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February 09, 2011


I don't care if god is a monster.

If he exists, that just means you should worship him harder so he doesn't squash you.

Although I think that the New Atheists are terrible at explicitly formulating and defending arguments, I think good arguments can be given in favor of the view that God did not command the ancient Israelites to utterly destroy all of the Canaanites. I’m not in the position to actually give the argument the elaboration it would need, but I can sketch the basic form that I think it would take.

Call the hypothesis that God commanded the ancient Israelites to utterly destroy all of the Canaanites the ‘Canaanite Conquest Hypothesis,’ or ‘CCH’ for short. Remember that ‘~CCH’ stands for the proposition that CCH is false. Let ‘E’ stand for all of the known evidence in favor of CCH and in favor of ~CCH.

Here’s a sketch of the argument against Copan as I’m currently thinking of it:

(1) Prior to considering E, ~CCH is far more plausible than CCH.
(2) It is at least as easy to explain E given ~CCH as it is to explain E given CCH.
(3) Therefore, the probability of CCH given all of the known evidence is lower than the probability of ~CCH given that same evidence (from 1, 2).
(4) The Old Testament depicts CCH as being true.
(5) Therefore, it is more likely, given the known evidence, that the Old Testament is mistaken in depicting CCH as being true than it is that the Old Testament is not mistaken in this respect (from 3, 4).

Unless I’ve overlooked something, the argument is valid and contains only three premises. The premises seem pretty plausible, to me at least.

I just read the following article by Copan:

In that article he suggests that the Old Testament actually does not depict God as commanding the Israelites to utterly annihilate the Canaanites. Copan rejects premise (4) of my argument above.

It appears, then, that Copan and the New Atheists have this in common: neither believes that God ever commanded the Israelites to utterly annihilate the Canaanites.

That link didn't work. Maybe this one will:

You can find the article there.

So when the Muslims come up with a book explaining how the God of the Koran really isn't an amoral monster because He commanded the torture and death of infidels, we'll say what, then?

I believe the whole issue is correctly balanced by the Calvinistic doctrines of Election and Limited Atonement.

If Christ did not absorb the wrath of God for people on the cross, they are subject to monstrous horrors even Stephen King can't imagine.

Also they are doing really well if God backs off and treats them lightly.

On the other hand, God loves the Elect unconditionally and turns even the bad they experience into blessing

Dave writes: "If Christ did not absorb the wrath of God for people on the cross, they are subject to monstrous horrors even Stephen King can't imagine."

That's not Calvinism. That's Christianity. Calvinism says that God created those people to be subjected to those "monstrous horrors" and tortures and gives them no ability to choose otherwise.

If that's true, God and the Devil are on the same side. They both want people in Hell.

"On the other hand, God loves the Elect unconditionally"

Spoken like someone who assumes they're one of the lucky Elect. Why is it that all Calvinists conveniently assume that they've won the lottery?

Calvinism says that God created those people to be subjected to those "monstrous horrors" and tortures and gives them no ability to choose otherwise.

It's not true that in Calvinism, God gives them no ability to choose otherwise. They do have the natural ability to choose otherwise. What they lack is the psychological ability to choose otherwise.

Why is it that all Calvinists conveniently assume that they've won the lottery?

I don't. Listen to the second caller on the January 9th edition of the Stand to Reason broadcast:

That's me. But many of us DO think we won the lottery for all the reasons Greg gave in that phone call. The fact that we have placed our faith in Christ and the fact that we exhibit the fruit of the Spirit provide evidence that we are elect.

Why is it that all Calvinists conveniently assume that they've won the lottery?
Because we are sitting on a bonanza of love and salvation and we did nothing to earn it?

Learning to read the Book bears greater rewards than standing in judgment on it.

Glad to hear that Copan denies that God ever commanded the annihilation of the Caananites and that, by extension, STR seems to endorse this response as well.

I've never been impressed or satisfied by 'defenses' of God's goodness according to which it was entirely praiseworthy of Him to command His children to slaughter women and infants, nor do I think any skeptic has ever been moved by them. Far better to admit (indeed insist) that such a thing never happened. The only reason you would think otherwise is by misreading scripture anyway.

Skeptics are generally not impressed with Christians who, in their words "pick and choose" which parts of the Bible they believe in, or state that the Bible just gets some things wrong and we can decide which those are. Oddly, neither the skeptic nor those Christians above seem particularly impressed when someone gives a reading of a difficult passage that suggests maybe a surface interpretation isn't good enough. This seems like special pleading to them.

Hi Melinda,

You need to have someone check your work before posting it. Here are some examples why: " His jealous is an appropriate response." I think you mean jeoloiusy, not jealous. "He's a jealous megalomaniac, child abuse and bullying misogyny, petty, condoning slavery, and massacre and ethnic cleansing." I think you meant to say: "abuser ... misogynist ... given to pettiness ... condoner of slavery, massacre(s) and ethic cleansing." I also believe "capitol" punishment should be "capital" punishment. Thanks for your understanding and for all your good blogs.

I forgot to mention this one which is really what got me started:
"There may be external factors that critical would an idea."
I know you have a good thought here somewhere, but the above sentence turned it into gibberish. 8-) Maybe the "Enforcer" needs an enforcer, herself. LOL

Jim I think you need to check your spelling as well

"ethic cleansing"

b, you forgot to put a period at the end of your sentence. :-b

"...until you consider the details of Canaanite society at the time. Incest and human sacrifice were common religious practices. It was a horribly violent culture."

Put into that context, the seemingly unjust action of killing the Canaanites doesn't seem unjust. However, the moral concern that gets to people, this is certainly something the New Atheists catch on to, is the question of what about the babies and children?

The apologetic defense I've heard is to the effect of how taking the lives of both the young and old was to prevent any Canaanite influence from seeping into Hebrew society (if the young were spared and kept).

But, of what I can tell, the issue of babies and children being amongst the destroyed population is something that really does repel the atheists (that I've come across anyway) and is a reason why they want to morally disassociate with believers who, as they see it, are trying to "rationalize" it.

All of this is a touchy subject, very much for an intellectually and emotionally mature audience.

For me, this old (1885), but very readable, article is the Rosetta Stone for linking God's love to his Old Testamet actions (and one Old Testament action in particular--the destruction of Sodom):

Its conclusion will startle almost everybody, but please, be good Bereans and be willing to go whereever the scriptural evidence leads.

(For the record, I believe that homosexual behavior is a sin, and that the Leviticus, Romans, I Corinthians, I Timothy, and other passages are crystal clear in this regard. I mention this only because I don't want this issue to become a red herring.)

An STR respose to this article and/or Ezekiel 16:53,55 would be greatly appreciated.


Thanks for the link.

Wow. Great article.

I commend Greg for recommending this book.

A thoughtful and intelligent reading of the OT in light of the clear example of Jesus and how He acted.

Copan, on his web site, has a Vimeo video that does a pretty good job of presenting the view of evil that I call the Augustinian Dodge; the view that evil is just the lack of good.

Explaining to a rape victim that she just experienced a "lack of love" does seem a little ridiculous, though.

His view also seems to incorporate human libertarian freedom to absolve God of evil.

Touché! I hate it when I do that. 8-)

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