Is God Evil for Commanding Israel to Destroy the Canaanites?
(and why it's worth discussing)
I've spent 3 days this week at Freed-Hardeman's annual lectureship in Henderson, TN. It's always encouraging to hear and be around so many other people of faith, many of whom are working hard at preaching in their own communities, and I always come away motivated to be a better servant for God.
This week, I thought about sharing some of the many ways I hope to grow in my faith and ministry in the coming year, but I'll save a public admission of my shortcomings for another time. ;)
Eric's lecture stood out to me for a several reasons:
First, I've become very interested the past couple of years in the ideas of the "New Atheists" that have been popularized by several aggressive atheist authors, and how those who profess Christianity have responded. What you find is that the ideas of the "New Atheists" are not really new, and in fact have been answered over and over again through the past several hundred years. And just a little digging (beneath the media's glorifying of the new atheist arguments) will also find that people of faith in our own generation are answering these objections very ably as well.
As a follower of Jesus, I've been encouraged to see just how effectively the atheists' arguments are being met, even if i'm often discouraged at how little popular culture seems to notice that the Christian arguments are in fact one step ahead in the back-and-forth. People for some reason have come to assume that science and modern culture have "discovered" something that makes Christianity irrevelant or wrong, which is simply not true.
And one of the New Atheists' objections is to claim that the God of the Bible is evil, because He does not fit our idea of what morality is. (After all, isn't our culture the height of any culture that has ever existed or could ever exist?! If our TV shows say something is right, it must be right! If there is a God, there is no possible way that He would disagree with anything that we in our superiority have decided is OK!) Um, not exactly. Every culture will have elements that need to be challenged by God's truth, because cultures are made up of sinful people who need God's truth.
But one of the atheists' objections that at a surface glance resonates with us is God's command to destroy entire nations of all ages. Is the God of the Bible evil after all? It's a topic worth digging into, because we're hearing it more and more as a genuine concern from people as they discuss Christianity, especially young adults.
Second, I love to see people of faith address challenges to Christianity in clear and direct ways. Any idea that goes unchallenged for too long becomes accepted in many people's minds. That's why people like Alexander Campbell have always been so valuable to God's people: we need men and women to step forward and address the world's "so called knowledge" directly, or else the false claims that God is wrong will appear unchallenged, and thus to many people will become accepted. Eric's lecture clearly explained the objection, and then clearly answered it in a direct and logical way. It helps all of us do the same in our conversations.
Third, Christians need to be more versed in these topics in today's world. It is much easier to discuss biblical rights and wrongs in a culture full of people who accept the Bible. The conversation can quickly turn to 'how to properly become a Christian' and 'what should the church look like,' etc. But in a shifting culture where fewer and fewer accept belief in God and Scripture as a given, we must grow in our ability to have conversations with skepticism. For many of us, it's not a language that comes naturally, but it's one we must learn to speak if we want to engage souls with the truth. In fact, the world we're becoming (which some call a "Post-Christian" culture) is much more like the world the apostles were preaching in. God is the same, the message is the same, and we can have the same results with God's blessing. But we must learn how to have the conversations. Lectures like Eric's are becoming more and more valuable to us - they are no longer novelty discussions, they are essential for evangelism in a skeptical culture.
The video of the lecture is not online just yet, but here's an article from Eric on the Apologetics Press website that presents essentially the same information. Take time to read it or at least glance at the main points, because this is an objection we're hearing more and more! I think you'll find it helpful and convincing...