Steve Wells, noted skeptic and annotator of the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible posted a challenge to Christians on his Blog Dwindling in Unbelief on November 12. This paper is a response to said challenge. In doing this I ask Mr. Wells’ consideration in trying to understand my position, as I try to understand his. I do not feel that atheism is bad or wrong, nor do I think him wrong for thinking how he does. He simply has a different world view which I fully respect and indeed recognize the clear logic of his position. I am not doing this to show that he is “wrong” and I am “right” but rather to show that though we have different world views, both can respect the other’s position and understand one another. That said, here goes.
The killings in the Bible have always baffled me especially in light of these passages in the bible: “These things I command you, that ye love one another (John 15:17).” “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (1 Corinth. 13:13)” “Thou shalt not kill (Exodus 20:13).” And “God is love (1 John 4:8).” So the Bible admonishes over and over to love and not kill, so how could this God that not only loves, but indeed is love command men to kill entire towns and peoples as happens in Joshua 6, and other parts throughout the Old Testament, particularly in Joshua? It seems to be a contradiction.
One possible solution is that the Bible writers were in error, that perhaps they were not inspired in their killings, but just said they were to justify, or perhaps our version is not fully-telling of the situation. These are solutions which I do not disregard as I do not believe in Biblical perfection, and such an explanation in no way precludes a belief in God or Christ. However the more interesting case to consider is the case where we take the biblical account as true, and assume that these prophets were indeed told to kill, how could this be? That is a more difficult and less-trivial question.
To understand the answer one must understand the believer’s position. If you believe this is world is our only life, then yes these killings seem harsh. However if you do believe in life after death and an all-knowing and all-loving God, then there could be an explanation. Consider this situation in a school:
In a school (perhaps elementary), the principal may see it fit to take a certain student out of his school and place him in another school, perhaps a remedial school, or a school particularly designed for his needs. Does he hate the child? No, clearly not if he is a good principal (and we are assuming he is). Is the principal evil? No, he is indeed doing the best thing for that child, the most loving thin by trying to insure is future and eventual success. For the child, who has friends at the school he is at it may seem harsh, even wrong. “How could he take me away from my friends?” he might say. But that is because the student only sees his current position, not his whole future as his principal does. Now does this in anyway justify another student removing his fellow student? No. It is wrong for a student to forcibly remove a fellow student from school or tell another student to leave or even to make another student feel uncomfortable to be in the school. However if a student was somehow in a position (perhaps a school/class president?) to speak for the principal, that could be a different story.
Though the comparison is imperfect, I believe it illustrates my position. For me, this life is nothing but a school and God the principal, he can take us from it, for he is a good principal (I believe) and will only do such for our benefit. Is it my place to remove any students from the school? No it is not. Is it for others to remove people? No it is not.
The question may arise, so what if God tells someone to kill another. Let us put the situation in our time. A man somewhere in the U.S kills multiple people and claims God told him to kill all Muslims/Blacks/Mormons/Whites/etc. and he was only following God. Well if God really did tell him then it may be okay with God, but it is clearly against the Law of the Land, and as such he should face the full penalty for his actions (i.e. death or life imprisonment or whatever is protocol in the particular state). Was he inspired by God? Well I doubt it, but in reality it is a moot question. He broke the law and must face the penalty for his crimes, if he is led by God, then let God save him, but for us it is to execute the just laws of the land.
I foresee that Steve (or others) could have questions/arguments, I am happy to except any on the principle that all involved first try to understand before trying to accuse.