Thanks for the clarifications, I have appreciated the dialogue and reading the book. Let me give my first impression, and please let me know if I’ve missed anything, or have misunderstood your basic perspective. I’ll also try at some point to address many of the other observations you’ve shared, but we can kick off here…
I think this is terribly significant to our discussion, and expands the overall dilemma far beyond that of certain moral difficulties involved in the conquest. If we were to discuss the conquest issues specifically, without addressing this much larger and more core disagreement, I fear it would prove fruitless… like trying to convince a committed atheist of a certain view of the relationships within the trinity.
If you take issue with any situation wherein God is described as either causing or ordering a death as a punishment, your dispute with the Bible goes far beyond the Israelite conquest… this would include the flood in Genesis, the plagues in Exodus, laws for capital punishment, God’s punishments of his own people by disease, snakes, & natural disasters throughout the Pentateuch, the plague against David’s kingdom and other events in Samuel & Kings, pretty much the entire book of Lamentations, and practically two-thirds of every book from Isaiah to Malachi; Jesus’ analogy of the sheep and goats and many other of his parables, significant parts of Paul’s and Peter’s letters and preaching, much of Jude, and huge chunks of Revelation.
In some ways, I wouldn’t know where to even begin such a discussion. My critique would go far beyond even the specific question of your distaste for divine retribution or punishment, and back to the same basic critique I gave against Professor Enns. That being, if we start redefining or reimagining God as per our own cultural preferences, believing that anything I disagree with must have been an accretion of erroneous, primitive, tribal belief, then where exactly does that stop? How do I know the things I want to believe are not similarly erroneous inventions of primitive, tribal peoples?
Related, and even more significantly… and I hesitate to say this as I don’t want to come across as attacking you personally (after you’ve been so kind and generous a discussion partner). But I simply don’t see how this approach does not result in us worshipping a God of our own creation… especially when we’re talking about a character trait of God that is pervasive throughout both Old and New Testament, affirmed explicitly by most authors thereof. It reminds me of Thomas Jefferson’s Bible… when he expurgated all the parts of the Bible that did not fit his preferred deistic view of God, he was left, unsurprisingly, with a Bible that conveniently reflected his deistic view of God. Does not any such an approach all but guarantee that the God we believe in is one of our own making?
If we rid ourselves of any Scriptural description of God which we personally find distasteful… will we not, equally unsurprisingly, find ourselves worshipping a God that so conveniently fits so perfectly within our cultural and personal preferences?
(And to perhaps anticipate… I would agree wholeheartedly of course that God must be absolutely, totally, and completely “just”. But do we redefine what the Bible says about him based on our personal and culturally preferred understanding and definition of justice? Or ought we rather allow the Bible’s descriptions of who God is determine what I ought to understand by the word “justice”?)