Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ali Baba and the godless naifs

I’ve been asked to comment on a post by an atheist:

He, in turn, refers the reader to a post by another atheist:

So I’ll comment on both. I’m not going to discuss Craig’s explanation since I’m free to present my own arguments.

Whenever we debate biblical morality with an atheist, we need to discuss a preliminary issue. In order for an atheist to claim that God mistreats human beings, the atheist must, as a precondition, establish two propositions:

i) There are moral absolutes
ii) Human beings have human rights

Many secular thinkers frankly admit that atheism leads to moral relativism or moral nihilism.

And even if atheism could underwrite moral absolutes, it doesn’t follow that human beings have human rights. According to atheism, human beings are just a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate.

“Christians believe their God is all-good and all-loving.”

i) As a Calvinist, I don’t believe that God is all-loving. I believe that God shows mercy to some while exacting retribution on others.

ii) God is good because God is just.

iii) It’s not always a good thing to be equally loving to everyone. What should we do with a sniper? Should we talk him down from the clock tower while he’s killing innocent bystanders? Or should we tell the police sharpshooter to cap him if he gets a clear shot?

It would be more loving to the sniper to try and talk him down, but that would be less loving to his victims. And the sniper forfeits the right to be treated lovingly.

“In Genesis 7:21-23, God drowns the entire population of the earth: men, women, children, fetuses, and animals.”

i) And why does God send the flood? Genesis doesn’t just say that God sent the flood. Genesis gives a reason. Indeed, two reasons. Why does Luke ignore the reason? Because he’s dishonest.

a) “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”(Gen 6:5). That’s the basic moral justification for the flood.

b) Beyond that immediate justification is an overarching rationale: the protoevangelium (Gen 3:15). God must protect the seed of promise from the corruption or destruction of the reprobate:

ii) What about animals?

a) Does Luke believe in animal rights? If so, he needs to mount a secular argument for animal rights.

b) Doesn’t natural selection result in the mass extinction of entire species? Does that consequence falsify naturalistic evolution? Why would a moral objection falsify the Bible, but not falsify Darwin?

“In Exodus 12:29, God the baby-killer slaughters all Egyptian firstborn children and cattle because their king was stubborn.”

i) What’s wrong with slaughtering cattle? Is atheism committed to veganism? Where’s the argument?

ii) Why does God continue to execute people after the flood? What’s the moral justification? “The intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen 8:21). A just judge has a right, and a duty, to punish the wicked.

iii) Why would an atheist object to infanticide? Doesn’t Peter Singer defend infanticide?

iv) From a Christian perspective, what about infant mortality?

Either babies are innocent or guilty in the eyes of God. If babies are innocent, then God takes them to heaven when they die. If babies are guilty, then there’s no injustice in infant mortality.

So, whichever position you take, infant mortality does no injustice to babies.

“In Numbers 16:41-49, the Israelites complain that God is killing too many of them. So, God sends a plague that kills 14,000 more of them.”

God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Yet the Israelites were a bunch of ingrates. Instead of thanking God for rescuing them from a life of bondage, they rebelled against God. They deserve what they get.

“In 1 Samuel 6:19, God kills 50,000 men for peeking into the ark of the covenant.”

i) Actually, the exact figure is a matter of dispute, both on text-critical grounds and grammatical grounds. Cf. D. Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel (Eerdmans 2007), 226-27.

ii) God struck them down because they desecrated the ark of the covenant. So what?

“In Numbers 31:7-18, the Israelites kill all the Midianites except for the virgins, whom they are allowed to rape as spoils of war.”

That’s a deliberate travesty of what the passage implies.

i) The virgins were war-brides. The Jewish men married them. There’s a standard provision in the Mosaic law for dealing with this type of situation (Deut 21:10-14; Jewish wives enjoyed civil rights under the Mosaic law. And this was a great improvement over the life they would have endured had they remained in a pagan culture.

Consider the alternatives:

a) Suppose the Israelites never conquered the Midianites. Would women living in a heathen, ancient Near Eastern culture, have led a better life? Would they have been at liberty to marry anyone they wanted? Love at first sight?

b) Having killed the Midianite soldiers, should the Israelites have left the virgins to fend for themselves?

ii) The Mosaic law is sometimes harsh by modern standards. Why is that? Because the ANE was a harsh place to live, and the Mosaic law is adapted to the socioeconomic conditions of the time. Why was the ANE such a harsh place to live? Because it was dominated by pagan cultures–like the Midianites. To the extent that you and I are better off, that’s because we live in a culture which has been influenced by Biblical ethics. If Luke had his way, we’d revert to the brutal conditions of the ANE.

iii) Indeed, modern secular cultures are cruel. They practice abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. And that’s even before we get around to Stalinism, Maoism, &c.

“In 2 Kings 2:23-24, some kids tease the prophet Elisha, and God sends bears to dismember them.”

It doesn’t say they were “kids.” “The Hebrew narim is used of servants or persons in early life of marriageable age,” D. Wiseman, 1 & 2 Kings (IVP 1993), 198.

Moving along:

‘It always amazes me how many times this God orders the killing of innocent people even after the Ten Commandments said “Thou shall not kill’.”

In context, the Commandment is dealing with murder. It doesn’t prohibit all forms of killing. For example, the Mosaic law stipulates capital punishment for a number of crimes.

“For example, God kills 70,000 innocent people because David ordered a census of the people (1 Chronicles 21).”

Were they innocent? As one commentator explains: “There always was a risk of in the assembly of a large body of men that an epidemic might break out. Ritual precautions were needed involving confession, penitence, and the offering of sacrifices and prayers…In Israel people enrolled for military service were required to pay a ransom and be ritually purified. Otherwise a plague would result. The half-shekel of Exod 30:12 was a precaution against a breach of purity laws,” J. Thompson, 1, 2 Chronicles (Broadman 1994), 160.

Continuing with Chris "Ali Baba" Thiefe:

“God also orders the destruction of 60 cities so that the Israelites can live there. He orders the killing of all the men, women, and children of each city, and the looting of all of value (Deuteronomy 3). He orders another attack and the killing of “all the living creatures of the city: men and women, young, and old, as well as oxen sheep, and asses” (Joshua 6).”

I’ve already touched on this issue in response to Luke. But let’s make another point. How do you deal with a ruthless enemy? Consider a modern example: the threat which Islam poses to the West. How does you deal entire Muslim populations that teach their boys and girls to be suicide bombers? How does you deal with Muslim cultures which use their own people as human shields? How do you deal with an enemy that is sworn to exterminate or subjugate the infidel?

In a situation like that, there’s no neat-and-tidy way to discriminate between combatants and noncombants. A fanatical enemy doesn’t allow you to be discriminating.

“In Judges 21, He orders the murder of all the people of Jabesh-gilead, except for the virgin girls who were taken to be forcibly raped and married. When they wanted more virgins, God told them to hide alongside the road and when they saw a girl they liked, kidnap her and forcibly rape her and make her your wife!”

I’ve already addressed this type of willful misrepresentation in response to Luke.

Incidentally, what does Chris "Ali Baba" Thiefe mean by “forcibly rape”? Does he think it’s okay to rape a girl as long as you don’t “force” her, viz. spiking her drink with a dash of roofie?

“In 2 Kings 10:18-27, God orders the murder of all the worshipers of a different god in their very own church!”

Of course, that disregards the historical context. This is not about freedom of worship. It’s not as if Jezebel, Athaliah, and the Baal-worshipers believed in freedom of worship. Rather, they were forcibly imposing Baal-worship on Israel. 2 Kgs 10:18-27 describes a counterattack. An act of self-defense, not an act of aggression.

“The God of the Bible also allows slavery, including selling your own daughter as a sex slave (Exodus 21:1-11).”

i) To begin with, it’s very naïve to assume that a law code condones everything it regulates. A law doesn’t ordinarily prescribe an ideal state of affairs. (An exception would be utopian social engineers.)

To the contrary, the general function of a law is to limit harm. Cf. G. Wenham, Story as Torah, chap. 5.

ii) Regarding this particular law, “The practice of selling minors is well attested in the ancient Near East. Parents who were in debt, or unable to support their families, sold children in the markets…In this section of Exodus we learn that Hebrew parents could sell their daughters into conditional slavery…In the Old Testament, this girl is not a slave-girl in the usual sense that we understand the term. She is better protected, and is not to be treated as other salves. As we shall see in the following verses, the law presupposes that she will marry either her master or his son. Therefore, she has the status of a married woman and she is to be treated kindly and with the utmost respect,” J. Currid, Exodus: Chapters 19-40 (EP 2001), 67-68.

This is dealing with a situation in which parents were unable to provide for all their children. And it’s situated in a culture where arranged marriages were already the norm. It's stupid to attack a law without considering the socioeconomic conditions which gave rise to that law.

It’s the best available solution under the circumstances. It would be analogous to poor families who had to apprentice their sons and daughters at an early age to feed and clothe them.

“Child abuse (Judges 11:29-40 and Isaiah 13:16)”

The narrator doesn’t condone the action of Jephtha. It’s quite naive to assume that a historian approves of everything he recounts.

“And bashing babies against rocks (Hosea 13:16 & Psalms 137:9).”

i) God is not commanding the Israelites to do this.

ii) Chris "Ali Baba" Thiefe is getting carried away with figurative imagery.

“This type of criminal behavior should shock any moral person. Murder, rape, pillage, plunder, slavery, and child abuse can not be justified by saying that some god says it’s OK. If more people would actually sit down and read the Bible there would be a lot more atheists like myself.”

i) From a secular standpoint, why be moral?

ii) All that Chris "Ali Baba" Thiefe has demonstrated is that if you bring the same pig-ignorance to your reading of scripture that he does, you might become another pig-ignorant atheist.

“Jesus also promoted the idea that all men should castrate themselves to go to heaven…(Matthew 19:12 ASV) I don't know why anyone would follow the teachings of someone who literally tells all men to cut off their privates.”

If Chris "Ali Baba" Thiefe is really this stupid, then that would help explain why became an atheist.

“The God of the Bible also was a big fan of ritual human sacrifice and animal sacrifice.”

Newsflash: God prevented Abraham from sacrificing his son.


  1. "It doesn’t say they were “kids.” “The Hebrew narim is used of servants or persons in early life of marriageable age,” D. Wiseman, 1 & 2 Kings (IVP 1993), 198."

    This brings to mind something that you had posted previously:

    I'm wondering how you derived in that earlier post that the offspring in this case were young men rather than kids...does that use "narim" as well? The context doesn't seem to say one way or the other.

    And to answer your question, yes, I did wait three and a half years to find an opportunity to ask this :P

  2. Newsflash: God made Abraham killed all of Abrahams family just to prove a point to Satan. Oh wait it didnt happen the bible is a book of fairie tales.

  3. You're right, Tony. It didn't happen. That's because the Bible never says "God made Abraham killed all of Abrahams family just to prove a point to Satan."

    Do you have any other counterexamples to prove the superior intelligence of an atheist like yourself?

  4. I'd add that the purpose of Job 1-2 is not to prove a point to Satan, but to prove a point to the reader.

  5. This new group who is growing tremendously from the Philippines and through out United States and are claiming that they are the only one who teaches the truth about the Bible and willing to dabate with other religion. Does anybody from your group are aware of this: the leader is Pastor Eli Soriano.