Old Testament Genocide

Justin Taylor weights in on the conquest of Canaan here. This is a careful and sober analysis.


Jr said...

The argument presented is deeply flawed.

I shall rebut each of the points in turn:

1: This argument assumes it is legitimate to put humans should follow the instructions of an arbitrary power. Why this is so is not argued for. The idea that humans are owned by god as chattels is not sufficient, because it is morally repugnant to begin with. Second, even if humans could be owned as chattels, the argument would still fail. Even if X owns Y, it does not follow that X is justified in doing whatever he wishes with Y. Owning a canon ball does not give me moral license to throw it at a passer-by.

2: This merely begs the question. It asserts what is to be proved.

3. Again this argument assumes it is right for humans to act as slaves, and follow arbitrary power as the paradigm of justice. Divine justice becomes arbitrary whim if its enforcement is left to option and good grace, as is implied by the article. It is yet more arbitrary if we are not permitted to probe its justification. The article merely stipulates that god cannot fail to be just. Nothing is said of the intrinsic justice or injustice of the Canaanite massacre, which is what is at stake here.

4. See above.

5. This merely says that the massacre was not also an example of another injustice. It does not show that the massacre was not unjust to begin with.

6. This point asserts that fervent religious belief gives justification to exclude others from a Church. This may be justified, but the idea that this principle permits (forcible) expulsion from a territory is not argued for.

7. The fact that the massacre may bear some resemblance to a (supposed) future event is irrelevant to the moral standing of the original act.

J. K. Jones said...


Thanks for your comment.

I will let Justin defend himself on most of the points you raised, but I do want to address two items that get to the heart of it.

“…an arbitrary power…arbitrary power as the paradigm of justice…”

God’s law is an expression of His nature. He gives us laws based on His desires. His desires are determined by His being. He says what is right and wrong because of whom He is.

He could not make His moral law to be any way other that it is. He cannot do this because He will not. He does not want to change His law nor will He ever want to. No outside force requires God to set His laws as He does. He, Himself, is the standard.

God does not give arbitrary commands.

When we break His commands, we violate a law that requires a judicial penalty; we incur a debt that needs to be repaid; and we rebel against a lawful authority. We can be sent to hell for that. Only in hell can we be adequately punished to pay the judicial penalty. We cannot pay back the debt, so we should languish in a debtor’s prison. And we will never submit to God’s authority on our own, so we should be incarcerated.

“Divine justice becomes arbitrary whim if its enforcement is left to option and good grace…”

God’s grace is ultimately dependant on Christ’s payment for the penalty of sin on the cross. God can forgive transgressions of His law because the penalties for violating that law have been paid by what Jesus Christ did.

God comes to earth in the Person of Christ. He lives a sinless life. He dies a death He did not deserve on the cross. Somehow, He takes the sins committed by those who God would forgive upon Himself. He suffers God’s wrath for those sins. He makes it possible for us to receive credit for the perfect moral life He lived. If we trust that Christ paid the penalty for our sins (faith) and trust what Christ said about how to live our lives (repentance), our sins are legitimately forgiven.

In other words, all sin is punished. Either the person who committed the sin is punished, or Christ is punished because He took the sin upon Himself. God does not punish sin arbitrarily because He always punishes sin.


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