01 May 2012

Are the commands to kill Canaanites and eschew shrimp binding on Christians? Yes — in a sense

by Dan Phillips

As I preach through a series titled Thinking Biblically, last Sunday brought us to consider What Is the Bible? It was the first of a projected pair of sermons treating the nature and use of Scripture. Last Sunday's installation was probably really about 1⅓ of a sermon, as I attempted to pack an awful lot into one message (epistemology, plenary verbal inspiration, inerrancy/infallibility, Canon, autographa, textual criticism... for starters). Praise God for those gracious folks, though; their response was very kind and encouraging.

In the course of our working through the issues we laid down the assertion that all of Scripture is morally binding. My text was James 4:17 — "So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin."


We all know that James speaks here of sins of omission. Sins of commission are when we do what God forbids (i.e. commit adultery, lie, steal). It is no less a sin to refuse to do what God commands. These are sins of omission. Once we know what God calls us to do, we are liable to respond in believing obedience.

In that category, it isn't difficult to think of examples. A Christian who refuses personally to commit himself to involvement in a local church is committing a sin of omission (Hebrews 10:25; 13:7, 17). A Christian who refuses to study the words of Christ regularly is committing a sin of omission (Jn. 8:31-32). A Christian who refuses to pray is committing a sin of omission (1 Thess. 5:17), and so on.

But we who know what Christ makes of apparently external OT laws (Matt. 5:21ff.) should know better than to confine such sins to activities alone.

For instance, Scripture tells us that Christ is God (Jn. 1:1, etc. ad inf.). Suppose we decline to affirm this teaching. Is it not a sin to refuse to embrace that truth in faith? Scripture tells us that there is one God (Deut. 6:4), and distinguishes the persons within that one God (e.g. Jn. 1:1, again). Is it not a sin to refuse to embrace either truth? Or the truths that Christ alone is the path to God (Jn. 14:6), or that His name alone brings salvation (Acts. 4:12)? Are these not morally binding on the conscience of the Christian?

But don't stop there. When pagans unreflectingly throw Yahweh's command to kill the Canaanites or the dietary laws of the Jews at us, don't some Christians cringe? Don't we sometimes beat a hasty retreat into the claim that we are not under the law of Moses, so that we can be done with the subject?

("Where are you going with this, Phillips? I thought you were a dispensationalist, not a reconstructionist.")

While it is fair enough, and true enough, to point out the progressive nature of Scriptural revelation (Heb. 1:1-2) and the unfolding nature of God's requirements of His children, the Christian is no less morally obliged to acknowledge that those commands/prohibitions are part of God's Word and that they are wise, true, and right commandments in their context. That is, we may not "write off" such commands as an embarrassing backwards part of Israel's religious evolution, since Scripture presents them no less emphatically as God's Word than it does John 3:16. In fact if anything, the claims that these OT injunctions are direct words from God is more emphatic and transparent than NT claims.

If that isn't plain enough, let me rephrase: whether or not I am commanded and thus morally obliged to do something commanded in the Bible (i.e. Exod. 29:10; Mt. 21:2) is a matter of sane interpretation (That is to be part of the topic of the next sermon. Pray for me!) But each affirmation of Scripture also places an obligation on me — an obligation to believe, to be molded in my thinking by it. I am morally obliged to believe what Scripture affirms, whether it is the facts of creation (Gen. 1) or the foundation of knowledge (Prov. 1:7) or the dietary value of hoopoes for Israelites (Lev. 11:19) or subordination within marriage (Eph. 5:22ff.).

All Scripture is God-breathed, profitable... and (on one level or another) morally binding.


(BTW, this is a corollary of this post, and this post.)

Dan Phillips's signature

77 comments:

yankeegospelgirl said...

I'm going to stick my neck out and say that I'm not prepared to put the killing of innocents on par with dietary restrictions. God taking innocent life is one thing, but commanding people to do it is another. Those passages have always disturbed me, and I wouldn't blithely assume they are entirely legit. Perhaps they are, but we should at least retain the possibility that they're not.

So, I must respectfully but firmly disagree with you there. On the other hand, I agree with the overall thrust of the post. We as Gentiles in the 21st century may not have to observe this or that rite or ritual, but as you said, in context, they fulfilled a very important role. They were signs of honor and worship. If you loved God, this was how you proved it. It's like a parent saying, "Kiss me." Show me you love me. That's definitely non-trivial.

CGrim said...

yankeegospelgirl... I think the main thing is that God wasn't commanding the people to kill innocent Canaanites, but rather, hardened, sinful, blasphemous, God-hating Canaanites. Very likely, if there were any (relatively) innocent Canaanites to whom God decided to show mercy, they would have been part of the cohort that fled Canaan as the Israelites approached. Remember, God promised to "drive them out" ahead of his people, and to utterly destroy the hardened hold-outs who remained.


Dan, as for whether dietary restrictions are still binding in any sense, dont passages like Mark 7:19, Acts 10:15, Rom 14:14 seem to indicate otherwise? Were they not a part of the "dividing wall of hostility" that Christ removed. (Eph 2:11-22)

Benjamin said...

What's absolutely hilarious about this post is that I just happened to read Lev 11 this morning, and consciously remarked over what the heck a "hoopoe" was. Is this a sign from God that I should join the North American Hoopoe Preservation Society?

(Aside: how do you know, with almost absolute certainty, that the Holy Spirit is working in you? When you actually look forward to reading Leviticus!)

DJP said...

You've misread me, for a great rarity, CGrim.

CGrim said...

Ah ah ah, nevermind Dan, I misunderstood what you were saying. Upon re-reading, I think you were saying that we are obliged to recognize that the dietary laws were inerrant divine revelation entirely right and true in their context, which I would affirm entirely.

Jesse said...

Well said Dan. When I started reading, I was afraid you might have forgotten your "five points/seven dispensations" line on your blog. but in the end, I guess I am one of those that too quickly hides behind the "Law of Moses" line. Good balance in your post. Thanks

DJP said...

So, to make sure I understand you YGG, when Numbers 31:7 says "They warred against Midian, as the LORD commanded Moses, and killed every male," you're saying the verse teaches error and God never commanded that? Or are you saying that God commanded it, and He was wrong to do so? Or am I misunderstanding you?

DJP said...

Yes, CGrim, that's exactly it.

CGrim said...

Benjamin, you will find very few Hoopoe to preserve in North America...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoopoe

;)

will said...

"...whether or not I am commanded and thus morally obliged to do something commanded in the Bible is a matter of sane interpretation..."

"All Scripture is God-breathed, profitable... and (on one level or another) morally binding."

Provocative...On some level scripture is morally binding even though I am not longer morally bound to obey it's commands, because it is no longer a source of authority for faith and practice for a New Testament Christian? I guess on the level that the OT points, in it's entirety, to Christ it can be morally binding as a shadow or type. But it certainly is not morally binding as regards obediance to the Mosaic law.

Best

Michael R. Jones said...

Excellent point, Dan! I hadn't thought of it that way. It's just easier to hide behind the "it's not binding on us anymore" line rather than think about that it was binding at that point in salvation history.

(You'd think somebody with my training would have realized that before, but it's so hard being good looking and smart.)

DJP said...

To toss out a little chum (though you sharp cookies hardly need it), this has repercussions as well for various fiascoes we've discussed in the past, such as the Rob Bell and the ER2 disasters and, reaching further back, the whole Emerg*** miscarriage.

Terry Rayburn said...

Even aside from the moral obligation to the rightness of the Word, as Dan so well expressed it, is the sheer beauty of our ability to see into the mind of the God we love by meditating on His Laws, OT and NT.

If we love Him, we want to know Him better, we yearn to understand Him more, we want to "experience" our relationship with Him through His Word ("Don't go mystic on us, Terry").

If we ignore even obscure laws (or geneologies, or songs, etc.) that don't relate directly to our lives, we miss some of that.

That's why we may delight in "all Scripture" and "the whole counsel of God".

As a sidenote: It's always better to obey the Lord than to disobey Him, but the higher the level of the *motivation* for the obedience, the better.

The levels might be expressed as follows (incomplete list, of course):

6. Stark fear of retribution from Him
5. Conscience/Guilt
4. An appreciation for what is good
3. Gratitude for what He's done for us
2. Love for Him
1. The very Life of Christ in us (a la Gal. 2:20)

Being "filled with the Spirit" or "Walking according to the Spirit" trends us toward #1.

DJP said...

Terry sounds mystical, Phillips sounds undispensational, cats and dogs living together -- MASS HYSTERIA!

Terry Rayburn said...

"Mass" hysteria? Sounds Romanist!

Kerry James Allen said...

Hmmm...he mentioned shrimp but not bacon. Seems like both were unclean, but I'd rather have bacon than shrimp. I'm glad he was focusing on my (and maybe his) "felt needs!" And thank God for dispensational teaching! ;-]

yankeegospelgirl said...

I am not taking a definite position either way. Because I believe that killing an innocent being is always wrong, my moral intuition is that God would never allow it to take place. (Though that leads into divine command vs. natural law theories of morality, which are far too large to treat here.) Nevertheless, I know that we have no particular textual reason to question the validity of the various passages where it says that God does command so, therefore I cannot say for certain that they are in error. However, they smack strongly of general tribal blood-thirstiness. So I'm willing to entertain the possibility that the claim that it was under God's command is erroneous.

However, that gets into a whole slew of biblical inerrancy issues, which are... well, far too large to treat here! I'll just leave it at saying that while I definitely wouldn't call myself a liberal on the topic (indeed, I find repulsive and laughable all of the liberal literature I've seen), my position is probably off the beaten path of a majority of conservatives. I will say that I've heard some interesting theories to try to explain these passages from conservatives who hold to strict inerrancy. For example, some people say that perhaps God "anaesthetized" the Israelites during the killing process, so that they carried it out like zombies, and also anaesthetized the innocents physically so they would feel no pain. That's an interesting theory, though it still doesn't convince me morally.

Kerry James Allen said...

"...I kill, and I make alive..."
Deut. 32:39

DJP said...

YGG, first, thanks for the clarification.

Second, I have to say that everything in your comment is pretty much exactly on-topic.

Third, what you are doing is precisely what this post warns against. In setting your judgment over against that of the OT, you are setting your moral judgment above Jesus'. You are saying that you have a higher and more refined sense of morality than Jesus. Those aren't the words that you want to us, I'm sure, but it is the unavoidable effect of your position.

1. Jesus repeatedly, emphatically, and unambiguously affirms the divine authority and inerrancy and moral force of the entire OT

2. You reject the authority of part of the OT that you find distasteful.

3. Jesus' authority is the fact that He is God incarnate

4. Your authority is you (your moral conscience)

5. Therefore, you put your moral sensibilities over Jesus', and when it comes to this point of ethical reasoning, Jesus is not Lord to you.

I could get into the various corollary errors in your thinking (i.e. the myth of "innocent people"), but those are weeds. The heart is the fact that you do not see yourself as obliged to bow the knee to God in your thinking. The fear of the Lord is not where you start, when you feel fine telling God that He is wrong.

Not saying any of this to be mean. I've always enjoyed (and often loved) your comments.

It just happens that you've provided a living, breathing example of exactly what I'm talking about.

I just don't know why your pastor never told you this, if he didn't.

Terry Rayburn said...

YGG,

Aside from your [literally] unorthodox view of Inspiration, you might consider the scriptural concept of "innocence".

While one may be "innocent" as to a particular crime (for example, you and I are innocent of the murder of O.J.'s wife), none are innocent in regards to the law or holy character of God (see Romans 3:10-18).

Therefore God, while still being good and righteous, is as free to command His theocratic people to kill "innocents" as He is to open a crack in the Earth and swallow a few thousand Himself.

This is a perfect example of my last comment regarding seeing into the mind and heart of the God we love (in this case relative to His awesome Holiness).

The corallary to this is the merciful patience He shows to the evil and "guilty", and ultimately of course to His salvation of some who don't deserve it (in this case relative to His equally awesome Compassion and Love).

Both give insight into His heart and mind, and neither can be set aside because of a "I-could-never-serve-a-god-like-that!" nonsense that we regularly hear from pagans.

Terry Rayburn said...

Oh...

I wrote, while Dan published, and went into them weeds :)

DJP said...

LOL; it's good tag-teaming with you. There's a place for "God is right because..."

I'm focusing on the, "Wait, how do you have standing to challenge God on whether He's right? Particularly if already you claim to believe Jesus is Lord?"

David Regier said...

Sure glad I don't live in a country that would consider food laws or the slaughter of innocents.

Fred Butler said...

We need to get past the "innocent" concept for the Canaanites as if they were just a bunch of garden-tending, philosophy-reading, Macbook users who lived in peaceful, Hobbiton-like villages that were all killed by the mean and nasty Jews. This is hardly the case. They are no more "innocent" than the heathen sinner today who will also be cast into hell when he or she dies.

Clay Jones wrote up a good article on this subject worth your time reading,
http://www.clayjones.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/We-Dont-Hate-Sin-PC-article.pdf

Terry Rayburn said...

Man, Fred.

Now I gotta take another shower. Point well taken.

DJP said...

But Fred, anyone, let me be as plain as I can.

Suppose we prove every last Canaanite was a vicious brute. Suppose YGG says, "Yeah, okay, I guess God has my permission to order their extermination."

What have we accomplished?

Next stop: I think God missed it on homosexuality / Hell / Jesus being the only way / monogamy / private property / whatever.

The real problem isn't an overestimation of Canaanite morality.

The real problem is an underestimation of God's Lordship, and an overestimation of my relative size before Him.

DJP said...

This whole post is very apposite.

Bethel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
yankeegospelgirl said...

Well, I realized that my comment might potentially provoke that response, so I'm not surprised. I regret that we'll have to part ways on some of those issues. (As for my pastor, he's actually Anglican, so I'm not sure what position he would take on this issue. He rarely preaches on topics that aren't part of the gospel/epistle for the week in the church year.) Naturally, I maintain that my position doesn't necessarily lead to all the places you think it does, and I'd be happy to expound and clarify more.

I will say, for starters, that I believe our moral consciences are God-given. So, when I say that I have moral reservations about killing innocent beings, I actually consider this exactly the opposite of "pitting myself against God." Our sense of right and wrong is divinely in-built from birth. Some choose to ignore it, or deny it, yet it is there nonetheless... and God gave it to us!

To me, asking the question of whether God can make a wrong right is like asking whether God could make a square circle, or create a rock so big He couldn't lift it. I take the C. S. Lewis approach, "Nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God."

Bishop55 said...

I just read this last night and thought it relevant to this comment thread:

[We] must understand that the whole Bible gives us the goods both on God and on us. It is God's unalloyed, inerrant disclosure of Himself, and His diagnosis of the human condition. What the Bible says, God says.

Where did I get this idea? I got it from Jesus. What we call the "Old Testament" came up constantly in Jesus' teaching ministry, and His attitude was always the same: What the Old Testament said, God said. Every bit of it was Scripture, and could not be broken (John 10:35). It was given by God the Holy Spirit (Matt. 22:43), so not the smallest part of it could be nullified (Matt. 5:17-18). Jesus treated its narratives as unerring historical fact (Matt. 12:40-41; 19:4-6). No human doctrine ever could outrank and set aside what the Old Testament said (Mark 7:6-13).

In all his teaching, Jesus confirms what the Old Testament (hereafter OT) says about itself. It claims to represent God's very words (Gen. 1:3). It quotes Him verbatim (Exod. 20:1ff). It claims for itself qualities reflecting both its divine origin and its continuing power under God (Pss. 19:7-11; 119).

To understand Jesus, we must begin where His thinking begins: not with John 3:16, but with Genesis 1:1, and on through all that follows. There we find the truth that forms the basis of Jesus' teaching, truth that we would never find within our own deceptive, incurably sick hearts.

To understand who Jesus says that we
are, we must understand who we were, and what we became, and how we got there. (The World-Tilting Gospel, Dan Phillips)

DJP said...

No, YGG, that's all irrelevant and beside the point. You imagine there's a standard of right and wrong to which God must be subject. You imagine that you have the authority to judge Him by that standard.

You judge God.

You can "explain" for a very long while (and a great many have tried, ever since Gen. 3), but it still will remain a way of thinking that is fundamentally anti-Christian. There is no way that you judging God is practicing the Lordship of Christ, or holding the fear of Yahweh as the beginning of knowledge.

Everyone has an ultimate authority, a point of inerrancy. To the Christian, it is Christ speaking in His word.

To you, it is you.

These are mutual-exclusives.

Bishop55 said...

YGG,

I believe you are confusing categories. The question is not "Can God make a wrong, right?" The question is, "As Creator, does God have the right to do with His creation as he sees fit?"

The question could also be, "Who are you O' [wo]man to answer back to God?" The thrice-holy Creator of the universe does not really have to offer an explanation to you for his actions. Each Christian eventually reaches a point in their walk of faith where they must say, "The Bible says thus-and-such which is difficult for me to believe but I will diligently study God's word and learn how his actions are/were consistent with his holiness, justice, goodness, etc."

DJP said...

Well put, Bishop.

The state of affairs where someone can say (A) I am a Christian (B) and I judge this unambiguous, unargued Biblical affirmation to be morally reprehensible — casually, without so much as swallowing one's gum — is remarkable.

This is a huge thing, and it is fundamentally a rejection of "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." It says in effect "I'm willing to make an adjustment here and there as I see fit, but that whole 'repent' thing is far too radical."

Linda said...

I've encountered people who make the grave error of placing shrimp eating such as homosexuals as equated to murdering or stoning. They are ignorant of the fact that there were different laws such as ceremonial dietary laws, priestly and then the moral laws. Shrimp doesn't fall under moral law it fell under ceremonial dietary laws.

Correctly stated is in context


killing is not the same as murdering -this has to be properly defined

Also the "innocent" Caananites (:??) I don't think so. They were sacrificing their babies to Molech and committing all kinds of macabre sins. These people were vile and to allow them to live would have been like allowing a rabid dog to live ~~~

Eric said...

So many errors happen when we:

1) Misunderstand who God is, and/or
2) Misunderstand who man is before God.

A host of fallacies, heresies, and stories of unbelief can be traced back to these two areas.

YGG, you would do well to think hard about the admonition/exhortation directed toward you in this thread. The thought process/pattern that you are displaying is a seriously wrong-headed approach and has led many to unbelief. I pray that it will not end that way for you.

Nash Equilibrium said...

A lot of things in the OT don't make sense to us or our conscience. But that only proves that any God who is small enough to be understood by us, is too small to be worshipped.

BTW, I am literally AMAZED that there has not been one mention of the whole Dan Savage affair in these comments, given the subject matter of this article and his much-reported bullying of Christians who believe in the OT.

yankeegospelgirl said...

But how can you read these passages as not contradicting God's commandment "Thou shalt not murder?" Would you say it's not murder if God commands you to do it? I suppose you'd have to if you took that position.

Also, I expect we would agree that non-Christians should intuitively be able to tell that, say, abortion is wrong. Yet, how would you reconcile that with a divine command theory of morality?

Jesus did affirm the divine inspiration and authority of the Old Testament in sweeping terms. I'm not saying that it's ridiculous to then extrapolate that to affirming its total inerrancy. However, I do think we should recognize it as an extrapolation that takes a step beyond what Jesus actually says. Meanwhile, I am content to leave the question of the Canaanites, and similar types of questions, with a "TBA" after them. It's something I would like to know about when I get to heaven. Until then, my faith doesn't hinge on it. My faith hinges on whether or not God the Father sent Jesus the Son to die on a cross for my salvation and rise bodily from his tomb on the third day. And I believe that with my whole heart.

I think I'll probably bow out of the discussion at this point. I did debate over whether or not to enter it in the first place, but as usual I couldn't keep my mouth shut. :)

Bishop55 said...

Linda,

See Dan's comment @9:32AM.

When we point out the extraoridnaily cruel acts of the Canaanites as God's reason for killing them, it is almost like we are trying to excuse God. "Oh, you see, they were really bad, that's why God did what he did. Otherwise, he's a really nice, gentle God."

The fact is, God is completely justified in killing the Canaanites, Alexander the Great, Jeffrey Dahmer, Osama Bin Laden, Hitler, Stalin, and ME for exactly the same reason: He is God and I am a wretched sinner that has offended his holiness in thought, word, and deed since birth.

That is the black, velvet backdrop that makes the diamond that is God's saving grace to sparkle all the more.

yankeegospelgirl said...

"They were sacrificing their babies to Molech and committing all kinds of macabre sins."

But "killing every male" includes killing male infants. The Old Testament accounts make it clear in case after case that the Israelites weren't just slaying vile sinners.

yankeegospelgirl said...

"The fact is, God is completely justified in killing the Canaanites..."

GOD is, but this is not equivalent to saying that WE are. God is the giver of life and may do what He wills with it. We, as humans, do not have that power (naturally excepting the death penalty, self-defense, war, etc.)

DJP said...

You really, really aren't getting it, YGG. You said you'd bow out, then continued to make comments already definitively answered in this very meta.

yankeegospelgirl said...

As for Dan Savage, it's probably unhealthy for me to conjure up a sufficiently insulting way to describe him. May his memory be erased. How's that?

St. Lee said...

Great post, and great thoughts on the proper way to defend Scripture (that is - don't apologize for what it says).

I have to add, those who find God's judgments in the Old Testament distasteful are really going to hate the final judgment!

yankeegospelgirl said...

My long comment was my last as far as the issues you had directly brought up (inerrancy, divine command, etc). The other comments were just answering some problematic side assertions---confusing God killing innocents with people killing innocents, claiming that the Israelites weren't commanded to kill innocents anyway, etc. Those are things that should be cleared up before even entering into a larger discussion.

DJP said...

You're not showing any sign of dealing with what's already been said, YGG. All that has already been dealt with.

Bishop55 said...

YGG,

And his chosen means, his instrument of judgment in killing the Canaanites was His people, the Israelites.

In Isaiah 10 He turned the tables and used the wicked Assyrians to bring judgment on Israel.

I echo the exhortations you have heard here today. Your error in this regard is not insignificant. You are attempting to besmirch God's character and you are calling into question the truthfulness of His word. The implications of this kind of thinking are grave.

Nash Equilibrium said...

YGG, to the subject at hand, I think you are being confused by a few things. First, if God were to come down and tell you to kill someone, you'd be justified in doing it and it would be an injustice if you didin't do it. That's the situation the Israelites were in all those millennia ago. BUT that is not the situation that you, or anyone else, will ever be in again, because the Canon is CLOSED and COMPLETE.
This means that anyone from now on who is told to kill someone supposedly by "God" is self-deceived or deranged. Think about the implications of this.

Bethel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

YGG,

This quote from you tells us quite a bit about how you are judging this matter:

"I believe that killing an innocent being is always wrong, my moral intuition is that God would never allow it to take place."

Make note, "innocents" (as you define them) are killed every day, so one is left to conclude that:

1) God merely allows it; or
2) God does more than allow it, He actually decrees it; or
3) God is powerless to do anything about it.

Which one of these is the Biblical option? (Hint: options 1 and 3 make man into god) It is your "moral intuition" that is failing here, not God's righteous judgment. As Dan has pointed out (and you have completely failed to address), you are putting your moral judgment above God's, and that's a dangerous place to stand.

In the end, it is not just the Isrealite killing of Caananites that you detest. The quote above shows that you really would object the same if God had chosen to use human agents or natural disasters to exercise His judgment.

Robert said...

Nash,

I'm late to the party, but the whole Dan Savage rant/tirade/hissy fit was the first thing that came to my mind after I read this. The thing is, the same God who tells us that Savage's worldview is wrong also tells me to pray for my enemies and bless those who curse me. I can't lie...it was hard for me to pause and think "This guy is a lost sinner headed to hell and that should make me sad". By the grace of God, I did that and actually prayed for him, but I still can't get the thought out of my head that those who claim to be victims of hate speech seem to be some of the most hateful people around.

YGG,

You should spend some time thinking about 17:9-10 - "'The heartis more decitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, accdording to the results of his deeds."

Then take some time to think about Isaiah 45:5 - "'I am the LORD and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God."

And don't forget Matthew 5:17-18 - "'Do not think that I cam to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished." The Law and the Prophets is Scripture.

Also, I have a hard time reading 1 Samuel 15:32-33 and thinking that God turned the Israelites into mindless zombies as they killed the Canaanites. Samuel seemed conscious and aware of what was going on as he went to hack Agag into pieces. I remember MacArthur making an analogy to how we should be mortifying our sin in this same fashion.

Scooter said...

I don't quite understand the squeamishness of affirming this one act of God in recorded history. What about the coming act that will make the Canaanites pale in comparison?

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
(Revelation 19:1-2)

If you can't affirm the previous judgment, how can you warn others of the coming one? Going off that logic, God seems completely inconsistent. Trying to get God off the hook seems like a far harder job than agreeing that He did what He did and His justice is always true and right.

What a hard, sobering, necessary truth contained in this post. It has my noodle running off on a rabbit trail that I hope has some fruit at the end.

Daniel said...

YGG,

God sustains every life. We do not possess an amount of life, so that we die when our "life battery" is depleted.

No, we are "plugged in" to God's life. He sustains our life, and every one of us draws our life from Him.

Until you understand that God is not obligated to supply anyone with life, you will likely never understand the nuances that are being explained to you.

When God takes a life, He is not taking something that belongs to another, He is taking what belongs to Him. When God commands that a people be extinguished as an act of judgment by the hands of men, He is not commanding murder, He is commanding judgment.

Murder is like stealing. You cannot steal what belongs to you. All life belongs to God. If you take a life, you are murdering - even if it is the life you are living - because even that life belongs to God. If God takes a life, He is not murdering, because He is taking back what is His.

If God commands a person to take the life of another, the person who obeys is not committing murder, for he or she is not acting on his or her own authority; he or she is acting on God's authority; and only God has the authority to revoke life.


Does that make any sense?

Jared T. Baergen said...

Dan:

"While it is fair enough, and true enough, to point out the progressive nature of Scriptural revelation (Heb. 1:1-2) and the unfolding nature of God's requirements of His children, the Christian is no less morally obliged to acknowledge that those commands/prohibitions are part of God's Word and that they are wise, true, and right commandments in their context."

Wow! That actually makes sense!

I was evangelizing not to long ago and I met a girl who had an interesting objection. I am familiar with The Way Of The Master and I use it as a rough outline for my witnessing conversations. After she told me she thought she was a good person, I asked her if she had ever lied, stolen, blasphemed, etc. and by the time I got that far she asked me, "Well, doesn't the bible say you also have to dress a cirtain way and such." She started referring to some of the OT laws (no doubt she was a professing atheist and grew up in a Methodist church).

I tell this story because I remember my response was, "well, yes, but... Uh... Alot of those OT laws are fulfilled in Christ and yeah. I'll explain in a minute." I then went on and finished the conversation, but I didn't go back and explain anything.

I just remembered that my response was similar to what you said about ALL of the Bible being God's Word. The conversation I had with this girl might have put doubt in her mind because it almost sounds like I was picking and choosing what was binding on me and what wasn't.

Thanks for this post! It may have helped finetune my conversations in evangelizing by showing me that I need to be more specific in the way I present Scripture.

threegirldad said...

"All killing is not murder any more than all sexual intercourse is adultery." (C.S. Lewis)

DJP said...

"well, yes, but... Uh... Alot of those OT laws are fulfilled in Christ and yeah. I'll explain in a minute."

I actually like that.

(c:

Jared T. Baergen said...

DJP:

Lol While it is probably the right answer, maybe a more thorough answer would have been best. If she reads the NT in the future on the topic of modesty, for example, she might think 1 Tim. 2:9-10 is fulfilled in Christ. Perhaps not, though. That's the purpose of getting people plugged into a local church after evangelizing: sound instruction from the Word of God!

All in all, perhaps that was the right answer? Anyway, you still made me think about what I say and how I say it. Could end up being very important one day :)

Andy Morrison said...

My first glance at the title of the post made me think that the pyros were pondering the legitimacy of killing canadians.

Magister Stevenson said...

Canadianicide has been exhaustively covered by Wierd Al's Canadian Idiot.

Andrea said...

I remember wrestling through issues like this. So I am glad for the extent to which people are being patient with YGG's dissent here. It was patient yet firm affirmation of scriptural authority which finally enabled me to make peace with things like God's design in marriage and other much thornier issues.

After being conditioned by my liberal arts education and various other cultural influences, I had a hard job to acknowledge that capital punishment could be reconciled with "thou shalt not kill" and that radical pacifism was not the automatic conclusion of "turn the other cheek."

So YGG is way ahead of where I was when I first acknowledged the Lordship of Christ.

And I'll confess, though I know it is my error and not God's, I still have a visceral repugnance to such passages as we are discussing here. Even knowing that the newborn babies are not ultimately innocent before God, even knowing that God can do what he wills with his creatures and his judgment is always right, I find the idea of killing harmless, helpless infants distressing in the extreme.

Like YGG, I think that human sensitivity to infants is part of God's design. There are many in today's society who have successfully smothered what our consciences naturally (as well as God's word)teach us about protecting infants and children. The result is that our culture as a whole views the killing of the unborn as a simple matter of "choice."

My own moral reasoning (as informed by scripture, in submission to God, and open to correction by more mature believers with appropriate scriptures) includes the following propositions:

1. The reason that we are not to murder is ultimately because
human beings are made in God's image. That's why God allowed for capital punishment in the case of murder.

2. Even to wish ill on someone else is in essence the same sin as murder, because it raises us above them and sets us up as their judge, rather than God.

3. In order to love anyone, we have to desire what is best for them. In order to know what is best for them, we have to know (at least to some degree) God's will for them.

4.If we happen to know that God's will for them is painful (for example, to take the consequences for committing a crime or doing a wrong) it is not loving to wish them relieved of that necessity except to the degree that God wills to show them mercy.

5. God's perfect wisdom may determine not only the fact of a sinner's guilt, but also the means of executing judgment. If he commands that an evil person is the means of punishing one of his own people, it is within his rights to do so. How much more, then, is he within his rights to use one of his elect, say a judge, a police officer, or a soldier, to mete out the punishment. When they do so, with human authority, they are not held guilty unless they exceed that authority.

4. So when ancient Israel, acting on Divine authority, delivered mass judgment, they were similarly not held guilty before God for doing what he commanded them to do. I suspect, though, that to the extent that their motives were wrong (such as any amount of pleasure in inflicting pain or ending human life, rather than the desire to obey God) that those motives would be among the sins for which they are accountable to God. Those would be among the many sins for which Christ made atonement.

I hope that this may shed light on this subject from a new angle for YGG or anyone else who has trouble coming to grips with passages involving genocide.

Oh, and thank you so much to Nash Equilibrium for the reassurance that none of us in the church age will be called upon to kill solely on God's say-so. Another reason to be grateful that the Canon is Closed.

Andrea said...

Ugh. Bad editing. My apologies.

Charlene said...

Dan, Thanks for holding our feet to the fire of Scripture. It's rare to hear anyone speak so bluntly about these issues. I'm seeing more clearly now how this is so key to the belief we believers claim to have in God and His Word. To stall on the hard-to-swallow passages in the Bible is to stall on God, His Word, and His character. I think some folks call these passages "difficult to understand" but in reality these passages are perspicuous and we would do well to bend the knee instead of standing in judgment over God. It's ironic that many who deny the sovereignty of God in these areas are seeking to protect God's reputation but in reality they are speaking against it.

Queue said...

This post was very helpful and edifying. Thank you.

DJP said...

Charlene, that comment is golden. I'm almost tempted to close the thread just to keep yours as the capper, but I won't just yet. You hit it exactly.

Virtually every heresy and bit of liberal claptrap was born of wanting to "help" God (by hiding, denying, or perverting an unpopular bit of His truth).

It isn't faith or submission or humility or obedience or godliness to embrace what we already like or approve of on our own standards.

So well-said. Thanks!

Linda said...
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Linda said...
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Nash Equilibrium said...

Definitely a great comment Charlene, thanks. It is so easy to, as you say, "stall" on those passages that we think make God "look bad." But asking humans to distinguish between good and evil must be (in God's view) like asking Hitler for advice on ethics. If it weren't for the revealed Canon we wouldn't even have a clue of what is right or wrong, that's the truth of it.

Linda said...

Linda said...
Ty Bishop55 for your correction and reminder`

yankeegospelgirl~

God has mercy on whom he has mercy and he hardens whom he hardens. God lawfully has the right to execute judgment upon anyone. The Bible says that all people have sinned against God and are under HIS righteous judgment. Therefore, their execution is not an arbitrary killing nor is it murder. Murder is the unlawful taking of life. Killing is the lawful taking of life. For example, we can lawfully take a life in defense of ourselves, our families, our nations, etc. God never murders because before God, all people are guilty before the holy law that he is given.
Murder —is the intentional, unlawful killing of innocent humans — is regarded as a heinous sin Exodus 20:13, Mat. 19:18, Romans 13:9.

the Bible does not say that it is forbidden to kill. The Bible says that it is forbidden to murder.

The old the King James translation is unfortunate. For example, God gives us the right of self-defense and sometimes in that self-defense, it is necessary to kill someone. Furthermore, the Bible supports the death penalty as many Old Testament Scriptures clearly state. So, God is not making a mistake by saying do not murder and yet commanding putting people to death (killing) the Canaanites~

We have to consider what God was doing with making a great nation and that was to set them apart from all nations and he had to get rid of all

* Point 1: A "God of love" is not a God of sentimentality.

One of the leading points used to assert contradiction about the divine nature is the question, "How can a God of love order such things?"

Glen Miller --": A "God of love" is not a God of sentimentality.

One of the leading points used to assert contradiction about the divine nature is the question, "How can a God of love order such things?"

It is a point to begin that "love" as the ancients understood it was defined within their understanding as a culture that was group-centered, not individual-oriented

The actions of killing the young and unborn were a way of warring against future generations of the enemy and keeping them from rising up against you in vengeance at a future date. Descendants who were of mixed heritage (due to rapes) would not so readily rise up against their own ancestral peoples.

Such tactics were a matter of national preservation as they would not be today. David's bit about dashing infants against rocks (Ps. 137:9) was no sick desire to witness acts of random cruelty, but a lament that such action would be taken as needed to preserve his own people from the future acts of cruelty of the Babylonians, which would inevitably come to pass."end quote

hope this helps to understand in it's context

Tom Chantry said...

I was sorry to be far too busy yesterday to delve into this thread. It is a fascinating one, and one which prompts much useful and edifying thought.

My first observation is that I agree whole-heartedly with all that Dan said here. It is absolutely true. None of it even began to touch on the divide between covenantalists and dispensationalists, nor, I suspect, will anything I say. This is merely a matter of affirming the infallibility, certainty, and sufficiency of Scripture.

Having said that, I would imagine Dan would agree that the sort of affirmation he makes here is only a starting point. The Christian ought to go further and acknowledge that the Bible - the whole Bible, is written for the church, and that as such I ought to be able to profit from these difficult passages. In some way, in other words, they apply to us. That doesn’t mean that I am called to slaughter Canaanites, or to avoid eating shrimp, or even to slaughter shrimp-eaters, but nevertheless, I ought not only to affirm that these passages are God’s word, but also that they mean something and that I am expected to learn from them.

Now, further, let me say this: the failure of churches to teach the entirety of Scripture is at the root of the problem Dan addresses. If we view the hard parts of the Old Testament as museum relics which, while we affirm their truth within their context, we see no value in today, then in time we will inevitably have the sort of drift away from confidence in the whole of Scripture which is evident even in this thread, even among our friends.

Allow me to cherry-pick one statement of yankeegospelgirl as evidence: As for my pastor, he's actually Anglican, so I'm not sure what position he would take on this issue. He rarely preaches on topics that aren't part of the gospel/epistle for the week in the church year. There, I would argue, is the root of the problem - not in her pastor’s Anglicanism per se, but in his failure (yes, failure) to preach the whole counsel of God. For all we know, he may even agree with Dan’s assertions here, but since he fails to teach the Old Testament passages (presumably because he doesn’t find them very helpful), what is he to expect of his people? Is it not predictable that they will cease viewing that which is never preached as real Scripture?

My point is not that churches need to preach through every verse of the Bible in a specified period of time, nor even that they ought to give equal time to every book. Rather, they need to teach over time from every section of Scripture, and our overall approach must be to view the whole Bible as written for our benefit, even if finding that benefit is more difficult in some sections than in others. A failure to do this has left much of the evangelical church canonically challenged; while we say believe in the inspiration and thus the infallibility of all sixty-six books, we neither study them nor apply them, and thus we neither understand them nor do we take them all that seriously.

DJP said...

Amen, Tom. Value-added, as always.

Another way to restate my point: once God speaks, everything changes.

Even when what He says does not call for action from us, it does call for response — the response of faith, of affirmation and hearty embrace.

Eric said...

Eminently quotable: "canonically challenged"

Lord, grant that it may never be said that I am canonically challenged.

Good words, Tom. I try to follow this pattern in my personal and family devotions. While it is not always the easiest to sit down in the morning and read and study from some of the prophetic books, if I only ever read and re-read the epistles and the gospels, not only am I being lazy but I am also saying something about the worth of the other parts of scripture. And that worth statement will have an impact.

Eric said...
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Charlene said...

Tom, definitely value-added as Dan stated.

"Even when what He says does not call for action from us, it does call for response — the response of faith, of affirmation and hearty embrace."

Right on, Dan. This is exactly what this post clarified for me. I knew this but didn't know how to explain it!

Sir Aaron said...

The killing of the Caananites is not a difficult passage. If you come to terms with the fact that we deserve the same fate they received and yet are still standing, is a testament to God's amazing grace and patience.

That God sent his Son to die for somebody like me, who deserves the same fate as the Caananites...now that is a difficult passage to understand.

Sir Aaron said...

To the other side points:

"Thou shall not murder." Keep reading. What does God tell them to do, if the commandments are violated. Oh yeah, kill the violators. So evidently, it's not wrong for God to require us to carry out His sentence. (my favorite pastor uses that word in his sermons..."evidently").

As to the shrimp issue. I always say, keep reading. What is the punishment for eating shrimp? And what is the punishment for homosexuality? That pretty much explains that.

Of course, both are masks for the true objection which is: I want to live my life how I deem fit and I just want God to sprinkle fairy dust on me whenever I get into trouble. And then I want to go to heaven when I die because I feel I'm a good person.

Linda said...

I agree with Sir Aaron, it's not a difficult passage.

It's not like God said to kill the Canaanites as if God all of a sudden was being capricious and chose to just get rid of them at random.

Miller-"The Canaanites saw and knew of what happened in Egypt; this is why the Gibeonites used deceit to forge a treaty. Egypt itself had many chances -- 400 years for the Pharaoh to stop enslaving the people; 400 years for the people of Egypt to show their own mercies on a personal basis.

the Canaanites "had a long exposure to truth and influences to 'moderation'" -- not just as the Bible records, but also in terms of the more peaceful society they conquered:"


Lev.20 "In Lev. the Cannanites did all these sins described in chp 20. God in vs.23 said "Because they did all these things I abhored them."

That's my 2cents~

Sir Aaron said...

Linda:

I like your post, but my point really is that it's not difficult because everyone of us deserves the same fate. The amazement should come from the fact that we don't get what we deserve not that the Caananites did.

Linda said...

@ Sir Aaron, fabulous truth brother

You made me think of Luke 13:1-5

R.C. Sproul said it best especially where our amazement is placed.

The question is raised, "What about the people Pilate slaughtered, or the "innocent" people killed by the falling of the tower? Where was God in these events? basically they were saying How could God ALLOW these things to happen? How could God allow "innocent" people to suffer? Innocent? How astonishing and utterly repulsive it seems to us when Jesus said "Unless YOU repent, you TOO will perish".

Basically, Jesus was saying, You people are asking the "wrong" question. You should be asking me, Why didn't that tower fall on my head? Jesus "rebuked" the people for putting their "amazement" in the wrong place. In our hearts we harbor the notion that God OWES us His mercy... WE actually take God's mercy for granted and expect Justice by saying "it's not fair".. You forget, that with our first sin we "forfeited" ALL rights to the gift of life, the air we breathe. God owes me nothing. I owe Him everything. If God allows a tower to fall on my head this afternoon, I can’t claim "injustice" and say "that's not fair. One of our basic problems is the "confusion" of justice and mercy. If man is unjust then God is angry, but God is not unjust. God never mistreated YOU or me. That God allows a person to treat me unjustly is just of God. While I may complain to God about the person, I cannot rise up and accuse God of injustice because we are "ALL guilty" before God although I may be innocent before men.",,,