Once More: The Slaughter of the Canaanites

Dear Dr. Craig,

First allow me to add my voice to the chorus of praise for your work and ministry. In my own case, I had recently been drifting in a decidedly liberal direction, willing to merely accept skeptical criticisms of the bible and Christian theology rather than seeking to formulate a genuinely robust defense for beliefs which I had held to be true. I was conquered by their arguments simply because I was ignorant to the reasoned alternative.

I have since joined a Reasonable Faith Chapter in Melbourne and have become a avid listener of your podcasts. You have helped to propel me toward a more orthodox and sound approach to issues such as the reliability of the Gospels and the historicity of the Resurrection. It is very exciting and rewarding, and I thank you for that.

However, upon listening recently to your thoughtful response to the question of the slaughter of the Canaanites in the Old Testament, I felt that here was a point at which I could not abandon the liberal interpretation: that the Israelites were merely mistaken in their interpretation of God's will. While I was intrigued by your account, I could not accept it.

Firstly, to your point that this kind of command is not typical of the God of the Old Testament. Here, I agree with you, however, surely if God is found to have committed even a single act that is less than morally perfect, He cannot be God. However, this point is not central to your argument, and I take it that you were merely attempting to assert some sense of balance to the heated rhetoric which often pervades these issues.

Secondly, you claim that, in issuing this command, God has not contravened any moral obligations, as, a divine being can be subject to no such obligations. He has not wronged them. I think you are quite correct in this, however, surely the concern here is not that God has failed to obey certain moral obligations, but that He has failed to act in accordance with his moral character. A morally perfect Being could not issue such a command. He has breached no obligations, but rather, it is simply an impossibility.

Thirdly, I must confess that your remarks concerning the Canaanite children had me squirming with discomfort. However, no doubt you would say that whether or not a proposition appeals to us has no bearing on whether or not it is true. That would be a fallacy. Nonetheless, it does seem that the notion that the killing of a child could be considered a kindness on the grounds that it would be assured a place in Heaven seems to have deeply troubling implications. Why should we withhold such a reward, if that is what it is, from any child? Whether or not such an act is commanded, it seems that this reasoning stands on its own. Either the death of a child is to be welcomed on these grounds or it is not.

Ultimately it seems to me that the troubling implications for the Doctrine of moral perfection, and the apparent contradictions with New Testament teachings on morality, violence and unity with the Gentiles demands that we regard such passages as essentially mythological. We simply have better philosophical reasons to dispute the accuracy of this Text than we have historical reasons for accepting it.

Thanks for your time,

Daniel

Australia

Click HERE to read Dr. Craig's answer