Deut 20:16-17 says, " "Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you"
Matthew 5:43-48 says, ""You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Some argue that these two passages reveal two different theologies that are irreconcilable. But there is truly nothing new under the sun. Marcion (85-160 A.D.) argued the same thing. He contended that the God of the Old Testament was different than the God of the New Testament. You can read my blog about him here. He rejected the Old Testament and much of the New. This led to the church excommunicating him. But today we just call it scholarship and read their books.
One of the more popular ones to follow in the footsteps of Marcion is Kenton L. Sparks. He argues that the New Testament corrects the primitive and erroneous theology of the Old Testament. Take a look at some of his statements
- He said that the Bible, "does not contain a single coherent theology but rather numerous theologies that sometimes stand in tension or even in contradiction with one another." (God's Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship, pg. 301)
- We are, he argues, to "take a theological step beyond the written word by listening to God's living voice, which includes not only Scripture but also the voices of creation, tradition, and the Spirit." (Ibid., 299)
- The Old Testament, Sparks says, contains, "outright literary fabrications" and "propaganda" (Ibid., 120-21)
- He asserts, "Biblical criticism suggests that the Bible does not speak with one divine voice but offers instead a range of human voices with different judgments and opinions on the same subjects." (Ibid., 121)
So are the Neo-Marcionites correct? I'd beg to differ with a bit of common sense. First let us take a look at his statements.
- I've read the books by Bart Erhman and others who want to show us all the contradictions in the Bible. Far be it from little ole' me to stand up to these theological giants with their fancy degrees but I was thoroughly unimpressed by their examples. I, a simple Bible thumper using my pea sized brain, was able to harmonize the passages they pointed out with much ease.
- How is it we are to listen to God's living voice? We are to listen to the voice of creation. So I guess trees do make sounds when they fall in the woods but nobody is there. What is the voice of creation sound like? Is it feminine? Is that why they call it mother earth? We are to listen to the voice of tradition? But what is tradition except the ideals of what the most powerful agreed upon? Does might now make right? Finally we are to listen to the voice of the Spirit? How does one know what the different between the Spirit and a demon? The Bible tells us to test the spirits (1st Jn 4:1). We do this by abiding by what we heard from the apostles (1st Jn 2:24). What it sounds like to me is that Sparks wants us to listen to men rather than God.
- Just because the Bible doesn't match up with his a priori worldview does not make it a candidate for 2016's Best Political Campaign Crew.
- I think Sparks needs to get checked out for all those voices he is hearing in his head. When I read the Bible I see one harmonious message.
It is time to take a look at the two passages we cited earlier to see if people like Sparks have a point. Does Deut 20 & Matt 5 contradict each other? Hardly!
- I agree with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI) article 5 that states, "We affirm that God's revelation in the Holy Scriptures was progressive. We deny that later revelation, which may fulfill earlier revelation, ever corrects of contradicts it." Therefore, we must understand that Deut was in the Old Covenant and Matt is in the New Covenant. Surely God's character never changes. He is always Holy and always Love. But sometimes he is exercising one and other times exercising the other. When you punish your children it does not contradict the time you took them to a theme park for their birth day.
- Christopher Wright makes a good point about the Deut passage by saying, "What the Bible unequivocally tells me is that this was an act of God that took place within an overarching narrative through which the only hope for the world's salvation was constituted." (The God I Don't Understand: Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith, 106-107). That is, we must look at the overall picture of Scripture and how does Deut 20 fit into it. God was working out redemption for the entire world. In order to do this the nations of Canaan were to be judged. They were given over 400 years to repent (Gen 15:13-16) but did not. Why did it have to be this way? We don't know but eventually God has to judge the wicked or we could charge that He is an unjust God. So we can't have our cake and eat it too.
- Matthew 5 is set in the context within the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is addressing those who will most likely be part of the church after his resurrection. The church is sent into the world to bear witness of the Gospel not conquer territory in order to establish themselves as a nation awaiting a messiah like Israel.
- Those who reject the judgments God inflicted on the Canaanites are going to have to reject the entire eschatological doctrine of judgment by which God casts all wicked doers into Hell.
- Once an interpreter of Scripture begins to use a human standard of moral judgment to evaluate the veracity of Scripture the authority of Scripture has been crucified.
I think when one takes into consideration the scheme of redemption, where each passage fits into the overall narrative of scripture, remembers that God will one day judge the entire world, and doesn't use faulty/changing human standards for moral judgments, we can see that Deut and Matt. do not contradict one another.