Well let me ask a question of my own, When God commanded the Israelites to kill the Canaanites are we to suppose that there was absolutely no collateral damage? In other words, should we be so naive as to think there weren't a few innocent Canaanites? Let's not forget about Rahab, a Canaanite, who is called a woman of faith (James 2:25). Some will say that she was saved and she didn't die. True, but what about all the young children and babies who died? Surely they were innocent!!!
What's the point? My point is that God, in rare circumstances, commanded the killing of innocent people.
- 1st Sam 15:2-3--Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”
- Deut 2:34--So we captured all his cities at that time and utterly destroyed the men, women and children of every city. We left no survivor.
- Deut 3:6--We utterly destroyed them, as we did to Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women and children of every city.
- Deut 20:16-18--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, so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the Lord your God.
How, as a Bible believing Christian, can I justify this? The skeptic will argue that It is morally impermissible for anyone to mercilessly slaughter men, women, and children who are innocent of any serious wrongdoing. At prima facie it seems hard to argue with this. We are forced into two equally disturbing positions:
- Moral Nihilism--The skeptic will argue that we can't accept absolute morals since God prohibits murder in one breath but commands it in the next. Christians cannot accept the idea that morals are meaningless.
- We would have to admit that what the Israelites did is no different than what Hitler, Stalin, or Pol Pot did.
Notice in my above statement I said in rare circumstances. This is the key so let us examine it further through three claims.
- Our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a loving and just God.
- A loving and just God, in normal circumstances, prohibits killing the innocent.
- In very unusual circumstances in the past, God commanded people to kill the innocent for the sake of some greater good
By accepting the above three claims we are exempt from the two objections above (Moral Nihilism, Equation of Israelites to Nazi Germany). Everyone, including the atheist will agree with premise 2, that a loving & just God, in normal circumstances, prohibits killing the innocent. That is actually the whole point of the atheist; that the God of the Old Testament can't be loving & just since he seems to contradict this premise.
Therefore, the key is to defend premises 1 & 3. In Wednesday's (3/4/15) blog post we will examine Divine Command Theory to defend premise 1.
How would you defend God's commands in these circumstances?