Friday, July 05, 2013

Read Along: 13—Is God a Genocidal Bully?

Today we continue with Chapter Thirteen in the Read Along with Apologetics 315 project. This is a chapter-by-chapter study through the book Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists by Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow. (Hear an interview about the book here.) Below you will find an audio intro for Chapter Thirteen, a brief summary of the chapter, a PDF workbook with questions for the chapter, and some notable quotes. You’re also encouraged to share your comments and feedback for each chapter in the comment section below. Feel free to interact!  Index page here.

[Audio Intro] – Sean McDowell introduces this chapter.
[Chapter 13 Study Questions] (with kindle locations) – PDF study guide.
[Podcast Feed RSS | Podcast in iTunes] – Click to subscribe to the audio.

Chapter Thirteen: Is God a Genocidal Bully?
(pages 172-184]

Chapter 13 addresses the claim that the God presented in the Old Testament is evil and genocidal. In particular, this chapter looks at the specific instance of the judgment of the Canaanites. The context of the passage is explored, along with noting the cultural climate of the day. In addition, the authors look at the way that language is used in the Ancient Near East. The sinful depravity of the Canaanites, the special circumstance of Israel being a theocracy at the time, and other key factors are taken into account. This discussion provides a better backdrop for understanding the passage in a fair light, putting to rest many misunderstandings common to superficial readings of the passage.

Clay Jones offers an essay reflecting on seven key points to take away from the example of the Canaanites. This section offers a sobering perspective on the seriousness and destructive nature of sin, as well as the judgment and mercy of God.

Notable quotes:

To read the New Atheists’ treatment of the Bible and its moral vision, one would think that obedience to Jesus means killing your neighbors rather than loving them. (p. 172)

So the conquest of Canaan, as a unique and limited historical event, was never meant to become a model for how all future generations were to behave toward their contemporary enemies. (Christopher J. Wright, quoted on p. 176)

God as the creator of life has the right to take life, and during this unique occasion of judgment, that prerogative was temporarily extended to the people of Israel since Yahweh was their king (e.g., a theocracy). (p. 178)

It will not do, as some have done when approaching this topic, to make the God of the Old Testament a God of judgment and the Jesus of the New Testament a God of love. God is both loving and just. (p. 182)


  1. How has the language of genocide and ethnic cleaning been misused regarding the Old Testament?
  2. Why is the conquest of Canaan not analogous to Islamic jihad?
  3. How do you respond to the claim that God is genocidal?
Recommended Reading
Next Week: Chapter 14—Is Christianity the Cause of Dangerous Sexual Repression?

1 Comment

  1. R Lidster July 6, 2013

    1) Ethnic cleansing implies that there was some desired demographic distribution and that someone acted to achieve that distribution. However, God routinely wipes out swaths of Israelites as well when they disobey him (Numbers 11:1), complain about being killed (Numbers 16:49), or make fun of Elisha's bald head. God's killings are not isolated to any particular culture, time, or group, but rather effect the Egyptians in the Exodus, residents of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis and Ezekiel, and the entire planet with the Noahic flood. That's not what ethnic cleansing really implies.

    2) Islamic jihad is a far more complex concept than conquest for land and power. On point, Bobby Ghosh explains how jihad is very different from its common Western caricature here:

    3) I would ask for evidence from anywhere other than the Bible that these mass killings did, in fact, occur. In the case of the Exodus and the killing of all Egyptian first-borns, or the Noahic flood, the evidence is pretty strongly against there ever having been such events, and in even in the case of the conquest of Jericho itself, the evidence is pretty tenuous.