Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask, part 7

Former Christian turned atheist DaGoodS (DGS) has compiled a list of eleven questions that he doesn’t think Christians can answer. I’ve decided to take him on, since I’m a sucker for questions that Christians supposedly can’t answer. Hopefully, DGS and I can learn something from each other.

I have momentarily skipped questions #7 and #8, since they require more science to answer. Philosophy is more my area of interest and specialty. I will get back to them at the end, so we shall move forward for the time being to enable me to do a bit of research into the arguments that these questions cite. That way, I can’t be accused of an ad hoc response.

Question #9 has been refuted numerous times by me and others. Let us groan along together as we re-read it for the 3,000,000th time, and refute it for the 3,000,000th time:

If your God determined the only way to resolve the cultural clash in the Tanakh was to engage in genocide, how is it he conveniently found virgin females could be rehabilitated, but not one-day-old males?

This is a re-statement of the old arguments about divine genocide. I’ve argued that these are reasonable here. Paul Copan has forwarded some arguments with regard to genocide in the Bible in this article. Copan has since expanded that essay into a book.

I don’t have the symposium that Philosophia Christi published on Copan’s article, but you can order Philisophia Christi, volume 11, #1 (2009) from the EPS here and read it for yourself. I’ve listed the essays below, in case you have access to more scholarly databases than I do and can thus find the essays without much trouble. I highly recommend reading these essays.

This question in particular, however, wonders why only the virgins were spared. Most likely, DGS wants us to conclude that they were for the sexual enjoyment of the Israelites (as many critics of the Bible try to do), but such a thing is nowhere in the text.

In fact, a frequent criticism of the Bible marks the woman as the “weaker sex,” to be protected, sheltered, and treated as property. In many cases, that was the truth (though I think that the Bible is more progressive, particularly in the case of Prv 31, a chapter that is never cited by critics of the Bible when discussing women).

However, in this case, the women were marked out for being the weaker sex and then preserved and cared for. Mosaic Law actually made it more difficult to marry a female POW, so it was unlikely that the women were being kept as sex salves. The women that were captured weren’t yet marrying age (or they would be married), so that would make them far too young for that sort of activity (unless the Israelite in question was a pedophile, but that’s a totally separate issue).

My previous article on genocide answers the issue of why male babies wouldn’t have been preserved. To touch back on a few issues that I either didn’t cover or bear repeating, understand first that sin is both nature and activity. It is something that we are as well as something we do. Which means that we are born into the bondage of the will to sin, and this is a total enslavement. R.C. Sproul aptly describes it as a “radical corruption” of the entire soul. This sort of thing is exactly what God was trying to root out of Israelite society–hence the deaths of the male children.

But that’s not the only reason that the male children wouldn’t have been spared. Second, slaves were accorded an equal share of the covenant with God. They were to be circumcised, participate in the feasts and rituals, and sacrifices were offered on their behalf. In other words, the Law was binding on them. They shared in both the rituals, and (more importantly) the rewards. The Canaanites (and the others) were being cut off by God from any such special accords. This wicked people was not to have any share.

Let’s look at this from one more angle. Third, the Israelites clearly didn’t comply with God’s orders. After each commanded genocide in Deuteronomy and Joshua, we can find that same people giving the Israelites difficulty in Judges. After the commanded genocide in 1 Samuel, we find the Amalekites mentioned later in that same book, and they continue to give King David difficulties in 1 Chronicles. The Canaanites are still around in Jesus’ time.

From my third point, which I plan to expand on in another venue some other time, we can see that the Israelites likely confined their campaign to military targets. Despite the direct command of God to clean these people off the earth, the Israelites didn’t and even made pacts and treaties with them. In each case, the people that should have been destroyed betrays Israel and creates serious setbacks. The foresight possessed by God saw this, and to prevent it ordered the genocides.

In a very perverted way (I never said I was comfortable with the idea of divinely commanded genocide, did I?) this is proof of God’s exhaustive divine foreknowledge. The genocides were both divine retribution for rejecting the One, True God and a preventative measure to alleviate certain troubles that lurked generations away.

Philosophia Christi symposium: Did God Mandate Genocide? All of these essays appear in the 2009 issue, volume 11, #1.

  • Morriston, Wesley. “Did God Mandate Genocide?: A Challenge to the Biblical Inerranist.”
  • Rauser, Randal. “‘Let Nothing that Breathes Remain Alive’: On the Problem of Divinely Commanded Genocide.”
  • Buijs, Joseph A. “Atheism and the Argument from Harm.”
  • Jones, Clay. “We Don’t Hate Sin So We Don’t Understand What Happened to the Canaanites: An Addendum to ‘Divine Genocide’ Arguments.”
  • Copan, Paul. “Yahweh Wars and the Canaanites: Divinely Mandated Genocide or Corporate Capital Punishment?: Responses to Critics.”

I especially recommend Clay Jones’s article. It was an eye-opener for me.

About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on January 15, 2011, in Apologetics. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. In citing the reason(s) God ordered genocide, what is the difference between:

    1) a one-day old baby boy,
    2) a woman the day after her wedding, and
    3) a woman the day before her wedding?

    You indicated, for example, all are guilty and worthy of death. So there is no different between these three individuals. Yet the virgin (a commodity valued by HUMANS) is saved.

    I skimmed Copan’s article, he discussed ANE conditions being harsh. Again, it would be harsh to all three. Yet the virgin is saved.

    I have seen Geisler’s use of gangrene—having to cut off the whole arm (nationality) because of permeating sin (the disease.) Yet amazingly they didn’t need to cut out the virgin females and only the virgin females.

    Is there a single reason cited (you have, after all, done this 3,000,000 times! *grin*) where we can see it would NOT apply to Example 3, but would to the first two examples, so that is why God spared Virgin Females?

    While you are correct the text doesn’t explicitly state the virgin females were chosen (by God!) for sexual reasons, I would then ask why the difference between virgins and not? Especially if they were only being taken for slaves or workers or whatever.

    Cory Tucholski, I understand the Divine Command Theory as justification for genocide. This deliberate exclusion of commodities valued by humans (“What does God need with a Virgin Female?” to paraphrase Capt. Kirk) raises the significant question whether humans were using God as an excuse to get what they want.

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