If God killed children in the great flood, he is as bad as Hitler.

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... the place where I discuss the thinking that went into this article.)

Question: In an online discussion today a skeptic mentioned Noah's flood and said that God "drowned babies" and that this action is indefensible. He compared worshiping God to praising Hitler for his acts. To my shame, not only do I not have any compelling or intellectually satisfying response for him, but it has attacked my own faith as well. I would appreciate any resolution you can bring. God bless.

Answer: Greetings Friend. Thank you for touching down with us at Mainsail Ministries, and thank you for sharing this concern with us.

The Bible doesn’t say directly that babies were killed in the flood. That is the logical assumption, though... since every large population will naturally have babies. And if you subscribe to the inerrancy of Scripture as we do at Mainsail Ministries, then you have to deal with the inspired historical record of God drowning these innocent little humans.

However, the flood is only one instance of God killing children — and it’s not even the most acute case! You see, a flood is an indirect killer — even when God sends it. But look at how he dealt with Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). This was anything but indirect... and the destruction of the children who happened to be living in those cities was sudden and not by natural means.

But the Bible has an even more explicit example of God killing children. This was during Korah’s rebellion (Numbers 16:25-35). Here we are told directly that children were among those killed... and they were killed by the ground swallowing them up in a way that only God could do. But here, the whole nation of Israel witnessed the event... and God “owned” his actions. So, if you believe the Bible’s historical narratives are reliable — and I do — then there’s no walking away from the fact that God killed Korah’s children and that he “owned” this action.

My point in sharing these grim examples is that people can sidestep the flood because it’s a natural phenomenon... I mean... God allows the destruction of groups of people all the time — and children are destroyed in those processes too. Unfortunately, this is how life goes. But what Korah’s rebellion does for us — and it does this particularly well — is that it forces us to look at God killing children head-on.

As a general principle, we should always seek the most acute examples of what the skeptic is complaining about (in the rare case that he or she doesn’t provide it) because if we don’t have an answer for the worst-case scenarios, the question just comes around again — but all amped up!

Now, this complaint has a solution... although I doubt that a skeptic will be satisfied with what I’m about to share. But my target is not the skeptic; it is you. I want you to see why faith in a God who sometimes kills children is not only a reasonable faith, it’s a desirable faith... and the solution follows.

The most important thing for you to know when God kills infants is that their destruction is also their salvation. You see, salvation requires moral reasoning (Isaiah 1:18; John 1:12) ... and young children have neither the facts nor the reasoning power to come to Christ as sinners.

This is why most Christians take the reasonable stance that, in spite of the fact that they didn’t keep the law back in the Old Testament, and in spite of the fact that they didn’t receive the Christ of the New Testament, God does not punish people eternally just for being children.

This is why I believe that every infant who dies goes right into God’s arms — even if they were part of a condemned group... like us humans (John 3:18). What this means for the children of the flood is that they are now in heaven... which for us Christians is the best case scenario!

But... and please consider this carefully... if those children were allowed to live their full lives in such an evil culture as the one before the flood (Genesis 6:5), they too would have rejected God. Therefore, the fact that they died prematurely — even though it was horrible to experience — and even though it’s impossible for normal people to feel good about it — that act by God was their salvation.

Now, this answer will not likely satisfy a skeptic. The issue is too emotionally charged. However, this will show that we have an answer that satisfies us internally... and I hope this is your experience. We have a story in Scripture that bears on this, and that’s the death of David and Bathsheba’s baby.

“[David] answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:22–23, NIV, emphasis mine)

The Jews did not have the same picture of heaven that we Christians have today, but David’s assumption was that his child would be there... and that he would join him in the future... and that such a future would have its joys.

Now, given that condemnation lasts forever, too, the death of children who might have matured and rejected God is an act of profound mercy. But since skeptics do not believe that a moral arbitrator (aka God) exists, they do not subscribe to sin... and, therefore, they don’t subscribe to punishment... and, therefore, God’s mercy is moot to them.

Life is messy. We get that... and children often get caught in the crossfire. But this is the kind of world God gave us so he could redeem it and so he could address the sin that would necessarily come with the creation of volitional people. Such a world as this will necessarily have evil (Isaiah 45:7)... and bad things happen to people who live in an evil world. But so do good things — and these are more prevalent.

Under such a system, God is not a Hitler — mad and bent on the destruction of a whole people. He is rather the Creator — motivated by love and personally involved in the earth’s processes — but who also guards the free will of human beings. The price of this is the occasional death of children. But this never represents their eternal death.

Tell the skeptic that he is committing a category error when he compares God to Hitler... or when he compares those of us who cheer God on to those who cheered the death of the Jews. That accusation is not even reasonable, so don’t spend any emotional energy on it.

I pray all this helped.

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20191118 What do we say when skeptics use the Bible and complain about God killing children?).

(For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com. To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)