Christian apologists make me sick
Question: The Old Testament quite clearly states the Israelites were ordered by God to kill the Canaanites. Every man, woman, and child was to be slaughtered. If this story is historical truth, and God really did issue this command, is he not then admonishing genocide?
This is the very same question asked of Dr. Willian Craig, a research professor of Philosophy and the proud owner of ReasonableFaith.org. If you’re unfamiliar with what Christian apologists do, think of it as an entire field of theology intended to try and explain away some of the most troubling aspects of the Bible. It’s not an easy job, but some feel compelled to try.
Dr. Craig’s answer is long winded, so I thought I’d boil it down to the fundamental quotes:
God doesn’t issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill. He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are. For example, I have no right to take an innocent life. For me to do so would be murder. But God has no such prohibition. He can give and take life as He chooses. God is under no obligation whatsoever to extend my life for another second. If He wanted to strike me dead right now, that’s His prerogative.
What that implies is that God has the right to take the lives of the Canaanites when He sees fit. How long they live and when they die is up to Him.
So the problem isn’t that God ended the Canaanites’ lives. The problem is that He commanded the Israeli soldiers to end them. Isn’t that like commanding someone to commit murder? No, it’s not. Rather, since our moral duties are determined by God’s commands, it is commanding someone to do something which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been murder. The act was morally obligatory for the Israeli soldiers in virtue of God’s command, even though, had they undertaken it on their on initiative, it would have been wrong.
If you think this sounds dangerously like admonishing the acts of delusional people who think God is commanding them to commit genocide, it’s not the end of the argument.
Now how does all this relate to Islamic jihad? Islam sees violence as a means of propagating the Muslim faith. By contrast, the conquest of Canaan represented God’s just [sic] judgement upon those peoples. The purpose was not at all to get them to convert to Judaism! War was not being used as an instrument of propagating the Jewish faith. The problem with Islam, then, is not that it has got the wrong moral theory; it’s that it has got the wrong God.
Now isn’t that convenient? Islamic fundamentalists were only wrong for flying planes into the World Trade Center because they had the wrong God. Silly me; here I had the delusion acts of murder and genocide were universally bad.