've grouped two of our atheist friends' top ten taunts together, because they stem from the same faulty presupposition. Both of them impugn what Scripture says about the justice of God, and they implicitly hold up humanistic values as a superior standard:
Of course God by definition has the power of life and death. All that He created belongs to Him and is His to deal with as He pleases. Evidence is everywhere to prove that He ordinarily deals graciously and benevolently with His creaturesthat "his tender mercies are over all his works" (Psalm 145:9; cf. Matthew 5:45). According to Scripture, He is the source and the epitome of all righteousness, and the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). Goodness, justice, mercy, and kindness are defined by His character, and anyone who wants to hold Him to a different standard would need to give some valid justification for that standardother than, "well, it seems to me."
Scripture also says that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23); that all sentient persons without exception have sinned (Romans 3:9-23); and that our entire race is altogether fallen, wholly corrupted with sin, and therefore under the condemnation of God (Romans 5:12-19). Moreover, Scripture tells us God is to be feared, because He has the right either to show mercy or to killand "after he has killed, [He] has authority to cast into hell" (Luke 12:5).
It is by no means remarkable or hard to fathom that a righteous God, perfectly just and rightfully sovereign, would punish someone with the due penalty of sinespecially civilizations as thoroughly wicked and self-indulgent as Gomorrah, Egypt, or the Amalekites. After all, He condemned the whole race of angels who fell, casting them from heaven without hesitation and without remedy (2 Peter 2:4; Hebrews 2:16).
So the real mystery is not that God sometimes destroys sinners with death, but that He ordinarily shows such extreme mercy.
The destruction of infants and animals by human armies under God's orders poses a deeper moral dilemma, of course, but it is a flat-out lie to suggest that Christians "don't even flinch" when we read those biblical accounts, much less when we ponder what Jesus taught about hell. (For those wishing to investigate that whole question in more depth, a good starting point is this video by John Piper.)
But let's note first of all that incidents of divinely-ordered genocide are highly unusual and confined to one or two specific points in biblical history. It is both spiritually naive and intellectually irresponsible to compare Joshua's military campaigns with wanton, willful, routine, and random acts of terrorism or genocide done in the name of religion. It is especially fatuous to suggest that slaughter and violence in the name of YWHW is characteristic of His people through the ages. That is a convenient argument for the lazy critic, perhaps, but it's not a very good one.
Frankly, the past century of humanism, scientific rationalism, and secularist "justice" isor ought to befar more embarrassing to Atheism than anything an atheist might criticize biblical Christianity for. The atheist record is even worse than that of religion in general, for that matter. As bad as false religion can be, we need to remember that it wasn't Islamic terrorism, Hindu violence, or suicidal cults that slaughtered the most people in the 20th century. It certainly wasn't Christianity. It was the followers of Darwin and Nietzsche: Nazis, Communists, and other totalitarian rationalists and social engineers.
And while our atheist friends are pretending outrage over the slaughter of innocent babies, let's talk about the death-toll brought on by abortiona favorite cause célèbre of the humanist crowd and an evil that would not be possible at all if atheism had not left its indelible stamp on western culture.
Atheism is what gave us the most violent century in human history, and the atheists now want to make this the point around which they rally to oppose the God of the Bible?
The real issue here goes back to the question of biblical authority. Should humanistic moral judgments be evaluated by the Scriptures, or vice versa?
Scripture says God is a righteous judge, and the Bible also gives us every reason to trust Him. The dismal record of human judgment gives me no reason to trust that.
God's final judgment, though severe, will be perfectly righteous, and in the end, every tongue will confess that. It's neither "unloving" nor "intolerant" to warn those who are in danger of that judgmentand even some of your best-known atheistic allies acknowledge that.
This barely scratches the surface of an admittedly difficult question, I know. We'll draw out some more substance in the combox, I'm sure. But it's a busy day and I need to get to work now. Talk amongst yourselves.