August 27, 2014 9 Comments
When a grim post at a downstairs blog such as mine gets hits from the ironically-named upstairs blog “What’s Wrong with the World”, I wonder if, in some small way, it is not a bit less wrong now than it was the day before.
If you follow the link to the comment and from there back the the original post, you’ll find another link to the actual argument under discussion. She writes:
I have no solution to the slaughter of the Canaanites. It’s that simple. I don’t know. As far as I can tell, the text of Old Testament Scripture indicates that God ordered the Israelites to kill children down to and including infants, and this is a problem. (Women as well, but at least one can conjecture that maybe all of the people from the age of reason on up had committed crimes worthy of death. Not the babies, though.) Prima facie, this is in direct conflict with the commandment to do no murder. Any attempt to answer the problem by saying that original sin means that no one is really innocent proves far too much, for it removes the rationale for regarding the killing of infants generally as murder.
There is no particular textual reason to take the problem passages to have been added later. It helps a little bit if one is not a strict inerrantist. But even then, what one is left with, at most, is something like, “Maybe God didn’t really order that, but my only reason for thinking that is that, as far as I can tell, it is completely incompatible with divine goodness. I’ll hope to have this clarified when I get to heaven.” One piece of good news, as far as it goes, is that there is nothing about the slaughter of the Canaanite children that is theologically necessary to the truth of Christianity. Unlike, say, the historical existence of Adam, the killing of Canaanite children is not woven into the warp and woof of Christian theology, doctrine, or ethics. Very much to the contrary.
And then she writes a whole bunch more that you don’t have to read because I’ve already quoted authoress McGrew sending herself astray…which I’ll come back to.
Let me state right away that the text is clear: The slaughter of the Canaanites was commanded by God. It’s not a translation issue. It’s not a euphemism. It’s not a parable. It’s not a myth. It is history, and the command to slaughter gentile (and Israelite) infants, children, and women is encountered multiple times in the OT testament. Here is the command from God; when the Israelites are instructed in how to conquer Canaan.
10 “When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. 11 And if it responds to you peaceably and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you. 12 But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. 13 And when the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword, 14 but the women and the little ones, the livestock, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as plunder for yourselves. And you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the Lordyour God has given you. 15 Thus you shall do to all the cities that are very far from you, which are not cities of the nations here. 16 But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, 17 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, 18 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.
“Devote them to destruction”; as in “sacrifice them”. This passage has the context of an offering about it. The “Slaughter of the Canaanites” is a holy endeavor to its core, and in all its facets. It is a direct command from God. It cleanses the land of abominations. It preserves the Israelites from abomination. It performs the spiritual alchemy of turning abominable meat into a pure sacrifice worthy of the Most High God and gives even them a place to honor Him. It is also an opportunity for the Israelites to participate in God’s plan, and share in His holiness. I think even referring to is as the “Slaughter of the Canaanites” is a slander. I call it the Sacrifice of the Canaanites.
And it requires the shedding of innocent blood.
Children, especially infants, are innocent. However; they are not perfect. They are not sinless. They are not selfless, or even aware of others. They are not worthy and they have no worthy works. Innocent means they are not accountable; not that they do not offend, or that they are good. They are also signs of innocence, and that important for us and for our instruction.
It is upon this last that McGrew’s consternation turns. She thinks that if she knows anything, then she knows that infants are innocent. Alongside that, she thinks she knows that killing innocents is murder and always wrong; unless it is God himself actually doing the killing. Lydia McGrew is wrong, and what follows is how we know she wrong.
One piece of good news, as far as it goes, is that there is nothing about the slaughter of the Canaanite children that is theologically necessary to the truth of Christianity. Unlike, say, the historical existence of Adam, the killing of Canaanite children is not woven into the warp and woof of Christian theology, doctrine, or ethics. Very much to the contrary.
It is bad to punish innocents, but punishment is not what God commanded. He commanded they be sacrificed. We’ll see this again later when the Lord of Hosts sends His only begotten Son to live as Himself and as us, and explicitly to be sacrificed to satisfy His own holiness, and for us and our salvation.
“Yes, but they were babies–“
Let me explain that you should shut up. Jesus is more than innocent. He is the Christ who chose to take on mere flesh. He is the only begotten Son of God. Unlike an untested infant, Jesus was tested in the refiner’s fire and found flawless, and a worker of many and marvelous good works; perfect as His Father in Heaven is perfect. He is unique, flawless, utterly selfless, and very God of very God.
Did you ever wonder what it might be like to think about that? To not only think, but prepare the world for it? Since at least Adam, God has been planning and moving to send His Son to be sacrificed to reconcile an adulterous people…humiliatingly, naked, painfully, on a cross, by Gentiles at the request of His own flesh and blood because they were cowards. That is INFINITELY more strange, startling, and inexplicable than the Sacrifice of the Canaanites by the Israelites.
Fretting over children sacrificed to a just and holy God who is the Lord of life is a mental walk in the park by comparison. Those who cannot see that have made idols of the flesh and their own wooden theologies, doctrines, ethics. That is to say: They’ve made idols of themselves, and that is very easy for us to do.
It gets back to the eye being the lamp of the whole body, and if our eye is dark (say, by being blasé about the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ) then the darkness in our body will be great. We will stupidly disconnect Him from other stories of sacrificed innocents, and from ourselves who are made innocent by His sacrifice, yet still die.
26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Weren’t they family; the descendants of Noah who alone survived God’s extinction of all other human life? Are innocents not valuable that God would abandon them in death? Isn’t taking up your cross doing what is distasteful and painful to follow God? Was Jesus not deadly serious (even when not literal) when He spoke of a sword? This is the lamp that should light your eyes.
There’s a lot more to say on the topic. I haven’t even touched on God having a soft-spot for those who intercede but which the Jews consistently refused to do, or the real reasons the Israelites balked at killing, or why they didn’t balk when they did kill, or why the prohibition against murder is more about the murderer being separated from God than the murdered being separated from life…lots of stuff.
By the bye: The answer is “us”.
Without getting too derailed: Suffice it to say that this is a foolish train of thought headed for God is Unjust station, and carrying murderous angels as passengers; among others.