Question:

I watched a recent debate (online) between Theist Dr William lane Craig and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss.  Krauss’s favorite example seems to be the divine command in the Old Testament for the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanite men, women and children (Deuteronomy 20:7). I would say Krauss and most other atheists use this brilliantly to turn the theistic argument for the existence of a just God on its head by implying that genocide can be morally justified. They reason that If God can play fast and loose with morals, then there cannot be a truly objective moral code. How would you counter the atheists reasoning on this? Your thoughts? 

Answer:

The reason that Krauss uses this argument is because it is one of the best, if not the best in the anti-God arsenal.  I did a mock debate two years ago in which I played the role of an atheist arguing against the existence of God, and this was one of the arguments I used!  (I lost the debate, by the way)  In fact, here is the link.  http://evidenceforchristianity.org/debate-does-god-exist/

At first glance, one will have to admit that it is difficult to find an easy response to the claim that a God who would command his people to destroy the lives of others cannot be both a just and a loving God.  Yet, I believe that this is indeed the case.   I am copying and pasting below some notes from a class I have done a number of times called “Answering the Hard Questions.”  I will argue that, given the disgusting and abominable religious practices of the Amalekites (I am using 1 Samuel 15:2-3 rather than Deuteronomy 20:7, but the arguments are the same), and given the fact that God is just and therefore has a right to judge those who do terrible things, and given that death in and of itself is not evil, but it is sin which is evil, and given that God, but not humans, has the right to make such judgments, and given God’s limitation on his people in the kinds of war and the treatment of the defeated he mandated, and given the nature of God’s plan to provide salvation for all people, his command to wipe out these people is justified and does not violate his love for us.  This is a difficult argument, but, given the other clear and unmistakable evidence for God’s love and for the inspiration of the Bible, I am forced to this conclusion.  If you want a more detailed response to this question, I suggest you consider taking our ARS apologetics certificate course titled Answering the Hard Questions.  There is a link on the front page of the site for this program and class.

John Oakes

Claim of the skeptic:

The God of the Old Testament is a sadistic ethnic cleanser.

We have to admit that, on some level, this seems to be a fair charge, at least at first glance.

Ex:  1 Samuel 15:2-3   “This is what the Lord of Hosts says: ‘I witnessed what the Amalekites did to the Israelites when they opposed them along the way as they were coming out of Egypt.  Now, go and attach the Amalekites, and completely destroy everything they have.  Do not spare them.  Kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

That is tough stuff!

A few points on the subject:

  1. If you are not bothered by this on some level, I am worried about you!
  2. The argument assumes that physical death is bad/evil.  This is a false assumption.  Sin is evil but death is not.  Death is a transition, hopefully, to something better.
  3. This is the Creator talking here.  Like the father said to his kid:  I brought you into the world, and I can take you out!  God has every right to do as he wills to and with his creation.
  4. God has a perfect right to judge, but we do not.
  5. There is the issue of the religion of the Amalekites.  Sacrificing of children, worshipping gods by having sex with a prostitute in the temple, etc.
  6. The situation for the children in this situation was hopeless.
  7. In the case of Amalek and other Canaanites, both God’s love and his justice demanded that something be done.
  8. Either God was going to create a nation or he was not.   If God is going to have a “people,” then such people must have a physical land and must have an army.
  9. God’s plan is to choose a man, then a nation, through whom to send a savior.

                    God’s plan to bless humanity through Jesus trumps all else.

  1. It is sinful to take the life of another in anger, out of greed or selfishness, but it

                is not necessarily sinful to take a life in war.

  1. Everything God did to Israel as a nation was to limit their ability to wage war.
  2. No authority to establish an empire.
  3. No standing army.
  4. No cruelty, no abuse, no rape

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