God and Biblical Genocide: Critiquing Apologetic Defenses (Part 1)

In this series, the morally problematic Old Testament texts in which Yahweh, the Supreme God of the ancient Hebrews, commands moral atrocities such as genocide and ethnic cleansing. Responses offered by inerrantist Christian apologists to defend Yahweh’s legitimacy of committing genocide against the Canaanite tribes are critically examined.

Part 2 Why Christians Need to Respond to Defenses of Biblical Genocide.

The proliferation of apologetic texts on the topic of God commanding moral atrocities in the Old Testament (although the New Testament has not been without criticisms on these grounds too) demonstrate the importance that Christians generally view this topic.

The problem is unavoidable and important because it strikes at the heart of certain Christian conceptions and interpretations of the God of the Bible. William Lane Craig, a theologian, recognizes this: “The command to kill all the Canaanite peoples is jarring precisely because it seems so at odds with the portrait of Yahweh, Israel’s God, which is painted in the Hebrew Scriptures”.

Is the biblical God not one of love and mercy? Christians assert God is but become concerned with how this sits with the biblical texts of the conquest narratives in which God commands the Hebrews to commit genocide against the Canaanite tribes in the land the Hebrews believed Yahweh had given them by divine right.

Typically, the issue is one with the doctrine of inerrancy which is the belief that the Bible “is without error or fault in all its teaching”. The reasons demonstrating the error of this doctrine are too numerous to mention in this series beyond the moral question of God’s divine commandments for human beings to commit acts of extreme violence, so the series limits itself to this question.

Underpinning Christian apologetics efforts to defend the many moral atrocities the Old Testament describes as being commanded by Israel’s God is the attempt to safeguard the biblical statements as inerrant. As inerrancy dictates, because divinely inspired biblical authors write about God, they cannot make any false assertions about God (and on other matters beyond the scope of this series). What they write about God must be without error. Of course, this includes the statements describing the God of the Hebrews as violent and bloodthirsty.

A final point is that this series is not an effort to undermine Christian or scriptural truths. It makes no commentary attempting to undermine biblical inspiration other than inerrantist conceptions of this. Many Christian scholars, some introduced in this series, are aware of these issues and do not accept the doctrine of inerrancy but propose other theories and models accounting for these biblical difficulties.


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