Inerrancy and mass slaughter

Randy and I started an enriching conversation on another thread touching on topics of inerrancy and relation to the Israelites consquest. Rather than risk hijacking that thread’s purpose, I thought it appropriate to start a new post for this topic…

I don’t dispute that much of the OT is troubling in this regard, and will never brush off anyone’s concerns or genuine wrestling with such things. But given that “not a sparrow can fall to the ground apart from the will of your father in heaven…” I myself am forced to recognize that no death in the history of the world has happened apart from the will of our father in heaven.

So given the biblical record, The problem is much larger than just what the Israelites did… God has at numerous and divers times ordered or carried out the extermination of large numbers of people at once (including women and children)… sometimes using nature - (the flood, earthquakes) sometimes by his direct miraculous action (fire of God, fire from heaven), sometimes by his commanding angels to carry out the extermination (plague on the firstborn, Israel’s census, Assyrian invaders)

There’s much more I’d be happy to say, and please post any specific questions. But to get this discussion started, if I may pose a thought experiment to you (and I’m in no way trying to “trap” you)… I think this would help clarify exactly where your moral objection lies in this question about the death of these Midianite men, women, and children, and help us focus the discussion.

So, if I may, a genuine and serious thought experiment for you to focus the discussion:

Would you find it equally objectionable if the very same Midianites (the very same men, women, and children) of Numbers 31 who died had been killed not by Israelite troops, but rather…

  • by Assyrians, but (similar to Isaiah 10) the Assyrians did so (unwittingly) according to God’s unseen providential hand, but it was revealed that God specifically used them as the rod of his judgment?

  • by Hittites, perhaps implied as having done so under God’s providence, but without any Isaiah 10 style suggestion he was using the Hittites as his (unwitting) rod of judgment?

  • by a flood?

  • by a miraculous fire from heaven?

  • by a natural fire from heaven (say a large meteor strike)?

  • by a plague?

  • by an angel, sent to kill them by God’s direct command?

  • by what appeared to be a plague, but was revealed (like in 2sam24) to have been the work of an angel?

  • by God, directly and immediately (and presumably painlessly), such as what happened when Uzzah touched the ark?

And finally…

  • would you object if God caused each of those Midianites to die separately, at diverse times and places, of various, random, natural causes as determined by God’s providence, throughout the course of the following week, rather than all at once?

  • what if they died similarly individually of divers natural causes, but over the course of the following month?

  • over the course of the next year?

  • over the course of the next 5 years?

  • over the next 10 years?

  • over the next 50 years?


The Lord God could have done any other way or method of killing those people and I’m sure people would still find a way to call Him a monster. My understanding of dealing with the violence and out right genocide is that 1. God is Sovereign and can do what He pleases and 2. God seems to have a justified reason for the mass slaughter of certain people’s, we may not agree with God on the measure He took but who are we to complain to the Almighty God? God could have used nature, a plague, another nation or anything else to destroy the people of Num. 31 but God for a certain reason used the nation of Israel to do the task. From going back and seeing the context of the reason for the genocide is cause the five kings of Midian caused the sons of Israel to sin and listen to the advice of Balaam and lead them into sin. Such and extreme issues needed and extreme act of revenge. Now would we agree with the action in a modern day sense? No obviously, but back then in the time they were in it was logical to take that step. Thus God allowed and ordered it to take place. Also God is not biased cause as we see later on the Old Testament God doesn’t spare the Jews of His justice and punishes them equally as well and even sends them off into exile and later on in time in the New Testament punishes them by allowing the Romans to sack and burn Jerusalem and destroy the 2nd temple.


Christianity has lost the meaning of life on Earth, and the meaning of God’s material creation. God is spirit as is His Kingdom which His Son rules - My Kingdom is not of this world. The cycle of physical life and death in this world serves a much different purpose than modern Christians want to recognize - it is part of God’s spiritual plan for the restoration of the fallen. God does not care about physical evolution, He cares only about spiritual evolution. If something stand in the way of spiritual evolution, God steps in as you listed in you post. Look for the spiritual meaning of physical death, because God and Jesus only care about eternal life. The question for me is: “How does God use death and suffering to assist in spiritual evolution towards eternal life?

Thanks for this good discussion, Mr Fisher. I am in the middle of a work day, but I will try to get back to you on this sometime in the next 24 hours. :smile:

One issue that will bear is whether the death dealt is punishment or not; whether God deals death specifically, personally, or if it’s the result of a Fall or not.

Thank you for your kind attitude.

No rush, and no worries. I bought the “Five views” book on kindle just now and will start reading later today, so no rush.

For now, please be warne that I am an inveterate Calvinist, so I tend to embrace both side of a question and embrace opposing ideas that may seem to be in tension, unless there is a bona fide contradiction between them. So my initial response to your question of whether God deals death specifically & personally, or if it is the result of the fall, is a resounding “yes!”


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Sometimes I find it necessary to resort to simple-minded thinking. One of the simple rules I’ve come up with is that if someone tells me that God wants me to go kill some children, he’s not actually speaking for God.


This is a good question and I think a very important thing to discuss, although it can also be very difficult to discuss. I used the term “genocide apologist” in the other thread because that’s what I think I’ve been at times, as much as I hate to say it.

The first time I can remember that the Canaanite genocide bothered me was when I tried to explain to my non-Christian college roommate how it was really okay that God did all that because the Canaanites were really bad people. As a formerly sheltered homeschooler, I wasn’t expecting my roommate to get upset at me for saying that. I guess I’d just never thought about how killing children because their parents had killed children didn’t make sense. It was God’s word and to question it was to question God. And to question God was probably to lose your eternal destiny, and I certainly didn’t want to do that.

The way the question is broken down here seems to drive home the point that everybody is going to die someday, by one means or another. But we still see a big difference between “dying” and “being killed.”

So is the problem here that we’re trying to impose human morality onto God? After all, if he made the material universe, then he’s the one that brought about physical death anyway, one way or another, but we probably wouldn’t call him a “murderer” just for that.

The questions seem to imply that if we probably wouldn’t call God a murderer for making us to die, then can we really get too upset with him for just speeding it along a little, for certain “very bad” people at certain times?

So is this another one of those issues that’s just going to come down to a big Calvinism/Arminianism debate? :wink: I.e., Did God ordain it or did he simply allow it? If everything happens within God’s will or “providence,” then how do we know any right and wrong at all?

Wasn’t it wrong for white Europeans to use the conquest of Canaan as a justification for slaughtering Native American peoples? Was it only wrong because they didn’t actually (presumably) hear a voice of God “ordaining” them to do it? Or was it only wrong because it happened post-Christ and so they made the mistake of not taking the Old Testament “in context”? (In which case it seems like an awful lot of Christian groups have made that mistake in the past centuries.)

The position Pete Enns takes is that God didn’t tell the Israelites to slaughter all the Canaanites, but allowed them to tell the story the way they perceived it. I don’t always agree with him, but I’m also not sure how deeply I want to disagree with him.

I think I’m going to go with @glipsnort on this one.

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I’ll start tossing some thoughts together, hopefully at least some of this is interesting–sift through and let me know if anything is useful, abhorrent, engaging, or the like. And for what it is worth, I’m going to approach this discussion not so much as trying to defend my position as an apologist, but hopefully to simply explain where I come from and how and why I think as I do. And hopefully that might prove interesting, engaging, or helpful, (or at least entertaining…!)

Here’s some thoughts just as we get started: I finished skimming just the introduction of the “five views” book thus far. Some initial observations:

  1. I’m guessing, based on the briefest of overviews included in the introduction, that I’ll probrobably intellectually agree with Mohler. I emphasize that because, although I typically find great theological, intellectual agreement with him, I personally am not impressed with him in terms of the way he approaches things. I’ve read some books where he defends theological concepts, and my impression is generally, “Well, I agree with him theologically. But I don’t think I’d ever seek him out for counseling.” I may agree with his doctrine, though perhaps not so much with his approach. I’ll see. So, take that for what it’s worth.

  2. I’ll engage the argument more when I actually read it, and will do my best to keep an open mind, but to be upfront, I start already skeptical of the idea that inerrancy as CSBI understands it is some kind of “American” phenomenon. This idea isn’t new to me: I was told during my religion undergrad in college that what I believed about Scripture was just an invention of 19th & 20th century American fundamentalism, unheard of before that time or elsewhere. I went to the library, and found all sorts of works by Luther, Calvin, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas that articulated their beliefs in the inerrancy of Scripture that were near identical to my own convictions. As none of them were Americans, I remained uncinvinced of that line of reasoning…!

  3. I like how they give basically 3 Scriptures that typify the particular disagreements and approaches. That is really a great approach as it lets us see what is really going on. I’ll give my own answers off the cuff (before I read any of the authors’ own answers) for two of them here, as they are straightforward and (relatively!) simple. The third (about Canaanite massacre) will of course deserve its own attention. But for the first two:

Archaeology: Simply, I’m not compelled to abandon my trust in Scripture’s historical account of something simply because we have an absence of evidence to confirm it. This is especially true the longer back we go. Tangible, incontrovertible, contradictory evidence would be one thing. Absence of evidence is another. There are enough examples of scholars claiming Scripture was faulty, only for a later discovery to put proverbial egg on their faces. My favorite example is how Belshazzar’s reign in Babylon was held as complete fabrication on Scripture’s part, as there was no evidence whatsoever of such a regent. Until there was.

Personally, I am slow to conclude an error or contradiction in any ancient text for that reason, inerrancy aside. For me to conlcude an error means we must have gained knowledge extensive enough, to be (unerringly?) certain that we haven’t missed something, nor misinterpreted or misunderstood something. It is quite possible that the ancient authorities actually knew things we didn’t, or that the way they discribed it, the shorthand they used, the geographical accounting, place names, idioms, etc., were such that they would laugh at us if they could read our erudite determination that they were erroneous, if there were in fact other explanations.

Paul’s conversion testimony: This one to me is the kind of “contradiction” that people would bring to my attention in college, and that I read from authors like Bart Erhman, which come across to me as someone determined to see a contradiction and simply unwilling to entertain genuinely reasonable alternatives. There are some significant difficulties in the Bible, but this, and similar cases, are not such examples. If I’m not being grossly unfair, I find that one can only conclude a contradiction in these kinds of cases by engaging in a certain amount of pedantry.

Simply, the word “voice” is broad enough it can mean words, sound of a person speaking, or be used much more broadly to mean nondescript sound in general (as in the sound of a waterfall in Ps 42, the wind in John 3, of thunder in Ps 77 & 104, of the waters in Ps 93, of weeping in Ezra 3, of musical instruments in Neh 4 or 1Cor 14, or even the sound made by a millstone in Rev 18).

Similarly, the word “hear” is likewise broad enough that it can mean “understand” (as is obviously the case in Gen 11:7, 2Kings 18:26, Jer 5:15, or 1 Cor 14:2)
As such, it is simply not a stretch to grant the possibility that Paul very possibly meant they heard something, but did not understand the specific words. One can only conclude a contradiction here by ignoring very reasonable alternate explanations.

I’d also add that I have the same aversion noted above to concluding errors or contradictions so quickly in any ancient (or even modern) literature. It may be that I have missed something, or there is some other insight I am missing, and what appears to be a contradiction may in fact be a clue to some further knowledge if I pursue it further. By concluding a contradiction, I am insisting that I have nothing further to learn, and that I know with certitude that there is no idiom, no figure of speech, no linguistic convention, no obscure knowledge, no nuance that the author was using, or no additional knowledge he possessed, that I am missing.

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Thanks for your notes. I think you will really enjoy the rest of the book. I found since college that reading more than one point of view is the only way to really understand a given topic–it forces you to make up your own mind, independent of others’. I look forward to your thoughts. You can also refer to the thread already made on this book a few months ago: Five Views On Biblical Inerrancy: A Review

I do have some other thoughts in regard to the mass slaughter, but am still at work. I’ll try to add more soon. Thank you.

I could not agree more. In fact, this was the special benefit I had been getting my BA in religion from a religion department that was entirely and completely antithetical to my own core beliefs. Almost nothing I was exposed to in that whole program would have been a case of reinforcing something I already believed.

Not to mention, if I was to survive (and graduate!), I would have to be ready to articulate carefully why I found these alternate views unconvincing, In a rational and well reasoned manner.

I found it so refreshing to my own faith and beliefs to have them so challenged, as I delft more confident that these were reasonable and reasoned believes, not simply something I had blindly observed or embraced without thinking.

To this day I enjoy reading those perspectives that are antithetical to mine. Even if they don’t change my mind, sometimes they will sharpen my own views, and help me further develop, sharpen, quality, or nuance my own views.

Ok, now onto the real core topic at hand…

I recognize my own personal disgust and revulsion I also feel when I read such passages - and think how much it would wound my own personal sensibilities if I had been one of those Israelites given the task of killing the children. I acknowledge there is no getting around that. It slaps us in the face.

The crux of my basic position on these things, though, is that my personal revulsion at something, my personal disapproval, the fact that something does not fit my or my culture’s sense of morality, cannot be a basis or means to prove that “God couldn’t have said this.” Now, having said that, I realize there is one manner that can potentially be dangerous, like turning my mind off. The “shut up and believe what you’re told” approach to religion. But there is also a very reasoned and rational, eyes-wide-open, wrestling sense of trusting the goodness and morality of God’s character even when he says or does something to which I would object, wherein I recognize my objection, maintain it, wrestle with it, but ultimately submit to his word.

Abraham comes to my mind - he didn’t mind objecting - directly to God’s face, it seems - to what appeared to him to be immoral of God to do. Destroying Sodom, and especially those within who were not guilty of the corporate guilt of the city, seemed immoral to him, and he objected. “Will not the judge of all the earth do what is right?” So, there is absolutely a place to wrestle with God, with those commands or actions of his we perceive as immoral. Moses, Jeremiah, Job, Habbakuk, also did this, freely registering their objections and complaints about God’s sense of goodness or (in)justice. I would observe that they all did so as humble inquirers, ultimately ready to surrender to God’s plan or sense of justice even if they didn’t understand it. But they weren’t told to turn their mind off, or to sit down and shut up.

(in fact, contra Professor Enns, I would observe that an embrace of inerrancy is exactly what gives us the power and authority to be able to so wrestle, question, and argue with God about his morality… if these examples were simply human invented or re-imagined ideas of how we are permitted to speak with God, that’s an interesting human speculation. But if this is God’s inspired and inerrant template… then we have God’s direct blessing for us to, with humility, argue and fight with him.)

Now, all that said, I also obviously find Abraham relevant on another angle. He was also told to go and kill a (relatively innocent) child. And from someone who has some moral authority as not being the kind of believer that turned his mind off and just did what he was told (given that he was willing to go to the mat with God to argue with God about God’s lack of a moral compass)… it is all the more striking to me that Abraham proceeded as commanded. And of course this wasn’t his enemy’s child, but his own. I think it safe to say that Abraham would have had far more personal and visceral moral objection to this command of God than any of us could have simply from reading Numbers 31 or Joshua.

And I would like to go with him myself. However…

To paraphrase Glipsnort’s objection above, “If God tells me to go kill a child, it isn’t actually God speaking.” I’ve heard many, many, many people use that general line of reasoning or something similar. And trust me, I really do grasp the weight of that simple observation. A large part of me would like to share it. To jump on the bandwagon of those who say that a real faith is one that would utterly reject any so-called divine command to kill a child. Nonetheless, I’m beholden to God’s authority, not my own. And I am equally struck in the face with the example of Abraham. And I can’t get away from it. The Bible tells me in no uncertain terms that this man is one of my best examples of what faith in God is, and at the core of his faith was his willingness to obey a divine command to kill a child.

Most folks I talk with that object to the OT slaughters would say that God would clearly never tell someone to go and kill a child, and if they heard such a thing, they need to get their hearing checked or resume taking their anti-psychotic medications. But then, right in the middle of our faith, a foundation of it, a basic core pericope of our basic belief system, is about a guy that heard God tell him to go and kill a child, and proceeded on the path to obedience, and this has become the baseline model of our faith.

And this isn’t just a one-time random OT story… but Abraham is commended throughout the New Testament, and commended not in spite of, but specifically for, his willingness to obey this outrageous command

  • “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son.”

  • “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?”

So, not that this proves anything in and of itself, but just giving you some further background of my own reasoning on this topic, and why I can’t simply embrace what at first glance seems so obvious and common sense. To summarize…

  1. I share the visceral reaction of the idea of killing children as described in the OT. I would edit this out of our faith and Scripture if it were up to me.

  2. it is perfectly right and justified and godly to question, object to, and complain about God’s morality, albeit from a position of humility and servanthood. (And “biblicist” that I am, I’m able to say that this isn’t just my or any person’s opinion, but directly from “God’s little instruction book”)

  3. Nonetheless, a basic, core, foundational part of our religion is holding up as a model, template, and example, the exceedingly great faith of a certain man – specifically because he was willing to obey a divine command to kill a child.

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Thank you for your note.

Wow. There is a lot here. It is good to share differing points of view, as you said.

There are lots of points of view on the Abraham story. In the setting of the ANE, when child sacrifice was common (and forbidden: Leviticus 20), the story of Abraham and Isaac may actually be read as a point that God does NOT ask us to kill our children. It seems more likely to me that it’s a misinterpretation.

I also do not agree with substitutionary atonement. God doesn’t kill his son to atone for others’ sins so that His own vindictive wrath is appeased. I will discuss that later.

However, regardless, I don’t think you are saying that Jesus’ giving of himself voluntarily is the same as killing innocent children for the sake of the parents’ sin. I am certain you are uncomfortable with the idea, as you said. You are a kind person.

Reading the OT in the point of view of those who lived there frees us to realize that this is a contextualized, wrong point of view of righteousness, seen through a very sad, tribal, violent time of our history. It frees us from having to justify conflicting texts (Leviticus, forbidding child sacrifice) with the Abraham and Isaac story; among many, many others.

To look at it from another perspective, how do we view this when other cultures condone it? Do we hold them to the same standard? Christian condemn Islamic violence, for example; do we apply the same rules to them as to us? Muhammad is recorded as killing all the boys in a Jewish tribe he conquered in Medina who started growing pubic hair, through the adult men. He took the rest of the women and children as wives and family for his own soldiers.

Moses, in Numbers 31, was worse. He killed all the boys–from adult to newborn-- and women who had slept with men–at all. Surely we should apply our own standard to ourselves.

Regarding punishment and death–George Macdonald, in “Unspoken Sermons,” helped me realize that punishment was vindictive in the OT because of the cultural error. Punishment, in “Justice,” is to correct.

My own parents, missionaries in Africa, were tremendously Christlike. When I told them I did something wrong, they gave me every benefit of the doubt and encouraged me to love others and serve God, and to repent. Their attitude of love and reconciliation made me want to be like them; and like Christ. It was precisely their Christlike love and forgiveness that convinced me that God is not like the unjust God of the OT.

Being a father, myself, has made me reflect on Christ’s (and God’s) nature. What father, if he saw the least sin in his child, would throw them into the fiery furnace of Hell? What father would consider it an affront to his dignity? Only, in my opinion, an Ancient Near East one, with the code of honor and shame. This is another area where Enns helps–with his Harvard education, he’s able to contextualize well.

Rather, isn’t the purpose of punishment to correct and reconcile? When my 5 year old daughter, Leah, says “No!” to me; or my 8 year old son, Luke, sneaks a book at night when he’s supposed to be sleeping (as occurred last night); do they deserve death? No. A good father corrects and never lets his children get away with something if the error needs fixing. Punishment, as in Proverbs, gives children life.

What if I were the God who made them, and, as my pastor said, made them so that they could not avoid sin? Is it not rather my fault that they sin, if they are not physically and mentally able to avoid that? It makes no sense to say that God is perfect, so he can’t tolerate sin; if he made us unable to avoid sin, then He foreordained it; or He doesn’t consider sin to be what we think it is.

Rather, isn’t failing more a learning sort of thing? Wouldn’t God much rather correct us as a father does?

George Macdonald’s view is, in some ways, more strict than that of a God who can’t tolerate even the tiniest infraction of a population that He doomed to failure, and then threw them into Hell unless they accepted intellectually a concept that few can hear, and even fewer understand. Rather, God is always working for our good, sometimes through pain, sometimes through gentle remonstrance. He won’t stop until He has purified us all–through the identification with us of His son, through mercy, and punishment meant to change our minds to be like Him.

Romans 5 is about Paul’s argument with the Roman Judaizers that we all need salvation, that faith and mercy have always been the source of forgiveness, not the outward trappings of circumcision; also Scot McKnight’s discussion of Sanders and the New Perspective of Paul,, where the Jews never did believe in works as salvation; it was always by faith and mercy.

God will have us entirely purified, not only through His mercy, but also through loving correction.

In other places, you have asked where we would know what God is like, if we don’t have inerrancy. We already know that unless God is good, He is not God; and Jesus said that the entire law is summed by “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.” We have no need to fear whether God is true or not; only if we resist him. We do have His law written on our hearts.

You yourself have a very Christlike attitude. I appreciate your kind discussion and interaction! There is much I can learn from you.

Have you read Enns’ books? Evolution of Adam, Inspiration and Incarnation, The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty; they have helped me. The Counterpoints series have also helped.I would frankly say that people like George Macdonald and Enns have kept many in the church who would otherwise have left it. C S Lewis said it was Macdonald’s writings that brought him back to Christ, and Dorothy Sayers and other prominent folks of the time said that it was his sermon noted above, “Justice,” that also helped them come back to the Church. People like Enns, Lewis and Macdonald, helped me a great deal.

Thank you. God bless.


Appreciate the thoughts as always. Today will be my busy work day, so apologies if I don’t get back to you right away.

But one quick question, just to clarify, and would help me in making sure I’m understanding and responding to you accurately. And not because I want to focus on this particular topic, but it would help me understand how you’re approaching Scripture as a whole.

you mentioned in passing you did not agree with substitutionary atonement. Is this because…

A) after searching the Bible carefully, at face value, you’ve concluded that the concept of substitutionary atonement is simply not there? That neither Paul, John, Peter, nor any OT writer, ever conceived of, or intended to communicate, such an idea, and the whole doctrine was invented later out of whole cloth, the whole doctrine being a massive exercise of reading something into the text that simply isn’t there?


B) you recognize that substitutionary atonement at some level, is in fact an idea understood, embraced, believed or communicated by at least some Bible authors; but (not unlike the writers of the OT Narratives we’re discussing), they were reflecting certain problematic and erroneous values of their own cultures; thus on that basis you reject their ideas about this and related topics?

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Thank you. Good question, @Daniel_Fisher. This is extremely deep and while related in some ways, might be a distraction if we treat it in depth; so I might start a new thread there. I may have to get back to this in a few days, though, as I am pretty behind on work right now too. :slight_smile: There are many views on the Atonement, and the Counterpoints lists several (with a parallel list by another brand of book I have). There are elements of all of them from various authors, but in context, it does come back to God being ultimately just, whatever we say.

Laura, appreciate the thoughts and engagement.

Being the uptight, fundamentalist, Biblicist, troglodyte that I am, who crudely and slavishly believes the Bible actually gives us solid answers to such dillemas… :open_mouth:
As noted above, I’m forced to conclude from the examples of Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, Habbakuk, David, and countless others that God very much invites his children to question him. There may be a proper way to do so, but yes, we are certainly invited to do so.

Biblicist that I am, I would say that is an absolute truth revealed by God. Don’t even think about questioning it.

Wasn’t quite my intent… It is really meant to clarify specifically what it is we’re objecting to. I’m not trying to “catch” someone in a logical game to be able to say “gotcha,” simply with this issue, I think it is very useful to know, precisely, where the moral objection is made. Calvinist or Arminian or even Open Theist is not so relevant, there are times that seem incontrovertible (without a massive rewriting of the text) that God directly caused someone’s death, or that he sent an angel to do his dirty work.

My thought experiment/questions were meant only to clarify specifically where our moral objection is - is it specifically that God chose to bring about a person’s death directly, or is it about the fact he wanted humans to be the ones getting their hands dirty at his command?

Based on previous discussions with others, I’ve gotten the impression that the vast majority of folks I’ve talked with object mainly to the idea that God commanded humans to so kill. The flood, and the death of the firstborn by an angel, though similarly horrific in outcome (if not greater), don’t seem to illicit the same moral revulsion as does the Israelite actions in Numbers or Joshua.

I can genuinely appreciate the dilemma. My issue is as discussed elsewhere, and I’ll write further on this to Randy later. But essentially, if someone takes Enns’ approach, I fear it becomes too easy to start selecting all sorts of things that God didn’t tell the Bible authors. Adultery a sin? Bah. God didn’t tell them that, that was just how they wanted to tell the story. Usury a sin? Bah. God never told them that. Just ancient tribal customs passed around the campfire…

Not to mention, I have yet to find anywhere that Professor Enns is willing to acknowledge that God told anyone anything. Pretty much puts us in the dark, and gives carte blanche permission for letting “everyone do what is right in our own eyes…”!

Hehe… well remember, just because people in the Bible do certain things doesn’t mean God is inviting us to follow their lead – even that can get a little murky. :wink: But I don’t disagree with you – in fact, Habakkuk is one of my favorite books for that reason – Habakkuk is willing to ask big, difficult questions of God.

Speaking of Habakkuk, it contains passages like this in chapter 2:

Woe to him who piles up stolen goods
and makes himself wealthy by extortion!
How long must this go on?’
7 Will not your creditors suddenly arise?
Will they not wake up and make you tremble?
Then you will become their prey.
8 Because you have plundered many nations,
the peoples who are left will plunder you.

…which I heard one preacher take to mean that justice is already pretty well built into the system. Why wouldn’t God use one nation to overthrow another if it accomplishes one of his purposes? Which I think comes back to the question of how much God micromanages the actions of humanity, and how much of it is simply in the nature he’s already given us, but that’s probably going off on a tangent.

Yeah, that makes sense that an “act of God” leaves less question in our minds. I’m sure we’ve all been on the receiving end of a questionable “God told me to…” statement, but when it’s a flood or a hurricane we at least don’t have to try and assess whether a human is acting under God’s command or not.

I can appreciate that, and I’m not so far from uptight fundamentalism myself. :wink: And yet, all through history there’s been debate and very different opinions about what exactly God has told us to do/not do. Polygamy? Was just fine for the patriarchs, and presumably just about any other men except for elders in the early church. Slavery? Scripture (New Testament, even) is clear that slaves are to obey their masters. I think at some point we have to look at the broader redemptive arc of scripture and really ask ourselves what our metric is for picking and choosing. Because we all pick and choose, and “it’s in the Bible” isn’t enough of a reason in itself.


I had not read that passage in Habbakuk. Makes you sort of tremble at the thought of rich nations profiting off the backs of third world countries today.


Yep. When Intervarsity created a presentation of the book of Habakkuk, they contrasted that passage with sound bytes of newscasters talking about pollution, disposability, etc., and this was back in the 80s. It is sobering. I think we Americans get so individual-focused that we’re reluctant to see ourselves as responsible for things our nation does on a global scale.


As always, appreciate your insights. And yes, one does need more than “It’s in the Bible” to say there is justification. My earlier note was too short in that regard, but to qualify, The laments and questions and complaints to God I determine as being blessed by him due to his favorable response, as well as that they are included in the collection of 150 prayer templates.

And why I’d maintain that there is also a certain kind of complaints that does not meet with his approval, hence the earthquake he sent to swallow some of them who grumbled… which gets us back to the original topic!

I’m an inveterate, yet traditional Calvinist, so my answer is usually along the lines of God 100% micromanaging every single detail that happens, right down to every bird that falls to the ground.

And it is also 100% our nature and free choices. Like Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery. 100% God’s intention. 100% their responsibility.

But I agree, don’t want to go too far off on that tangent, I’m trying to keep the thoughts here broad and apply to Christians regardless of that background.

Properly understood, I completely agree, as in theory every Christian does that isn’t offering animal sacrifices. The core question really is whether God gave enough guidance in his word to let us understand how to apply his word, which, troglodyte that I am, I believe so.

But it just occured to me why I still don’t like the “pick and choose” language. It implies that the choice is mine, as opposed to me recognizing what objectively does or doesn’t apply.

For instance, who would say, “People who think the 18th Amendment doesn’t apply to them are just picking and choosing which parts of the constitution do or don’t apply to them”???

If I say I believe that the 18th Amendment doesn’t apply to me, it isn’t because I am arbitrarily or subjectively picking and choosing which parts of the constitution don’t apply to me, based on personal, subjective, or anything remotely like an arbitrary standard.

I say, objectively, that the 18th amendment doesn’t apply to me because the 21st amendment says so. Because 2/3 of the Legislature and 3/4 of the states decided that the 18th amendment would no longer apply to us. That is why I believe the 18th does not apply… not because I have picked or chosen what does or doesn’t apply.

Not exactly. He acknowledges obliquely in the podcast and else where more specifically in his books the saying of Jesus/ Hillel, “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself” which is similar to Galatians 5: 14 "For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself”

I can understand your concern, and there is a strain for me, too. More to discuss!

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