Why Kill the Canaanites’ Animals?

We saw in my prior post that we have no reason to believe that any of the adults were good in the territory that God ordered Israel to conquer. Not even one. But in some towns the Lord ordered that Israel kill all of the animals–”everything that breathes.” (e.g., Deut. 13:15; 20:16). Why kill the Canaanites’ animals?

The Canaanites Had Sex with Animals

There should be no surprise that bestiality would occur for the Canaanites since the god they worshiped practiced it. From the Canaanite epic poem, The Baal Cycle we learn:

Mightiest Baal hears; He makes love with a heifer in the outback, A cow in the field of Death’s Realm.

He lies with her seventy times seven, Mounts eighty times eight; [She conceiv]es and bears a boy.1

I wonder if they wore “WWBD?” (What Would Baal Do?) bracelets? Continue reading

  1. Mark S. Smith, trans. Ugaritic Narrative Poetry, Simon B. Parker, ed., (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 1997), 148. In the same volume see also “Baal Fathers a Bull” Simon B. Parker, trans., 181-186 and “A Birth” Simon B. Parker, trans. 186-187. Albright says that in “the light of several Egyptian accounts of the goddess, unquestionably translated from an original Canaanite myth” that Baal raped Anath while she was in the form of a calf. W. F. Albright, Yahweh and the God’s of Canaan: A Historical Analysis of Two Contrasting Faiths (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1968), 128-129. []
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Were There Any Innocent Canaanites?

In my last post I wrote that God ordered the capital punishment of the inhabitants of the land God had given Israel because they were guilty of depravity and violence. The Canaanites heard of the miraculous approach of the Israelites and knew that Israel’s God was helping them, but some chose to fight rather than flee. As the Canaanite prostitute, Rahab, told Israel’s spies who had entered Jericho:

I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Josh. 2:9-11).

Thus, those who were sensitive to the Lord’s warning had the opportunity to flee but many remained. Skeptics will object, however, that certainly there must have been some adult Canaanites who were innocent of those evils.

Continue reading

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Canaanite Destruction Not Genocide but Capital Punishment

God Ordered the Canaanite Destruction Because of Their Sins

In my introductory post I wrote that what God ordered Israel to do to the Canaanites wasn’t genocide but capital punishment. I say this was capital punishment for four reasons. First, the Lord clearly explains that He ordered the Canaanite destruction because of their sinfulness. In Leviticus chapter 18:6-23 the Lord says that the Canaanites—who lived within the territory that God had given Israel—were guilty of incest, adultery, burning their children in the arms of a bull-headed idol named Molech, homosexuality, and bestiality. The Lord then warned in Leviticus 18:24-26, 28:

Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations… lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.

That’s pretty clear, right?

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Was the Destruction of the Canaanites Just?

In recent years, much has been said and written about the Lord ordering Israel to destroy the Canaanites. This is largely because the new atheists proclaim it as “divine genocide.” But it’s not just a problem for Christianity’s detractors. Indeed, many Christians worry about the fairness of killing the Canaanites. After all, if the Old Testament commands are to be taken at face value, it would appear that the Lord ordered Israel to kill every Canaanite man, woman, and child that refused to leave a particular geographical area. Consider just one passage from Deuteronomy 20:16-18:

In the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded, that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God.

These words trouble many Christians and skeptics grouse that such a God is a “moral monster.”1 Do Christians need to worry, and are skeptics right to impugn God’s character, concerning this? No. My thesis is simple, God had good reason to destroy those Canaanites who refused to leave the area God had given Israel and this wasn’t divine genocide but capital punishment.

I’ve already published two articles on the destruction of the Canaanites: the first in Philosophia Christi, “We Don’t Hate Sin so We Don’t Understand what Happened to the Canaanites” and the second in the Christian Research Journal, “Killing the Canaanites.”  But there is a lot more to say, so I’ve decided to write several posts on the topic. In these posts I will examine such things as the Canaanite’s sinfulness, whether there were any innocent Canaanites, whether killing children could be fair, whether hyperbole can help explain these killings, and the implications for our own society’s Canaanization.

  1. For example, see Hector Avalos, “Yahweh is a Moral Monster,” The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails, John W. Loftus, ed., (Amherst: Prometheus, 2010), 209-236. []
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Sometimes Answering an Atheist Dignifies Folly

Our contention is simple: taking some atheist arguments seriously dignifies folly, encourages self-satisfying flattery, and diminishes the power of gospel proclamation. The article that Joseph E. Gorra, the managing editor of Philosophia Christi, and I co-authored for the Christian Research Journal follows:

Christian apologists regularly face what we call the distraction challenge: the temptation to take seriously insubstantial objections against God’s existence. An insubstantial objection involves reasoning that is beyond or in spite of intellectual reasons or evidences; it may include nonintellectual or even anti-intellectual factors. We’re not saying that these insubstantial objections are unanswerable or that it is somehow wrong to answer them; we’re just saying that it might be more wise and prudent if our arguments and replies are attentive to the “reasons of the heart” and not only to those of the head.

Although atheists employ other types of insubstantial arguments, for the purpose of this article we will just consider as insubstantial their arguments from “luck.” Certainly not all atheists utilize insubstantial arguments of the kind that we describe. But our concern is this: by lending credence to insubstantial arguments, the Christian apologist risks dignifying folly, encouraging self-satisfying flattery, and ultimately diminishing the power of gospel proclamation. Continue reading

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What to Do When Someone Cries

I teach every semester on the problem of evil and it can get very theological/philosophical. Of course, apologists should give intelligent answers, but, when someone cries because they are in a crisis, then explaining God’s larger plan for the universe may not be what they need. Instead, as Paul said in Romans 12:15, we are to “weep with those who weep.” I used to be a pastor and I’ve seen many people go through crises so I thought I would share a little bit about what to do if someone starts crying Continue reading

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Orientation: Sexual and Otherwise

Today we often hear heartrending stories from people struggling with their sexual orientation and often Christians have responded poorly. There are some attitudes, perceptions, and orientations which can’t be simply switched off, but Christians too often want to just tell struggling people: “Stop it!”

We wish it were so easy, but it’s not.

Let me provide an illustration of how difficult it is to change ones orientation.

Continue reading

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The Truth SERUMM

Today we constantly hear things like, “That’s your truth,” “That’s your reality,” “Who are you to judge?” Sadly, this is a symptom of a thinking disease called relativism. Relativism is the belief that there is no absolute or objective moral truth. In short, the relativist believes that you have your truth and that I have my truth and that there is no truth with a capital T.1 So prevalent is this thinking disease that according to Barna only one-third of adults believe in absolute [or objective] moral truth.2

Of course, this disease isn’t brand new. When Jesus told Pilate that He “came into the world to testify to the truth,” Pilate retorted, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38). Indeed, the Romans were syncretistic—they had no problem accepting the worship of other gods. As Frances Schaffer has pointed out, the Romans didn’t hate the Christians because they worshipped Jesus—the Romans hated the Christians because the Christians would worship only Jesus. Continue reading

  1. I’m indebted to my first philosophy professor, Mr. Graham, for this short definition. []
  2. http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/325-barna-studies-the-research-offers-a-year-in-review-perspective?q=absolute+truth []
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The Truth About the Crusades

Of all the kinds of historical hypocrisy that is attributed to the Christian, none looms as large as the crusades. Thomas Madden, Professor of History and Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Saint Louis University, sums up the popular conception:

The crusades are generally portrayed as a series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics. They are supposed to have been the epitome of self-righteousness and intolerance, a black stain on the history of the Catholic Church in particular and Western civilization in general. A breed of proto-imperialists, the Crusaders introduced Western aggression to the peaceful Middle East and then deformed the enlightened Muslim culture, leaving it in ruins.1

Continue reading

  1. Thomas F. Madden, “The Real History of the Crusades” Crisis Magazine, Available at: http://www.crisismagazine.com/2002/the-real-history-of-the-crusades-2. Accessed 7 April 2014. I highly recommend this article. []
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Crusades, Inquisitions, Witch-hunts, etc.

When I teach on why God allows evil, I include a lengthy discussion on the Crusades, inquisitions, witch-hunts, slavery, Nazi Christians, and the oppression of women (for the rest of this post I’m going to sum this up as “Crusades, etc.”). Although these events aren’t typically a part of problem of evil discussions, it’s important for the Christian to answer them because the question naturally arises: If Christians really have the life-changing Good News, then why do they seem to be such bad news for society? Continue reading

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