Suicide Bombers in the Bible?

Posted on 01/04/13 54 Comments

In his provocative book Laying Down the Sword: Why we can’t ignore the Bible’s violent verses (HarperOne, 2011), Philip Jenkins makes a provocative comparison between Samson’s final modus operandi and that of the contemporary Palestinian suicide bomber. He writes:

“If Christians or Jews needed biblical texts to justify deeds of terrorism or ethnic slaughter, their main problem would be an embarassment of riches. Is someone looking for a text to justify suicide terrorism? The Qur’an offers nothing explicit, beyond general exhortations to warfare in the name of God. Some passages of the Bible, in contrast, seem expressly designed for this purpose. Think of the hero Samson, blinded and enslaved in Gaza, but still prepared to pull down the temple upon thousands of his persecutors:

And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they were wich he slew in his life.

“Could a text offer better support for a modern-day suicide attack, in Gaza or elsewhere?” (6-7)

Of course we know the apologetic responses. “Those Philistines weren’t innocent.”  “They’d all gathered to worship Dagon, a false god.” “God gives life and he takes it away.” In fact, those rationales should be familiar to us since many of us have heard similar things from so-called “radical Islamists” who had a militaristic theology and a long list of grievances justifying their attack on civilians on September 11th. To say nothing of Palestinians who bomb buses and fire rockets from the crumbling core of Gaza.

That’s the problem. Or you might say that’s the cost of reading Samson’s act as morally exemplary. You provide a principled ethical basis for acts of terrorism against civilian population. And that’s a high cost indeed.

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  • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

    Suicide bombers don’t need religious texts to justify their acts. They just need results: does their act achieve its desired ends? If so, then if the end is considered desirable enough, some people will always be willing to commit suicide to achieve it. Samson, for example, had no religious text to justify his act of suicide terrorism. He just foresaw the end and determined that it was desirable enough to justify his act of suicide.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      I agree: suicide bombers and other terrorists don’t need religious texts to justify their acts. But such texts do contribute important components to a plausibility structure in which such acts seem morally commendable. And that is disturbing enough.

      • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

        Disturbing to whom? Did suicide attacks in Iraq get us out of Iraq faster than otherwise? I suspect they did. In that case, they “worked.” Was it worth the cost in the loss of innocent lives? Most of us would say no. But the fact remains: we are not in Iraq.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          It disturbs me that the Bible includes a narrative that offers a precedent for engaging in terroristic suicide attacks against civilian populations.

          • Goldstein Fan

            No it doesn’t. You have been shown that. But in your rebellion you refuse to admit it.
            The Jews fought. The alternative was extermination.

            In World War Two, they would have been…if not for outside intervention.

            That really gets you doesn’t it?

            It got Christopher Hitchens too…in GING he lamented that the Jews had not been wiped out in the ancient wars. If they had been, “we could have been spared the whole thing” GING, page 229

  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

    The comparison doesn’t seem fair. Were the 9/11 suicide bombers chained in the plaza between the two towers and being taunted along with their God by those who worked in the towers? Or have Palestinians been chained to a city square in Jerusalem being taunted by Israelis for the God they profess to serve before setting off their suicide bombs?

    Jesus made clear that He brought the end of violence in God’s name, so there’s no basis for looking to Samson as a political model. But even if there were, it wouldn’t justify what we commonly call suicide terrorism in today’s world. Fortunately, the gospel of Christ outlaws OT-sanctioned violence as well as more pernicious acts of violence.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      A terrorist is an individual who who uses violence or threats of violence to coerce or terrorize a civilian population. Samson meets that definition. (Of course, from the perspective of the Israelite he was a “freedom fighter” … which is precisely how Palestinians view their terrorists.)

      According to the ever handy Wikipedia, a “suicide attack” is “an attack upon a target, in which an attacker intends to kill others and/or cause great damage, knowing that he or she will either certainly or most likely die in the process.” A suicide bombing is one token example of a suicide attack. Samson’s collapsing of the building is another.

      Please note that these are not contentious claims. Rather, they’re simply the application of generally accepted definitions.

      So your further alleged differences between Samson’s conditions and a Palestinian in Gaza is simply a way of saying that if certain conditions are met then terroristic suicide attacks are morally permissible.

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        You lost me at “Samson meets that definition.” Re-read Judges 16 and see that this was not a workplace of stockbrokers and secretaries or a marketplace with mothers buying milk for their children.

        Nevertheless, I thought I made it clear that I am not interested in justifying the Samson model for today. I merely wanted to object to the moral equivalence being sought between Samson’s act and, say, the 9/11 terrorists.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          “Re-read Judges 16 and see that this was not a workplace of stockbrokers and secretaries or a marketplace with mothers buying milk for their children.”

          That’s irrelevant. As I noted, Samson’s action meets trivial definitions for both “terrorist act” and “suicide attack”.

          “I thought I made it clear that I am not interested in justifying the Samson model for today.”

          Certainly. I wasn’t suggesting you were doing that. Rather, the problem is that the text does this. You see, most people have a moral belief that it is inherently wrong to engage in terroristic suicide attacks against civilian populations. The narrative in question contradicts this moral belief insofar as it depicts Samson as engaging in a morally praiseworthy suicide attack on a civilian population. And thus it leaves it open that the conditions for the moral commission of such an act could be met again today.

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            It wasn’t a civilian population.

            • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

              Three thousand men and women crowded into a temple? Are you kidding? These aren’t soldiers on the battlefield.

              Your comment is revealing. One of the first things terrorists do to justify suicide attacks against civilian populations is redefine the targets as enemy combatants precisely as you’re doing here.

              • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                Randal, your zeal to win an argument is taking you off the deep end. Comparing me with a terrorist is not the sort of charity that usually characterizes your comments.

                Judges 16:23 tells us that this was an assembly of “the lords of the Philistines to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god.” Thus it was a state dinner for political and military leaders celebrating military accomplishments Yes, there were civilians present (the women and the boy) who were likely killed in the process, but these civilians were not the target. They were not the reason for Samson’s action. By contrast, what makes today’s terrorism so reprehensible, and so puzzling, is that it can be conducted on targets which have absolutely no political or military leaders among them. In other words, today’s terrorists are willing to attack crowds of pure civilians. It would be as if Samson had all the military leaders depart for safety before caving the building in on the women and boy to make his point to the leaders whose policy he wanted to influence. Had he done so, then there would indeed be a moral equivalence to today’s terrorists.

                Again, I’m not trying to justify Samson’s act but rather to distinguish it.

                • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                  I didn’t “compare you with a terrorist”. As you may know, I have critiqued Christians who defend biblical genocides by appealing ot a divine mandate by noting that historic genocides regularly appeal to divine mandates. That doesn’t mean I’m comparing the individuals making the argument to genocidaires. Nor am I comparing you to a terrorist.

                  As for your claim that only military leaders were targeted, that is simply not the view of the narrator who clearly assumes that a dead Philistine is a good Philistine. “Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.” (Judges 16:30)

                  But let’s apply your reasoning. Imagine that the leadership of Hamas was having a banquet. And an Israeli agent blew up the building. In the wake of the international outcry he then replies that he was only targeting the leadership and not the women (or children). Do you think that would be a good defense?

                  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                    There is an economy employed in writing Scripture, as there is in writing any narrative. I think you are ascribing to him a sentiment that is not relevant to his point, and certainly inferring more than I am able to infer.

                    As to your scenario, the Israeli agent would certainly have a hard time defending his action to the international community, but not as hard a time as he would have if he targeted a meeting of only spouses and children while the Hamas leaders were elsewhere.

                    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                      Let me clarify my question. When I asked whether that would be a good defense, I wasn’t asking whether it would be an effective legal defense. Rather, I’m asking whether it would be a good moral defense of the Israeli agent’s actions.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      My answer’s the same.

                    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                      But all you said in response was to project that the international community would be broadly skeptical of this defense. I’m not interested in your speculation on how the international community might respond. I’m interested in whether you think this would be a legitimate defense.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      You brought up the international community; I didn’t. I’m merely pointing out, as I have been from the beginning, that there’s a distinction to be made between an attack where in the one case military leaders are targeted and civilian casualties are involved and in the other when civilians alone are targeted. I think the international community would acknowledge this distinction, as would I. And, if it were outside the context of this discussion you and I are having, I think you would, too. Whether any or all of us would nonetheless condemn both cases is a different question, as I’ve also made clear from the beginning. Even if all of us would condemn both cases, it is still likely the latter case would provoke more revulsion and puzzlement than the former.

                      I understand that you dislike the violence found in the Old Testament. Most of us do. Jesus Himself said, in effect, that God was holding His nose through the Old Testament period until the time when the kingdom of God and its peace could come.

                      The irony of “new atheism’s” attack on the morals of ancient Israel (note that this does not mean I am comparing you to a new atheist) is that it’s hard to imagine that they would have the moral sensitivity to do so had it not been for an itinerant first-century Jewish preacher who so affected life on this planet that all of history is divided into that which occurred before Him and that which occurred after Him. It has been hard for anyone to look at life the same way since He came.

                    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                      “Whether any or all of us would nonetheless condemn both cases is a different question…”

                      That’s the question I’ve been asking … repeatedly.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Do I condemn Samson for what he did? No.

                      Would I condemn someone for doing the same thing today? Yes.

                    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                      What’s the difference?

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      The coming of the kingdom of God through Jesus – the same thing that caused Jesus to chastise James and John for merely suggesting they do what Elijah had done to great approbation, the same thing that caused Jesus to tell Peter to put his sword back in its sheath when they all knew that David had been immortalized for taking a sword to Goliath’s head. “There is a time for this, and a time for that.”

                      The coming of the Prince of Peace was the end of war in God’s name. Of course, I am speaking of war according to the flesh. War according to the spirit continues (as in the turning of my cheek is “retaliation” for your having slapped it).

                      The Old Testament was a time when God had to work through the kingdom of man and the hardness of men’s hearts,but we live in the age of the kingdom of God and He needs no violence from our hands to extend that kingdom.

                    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                      Hmm, I thought you’d make it easy and just say that God commended the one but not the other.

                      The problem with what you say here is that it entails that before Jesus appeared on the scene suicide terrorist acts of civilian populations were perfectly okay.

                      It also begs the question: at what point in the life of Jesus did they become wrong? When he was baptized? Preached the sermon on the mount? Died? Was resurrected?

                    • Goldstein Squad Member

                      Now you are blowing smoke.
                      Gantt…8 points.
                      Rauser…0

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      “The problem with what you say here is that it entails that before Jesus appeared on the scene suicide terrorist acts of civilian populations were perfectly okay.”

                      Randal, have you actually forgotten that I don’t accept your equation of Samson’s act with today’s suicide terrorist attacks against civilian populations? It appears you’re trying to “slip in” your view here as a settled point, but I’d rather think better of your intentions.

                      “It also begs the question: at what point in the life of Jesus did they become wrong? When he was baptized? Preached the sermon on the mount? Died? Was resurrected?”

                      “Begs” is more than a stretch, as defining the precise instant at which acts of violence in God’s name became outlawed is not a very practical question for a 21st-century human being to ask. What is practical is to acknowledge that Jesus, being subject to the kingdom of God, lived by this new law. He also expected everyone who followed His teaching to live this way as well. After all, He came to bring the kingdom of God to us. It’s also noteworthy that when Jesus became aware of acts of violence for His sake being proposed or attempted He rebuked them – as if He expected His disciples to have gotten this point already. If first-century disciples were supposed to understand how the kingdom of God dramatically changed the way one was to serve God, how much more should we who live two millennia later!

                      Jesus Christ is the dividing line. Ignoring His teaching and example in discussions of Old Testament violence is absurd, particularly for people who call Him Lord.

                    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                      “have you actually forgotten that I don’t accept your equation of Samson’s act with today’s suicide terrorist attacks against civilian populations?”

                      You accepted the licitness of an attack at a non-military public gathering which was populated with many civilians (e.g. the women).

                      “defining the precise instant at which acts of violence in God’s name became outlawed is not a very practical question for a 21st-century human being to ask.”

                      It’s “practical” as a critique of the moral coherence of your position.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Randal,

                      You’ve been reduced to sophistry.

                      I get that you don’t accept my view on Samson. It’s disingenuous of you to triumphantly state that I have accepted yours by misrepresenting mine.

                      You’re suggesting that my view lacks moral coherence because I am not giving you a date of origin more precise than 30-33 CE?

                      Please stop straining gnats and swallowing camels. Jesus Christ is the pivot God used to redeem those who love Him from the use of violence on earth – not our 21st-century North American politically-correct sensibilities.

                    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                      Mike, the narrative depicts Samson committing suicide at a public gathering of Philistines, including many civilians, with the express intent of killing as many of those Philistines, including the civilians, as possible.

                      If you want to say that white is black you can do so, but don’t expect other people to agree.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Randal,

                      Yours is a selective re-depiction of the Samson episode, fashioned for your rhetorical purpose. I have given you several important points of difference between the Judges 16 account and today’s typical suicide terrorists. I could give you more, but I believe a significant difference has already been clearly established.

                      Whether other people agree with you or me is up to them.

                      I commend you for your disdain of violence in the name of God, but you’re trying to win an argument that the Lord Jesus has previously settled by His teaching, His life, His death, and His resurrection.

                    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                      ” have given you several important points of difference between the Judges 16 account and today’s typical suicide terrorists.”

                      Whatever differences there may be, the fact remains that (1) Samson committed suicide, (2) he did so as a means to kill others, (3) among those others he killed were civilians, (4) there is no suggestion in the text that the civilians were collateral damage rather than targets.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Your 3) and 4) are flawed because you are importing language and concepts foreign and anachronistic to the text (“civilians” and “collateral damage”)

                      Additionally, Being blind, Samson’s primary sense perception was hearing and it was the taunts of the Philistine lords that prompted his fatal reaction. You cannot even be sure from the text that he knew women were present.

                      Again, you needn’t trouble yourself to stretch the Samson episode so as to make it appear identical to modern-day suicide terrorist activity such as 9/11 in order to condemn modern-day violence exercised in the name of God. All you need is the Lord Jesus Christ to forswear such violence. He is not called the Prince of Peace for nothing.

                    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                      The distinction between “combatant’ and “non-combatant” isn’t anachronistic to the Jewish mindset.

                      As for your new suggestion that maybe Samson didn’t knowingly kill women, that is not a plausible reading of the text. He was at a public event surrounded by people engaged in revelry. But even if he wasn’t sure there were women, it would still be wrong for him to act to kill those around him knowing that women might be present if, in fact, he believed it was wrong to kill women. We would call an action like that criminally reckless. It’s like shooting into the woods without knowing whether its a deer or a human being.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      I don’t know of anyone who thinks of the terrorists who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center as being like someone “shooting into the woods without know whether a human being might be present.”

                    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                      Mike, are you really unable to understand what I just said? Seriously? And you accuse me of “sophistry”?

                      Okay, let me repeat it for you. If Samson believed it was wrong to kill civilians (e.g. men) and he engaged in an act that he knew might kill civilians (e.g. women), then he is culpable for acting recklessly and in fact, but unknowingly, killing civilians, just like a person who fires in the woods to kill a deer without knowing whether a man is there and who ends up killing a man.

                      Your comment is an egregious case of misrepresentation.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Randal, you missed my point, which was that even taking your current depiction (not mine) of what Samson did it does not match the profile of today’s suicide terrorists such as those who flew airplanes into buildings they were sure were full of nothing but civilians.

                    • Goldstein Fan

                      Gawd Damn, you are a Jew basher aren’t you Randall?
                      I bet you approve of the Jews peacefully obeying the
                      SS Guards.

                  • Goldstein Fan

                    Yes. The leadership of Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel, as per The Charter Of Hamas.
                    Jews don’t march to the gas chambers anymore, Randall.
                    Get it through your Anti Semitic head.

                  • Hubert Frost

                    “Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.”

                    This is ambiguous, you might be right but the author could also have meant “more soldiers”, I just don’t know.

                    “And an Israeli agent blew up the building. In the wake of the
                    international outcry he then replies that he was only targeting the
                    leadership and not the women (or children). Do you think that would be a
                    good defense? ”

                    This would not be entirely a good defence and he would be morally guilty, but less than folks dying in suicide attacks while specifically targeting civilians because they want to provoke terror feelings in the hearts of the whole population. That’s the definition of terrorist.

              • Goldstein Fan

                Mike is correct. This was the leadership being taken out, a leadership that had Samson tortured and chained up.
                If the Jews in World War Two had fought back from the very start, the Nazis would have been slowed down.
                So cry and stamp your feet all you want…the Israelis will defend themselves.
                And if they face defeat, occupation, and thus extermination, they are going to take a large part of the world with them.
                So the world better get the idea that you can’t kill Jews and get away with it.

    • Goldstein Fan

      In ancient times the Jews fought.
      In more recent times, in World War Two, they did not fight in any organized fashion and would have been exterminated but for the Allies.
      They have learned their lesson.
      So if the Jews face extemination this time, the world will not just be able to sit back, because they may well take a large part of the world with them.
      The SAMSON OPTION is real.
      Don’t like it? Tough shit.

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        It is common that people will do, and justify doing, what they believe is necessary for their survival. However, Jesus shows us a better way by demonstrating through His life and resurrection that this life is not all there is. He who seeks to preserve his life on this planet will lose it, but he who loses his life for Christ’s sake will find it.

        Why do we fight to preserve a life that cannot be kept when we can have a life that cannot be lost?

        • wiognwerg

          So you would be willing to let a second Holocaust take place?
          Jew Hater.

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            Please.

  • Hubert Frost

    As several folks have pointed out, I believe that suicide attack would have been an (even heroic) option for Jews living in the third Reich.

    If from 1939 onwards, after it was clear that Hitler’s purpose was to exterminate them, Jews began systematically to commit suicide attack against Nazis involved in the racist policy first and foremost in their office but also during social events, the number of murdered Jews could have been quite lower and I would in neither case consider the martyrs to be morally guilty.

    However there could have been a less violent way to achieve the same end, and it’s a shame for Christianity this didn’t occur.

    What if the Pope, after he in 1935 or a bit later knew that the Nazis planed the execution of the Jews, stood up and said: “this man Hitler wants to completely eradicate the Jewry from Europe. It is morally completely atrocious and every Christian ought to reject this horror.” it is extremely likely that History would have taken quite a different course.

    The significant part of the German and Austrian population who were roman Catholics would no longer have been willing to blindly follow the Führer and in quite a few cases they would have been capable of violently revolting themselves against the national socialist system.

    A civil war of great scope would have followed and if France and England would have used the opportunity to attack the Nazi forces there is little doubt that Hitler and all his minions would have been defeated.

    And if influential German protestant leaders secretly opposed to Nazi ideology would have stood up after the declaration of the Pope and stated: “we also consider the policy of this man to be monstrous” at the risk of being put to death, the war would have been of (very) short duration.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      Your ethic sounds utilitarian in nature. I don’t think it is ever ethically permissible to target non-combatants regardless of the anticipated benefits of doing so.

      In addition, if you affirm the act of terrorist sucide attacks on civilian populations when a society is under extreme duress, then you’ve just provided an ethical basis for Palestinians suffering in Gaza to act accordingly.

      • FreedomFighter

        There is no moral equivalence between the Palestinians in Gaze and the Jews.
        The Jews were not routinely shooting rocketts into Berlin.
        You know this.
        You are a Jew Basher.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          I get my information on Gaza from a Jewish human rights organization, B’Tselem (the Israel Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories).

          http://www.btselem.org/

          You should check out the actual conditions in Gaza rather than hurl insults at others.

      • Hubert Frost

        Hi Randal, I think you kind of misunderstand my position.

        “I don’t think it is ever ethically permissible to target non-combatants regardless of the anticipated benefits of doing so.”

        If these non-combatants are preparing a genocide it seems quite appropriate to target them.

        Remember, I did not say they would non-selectively attack the civil population so as to create a climate of terror but specifically the Nazi responsible for the plan to eradicate the European Jewry.

        After all Hitler himself was in a sense during World War 2 a non combatant and did not fight, nevertheless the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer took part in a plot designed to murder Hitler and knew very well he would most likely be killed as a consequence. The plot failed and he was arrested and executed. Nowadays he’s considered an hero in modern Germany.

        Of course, if the Israelites really committed a genocide at the time of Joshua and Saul, it would have also be morally right for the victims to act in a similar manner.

        Do you agree with my complain about the cowardice of Christendom during the Nazi period which was a necessary condition for the genocides which took place?

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          “If these non-combatants are preparing a genocide it seems quite appropriate to target them.”

          By that definition they’re not non-combatants.

          “Do you agree with my complain about the cowardice of Christendom during the Nazi period which was a necessary condition for the genocides which took place?”

          Yes.

          And don’t forget the guilt of nations. For example, Britain accepted Jewish children from the Kindertransport but not their parents. (In other words, it was a noble gesture but not noble enough.) Virtually all western nations refused to accept Jewish refugees, leaving many to languish in internment camps into 1948. Western forces targeted Dresden for a firebombing when they knew it was full of refugees, creating a firestorm that killed tens of thousands. And on and on.

          So the church failed as an institution and Christian citizens of various nations failed as well.

  • MaxVel

    Hi Randal –

    Since I’m a bit pressed for time, this will be brief.

    (1) Does God have the right to end a human life whenever He sees fit?

    (2) Does God have the right to do so in whatever manner He sees fit?

    (3) What do you think were God’s purposes in His dealings with Israel and surrounding nations in OT times?

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      Your first question is ambiguous. For example, I accept meticulous providence. As a result, I believe that every death that occurs does so in accord with God’s foreknowledge that it would occur and his sustaining providence and his counterfactual power that he could have prevented it from occurring. If that’s what you’re asking then sure.

      As to your second question, again sure. But the real question is what manners would God think are fit and what manners would he think are not fit? I presume you would not think God would command a person to rape another person. And you would not consider that in any way inconsistent with an affirmative answer to your second question. So the real question is this: how do we identify the range of moral atrocities that we believe God would never command or commend because he would never consider them fit actions for moral agents?

      As for your third question, God’s ulimate purpose was and is redemptive (for the creature) and self-glorifying (for the creator) but there are many subordinate purposes serving those overarching purposes.

      • MaxVel

        Thanks for your reply.

        I think we should approach interpreting a particular Bible passage with 1,2 and 3 in mind, along with a number of other relevant background principles such as that God is fair and just; God values the ultimate end of a human life (i.e. with Him or without Him for ever) more than the continuation of a human life here on Earth, and so on.

        In the OT period I think God was particularly concerned with establishing a religious community that could be the source for a future Saviour. He happened to choose what we now know as Israel, and much of what we read in the OT concerns God’s efforts to preserve and grow a community that would maintain enough of a real connection with Him that the Saviour could be born there and lead people into a live relationship with Him.

        So some of the things God did in the OT were to prevent that community from being ‘polluted’ or watered down to the point that He couldn’t use them.

        Further, I think the OT makes it clear that God had decided to judge some of the communities that were living in Canaan. Their moral practices were so repugnant that God decided to remove them entirely as viable communities. I think it a mistake to look on this as an ethnic issue – ‘God killing all the Xs’ – because the reason they were removed was not their ethnicity but their culture and moral practice. Also they were a moral and spiiritual danger to Israel and ths to every person that God was planning to bless through Israel).

        Next, just be cause something is recorded in the Bible doesn’t mean that God approves of it, nor that God intends it to be taken as a practice for His people. Solomon had a bunch of wives – that doesn’t mean that God wants us to do so too. For you to argue that Samson suiciding provides a justification for suicide bombers in God’s name is far more naive and ignorant of basic hermeneutic practices than I think you are, and so seems disingenuous on your part. Of course one ‘could’ use a biblical text to ‘justify’ some really out there act, but that doesn’t mean that you are using the text as it was intended to be read and understood.

        Lastly, to portray Samson as the equivalent of a suicide bomber is I think grossly slanting the terminology to make a case, as well as being thoroughly anachronistic.

        After all that, it may still be that a particular OT event commanded by God nonetheless still seems completely incompatible with God havng ordered it, but so far in my experience I haven’t come across any that I feel I can say with certainty ‘God never would have allowed or commanded that’. I think we have too limited a knowledge of the background and possible future outcomes to make God’s decisions for Him.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          “For you to argue that Samson suiciding provides a justification for suicide bombers in God’s name is far more naive and ignorant of basic hermeneutic practices than I think you are,”

          This isn’t an accurate representation of what I said. What I did say was that Christians generally believe that it is necessarily wrong to engage in suicide attacks on civilian populations. If one accepts the Judges narrative as written then one would be led to conclude that it is not necessarily wrong to engage in suicide attacks on civilian populations. This wouldn’t entail that it is right to do so in another circumstance. But it would open the possibility that it is. Unless one invokes a new categorical ethical principle as Mike Gantt tries to do.

          “Lastly, to portray Samson as the equivalent of a suicide bomber is I think grossly slanting the terminology to make a case, as well as being thoroughly anachronistic.”

          The point is one of analogy. Like a suicide bomber Samson engages in a suicidal act to kill a mixed group of people including civilians.

          • Mustafa

            Randel you are absolutly right you have debunked the Christian. Who tried to wiggle his way out.
            Grant claimes. Samsung suicide is diffrent from 9/11 where 9/11 only consisted of Innocent people. While samsung targetted guilty people having innocent people killed also in the process. End qoute.
            Im wondering if hypothetically speaking according to Grants logic would 9/11 suicide attack be justified if Samsung was living inour time and he went to attack new york he went and boarded a plane flew it into building and brought down the New york twin towers, because a big portion of the people within the building worshiped a dragon God. And Samsung killed himself and killed many including innocent people.
            According to Grant the stooge. This suicide is justified?
            Or lets say the Taliban found out that G.bush was in the twin Towers, knowing that innocent people are in the building too….the Taliban fly planes into building they kill G.bush along with his advisers and also innocent people this suicide is justified in collapsing the tower to the grounds?

            Since Taliban believe G.Bush is there any combatants?