Craig says: Think of it! God stays His judgment of the Canaanite clans 400 years because their wickedness had not reached the point of intolerability! This is the long-suffering God we know in the Hebrew Scriptures.

How does this excuse God? If I delay committing an atrocity for a long time, then I am excused? Lets say that I delay killing my neighbor for 40 years even though he has been offending me from day one. I am patient and suffer through his offenses year after year until finally it becomes intolerable and I have to kill him. Does the fact that I waited 40 years in any way mitigate my crime?

5. The sin of the Canaanites became so noxious that God could not delay his judgment any longer.

Craig writes:
By the time of their destruction, Canaanite culture was, in fact, debauched and cruel, embracing such practices as ritual prostitution and even child sacrifice. The Canaanites are to be destroyed “that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God” (Deut. 20.18). God had morally sufficient reasons for His judgment upon Canaan, and Israel was merely the instrument of His justice, just as centuries later God would use the pagan nations of Assyria and Babylon to judge Israel.

So because the Canaanites practiced such horrific things as ritual prostitution and child sacrifice, God is justified in exterminating all of them, according to the leading evangelical apologist.

First, I think the Hebrew God is a little bit hypocritical here. He obviously has no problem burning young people alive as he commanded it in Leviticus 21:9: If a priest's daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she must be burned in the fire (NIV). Its okay if he does it but wrong if some other god commands it. Note also the misogyny in this passage. She is to be burned alive not because of the sexual offense but because she disgraced her father. Muslim fathers, to this very day, will kill their own daughters for disgracing them (see Man Accused Of Killing Daughter For Family Honor. Is the Hebrew God really any better than the Muslim God? They sound the same to me.

Second, how is killing all of the Canaanite children justified by the fact that the Canaanite parents killed their own children? That is absurd. Its like punishing an incestuous child molester by molesting his children yourself.

Third, as I pointed out in a previous post, Yahweh's problem with human sacrifice doesn't seem to be the act of the sacrifice itself but rather to whom the child is sacrificed. In other words, these Canaanites are morally repugnant not because they sacrificed their children but because they sacrificed them to a pagan deity.

What else do you have Dr. Craig?

6. The children had to be killed so that the Israelites would not intermarry with them or assimilate their culture and evil practices.

He writes:
But why take the lives of innocent children? The terrible totality of the destruction was undoubtedly related to the prohibition of assimilation to pagan nations on Israel’s part. In commanding complete destruction of the Canaanites, the Lord says, “You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons, or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods” (Deut 7.3-4).

What a weak straw Dr. Craig is grasping now!

First, Israel continued to have problems with idolatry throughout its history, so Yahweh's plan obviously didn't work. If God knew that it wouldn't work, why murder the poor children?

Second, in Numbers 31:17-18, Yahweh allowed the Israelites to keep the Midianite virgins for themselves. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man. (NIV). I guess the Midianites were not as bad as the Canaanites and Yahweh could trust his people not to assimilate the false religion of the Midianites. Furthermore, in Deut. 21:10-14, the Hebrew God allows the Israelite soldier to keep a beautiful woman for himself if he finds one in the midst of a battle. (I guess it pays to be beautiful, if you are an ugly woman, you probably die). When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. (NIV)

Third, its not at all clear that the Canaanite children would have corrupted the Israelites. They were children after all. They could be reared by the Israelites to believe in Yahweh and follow his laws. Would a Christian today refuse to adopt a Haitian orphan because the child's parents practiced voodoo?

Fourth, isn't Craig's rationale an example of the end justifying the means? The means, killing innocent children, which is clearly wrong, is suddenly okay because it will prevent a greater evil, i.e., the worship of false gods? This is the concept of choosing the lesser evil but it is still an evil which is supposed to be impossible for a perfectly holy God.

Craig continues grasping.

7. The killing of the children is not really bad because now they get to go to heaven.

Craig states:
Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.

I have dealt with this argument previously but let me summarize again.

First, there is no support in the biblical text for Craig's contention. It is an ad hoc explanation.

Second, Christians don't agree among themselves as to what happens to children who die before the so-called age of accountability.

Third, even if we were to accept Craig's argument, is it justified to kill the children in such a painful manner?

Dr. Craig, you are running out of straws.

8. We are judging these actions based on Western morals. In the ANE, this practice (of genocide) was commonplace.

Craig says: But then, again, we’re thinking of this from a Christianized, Western standpoint. For people in the ancient world, life was already brutal. Violence and war were a fact of life for people living in the ancient Near East.

First, this sounds like an excuse that I sometimes hear from my children. Well, everyone else is doing it. I don't accept that from my children and I sure as hell don't accept it from Dr. Craig's God.

Second, God is not bound by the morality of the ANE. While Craig's argument might excuse the Israelites, it doesn't excuse his perfectly good and holy God.

Third, the fact that contemporary Western morals are superior to the morals exhibited in the Bible actually argues against the Bible being the source of objective morality as Christians constantly claim.

Now we come to the final straw.

9. The genocide was an unusual historical circumstance not a regular practice.

Craig opines: Moreover, the slaughter of the Canaanites represented an unusual historical circumstance, not a regular means of behavior.

What desperation! Its like telling the police officer when you are pulled over for speeding, Officer I don't do this all the time just in unusual circumstances. I guess if I don't speed all the time, then its okay? Poor Dr. Craig is drowning and he has run out of straws.


  1. In regards to the first two points ... in Christian theology, I thought all wickedness was intolerable? That God can't stand even the smallest spark of sin in His presence? Because now it sounds like Craig says there's a scale of sin, and some sins aren't as bad as others.

  2. Just another inconsistency in their theology.

  3. Yep, the morality of ancient people should have nothing to do with it, cause God is supposedly the same "yesterday, today, and forever." Our human societies have changed, but He doesn't change.

    It seems like God would have the same standards from Day 1.

  4. If Dr Craig really believes that slaughtered children are better off because anyone would be happier in heaven, shouldn't he be encouraging us to kill our children at birth to prevent them from being corrupted by sin and ensuring that they skip the bitterness of life in favor of a direct trip to heaven?

  5. Really enjoy your posts, Ken. This latest series got me thinking that maybe you'd be the better guy to debate WLC than JWL (much as I love John). What are you like at refuting several dozen fallacious arguments against the clock?

  6. Tim,

    Thanks for the kind words. I believe I could "hold my own" against William Craig. At this point, however, I doubt he would debate a "no-name" like me. Perhaps in a year or so, when I get my book published and maybe debate some "lesser knowns", he would be willing to "rumble."

  7. Whoa, Ken, I've been reading your blog having a certain picture of you in my mind, and now you switch to a picture in which you look different!

  8. James,

    LOL. Yes, the previous picture was a couple of years old.