A common objection made by skeptics against Christianity is that God commanded atrocities in the Old Testament. Even if no skeptic ever made this objection to me, I have certainly had pause after reading some verses in the Old Testament. I don’t need a skeptic to point out to me that some of the commands in the Old Testament seem, at best arbitrary, and at worst malicious. Has the God we believe to be good commanded atrocity?
It’s important to ask the skeptic, “What are you getting at?” What is the point being made? If God actually commanded genocide in the Old Testament, all that would prove is that God exists. He has to exist in order to command something! So if you ask, “Why did God command genocide?” you’re admitting His existence. In other words, this isn’t an objection to God’s existence, it has no bearing whatsoever.
Next, it is important to recognize that this a moral objection. Anytime an atheist makes a moral objection, the proper response is, “Upon what objective standard of morality do you object to God’s actions?” There is no objective standard of morality on atheism, all they have is a subjective preference. In other words, they can’t object to God’s actions when they have no standard by which to judge actions.
Falsely assuming innocence
The people that God commanded the Israelites to “wipe off the face of the earth” in the Old Testament were not innocent. They committed horrible atrocities like child sacrifice. God usually warned them that unless they repented, they would face judgement. So, there’s no excuse. They weren’t innocent and they were warned.
I’m not convinced
I’m not convinced that God actually commanded the killing of women and children. I’ve read that the language of “kill everyone even the women and the children” was hyperbolic language commonly used in Ancient Near East times. The Israelites were commanded to annihilate Jericho, but Rahab and her family were spared. The Canaanites reappear later in Israel’s history, so clearly they didn’t kill all the women and children.
The normal pattern goes like this:
- People commit awful crimes.
- God warns of judgment.
- Those who repent are saved.
- Those who don’t pay the just penalty.
What’s the objection?
God owes us nothing
If God wiped every single one of us off the face of the earth, He would still be just. Everyone has sinned and committed high treason against a just God. Therefore, he would be just if he gave us what we deserved. He would be merciful and graceful if he only saved one person from that just wrath. How gracious is he that he sent His only Son to die in our place and redeem people from all tribes, nations, and tongues.
Far from being a tyrant in the sky, God is good, loving, slow to anger, and quick to forgive. Turn from your sin and trust in Him.
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