CT Discusses a Genocidal God

How do we reconcile the loving God of the Old Testament with the harsh God of the New Testament?

28356That’s how I begin God Behaving Badly but the most recent edition of Christianity Today (July/August 2013) flipped the question around, asking how to reconcile the wrathful, legalistic God of the OT with the loving, gracious God of the NT.  I think that’s the way people are used to hearing it asked.

I love the fact that CT is addressing this subject.  We don’t talk about the problematic texts in the Bible enough, but atheists like Richard Dawkins are bringing them up in public forums.  Christians unfortunately don’t have good answers, probably because these subjects never get discussed in church.  I hope CT gets something started here.

CT addresses the topic with four articles:

1) A short intro by editor Mark Galli, “A Paradox Old and New.”  He mentions God Behaving Badly (thanks for that), as well as books by Paul Copan and Eric Seibert.  In the online version this article appears at the end of the Buchanan article (see next).

2) “Can We Trust the God of Genocide” a pastor’s (Mark Buchanan) response.

3) “Gentiles in the Hand of a Genocidal God” (titled “We are all Rahab Now” in the print version) by a philosophy professor at Eastern University.

4) “Learning to Love Leviticus” by Christopher Wright, one of my favorite OT scholars.

While we’re on the subject, here’s my take on the Canaanite Genocide, from Relevant Magazine (Sept-Oct 2011), “Reconciling the God of Love with the God of Genocide.”  To get the whole article, you’ll need to register with Relevant (or email me).

Here’s the CT excerpt of God Behaving Badly, the dreaded wedgie for a wedgie story:

When do you discuss the problematic God of the OT?  At church, Sunday school, dinner with your family, or never?  

Does God command genocide? (GBB 11)

Does God command genocide?

One of the most difficult questions that face people who believe that the Bible is the word of God is, “Why does God command his people to wipe out the Canaanites in the book of Joshua?”  It looks like he’s commanding genocide.  Isn’t that the crime that qualifies Hitler as the worst person of all time?

After reading God Behaving Badly, Ryan Hamm at Relevant magazine asked me to write about the Canaanites.  So, I took some material from chapters 2, 4 & 5, modified it and improved it.  The article just came out in the most recent edition of Relevant (September-October 2011).  Title: “Reconciling the God of Love with the God of Genocide.”

Here’s the link to the issue.

I start with two arguments that don’t really help resolve the problem (one appealing to liberals, one appealing to conservatives) because they don’t take the text seriously.  Then I give five arguments that make more sense and take both the text and the problem seriously.  I conclude with a few words of advice.  But I don’t “solve” the problem.  This is not one that will ever easily go away.  But even in the midst of the Canaanite slaughter, we see images of hope and a movement toward Jesus.