Why does an omnipotent God use people?

Monday Musings for April 03, 2017

Good morning, Musers,

I have a new (new for me) spin on one of the most common objections to Judeo-Christian Scripture and ethics — which is some variation on “There is no justification for the type of killing that God commanded Israel to do in preparation for conquering Canaan” (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). Some say that this was a call to genocide… and virtually everyone hates the fact that it sometimes included women and children… I mean… what kind of God commands that?

But within that very complaint is evidence that the Bible is God’s authoritative word — and not Judeo-Christian propaganda. What kind of idiot would include that story in a propaganda piece?

Indeed, it was stories like this that leaped off the page when I was trying to figure out how biblical inerrancy worked — and that led me to my own version of “the embarrassment factor.” I simply put myself in the author’s shoes and asked, “If I were writing a propaganda piece… would I include this?” … and the answer was no.

But this is still God’s truth (I reckoned) … and this account is there for a reason (I reckoned further) … but it was still a tough sell to people who are looking for excuses not to follow God. So — and in a sincere effort to help God out — I decided to dodge teaching those inconvenient truths. After all, these types of truths would sully the God-is-love motif… and perhaps sully me by extension.

But here’s a career tip for those of you planning to go into apologetics: don’t plan on dodging anythingever… because you will soon be awash in those very things. First, God knows what’s important. Second, God loves irony. Third, historians love those embarrassing stories.

People who study the veracity of ancient documents look for information that reflects poorly on a person (or an entity). Since such an element would not likely be in a propaganda piece, the data are more likely to be true… although many factors weigh-in. But that discovery emboldened me: a sovereign God doesn’t have to sell… only tell. And furthermore, we should find that as a matter of style… and we do! The Scripture is full of examples — and the conquest of Canaan is just one of them.

But today’s questioner wasn’t worried about God’s justification for the killings. In fact, he gave God a “pass” on that — figuring that a holy and omniscient God would have his reasons (which is a mature response). But instead, he asked, why did God decide to do it that way? Why did he have the Israelites kill the Canaanites?

Our questioner postulates that God could have obtained the same result through passive methods… like working things out so fewer Canaanites would have been born… and I find that fascinating!  Here’s a guy who trusts God with the moral justification for killing… but not with the methodology! But I see some of me in there. We both grant that God is sovereign… but we ask of God, “Does your sovereignty have to include all those sharp edges?”

We’ll never get through this without talking about free will, of course… so I might lose some of my Reformed audience today… although it’s no secret that I subscribe to both libertarian free will and human exceptionalism. Now, I understand that God is in control. But I also believe that a person must exercise free will to make a meaningful choice about salvation — but also, beyond. If we were not puppets before we were saved, then we are not puppets after. Therefore, our ongoing free-will choices can cause net gains or net losses in God’s kingdom.

So, join me today… and see why methodology matters.

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