Jonathan Morrow is giving you just four minutes to respond to a well-known challenge to belief in the Christian God.
Can you handle it?
If not, here is a podcast to help you get ready.
Is the God of the Old Testament violent and bloodthirsty? Did God really command genocide? Why did Israel attack the Canaanites? These are just a few of the tough questions I tackle in this episode of the think Christianly podcast. Learn how to respond to one of the most challenging and emotional objections to Christianity in under 10 minutes.
- quotes Richard Dawkins to set up the objection
- response: does God have the authority to give and take life?
- response: after the Fall, things in the world are not the way they are supposed to be
- response: Old Testament commands for the Jews to judge other nations are specific to them in that time
- response: “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” are not accurate descriptions of the attack on Canaan
- response: the attack on the Cannanites takes place in the context of redeeming the whole world
Here is the Christian Post article he was interviewed for, where he had to answer:
Jonathan Morrow, author of Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible’s Authority, says readers are often perplexed by Old Testament scripture because “sometimes we just picture a God where anger and love can’t co-exist.” Yet he explains, “We all have seen people who have been taken advantage of and that makes us angry [because] we love them. So those emotions can co-exist.”
[…]Along that same line, Morrow clarifies that God’s instructions to the Israelite army in Deuteronomy 20 to destroy the people occupying the land of Canaan is “about judgment, not genocide.”
“The Bible teaches clearly that all people are sinful and in rebellion, kind of living in open rebellion against God, and God is just to judge anyone,” says Morrow. “But in this particular case with the Canaanites, there’s several things going on there, but one of those things was the wickedness of the people which was well documented – child sacrifices to Moloch and others, and bestiality and a lot wickedness.”
He says this judgment was necessary because “Israel’s national survival was crucial so that the Messiah – we would know Jesus as the Messiah – and God’s saving purposes of redemption to the world could one day be born because if the Messiah was supposed to come through the lineage of Israel and Israel co-mingled with this wicked people and was ultimately destroyed, that promise of hope and blessing to the whole world could not have been realized.”
[…]Morrow recognizes that Old Testament questions are particularly challenging. “We live in a sound bite culture and so this is one of those questions where it kind of gets thrown out for people, why does God command genocide, and that’s really easy to say and then it takes some time to respond to because there’s some context.”
Morrow says his sound bite answer is: “These passages are about judgment; they’re not about genocide.”
However, he encourages believers to find out the asker’s real interest in this question. “I would ask them, you know, it sounds like this is a pretty emotional question for you, why is that. Let them talk about it some so you can better understand because that’s the goal. We’re not just trying to win an argument; we’re trying to understand and help people.”
It the asker is after truth, Morrow advises Christians to “ask them … are you interested in kind of walking through and getting kind of messy about looking at the evidence for this because I’d love to share that with you, and sometimes they’ll go, ‘yeah, that’ll be great.'”
Other times, Morrow says, the asker is simply looking for “space and distance from God and this question allows them to put space between them and God.”
By the way, Morrow and McDowell’s basic apologetics book – “Is God Just a Human Invention?” – is my first pick when mentoring new people in apologetics.
UPDATE: J.W. Wartick has reviewed the 11 Questions book on his blog.