Philosophia Christi (Summer 2009) features a fascinating symposium that diversely addresses the theme, “Did God Mandate Genocide?” Primarily in view is the Old Testament destruction of the Canaanites.
Contributors to this discussion include: Wesley Morriston, Randal Rauser, Joseph Buijs, Clay Jones and Paul Copan.
This discussion was originally prompted by Copan’s Philosophia Christi 10:1 (Summer 2008) article, “Is Yahweh a Moral Monster? The New Atheists and Old Testament Ethics.”
“Let Nothing that Breathes Remain Alive”: On the Problem of Divinely Commanded Genocide
by Randal Rauser
Atheism and the Argument from Harm
by Joseph Buijs
Abstract: One line of argument commonly lodged against religion is that it is usually or alway sharmful, individually and socially, and for that reason should be abolished from our cultural landscape. I consider two variations of the argument: one that appeals to direct harm caused by religion and another that appeals to indirect harm on the basis of attitudes instilled by religion. Both versions, I contend, are seriously flawed. Hence, this so-called harm argument fails, both as a critique of theism and as a defense of atheism.
Abstract: Skeptics challenge God’s fairness for ordering Israel to destroy the Canaanites, but a close look at the horror of Canaanite sinfulness, the corruptive and seductive power of their sin as seen in the Canaanization of Israel, and God’s subsequently instituting Israel’s own destruction because of Israel’s committing Canaanite sin reveals that God was just in His ordering the Canaanite’s destruction. But Western culture’s embrace of “Canaanite sin” inoculates it against the seriousness of that sin and so renders it incapable of responding to Canaanite sin with the appropriate moral outrage.
by Paul Copan
Abstract: The divine command to kill the Canaanites is the most problematic of all Old Testament ethical issues. This article responds to challenges raised by Wes Morriston and Randal Rauser. It argues that biblical and extrabiblical evidence suggests that the Canaanites who were killed were combatants rather than noncombatants (“Scenario 1”) and that, given the profound moral corruption of Canaan, this divinely-directed act was just. Even if it turns out that noncombatants were directly targeted (“Scenario 2”), the overarching Old Testament narrative is directed toward the salvation of all nations—including the Canaanites.