Monday, October 4, 2010

Is God a moral monster?

To answer quickly, "no." Paul Copan wrote an article with the title, "Yahweh Wars and the Canaanites," in which he examines an OT difficult passage of the Israelites taking over the land of the Canaanites with brutality. Here is an excerpt:

4 Ethnic Cleansing and Genocide?

Both Rauser and Morriston utilize the term "genocide," and Rauser mentions "ethnic cleansing." However, ethnic cleansing suggests a racial hatred, which just is not behind the injunctions to kill Canaanites. Consider how Rahab and her family were welcomed into the Israelite fold. Visions of ethnic and moral superiority are not part of the picture.[17] In the Mosaic Law, Yahweh repeatedly commands Israel to show concern for strangers and aliens in their midst (for example, Lev. 19:34; Deut. 10:18–19), since the Israelites had been strangers in Egypt. Moreover, prophets later view the nations once singled out for judgment (for example, the Jebusites–a Canaanite people [Deut. 7:1]) as the ultimate objects of Yahweh's salvation. For example, in Zechariah 9:7, the Philistines–on whom God pronounces judgment in 9:1–6–and the Jebusites (who came to be absorbed within the fold of Judah) are both to become part of God's redeemed "remnant." This theme is reinforced in Psalm 87, where the Philistines and other enemies are incorporated into the people of God.[18]

Yahweh's evident concern for the nations in the OT hardly supports a Gentile-hating, arrogant ethnocentrism. Rauser notwithstanding, the Israelites did not determine themselves to be the in-group, who in turn demonized the out-group and then destroyed them. Yahweh pointedly reminds his people that their taking the land is not due to their intrinsic superiority ("righteousness," "uprightness of heart"), but because of the "wickedness" of the Canaanites. Indeed, the Israelites are "a stubborn people" (Deut. 9:4–6).

This is a great take on the problem of the taking over of the Canaanites. The Israelites were not superior to the Canaanites at all, most importantly, no human being is better than another human being, so I think Paul Copan makes a good case here. Racial hatred was not behind the killing of the Canaanites. The taking of the land was because of the wickedness of the Canaanites. To read the first and the rest of the article click here.

For more Paul Copan resources click here.

Moral resources on Wintery Knight's blog here.

William Lane Craig, "Did Commit Atrocities in the Old Testament?" under the Reasonable Faith podcast section.


  1. Are you saying that God ordered the deaths of children because they were immoral? Everyone knows that infants are innocent! (Sorry. That's the outraged response I got when I made the same claim.)

  2. Thanks for commenting Stan, I like to know what the readers think about these topics. William Lane Craig has an excellent resource on this issue of the Canaanites you might be interested in. I'll try and find it, then post it here on this post. He thinks that if a person believes in infant salvation, then there is no issue with the killing of children because that brought their salvation. Yeah, it's a little tough to swallow that thought, but this is a tough issue and I think it needs to be taken seriously. Men like Paul Copan and Bill Craig are just the guys to explain it thoroughly.


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