The Genocidal God Objection: An Online Reference

My writing partner, Marc Schooley, addressed this objection to Christianity in a blog series four years ago. Some excerpts:

Let’s take a brief look at the genocidal God objection (GGO) in the light of experience, science, and reason.

As far as I know, no one has direct experience of God committing genocide. I’ve never seen Him do it. I think it’s safe to assume no reader or commenter has either. If the objector is willing to grant the accounts of the Old Testament as historical, I say bravo. Let’s admit them as testimonial evidence. But once they’re admitted, let’s not de-admit them once we move on to other topics.

At any rate, this does not represent direct experience and does not provide a rational foundation by means of direct experience for or against GGO under ESR.

-Is God Guilty of Genocide? Part 1

I’m not sure if skeptics understand how much of their professed position they’re giving away by even beginning with this objection. Part 1 overviews some of that.

————–

Perhaps our humanistic culture has influenced us to think that this life is all there is, and any disruption of unfettered pleasure on this earth is an evil. Or, in the case of Christians, this life is somehow the truer, more important life that must be prolonged at all costs. Perhaps North American and European prosperity has blinded us to the true evils on this planet.

In this, we value this life above all else and, in so doing, deny the very God that created us for an eternity with Him. How sin persuades us to exchange the substitute for the genuine article, the schlock novel for a Crime and Punishment, this fleeting realm of degradation and becoming for the realm of never-ending heavenly lights — and we do so all along cursing a holy God openly for acting justly. It’s as if we’re cursing the rehabilitation doctor that denies us our heroin.

-Is God Guilty of Genocide? Part 2

Part 2 bases its argument on a particular theology of eternity that I don’t necessarily agree with; that is, it fits into the framework Marc posits very nicely, but it arises from slightly different theological premises than I personally hold. Regardless, it takes what the anti-theist must acquiesce to in order to make the GGO complaint, and claims the ground for the theist case.

————–

…the GGO, as it turns out, is not only not a logical objection, it’s not an objection aimed at the existence of God, the truth of Jesus Christ, or the resurrection. Stunningly, even if correct, the GGO succeeds only in refuting a certain Christian doctrine: the inerrancy of Scripture. If it were true, and in no sense do I grant that it is, the GGO would only demonstrate that Moses — or if the inerrancy of Scripture is false, perhaps several redacted sources — was incorrect in his assessment of the nature of God as it relates to the conquest of Canaan.

That’s it.

Nothing more is demonstrated by the GGO. It does not question the existence of God. It does not provide any rationale for believing the resurrection is not an historical fact. It does not question any major doctrine of Christianity, except biblical inerrancy.

-Is God Guilty of Genocide? Part 3

This, too, follows from how much the skeptic must give up of his own skepticism for the sake of this case. It makes clear why I consider the GGO to be a time-waster as objections go, and also why I consider it valid to pursue the complaint from Christian theist premises rather than naturalistic or secular humanist ones. It’s not truly a non-religious skeptic’s complaint, but a religious skeptic’s.

————–

So, why does the skeptic resist God’s will in the matter of life to life translation? … Perhaps because for the skeptic death is indeed the end? Because it’s the bane and evil of mankind, his ever-present sorrow in the midst of joy? If this life is all we have, it seems threatening that God might actually take it away before our allotted three score and ten. It’s not fair, they might be heard saying, that I’m not in charge over life and death — that perhaps there is something wiser with the capability of enforcing its will when it deems it necessary.

-Is God Guilty of Genocide? Part 4

In fact, they could be heard saying as much in our comments section not too long ago at all. If the primary complaint against a belief in omniscient, gracious and incorruptible justice is that it’s not fair I’m not its wellspring, I’ve only made a case that I’m definitely not its wellspring. The more vociferous complaints only help to undermine any assertions that humanity is gracious and incorruptible enough to be arbiter of its own destiny.

There are arguments against believing in the Christian God. This is not one of them.

~Scienda

22 comments

  1. “I’m not sure if skeptics understand how much of their professed position they’re giving away by even beginning with this objection.”

    None at all.

    One can hypothetically discuss the evil of, say, Lord Voldemort without having to say you believe the villainous character actually exists.

    “There are arguments against believing in the Christian God. This is not one of them.”

    Correct. It’s an argument that the character of the Christian God wouldn’t deserve belief even if it actually existed.

    1. Hey, NAS… love your avatar. Awesome.

      “One can hypothetically discuss the evil of, say, Lord Voldemort without having to say you believe the villainous character actually exists.”

      First, I appreciate you saying this. This is true.

      The problem is, if you take that line with a guy like my friend who wrote these articles, you’ll get treated to some firm handling on the the use of hypotheticals (see his Part 1 and ESR). If the skeptic wishes to insist on his own presuppositional basis, and treat God as entirely hypothetical, he’ll need to give the theist a reason from within that presuppositional basis not to treat the GGO as entirely hypothetical.

      “It’s an argument that the character of the Christian God wouldn’t deserve belief even if it actually existed.”

      In his Part 3, Marc references a Bill Craig article (although I don’t think he linked to it) in which Craig says this: “Suppose we agree that if God (who is perfectly good) exists, He could not have issued such a command. What follows? That Jesus didn’t rise from the dead? That God does not exist? Hardly!”

      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/slaughter-of-the-canaanites#ixzz2meRy56kP

      Craig points out that at worst, if the moral point you’re asserting succeeds, then the skeptic has merely demonstrated that Moses (or whatever author/s we ascribe to the text) has/have misapprehended the true nature and intentions of his/their deity (that is, the inerrancy of the account fails), not that God is in fact nonexistent or unworthy of worship.

      The article goes on to illustrate the underlying issue of conceding objective moral values and duties to an able theist in this manner. Of course, you may feel otherwise, but it seems to me this route may not be worth the ratio of time invested to ground gained when there are other angles of challenge available to the skeptic.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      CD

  2. Interesting. I’m not sure what I think of this, because the distrust of the OT as “fact” is a part of a slippery slope philosophy that is dangerous, I think. When you look at Noah as myth, and then at Sodom and Gomorrah as myth, and then at Jonah as myth and Job – then how far do you go before the entirety of the OT is myth (I think historical fact says it is not) – and where are the differences? Not to say I disagree with you. Much of the OT has YHWH looking very much like a pagan god of war – warriors praying for strength in battle and victory over oppressive forces (earthly forces). At the same time – we look at Jesus as a lover of peace and justice – a Third Way philosophy of dealing with oppression that does not deal in violence. How then do we argue for Yeshuah as this same Old Testament God? And if YHWH of the OT is mythological in story at least, then how do we trust the Messianic prophecy?

    1. Hey, Missy!

      “Much of the OT has YHWH looking very much like a pagan god of war – warriors praying for strength in battle and victory over oppressive forces (earthly forces). At the same time – we look at Jesus as a lover of peace and justice…”

      The same Jesus who took a scourge to the temple marketplace, called the Pharisees vipers, preached more on hell than heaven, and provoked crowds to attempt stoning Him. :)

      I hold to biblical inerrancy, so mythological readings of the OT aren’t in view for me personally. But if they are, the skeptic’s problem goes away and there’s nothing to object to, because it’s not real. :) They have to choose a consistent position from which to argue. If we’re taking the OT as historically valid, then no backsies when we start talking about other issues besides this one. :)

      Saying that Jesus doesn’t deal in violence is a particular westernized cultural interpretation that disregards His preaching on His own nature as final Judge of a sinful world run amuck. One has to pretty well reject biblical inerrancy, or at least, choose not to read swaths of the NT, to believe God is any different there than in the OT. To love peace and justice requires a hatred of sin, in fact, Prov. 8:13 says, “the fear of the Lord is to hate sin.” That doesn’t change in the NT.

      Saying that Jesus doesn’t prescribe the church to deal in violence on His behalf, though, is true, and a somewhat different matter. Dispensationally speaking, the theology I’ve been taught views this current part of history as the dispensation of reconciliation and forgiveness, with the return of Christ and final judgment to follow. This reflects on God’s operations in the world, not His character. The church is a different instrument than ethnic Israel; a spiritual body, not a physical, geopolitical one; a citizen of heaven, not an earthly national entity.

      So it depends which teaching you have in mind, there.

      In the OT, warriors prayed for strength and victory, but in situations like Ai, they didn’t receive it, because they were not on the side of real justice, only pillage and personal gain. Far from looking like a pagan god of war, the Lord disciplined Israel into restraint and purposeful justice. The curse of bondage to foreign rulers for disobedience to this is written right into the Law and carried out by God repeatedly in the OT record.

      William Lane Craig makes the point that, after withholding judgment for 400 years, God specifically and as one special instance ordered the destruction of a culture that made ritual rape a holy act and burned babies alive as a form of worship. A culture that got tons of warning and opportunity to repent as Israel progressed through surrounding territories. (Abraham bargaining for Sodom, Jonah sent to Nineveh… God accepts repentance where it exists, whether chronologically looking forward to Christ’s redemption of the repentant, or looking back to it as a historical fait accompli.)

      Pagan war gods are, by contrast, capricious and indiscriminate, often acting arbitrarily based on personal grudges against humans or other gods. There is no greater moral compass involved, no Messianic long game. Consider the European Mars/Ares, for instance.

      “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Particularly in the Judges period, Israel acted like a worshipper of pagan gods, but that doesn’t entail that Yahweh was like a pagan god. None of this paganism was in obedience to the God of Israel. Description (the OT historical record) is not prescription (God’s commands).

      So I don’t really have a problem advocating for an immutable God whose nature encompasses and unifies (not merely harmonizes) both love of humanity and wrath against sin.

  3. “It’s an argument that the character of the Christian God wouldn’t deserve belief even if it actually existed.”

    Nonsensical conclusions such as 1+1=3 don’t require arguments, nor is it even rational to think an argument could exist for a nonsense statement. For instance, try to provide a valid argument that concludes “therefore, the sum of the interior angles of a triangle equals 0 degrees.” What it means to be the Christian God is to be worthy of belief.

    1. Hey, you made it here… thanks for that. Now I know how to work around the commenting problem.

      “Nonsensical conclusions such as 1+1=3 don’t require arguments”

      I’ll feel free not to worry about defending my use of presuppositionalism, then, since according to the presuppositions of my skeptic friend, it’s nonsensical. :)

  4. I don’t like the new site design, because I can’t quickly see at a glance if there’s new posts or new comments on existing posts. Sorry. :(

    1. Good to know–I’ll keep that in mind when selecting another template. New posts show up as the large title right under the header. Comments etc, unfortunately, are scroll down a fair bit more than previously, and I’m not really liking that either.

      It’s temporary… I’m getting a quote from a designer to migrate the whole shebang, because there are too many technical inconveniences on this blogging service at this point, and I have little or no freedom to address them. For instance, the parenthetical statement I’ve added following “what are your thoughts” on the comment box. A bunch of my long-timers haven’t even been able to participate without getting tossed over to a login page that doesn’t let them log in and simply evaporates the comments they’ve written.

      1. Well, I’m glad to know that it’s not final. I shall hold my horses and await further changes, but if you want some feedback, keep reading!

        The big latest post under the header is fine, though it lacks a date. The four immediately underneath are terrible as I can’t tell if they’re just random posts from different categories (the pictures are distracting and unnecessary), or just the next four posts in chronological order (they’re missing dates too), or what. It’s not clear how they relate to the website as a whole, and they take up a ton of vertical space at the same time.

        The list of posts underneath is much more accessible and intuitive. I don’t like the rate/worth reading links on every single post summary, but that might just be me. :)

        1. I’d love to be able to remove the stupid rating things from the summaries without having to disable the rating system altogether–not that it gets used as much as it used to, because now there’s the “likes” feature that displays the avatars. But yes, I totally agree that’s stupid. (Why that and not the post dates…seriously.)

          The four underneath are the next four priors, chronologically. I can use the vertical space differently by keeping the handcrafted summary down to a sentence, as with the shorter ones — didn’t do that with the longer one on the right. The vertical issue is more about transitioning my usage habits than a design flaw… every time I try something new, I have to make adjustments to how I use the various features of the post writing form. Theme developers always seem to want to get creative with that stuff and invent their own little display tweaks. Makes picking a design a total headache.

          The featured images next to posts have disappointed me in their limited functionality — in playing about with it last night, I found that, for instance, they don’t get served to Pinterest. For what I do, having a visual tag for social sharing is the only real raison d’etre for them. That and to highlight the related post links below individual articles, but I’m not sure how necessary that is.

          It seems like everything in web design right now is headed towards more visual, apparently for integration with visually-driven social sites, but I find myself out of step with that because I write things. Primarily with words. Like for instance, try to find the written content here:

          http://www.aholyexperience.com/

          There is writing, but even as a female, ostensibly with the higher feminine inclination to graphical froufrou, I was initially stymied. I’m not sure who her audience is, but I think they do different things with the internet than I do.

          So I’m not sure how I fit with that trend, if at all. I’d rather focus on really nice typography, but for what’s available here on WordPress.com, I’d have to give them money that I’d rather give to a designer in pursuit of a fresh start on a less inflexible code foundation.

          I’ll see what the webmaster says on Monday… hoping to move early in the new year. Probably not blogging much till then anyway. I have an editing project incoming, and also my Christmas gift is a week of solitary writing retreat courtesy of my lovely husband. :)

          1. Crikey, that site you linked is hopeless.

            Speaking as a web developer, everything is headed towards more visual because of the shift to mobiles and tablets and touch screens. Large lumps of text aren’t suited to those mediums, and those mediums encourage spending less time on any one page.

            The problem with the “next four posts” is that the direction of content flow changes, so the eye doesn’t know where to go next. Having them in a different design to the other posts also gives the impression (wrongly) that they are a different form of content.

            Anyway, I hope you can get a good theme going! Have a great Christmas!

          2. “Crikey, that site you linked is hopeless.”

            Thank you. I wondered if it was just me being a dinosaur.

            Ah, so if you’re doing development, I can just say I think Jetpack and Gravatar integration are a total snafu. I want to switch to self-hosted because I have no choice but to put up with their feature/bugs here.

            “Large lumps of text aren’t suited to those mediums, and those mediums encourage spending less time on any one page.”

            My husband’s mostly a mobile user, and yes, much more with the visuals and short stops on pages. Hates trying to search and browse on the phone. Meanwhile, I read ebooks on mine, so… I’m weird I guess. :)

            “Having them in a different design to the other posts also gives the impression (wrongly) that they are a different form of content.”

            I think that’s the actual design intent, since it’s linked to category tools, but I’m not sure I’ll ever have enough of a narrow content focus for that to work for me.

            Happy holidays to you too! Catch you later. :)

          3. It does the right things better, and I like the paper graphics (now that sounds like an oxymoron…) :)

            Most themes frustrate me badly with their inattentiveness to visual hierarchy in the typography. Seems a lot of blockquote definitions are designed like pullquotes, or just without much concern over how they’ll look in context to the p style. And heading sizes… I have a whole nerd rant about headings and subheadings… What with the longform writing, those are my first and foremost elimination points when I’m trying to make these choices.

          4. One quibble: the font size of the block quotes in this post seems bigger than that of the actual post around them. I think they should be the same size or smaller or the eye easily skips the stuff you’ve written. Or is this what you’re complaining about?

            Help help it just started snowing randomly! Close the schools!

          5. That is precisely what I’m complaining about. Hate that. It’s not as crazy bad on this one as some I looked at, though.

            But the designer I’m in touch with seems to understand these things, and that makes me very happy.

            Snowing randomly… it does that from about November to April here. We freak out when it ceases snowing randomly. Where is it? Is it sneaking up on us again!? Is there a skin-peeling wind about to join it after the intermission?!?

            Canadian paranoias…

          6. It must have. I think there’s an off-switch for it somewhere… they do that every year till January, I guess because blogs look more interesting with dandruff. :)

  5. The fictional account of a non-existant god isnt worthy of an intelligent person’s time, but an argument on the use of religion to enable genocide is.
    Discuss.

    1. “The fictional account of a non-existant god isnt worthy of an intelligent person’s time”

      Ah…the glory of the internet. Do you walk into strangers’ homes and blather on like this? I mean, you could get around to it eventually (and still be wrong), but come on man…

      “argument on the use of religion to enable genocide is.”

      This is worded graciously. Thank you.

      I suppose you’ll argue that Mao was caught in the grasp of an atheistic religious fervor. :)

      1. Thanks for the assist, Agent 7… Friend of mine pointed out on FB, the dude’s likely a link-troller attempting to purvey a poorly-written self-published novel. (I checked. That’s a professional editorial opinion. And I’m not even billing him for it.) Link to himself has been removed as a first warning for poor behaviour and probable spam intentions.

        I’m sure I’ll write one of those someday (at least in someone’s opinion)… and quite sure I won’t promote it by antisocial conversation whose only notable trait is poor spelling and punctuation. Ah, the glory of the internet.

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