Today, I posted a tweet on how Christians who defend genocide in the Bible often find themelves backing into cultural relativism. That prompted a reply from a fellow named Andrew who read and appreciated the book but who didn’t agree with it. What followed was a civil exchange which I have included below. From my perspective, Andrew ends up endorsing a claim that our moral knowledge is limited to what is described in the Bible, a stance which is factually incorrect: as I argue in the book at length, we indisputably have extra-biblical moral knowledge. Moreover, that claim about the Bible is not itself taught by the Bible and is, in fact, explicitly denied by the Bible in many passages (I cite Romans 2 as an example). Perhaps most disturbing, from my perspective, is the fact that Andrew is unwilling to say that the girls captured by Boko Haram did not willingly consent to sexual contact with their captors.
Randal: One of the predictable objections to my argument in Jesus Loves Canaanites is that I’m naively projecting “western values” onto the ancient near east. It’s interesting how biblical violence forces many Christians to defend cultural relativism…
Andrew: You assert, over and over in the book, that the events prescribed by God in Deuteronomy and described in Joshua are “genocide” according to a word that was invented in the 20th century and condemn the bible according to an international law established in 1948. Seems you are importing things from modernity and imposing them on scripture. Is that an unfair critique?
Randal: If you have read the book you should know that I explain that there is nothing “anachronistic” about applying a legal definition retroactively to show that past events satisfy the definition. Indeed, that is what is done when we call the Holocaust a genocide.
Andrew: I did read it and I agree, but both can be true at the same time. The events of the conquest fit modern standards and definition of genocide, but are still morally good by God’s definition, which is divine judgment. The Rwandans committed genocide and should be condemned .because they were following the evil intentions of their hearts. The Israelites were following righteous commands by a holy God and should be vindicated.
Randal: Can God command rape?
Randal: What is your basis for saying that?
Andrew: There is no righteous reason to command it.
Randal: How do you know?
Andrew: Sexual ethics in the bible do not include forced intercourse. There IS an ethic about capitol punishment in scripture. The wages of sin, which is death. All are in Adam and all die. God has the right to take the life of anyone he has granted it to, and in any fashion he desires.
Randal: 1. What is your basis for claiming that the Bible delimits the range of what God can possibly command? 2. What is your response to the Midianite virgins of Numbers 31? You think they could consent to sex when their families were massacred?
Andrew: 1) Well, we know God cannot lie (Heb 6:18). So there are things God can’t do. I see no reason to think God would command rape and he has not commanded it in Scripture. 2) I think the burden of proof is in you to showthat any Midianite virgin was raped. I say that none were,
Randal: You didn’t answer the question. What is your basis for claiming an action must be commanded in scripture to show that God can command it? So you think the burden is on you to show Boko Haram raped their Nigerian girls they kidnapped?
Andrew: How else would I know what God can command outside of the book of his commandments? I do know God can’t do certain things. Therefore,why would I believe God commanded a sin that has no redeeming qualities? Pretend I know nothing about Boko Haram. Why should I make assumpions about Boko Haram and their rape patterns?
Randal: The Bible never claims it is the only source of moral knowledge. Indeed, it refutes that claim in passages like Romans 2. You know Boko Haram killed families and kidnapped girls but you believe those kidnapped children may have consented to sexual relations with their captors?
Andrew: No, but the bible does claim to be the only infallible source of moral knowledge. The law is stamped on the human heart, but that same heart is deceitfully wicked and suppresses the truth in unrighteousness. I don’t believe anything about Boko Haram, as I know very little about them. I do know that God forbids rape, so, if any Israelite men raped Midiananite girls, he did so against God’s will.
Randal: The Bible doesn’t claim that. And the same ‘deceitful wickedness’ that affects our reading of the innate moral law also affects our Bible reading.