Thursday, May 30, 2019

Is Good, good enough?


Every language in the world has a word expressing good in the sense of having the right or desirable quality. Media has projected the idea of “good” like a sliding scale, from desirable like The Beach Boys who were looking for Good Vibrations, though in point of fact this good is regarding Transcendental Meditation. As the song of the same name indicates “Transcendental meditation can emancipate the man and get you feeling grand it's good, it’s good, it’s good.”1 On the other end, good is something to be avoided as Billy Joel says in Only the Good Die Young, "They say there's a heaven for those who will wait, some say it's better but I say it ain’t, I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, the sinners are much more fun... You know that only the good die young.”2 More recently The Black Eyed Peas twist “good” to involve spending the night partying in a way that they will probably not remember the next morning. “I’ve got a feeling, that tonight's gonna be a good night that tonight's gonna be a good night tonight's the night, let's live it up I got my money, let's spend it up go out and smash it like oh my God jump off that sofa, let's get, get off”3

Good has become a low hanging fruit of on the scales of approval. There is good, better, best. It is not even in the top of consideration, therefore, when the world speaks of being a good person the assumption of their level of affirmation is median at best. With the definition of good being so far from the Biblical meaning as Jesus says in Mark’s Gospel ”Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone."4 It would seem no wonder why the world does not understand what good really is. Good has taken on a new definition as adequate or slightly above acceptable. There are some good restaurants in this neighborhood, but across town, there are great ones. Even though great has traditionally referred to a designation of size, we use it as a descriptor above good. Would that indicate that Jesus wasn’t a great teacher, but only a “good” one, certainly not? The modern world has skewed the importance of what the word “good” means especially with regard to salvation and the conditions of acceptance into heaven.

Often the rebuttal to a question of one's salvation sounds like this, “But I’m a good person. Don’t I deserve to get into heaven?” or “How could a loving God, send good people to hell?” These questions come up again and again, with the misguided equivocation of the term good meaning nice, as opposed to its actual meaning of righteous. Jesus again clarifies the issue “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” 5 Those who are evil still know how to give good gifts. Being good at being a human is not the same as being good in the eyes of righteousness. As humanities goodness or moral scale continues to slide one should realize that being good at being a human should not be the ultimate goal.

Humans are the ones responsible for all atrocities on earth. Humans are the designers of everything from pornography, pedophilia, and pyromania to horror movies, haunted houses, and hostages. Humans are the articulators of political corruption, the agitators of social unrest, and the proprietors of the global destruction of our rainforests and oceans. As George Orwell said, “Everyone believes in the atrocities of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side, without ever bothering to examine the evidence.”6 The evidence shows that humanity is not and should not be the litmus test for what goodness is or the goal to which one should attempt to achieve. One horrifying realization about murderers is that they can otherwise be good humans.

John G was a well-respected business owner and heavily invoked in his community. He was the vice-president of the Springfield Jaycees a community group known for civic engagement and philanthropic involvement. Mr. G was even named as the third most outstanding Jaycee within the state of Illinois.7 He was the Democratic precinct captain in the Chicago suburbs in the 1970s. Mr. G was even a member of his local Moose Lodge 8 and was heavily involved in charitable services at fundraising events, parades, and children's parties where he would dress as "Pogo the Clown”. John G or John Wayne Gacy was convicted of thirty-three murders in 1980. His good community service and actions were no match for what was deep within. The good actions of this man meant nothing during his trial and subsequent conviction. While most people aren’t secretly serial killers, all have at one time or another held contempt in their hearts, and as 1 John states, “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” 9 While most good humans would not physically commit murder it is safe to say that holding contempt in one's heart is a pang of guilt that all have faced at least once and realistically more than thirty-three times like Gacy.

When one thinks of good humans the name Gandhi frequently comes to mind. As one who the world often cites along with Jesus as a leader to be admired. He was thought of as a great man who was the architect of a form of nonviolent civil disobedience that would influence the world and inspired future leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. One would think this would be the ultimate example of human goodness. However, in his book Gandhi: Naked Ambition, author Jad Adams, claims that Gandhi, “a London trained lawyer-turned-guru, was a ruthless cult leader who enslaved his followers with such bizarre sexual demands that it became difficult for many people to take him seriously, even during his own lifetime.”10 Gandhi was said to have slept naked with his two nieces, and other girls, in an attempt to test his resistance to temptation.11 What does not seem to be thought of by the guru was how this type of behavior was mentally damaging these young girls who were having to sleep with a naked adult male relative while they were being used as pawns in his personal quest for spiritual superiority. This was not the action of a righteous man but rather one who was good in the world’s eyes. Clearly following the examples of humans in their quests for earthly goodness seems to lead to nowhere. The only exception could be Paul’s direction to “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”12

When one thinks of the ultimate quest for goodness on this earth what typically comes to mind is world peace. It is a standard answer at most beauty pageants, graduation ceremonies, political rallies, and more. Humanitarian efforts attempting to achieve world peace have been the goal of many good humans throughout the decades. Imagining that one day if we could all work together to reach the ultimate goal of a good utopian society, free from suffering, pain, hunger and more. That humanity could achieve the ultimate good on earth. John Lennon’s song Imagine has been the rallying cry for many “good human” movements, the lyrics are telling,

“Imagine there's no heaven, it’s easy if you try, no hell below us, above us only sky. Imagine all the people living for today. Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too. Imagine all the people living life in peace…No need for greed or hunger a brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people sharing all the world.”13

This again is the world’s idea of ultimate good, through imagining goodness, happiness, and peace. Sadly, this idea of peace without the ultimate author of peace is a world that we will never see. John Lennon’s memory continues to this day to inspire many humans to seek good for this world. While that goal seems noble and John seems to many to be the epitome of the good human preaching world peace, give peace a chance, and war is over if you want it. However in the book, John Lennon: The Life, a very different individual is painted, one who habitually abused his two wives and child, as well as leaving the band due to serious heroin addiction (as opposed to what John told the public, which was creative differences with Paul), among other telling character flaws.14 The idea that man can be good on their own has shown itself, again and again, to be false. Being good at being a human is not what is required for salvation. Being a good person is different than being saved. Earthy goodnesses ultimate goal is still only going to be good enough for the earth.

The organization called Good Inc. defines good by saying “Good is a question, not an answer…Our beliefs guide how we make sense of what’s good in the world. Good to us is when you live well and do good…We aim to create a world (and solutions) that do not force us to choose between what makes money and what does good, or what’s meaningful and what’s fun.”15 The guiding philosophy of organizations like Good Inc. indicates good is arbitrary based on what is good to them, they will not force a definition of what is meaningful and do not offer an answer but rather question. However, they will still try to make sense of what is good in the world. This creates a cognitive dissonance that is often seen when there is no objective moral grounding. Good is only good when it’s good for them. Good Inc. host events like Goodfest “Celebrating progress, positivity, and the power of people through music.” In an interview with Good Inc. Yoko Ono stated that to be good in this world all you have to do is think differently. “Your thoughts create reality. The most pragmatic way to create world peace is to use your power of visualization. Think Peace, Act Peace, Spread Peace, Imagine Peace. Your thoughts will soon cover the planet. The most important thing is to believe in your power. It works.”16 The self-centered, internal thoughts and humanistic belief in one's own power is not a tenable method to gain the ultimate peace that can only be found through salvation in Christ. Thinking peacefully my gain temporary calm within oneself, but that is all the farther it will go. Even in the minds of good humans, there is a reason that the term self-righteousness has a negative connotation. Most individuals know that if one is always self-focused, even on good thoughts, it won’t cover the planet as Yoko Ono implies. Paul shares a similar statement in Romans 8:8 people who are self-centered aren’t able to please God. Humans cannot produce righteousness by themselves, that only comes through the power of the Holy Spirit of God.


C.S. Lewis had it right in the Screwtape Letters when he said, ”There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human's mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them"17 When the focus is on the earthly goals, aspirations, worries, and human endeavors then the mind and spirit will not be able to focus on the will and desire of God.

A study found in the journal of ISCON18 asked subjects to list up to 10 attributes associated with each of six different self-concepts. Each self-concept involved a particular domain of the self (i.e., the “actual” self, the “ideal” self, or the “ought” self) combined with a particular standpoint on that self (i.e., the subject's “own” standpoint or the standpoint of a significant “other”). As predicted, the actual-ideal discrepancy was generally associated with dejection-related emotions and symptoms, whereas actual-ought discrepancy was generally associated with agitation-related emotions and symptoms.19 These findings seem to line up with the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans 7:15-20 “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it."20

Paul was clear, he could no longer rely on himself to be good, his goodness no matter how much he wanted to do good would never amount to anything, without the righteousness of Jesus. In Matthew, Jesus clears up any question as to what good means, “Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Why do you ask me about what is good?” (Matthew 19: 16-17 ) Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” Jesus told the rich young ruler what to do. “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (Matthew 19:21-22) Jesus knew the condition of the man’s heart, his desire was to do a good thing, but when faced with doing the righteous thing he went away sadly. Not because he was unaware of what to do, but rather because he was unwilling to do what had to be done.

As one can see, bad people can do good things. However, it is more than good things that God is calling us to do. One must look past earthy good into the realm of righteousness. One must recognize that what the world views as good is only worth anything to the world. Often it has little eternal value. Therefore, when people say “I’m a good person, I deserve to go to heaven.” One should ask them good at what? Are they good at sports, are they good at recycling, are they good at being nice? Outward goodness is no match for inner goodness which Jesus called us. First and foremost Evil is a matter of the heart. Jesus made this very clear when speaking to the Pharisees, who were thought to be the example of goodness. Matt. 23:27 ”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” Even being active in the church is not reason enough to gain access to heaven. Many Christians have spent their time and energy focused on the outward good and have missed the mark of the inward good Jesus calls all believer to live by. This truth is summed up very well in Matt. 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’’

Does this mean there is no hope for anyone?

None of these things count when in comparison to what is being called of all believers, and that is righteousness. A difference between someone who is good and someone who redeemed can be summed up in the mentality of when they realize they have done something wrong. The questions, “Am I going to get caught? or “Is this a sin?” tell the overall worldview of the individual.

The response that I have frequently given when talking to atheists and concerned believers on this topic is an analogy of a family reunion. While Dr. Jones may be a very nice human and while I like him as a professor, he is not a member of my family. Therefore when the Chase family reunion is hosted, Dr. Jones will not be receiving an invitation. If Dr. Jones had married my second cousin Gertrude, then Dr. Jones and his lovely bride would be more than welcome at the family reunion, and I bet he would do great at the three-legged race. God calls us to His family, the response is acceptance of that call and thereby inclusion into the family of God. There are immense benefits and rewards associated with this acceptance, including being welcome into the greatest family reunion that will ever take place in heaven.

Like the rich young ruler, who had kept the earthly commandments and felt as though he was secure, many thought living a good life was enough, being nice, friendly to the elderly, willing to serve on the PTA, and taking snacks to T-ball games, or even dressing up as a clown for charitable fundraising events, but all these things don’t make someone saved. Being good at being a human is not the qualification that God is requiring of us. We are called to more than earthly goodness, we are called to salvation through Christ into righteousness. Jesus answered I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the father except through me.21




1 Beach Boys, “Transcendental Meditation”, Friends, Capitol Records, 1968
2 Billy Joel, “Only The Good Die Young”, The Stranger, Columbia Record,  1977
3 Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”, The E.N.D.,  Interscope Records, 2009
4 Mark 10:18
5  Matthew 7:9-11
6 George Orwell (1970). “A Collection of Essays”, p.191, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
8 Ibid. pg. 143
10 Roberts, Glenys. “Sexual Torment of a Saint: A New Book Reveals Gandhi Tortured Himself with the Young Women Who Worshipped Him, and Often Shared His Bed.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 9 Apr. 2010, www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1264952/A-new-book-reveals-Gandhi-tortured-young-women-worshipped-shared-bed.html.
12 1 Corinthians 11:1
14 Norman, Philip. John Lennon: the Life. Anchor Canada, 2009.
16 “GOOD Spends International Day of Peace With Yoko Ono.” GOOD, 17 Feb. 2015, www.good.is/articles/good-spends-international-day-of-peace-with-yoko-ono.
18 The International Social Cognition Network, http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucjtrc1/ISCON/
20 Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Not another "War on Christmas"

Before I hear about the "War on Christmas" from anyone else this year I want to share something... If the worst thing you have to deal with is a nativity being removed from a city hall, a cross taken down from a tree on the city square, or any other number of stories about the ACLU "ruining Christmas" remember the Bible says, Matt. 10:22 "You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved."


Remember (those of us who are Christians), being offended that the world does what the world is going to do doesn't steal from us as believers. If you let this stuff steal your joy then that's on you... NOT THEM.

It just shows what was mentioned about 2,000 years ago that we shouldn't expect any less. This concept of government not accepting or promoting the Christian faith is not a new one... it's not Obama, it's not the Democrats, it's not the Supreme Court it's just the world being the world. I mean look at history for a bit, read Nero's persecution of Christians in AD 64, he hung Christians on burning crosses for fun, while dressed up like a circus act... seriously.

“Therefore to eliminate this rumor he falsely produced defendants and inflicted the most extraordinary punishments upon those whom, hated for their crimes, the people called Christians. The origin of this name was Christ, whom the procurator Pontius Pilate put to death in the reign of Tiberius; crushed for a while, the deadly superstition burst forth again not only throughout Judea, the source of this evil, but even throughout Rome, to which all horrible and shameful things flow from everywhere and are celebrated. Therefore the first persons arrested were those who confessed; then on their information, a great multitude was convicted not so much on the charge of setting fire as on hatred of the human race. Mockeries were added to their deaths, so that wrapped in the skins of wild animals they might die torn to pieces by dogs, or nailed to crosses they were burned to death to furnish light at night when day had ended. Nero made his own gardens available for this spectacle and put on circus games, mingling with the people while dressed in a charioteer’s uniform or standing in his chariot. As a result there arose compassion toward those who were guilty and who deserved the most extraordinary punishments, on the grounds that they were being destroyed not for the public good but for the savagery of one man” 
(Tacitus, The Annals 15.44.2-5)


Honestly it's time we stop getting offended and realize that we really have no "right" to be offended when the world acts like the world, we are called to so much more than this.



Jesus didn't die for you to have "rights" He died for you to be saved.


If you are staking your hope on your "rights" then you are missing what was prophesied to be your future by Jesus himself. And if this is all it takes for you to start complaining about the world... my friends your faith is shallow. Do you stand on the Word of God or are you going to be offended at the world being what it has always been.

I love you all and I am a firm Christian, but let's spend our time this season being Jesus, not being offended for Jesus. He doesn't need our offense, He already died and called us to do the same thing... and friends believe me when I say, he wasn't kidding when he called you to be willing to "take up your cross and follow Him." This is no cross... this is a stubbed toe at best.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Book Review: Tactics, by Greg Koukl

    In his book Tactics, Greg Koukl gives a very definite pattern of how to engage someone about one’s faith. Koukl breaks up the idea of the book into two sections: The Game Plan and Finding The Flaws. In each chapter, he develops the idea of a tactical, non-confrontational, non-offensive apologetic way to maneuver effortlessly in conversation with a variety of individuals. This process keeps the engager in the driver's seat becoming an effective ambassador for Christ in the process. Koukl’s no-nonsense approach gives people the freedom to share their faith in a manner that doesn’t seem forced or contrived. As he puts it, it is not about always “sealing the deal” but sometimes about just putting a pebble in the shoe of the listener to start them thinking. The tactics discussed here create a safe and level playing field for both the ambassador and nonbeliever. The Columbo Tactic is a straightforward and unforced maneuver that helps people interact without feeling like they are being steamrolled or caught in a conversation with no exit. 

Accurately following these tactics will prevent one from misdirecting or forcing the issue. By asking “what do you mean by that?” one can allow them to feel heard without manipulation or coercion. Tactics is helpful on all levels of conversations from the everyday conversation in the grocery store or on the airplane to a deeper academic discussion on a campus.  Koukl shows us that not all arguments are worth engaging in, and some commit suicide simply by pressing them in real-life application. Most importantly this book demonstrates to the reader that with a little practice and good listening skills a person can become an effective ambassador for Christ.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Is the Book of Mormon from God?

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


How may a person distinguish between truth and error? Can a person know which religion is right? Must a person rely on subjective inner inclinations and feelings? Or is religious truth ascertainable and knowable based on objective assessment? Most religions (e.g., Buddhism and Hinduism) base their credibility on some mystical or transcendental experience. Even some “Christian” groups (e.g., Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, et al.) claim that their credibility and authenticity may be established on the basis of the Holy Spirit Whom, they say, gives them their assurance. But when the Bible is examined, no such role is assigned to the Holy Spirit. Mystical religions have always existed, and have insisted that they were the recipients of leading and guidance from superior forces that are “better felt than told.” The God of the Bible, on the other hand, always offered evidence—proof—of the divine origin of the message before He expected people to believe (e.g., John 10:37-38; 20:30-31; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1; Deuteronomy 18:21-22).
The nature of truth is such that it does not depend upon subjective human experience for its veracity. Rather, God created human beings with minds that were designed to function rationally. We humans have the capability, if we maintain an honest heart free from bias, to consider and weigh evidence, and to draw correct conclusions. As Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). The truthfulness of religious claims is verifiable on the basis of evidence and rational thought. Humans can reason logically, and distinguish between truth and falsehood.

NO ABSURDITIES OR CONTRADICTORY STATEMENTS?

The nature of truth is such that it does not contradict itself. After literally centuries of scrutiny by hostile skeptics and unbelieving critics, the Bible has been found to be completely consistent with the nature of truth, logic, and the laws of thought. On the other hand, uninspired documents cannot stand up to such scrutiny. The Book of Mormon is one such document. It lacks the marks of inspiration that characterize the Bible. In an official publication of the LDS (Latter-day Saints), 31 conditions are identified as necessary in order to produce an inspired book. Condition #9 says, “You must not make any absurd, impossible, or contradictory statements” (see “The Challenge...,” 1990, p. 1). This affirmation is a self-evident truth. Yet, the Book of Mormon is guilty of violating this very criterion.
In the first place, much of the King James Version of the Bible has been reproduced verbatim in theBook of Mormon—at least 25,000 words. For example, Mosiah 14 is a reproduction of Isaiah 53. 3 Nephi 13:1-23 is simply Matthew 6:1-23. Moroni 7:45 is copied from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Moroni 7:48 is 1 John 3:2. Moroni 10:8-17 is taken from 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. Alma 5:52 is Matthew 3:10. 2 Nephi 14:1-3 is Isaiah 4:1-3. The author of the Book of Mormon obviously had before him a copy of the King James Bible, and simply copied many sections directly from it. But this is only half of the problem on this point. The KJV is an uninspired translation of Hebrew and Greek manuscripts into the English language of the turn of the seventeenth century, completed in 1611. But God gave the Old Testament to the Israelites in their native language (Hebrew), and He gave the New Testament in the first century in the common language of that day (Greek).Question: why in the world would God give His Word to Joseph Smith in nineteenth-century America (1830), not in American English, but in the British language of seventeenth century England? The obvious answer to the question is that God would not do so. This absurdity is inconsistent with the nature of God.
The reproduction of so much of the KJV in the Book of Mormon raises four additional concerns. First, Mormons frequently attempt to establish the superiority of the Book of Mormon over the Bible by insisting that the Bible has been corrupted through the centuries in the process of translation (a contention similar to Islam’s defense of the Quran). But if the Bible has been so adversely affected, why does the Book of Mormon quote so much of the King James Version? Apparently, at least those portions of the Bible are to be considered accurate!
Second, all textual critics (those who study the original manuscript evidence that attests to the text of the New Testament) know that textual variants exist in the extant manuscript evidence. The vast majority of these discordant readings are resolved when all of the textual evidence is considered (e.g., Metzger, 1968, p. 185). If the Book of Mormon were inspired, not only would it refrain from incorporating the King James Version within its pages, it also would not include in those sections the manuscript errors that have crept into the text. Here was the perfect opportunity in 1830 for God to correct the mistakes that had accumulated during the previous 200 years (as well as the 1,500 years prior to the KJV). Instead, the mistakes were perpetuated!
For example, several textual variants occur in Matthew 6—a chapter that was reproduced in 3 Nephi 13. In Matthew 6:4, the Textus Receptus (the Greek text upon which the KJV was based) contained the words “himself” and “openly.” These insertions were perpetuated by the author of the Book of Mormon in 3 Nephi 13:4, as was the word “openly” in verses 8 and 16 of Matthew 6 (and 3 Nephi 13). Likewise, the Trinitarian ascription in 3 Nephi 13:13 and Matthew 6:13 in the KJV (“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen”) is not supported by the earliest and most important manuscript witnesses to the text of the New Testament. Subsequent translations, including the ASV, omit the sentence altogether, or, in the case of the NASB, place it in brackets. The manuscript evidence simply does not support these additions as being in the original, inspired autograph authored by Matthew. Many additional instances of the same type of faux pas can be cited. The one who was responsible for producing the Book of Mormon in these cases unquestionably (1) relied on the KJV and (2) demonstrated his ignorance of textual criticism.
Third, in addition to errors that are due to textual variants, the KJV also made grammatical and stylistic errors that were naively copied by the Book of Mormon. For example, in Hebrew, singular masculine nouns are changed to plural by appending “im” (pronounced “eem”)—the equivalent of “s” or “es” in English. The Hebrew words “cherub” and “seraph” are singular nouns. The plural forms of these words are “cherubim” and “seraphim.” The KJV translators mistakenly added an “s” to these terms to denote a plural form (e.g., Genesis 3:24; Exodus 25:18,19,20,22; Isaiah 6:2,6; Hebrews 9:5). Alluding to cherubim, Clarke explained: “[T]o add an s to this when we introduce such words into English, is very improper; therefore the word should be written cherubim, not cherubims” (n.d., 1:56, italics in orig.; cf. Lewis, 1991, p. 59). Yet the original 1830 Book of Mormon reproduced the same mistake as the KJV in this regard (Alma 12:21; 42:2,3; 2 Nephi 16:2,6), though corrections were made in later editions. The unbiased observer is forced to conclude: God knows Hebrew; the author of the Book of Mormon obviously did not.
Another sample of stylistic error is the use of the expression “it came to pass.” This expression is aSemitism, or Hebraism, i.e., an idiomatic oddity or peculiarity of the Hebrew language that has no corresponding equivalent in English. Newer translations either drop it completely or render it with an approximate English equivalent like “it came about” or “it happened.” The KJV simply transferred the Semitism directly into English and, under its influence, has caused the expression to be naturalized into English religious usage. Nevertheless, it is not an idiom that is native to English. The Book of Mormon is literally inundated with the expression—as if the author was deliberately attempting to make his writing sound biblically or divinely authentic. In reality, he was unwittingly making it sound Semitic in seventeenth-century English! But God would not have communicated with Americans in 1830 through the convoluted pathway of Hebrew, to seventeenth-century British English, to nineteenth-century American English. Likewise, the peoples of the specific historical periods that theBook of Mormon claims to be depicting (e.g., the Nephites) would have had no earthly reason to have spoken in Hebrew themselves, nor to have their history reported in Hebrew phraseology and Semitic idiom. Apparently, later Mormon authorities, unable to completely eradicate this stylistic feature due to its extensive occurrence, were nevertheless so uncomfortable with the overuse of the phrase that they have deleted some of its occurrences when so many were used in close proximity with each other. For example, in Alma 14:7, the original Book of Mormon had three occurrences of “it came to pass”—in the same verse! Current editions have only one.
Fourth, in 3 Nephi 20:23-26, Jesus is represented as the speaker, and He applies to Himself the prophecy that Moses made in Deuteronomy 18:15,18-19. Yet, the author of the Book of Mormonunquestionably was relying on Acts 3:22-26, where Peter paraphrased the Deuteronomy passage, and then added his own comments. The Book of Mormon mistakenly has Jesus including Peter’s appended comments as if they were part of Moses’ words in Deuteronomy.
In addition to the absurdities and contradictions that exist within the Book of Mormon in its close reliance on the KJV, contradictions also exist within and between the Mormon scriptures themselves. Consider, for example, the serious contradiction in the promulgation of polygamy. The Book of Mormon condemns the practice of plural marriages in no uncertain terms:
But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son. Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.... Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old. Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none; For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts (Jacob 2:23-24,26-28; cf., 1:15; Ether 10:5; Doctrine and Covenants 49:16).
These referenced verses from the Book of Mormon enjoin monogamy with uncompromising vigor. Yet the Doctrine and Covenants flatly contradicts the Book of Mormon on this point:
Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines—Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter. Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same. For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.... David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me. David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife (132:1-4,38-39, emp. added).
Two serious contradictions are evident. First, the Book of Mormon clearly condemned plural marriage as one of the “grosser crimes” and “whoredom”—at least among the Nephites. It specifically singled out the plural marriages of David and Solomon, denouncing them as an “abomination.” Yet Doctrine and Covenants insisted that David and Solomon were completely justified, and committed no sin in having multiple wives and concubines. If the author of the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants (allegedly Joseph Smith) had worded it differently, saying that God enjoined plural marriages at one point in history, but chose not to enjoin the practice at another point in history, or if he had said plural marriages were to be practiced by some people early in history but not by others later in history, then no contradiction would exist. For example, God enjoined animal sacrifice in the Old Testament, and then forbade its use in the New Testament. But this is not what Joseph Smith did! He specifically identified the polygamy of David and Solomon, and then made the mistake of both approving and condemning it! This constitutes a flat contradiction. Two statements arecontradictory when they cannot both be true (cf. McGarvey, 1974, 3:31). [NOTE: Yet another indication of Joseph Smith’s uninspired status was his allusion in the above quotation (Jacob 2:27) to a man being permitted only one wife, but “concubines he shall have none.” This reference betrays an ignorance of the use of biblical terminology. A “concubine” in antiquity was a wife—not a mistress(unmarried sexual partner)—despite popular misconception (cf. Victor P. Hamilton’s article, “pilegesh,” 1980, 2:724)].
Second, Doctrine and Covenants stated that the practice of plural marriage in this life is aneverlasting covenant. The term “eternal” or “everlasting” as used in the Bible can sometimes be abbreviated to refer to a period of time of limited duration (e.g., Jonah 2:6). However, when additional terminology is employed that reinforces the primary meaning of “forever,” an abbreviated period is excluded. Terminology used in the Book of Mormon shows that “everlasting,” as applied to the covenant of plural marriage, was intended in its ordinary meaning of forever. Its application included one’s entire earthly sojourn, since the text says Solomon, Moses, and many others had practiced it “from the beginning of creation until this time.” Other references confirm this understanding: “both as well for time and for all eternity” (D&C 132:7); “in the world” (D&C 132:15); “on the earth” (D&C 132:46,48). Even Joseph Smith’s wife, Emma, was commanded to accept the additional wives given by God to her husband (D&C 132:52). Section 132 of Doctrine and Covenants claims to have been revealed to Joseph Smith in 1843. Yet 47 years later, on September 24, 1890, President Wilford Woodruff issued an official declaration on the matter:
We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice.... There is nothing in my teachings to the Church or in those of my associates, during the time specified, which can be reasonably construed to inculcate or encourage polygamy.... And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land” (“Official Declaration1” in Doctrine and Covenants, 1981, pp. 291-292).
In excerpts from three addresses that he delivered regarding this manifesto, Woodruff explained that if they continued to practice plural marriage, temples would be confiscated by the civil authorities, and the First Presidency and Twelve, and family heads, would be imprisoned. If, on the other hand, they ceased the practice, in order to abide by the law of the land, they would be able to continue the duties and ordinances of the church (including baptism for the dead). Question: Why would God refer to plural marriage as a perpetual practice that would bring damnation upon those who fail to practice it, and then call for Latter-day Saints to refrain from such marriages? God is timeless, and would have known ahead of time that the American government would reach a point at which it would call the Mormon practice of plural marriage to account. Therefore, He would not have enjoined the requirement as “everlasting” if He later intended to cease the practice. Nor would God have withdrawn one of His “everlasting commandments” simply because the law of the land by a pagan government made the commandment illegal and implemented persecution! When in all of human history has God ever bowed to civil government in its opposition to His will?

NO CHANGES?

Another legitimate affirmation listed in “The Challenge” is condition #10: “When you finish in 60 days, you must make no changes in the text. The first edition must stand forever” (p. 1, emp. added). “Houston, we have a problem.” Informed students of the Bible are well aware that no original autographs of the Bible are extant. We are completely dependent upon copies of copies of copies. Not so with the Book of MormonThe original 1830 first printed edition of the Book of Mormonexists! In the words of Latter-day Saints President Wilford C. Wood in 1958: “I do testify that the uncut sheets of the complete First Edition of the Book of Mormon have been reproduced in its original unchanged condition; that this is a correct and perfect restoration of the First Edition of the Book of Mormon as received by the Prophet Joseph Smith and printed in Palmyra, New York in 1830” (prefatory material). Latter-day Saint authorities have repeatedly affirmed that the original Book of Mormon contained no errors. In 1883, a member of the First Council of the Seventy, George Reynolds, stated: “It was done by divine aid” (p. 71). Reynolds refers to the eyewitness account of Martin Harris—one of the scribes who participated with Joseph Smith in the translation of the Book of Mormon (p. 91). Joseph Smith claimed to have found gold plates that he translated into English using an instrument known as the “Urim and Thummim”—two white stones fastened together by a casing of silver, comparable to spectacles. Smith would hold the stones between himself and the gold plates. In 1881, the sixth president of the Mormon Church, Joseph F. Smith, explained the translation process (as reported by Oliver Huntington):
The Lord caused each word spelled as it is in the Book to appear on the stones in short sentences or words, and when Joseph had uttered the sentence or word before him and the scribe had written it properly, that sentence would disappear and another appear. And if there was a word wrongly written or even a letter incorrect the writing on the stones would remain there. Then Joseph would require the scribe to spell the reading of the last spoken and thus find the mistake and when corrected the sentence or word would disappear as usual (n.d., p. 168).
This procedure, that guaranteed complete accuracy of transcription, was further verified by David Whitmer. Whitmer, who continues to be listed in currently circulating copies of the Book of Mormonas one of the trio that constitute “The Testimony of the Three Witnesses,” described the process of translation in the following words:
I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man (Whitmer, 1887, emp. added).
In view of the specific procedures by which the gold plates were translated, the Book of Mormonought to be perfect. Yet, when one compares the original Book of Mormon with a currently circulating edition, one observes that many changes have been made in the Book of Mormonsince the original 1830 edition. This circumstance is completely unlike manmade translations of the Bible. All translators of the Bible are uninspired in their translating efforts. Joseph Smith, on the other hand, claimed to have been supernaturally guided in the process of translating the Book of Mormon, and preserved from making any errors. One official explanation as to why the original 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon was filled with grammatical mistakes and content blunders is—“printer’s errors.” This claim, of course, contradicts the above claim of President Wilford, who vouched for the authenticity of the existing 1830 edition and even included in his reproduction of it a “memorandum” by one of the original printer’s associates—John Gilbert. The memorandum recounts the care given to insuring accuracy in the printing of the manuscript that was brought to the printer by Hyrum Smith (Joseph’s brother), who, along with Martin Harris, supervised the project. Hence, the claim that “printer’s errors” are responsible for the errors in the original 1830 edition would be a suitable explanation if it fit the facts, but it simply cannot account for the types of mistakes contained in the Book of Mormonthe types of mistakes printers do not make.
Consider a few of the estimated 4,000+ grammatical mistakes that have been corrected in subsequent editions. The original 1830 Book of Mormon in Jacob 7:24 read, “but it all were vain.” Alma 48:25 read, “for the promise of the Lord were…” Alma 53:5 read, “it were easy to guard them.” 1 Nephi 5:11 read, “Adam and Eve, which was our first parents.” All of these errors have been corrected in more recent editions.
Consider also a few of the many changes that have been made that correct content mistakes. In Mosiah 21:28, “Benjamin” has been changed to “Mosiah” (since king Benjamin was already dead at this point in the narrative—Mosiah 6:4-5). In Alma 37:21, “directors” has been changed to “interpreters.” In 1 Nephi 13:32, “woundedness” has been changed to “state of blindness.” In Mosiah 27:29, “wrecked” has been changed to “racked.” In Alma 13:20 and 41:1, “arrest” has been changed to “wrest.” In Alma 17:13, “arriven” has been changed to “arrived.” The original 1830 title page listed Joseph Smith as “Author and Proprietor.” Now he is simply “translator.” In 1 Nephi 20:1, the phrase “or out of the waters of baptism” has been inserted. It was not in the original 1830 edition.
Printers occasionally transpose letters or garble a word or insert the same line twice or omit a word or two, perhaps a line here and there. But the above changes are not the kinds of errors that printers make.
An honest and humble appraisal of these discrepancies should create great concern in the heart of one who believes Mormon documents to be inspired. Many criticisms have been leveled against the Bible over the centuries, yet have been answered decisively. If the Book of Mormon were from God, it, too, could be defended and its divine authenticity substantiated. However, the lack of adequate explanations to clarify such problems compel the honest individual to conclude that the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants are not from God.

REFERENCES

Book of Mormon (1981 reprint), (Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
The Challenge the Book of Mormon Makes to the World (1990), (Euless, TX: Texas Fort Worth Mission).
Clarke, Adam (no date), Clarke’s Commentary: Genesis-Deuteronomy (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury).
Doctrine and Covenants (1981 reprint), (Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
Hamilton, Victor P. (1980), “pilegesh,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason Archer Jr., and Bruce Waltke (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Huntington, Oliver B. (no date), Oliver Boardman Huntington Journals, 1842-1900 (Salt Lake City, UT: Utah State Historical Society).
Lewis, Jack P. (1991), The English Bible From KJV to NIV (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), second edition.
McGarvey, J. W. (1974 reprint), Evidences of Christianity (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company).
Metzger, Bruce M. (1968), The Text of the New Testament (New York, NY: Oxford University Press).
Reynolds, George (1883), The Myth of the “Manuscript Found,” (Salt Lake City, UT: Juvenile Instructor Office).
Whitmer, David (1887), An Address to All Believers in Christ, [On-line], URL: http://www.irr.org/mit/address1.html.
Wood, Wilford C. (1958), Joseph Smith Begins His Work (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret News Press).


Copyright © 2003 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved





Copyright © 2003 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

God's Just Destruction of the Canaanites

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Originally Published on Apologetics Press 
Link to original Article here

In the 1930s and 40s, the Nazi regime committed state-sponsored genocide of so-called “inferior races.” Of the approximately nine million Jews who lived in Europe at the beginning of the 1930s, some six million of them were exterminated. The Nazis murdered approximately one million Jewish children, two million Jewish women, and three million Jewish men. The Jews were starved, gassed, and experimented on like animals. In addition, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime slaughtered another three million Poles, Soviets, gypsies, and people with disabilities (see “Holocaust,” 2011 for more information). Most sane people, including Christians and many atheists (e.g., Antony Flew, Wallace Matson), have interpreted the Nazis’ actions for what they were—cruel, callous, and nefarious. 
Some 3,400 years before the Holocaust, the God of the Bible commanded the Israelites to “destroy all the inhabitants of the land” of Canaan (Joshua 9:24). They were to conquer, kill, and cast out the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites (Exodus 23:23; Deuteronomy 7:1-2; Joshua 3:10). After crossing the Jordan River, we learn in the book of Joshua that the Israelites “utterly destroyed all that was in the city [of Jericho], both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword…. [T]hey burned the city and all that was in it with fire” (Joshua 6:21,24). They also “utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai” (Joshua 8:26), killing 12,000 men and women, and hanging their king (8:25,29). In Makkedah and Libnah, the Israelites “let none remain” (Joshua 10:28,30). They struck Lachish “and all the people who were in it with the edge of the sword” (10:32). The Israelites then conquered Gezer, Eglon, Hebron, Debir, and Hazor (10:33-39; 11:1-1). “So all the cities of those kings, and all their kings, Joshua took and struck with the edge of the sword. He utterly destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded” (Joshua 11:12). 
God had the Israelites kill countless thousands, perhaps millions, of people throughout the land of Canaan. It was genocide in the sense that it was a plannedsystematic, limited extermination of a number of nation states from a relatively small area in the Middle East (cf. “Genocide,” 2000; cf. also “Genocide,” 2012). But, it was not a war against a particular race (from the Greek genos) or ethnic group. Nor were the Israelites commanded to pursue and kill the Canaanite nations if they fled from Israel’s Promised Land. The Israelites were to drive out and dispossess the nations of their land (killing all who resisted the dispossession), but they were not instructed to annihilate a particular race or ethnic group from the face of the Earth.
Still, many find God’s commands to conquer and destroy the Canaanite nation states problematic. How could a loving God instruct one group of people to kill and conquer another group? America’s most well-known critic of Christianity in the late 1700s and early 1800s, Thomas Paine (one of only a handful of America’s Founding Fathers who did not claim to be a Christian), called the God of the Old Testament “the Mars of the Jews, the fighting God of Israel,” Who was “boisterous, contemptible, and vulgar” (Paine, 1807). Two centuries later, Richard Dawkins (arguably the most famous atheist in the world today), published his book The God Delusion, which soon became a New York Times bestseller. One of the most oft-quoted phrases from this work comes from page 31, where Dawkins called God, a “racist, infanticidal, genocidal…capriciously malevolent bully” (2006). According to one search engine, this quote (in part or in whole) is found on-line approximately one million times. The fact is, critics of the God of the Bible are fond of repeating the allegation that, because of His instruction to the Israelites to kill millions of people in their conquest of Canaan, the God of the Bible has (allegedly) shown Himself to be an unruly, shameful, offensive, genocidal, “evil monster” (Dawkins, p. 248; cf. Hitchens, 2007, p. 107).

WAS GOD’S CAMPAIGN AGAINST CANAAN IMMORAL?

How could a supremely good (Mark 10:18), all-loving (1 John 4:8), perfectly holy God (Leviticus 11:44-45) order the Israelites to slay with swords myriads of human beings, letting “none remain” in Canaan? Is not such a planned, systematic extermination of nations equivalent to the murderous actions of the Nazis in the 1930s and 40s, as atheists and other critics of Christianity would have us believe? In truth, God’s actions in Israel’s conquest of Canaan were in perfect harmony with His supremely loving, merciful, righteous, just, and holy nature.

Punishing Evildoers is Not Unloving

Similar to how merciful parents, principals, policemen, and judges can justly administer punishment to rule-breakers and evildoers, so too can the all-knowing, all-loving Creator of the Universe. Loving parents and principals have administered corporal punishment appropriately to children for years (cf. Proverbs 13:24). Merciful policemen, who are constantly saving the lives of the innocent, have the authority (both from God and the government—Romans 13:1-4) to kill a wicked person who is murdering others. Just judges have the authority to sentence a depraved child rapist to death. Loving-kindness and corporal or capital punishment are not antithetical. Prior to conquering Canaan, God commanded the Israelites, saying,
You shall not hate your brother in your heart…. You shall not take vengeance nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself…. And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself (Leviticus 19:17-18,33-34; cf. Romans 13:9).
The faithful Jew was expected, as are Christians, to “not resist an evil person” (Matthew 5:39) but rather “go the extra mile” (Matthew 5:41) and “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39). “Love,” after all, “is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10; cf. Matthew 22:36-40). Interestingly, however, the Israelite was commanded to punish (even kill) lawbreakers. Just five chapters after commanding the individual Israelite to “not take vengeance,” but “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), God twice said that murderers would receive the death penalty (Leviticus 24:21,17).

The Wickedness of the Inhabitants of Canaan

The Canaanite nations were punished because of their extreme wickedness. God did not cast out the Canaanites for being a particular race or ethnic group. God did not send the Israelites into the land of Canaan to destroy a number of righteous nations. On the contrary, the Canaanite nations were horribly depraved. They practiced “abominable customs” (Leviticus 18:30) and did “detestable things” (Deuteronomy 18:9, NASB). They practiced idolatry, witchcraft, soothsaying, and sorcery. They attempted to cast spells upon people and call up the dead (Deuteronomy 18:10-11).
Their “cultic practice was barbarous and thoroughly licentious” (Unger, 1954, p. 175). Their “deities…had no moral character whatever,” which “must have brought out the worst traits in their devotees and entailed many of the most demoralizing practices of the time,” including sensuous nudity, orgiastic nature-worship, snake worship, and even child sacrifice (Unger, 1954, p. 175; cf. Albright, 1940, p. 214). As Moses wrote, the inhabitants of Canaan would “burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:30). The Canaanite nations were anything but “innocent.” In truth, “[t]hese Canaanite cults were utterly immoral, decadent, and corrupt, dangerously contaminating and thoroughly justifying the divine command to destroy their devotees” (Unger, 1988). They were so nefarious that God said they defiled the land and the land could stomach them no longer—“the land vomited out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:25). [NOTE: Israel was an imperfect nation (as all nations are), but God still used them to punish the Canaanites. God warned Israel before ever entering Canaan, however, that if they forsook His law, they, too, would be severely punished (Deuteronomy 28:15ff). In fact, similar to how God used the Israelites to bring judgment upon the inhabitants of Canaan in the time of Joshua, He used the pagan nations of Babylon and Assyria to judge and conquer Israel hundreds of years later.]

The Longsuffering of God

Unlike the foolish, impulsive, quick-tempered reactions of many men (Proverbs 14:29), the Lord is “slow to anger and great in mercy” (Psalm 145:8). He is “longsuffering…, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Immediately following a reminder to the Christians in Rome that the Old Testament was “written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope,” the apostle Paul referred to God as “the God of patience” (Romans 15:4-5). Throughout the Old Testament, the Bible writers portrayed God as longsuffering.
Though in Noah’s day, “the wickedness of man was great in the earth” and “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5), “the Divine longsuffering waited” (1 Peter 3:20). (It seems as though God delayed flooding the Earth for 120 years as His Spirit’s message of righteousness was preached to a wicked world—Genesis 6:3; 2 Peter 2:5.) In the days of Abraham, God ultimately decided to spare the iniquitous city of Sodom, not if 50 righteous people were found living therein, but only 10 righteous individuals.
And what about prior to God’s destruction of the Canaanite nations? Did God quickly decide to cast them out of the land? Did He respond to the peoples’ wickedness like an impulsive, reckless mad-man? Or was He, as the Bible repeatedly states and exemplifies, longsuffering? Indeed, God waited. He waited more than four centuries to bring judgment upon the inhabitants of Canaan. Although the Amorites were already a sinful people in Abraham’s day, God delayed in giving the descendants of the patriarch the Promised Land. He would wait until the Israelites had been in Egypt for hundreds of years, because at the time that God spoke with Abraham “the iniquity of the Amorites” was “not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16). [NOTE: “The Amorites were so numerous and powerful a tribe in Canaan that they are sometimes named for the whole of the ancient inhabitants, as they are here” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, 1997).] In Abraham’s day, the inhabitants of Canaan were not so degenerate that God would bring judgment upon them. However, by the time of Joshua (more than 400 years later), the Canaanites’ iniquity was full, and God used the army of Israel to destroy them.
Yes, God is longsuffering, but His longsuffering is not an “eternal” suffering. His patience with impenitent sinners eventually ends. It ended for a wicked world in the days of Noah. It ended for Sodom and Gomorrah in the days of Abraham. And it eventually ended for the inhabitants of Canaan, whom God justly destroyed.

What About the Innocent Children?

The children of Canaan were not guilty of their parents’ sins (cf. Ezekiel 18:20); they were sinless, innocent, precious human beings (cf. Matthew 18:3-5; see Butt, 2003). So how could God justly take the lives of children, any children, “who have no knowledge of good and evil” (Deuteronomy 1:39)? The fact is, as Dave Miller properly noted, “Including the children in the destruction of such populations actually spared them from a worse condition—that of being reared to be as wicked as their parents and thus face eternal punishment. All persons who die in childhood, according to the Bible, are ushered to Paradise and will ultimately reside in Heaven. Children who have parents who are evil must naturally suffer innocently while on Earth (e.g., Numbers 14:33)” (Miller, 2009). God, the Giver of life (Acts 17:25; Ecclesiastes 12:7), and only God has the right to take the life of His creation whenever He chooses (for the righteous purposes that He has). At times in history, God took the life of men out of righteous judgment. At other times (as in the case of children), it was taken for merciful reasons. [NOTE: For a superb, extensive discussion on the relationship between (1) the goodness of God, (2) the contradictory, hideousness of atheism, and (3) God bringing about the death of various infants throughout history, see Kyle Butt’s article “Is God Immoral for Killing Innocent Children?” (2009).]

CONCLUSION

Though the enemies of the God of the Bible are frequently heard criticizing Israel’s conquest of Canaan, the fact is, such a conquest was in complete harmony with God’s perfectly loving, holy, and righteous nature. After patiently waiting for hundreds of years, God eventually used the Israelites to bring judgment upon myriads of wicked Canaanites. Simultaneously, He spared their children a fate much worse than physical death—the horror of growing up in a reprehensible culture and becoming like their hedonistic parents—and immediately ushered them into a pain-free, marvelous place called Paradise (Luke 16:19-31; 23:43).

REFERENCES

Albright, William F. (1940), From the Stone Age to Christianity (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins).
Butt, Kyle (2003), “Do Babies Go to Hell When They Die?” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=1201.
Butt, Kyle (2009), “Is God Immoral for Killing Innocent Children?” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/article/260.
Dawkins, Richard (2006), The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin).
“Genocide” (2000), The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
“Genocide” (2012), Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/genocide.
Hitchens, Christopher (2007), God is Not Great (New York: Twelve).
“Holocaust” (2011), Encyclopedia.com, http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Holocaust.aspx#1.
Jamieson, Robert, et al. (1997), Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Bible Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Miller, Dave (2009), “Did God Order the Killing of Babies?” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=2810.
Paine, Thomas (1807), “Essay on Dream,” http://www.sacred-texts.com/aor/paine/dream.htm.
Unger, Merrill F. (1954), Archaeology and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Unger, Merrill F. (1988), “Canaan,” The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).



Copyright © 2013 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.