Monday, March 19, 2012

Is God Guilty of Murder?

I don’t like this subject.

Christian apologetics is great, especially if it’s on a subject like Creation vs. Evolution, or the Resurrection of Christ, or Transubstantiation,  but when it gets on a subject like the righteousness of God and his judgment things get a bit messy.

A dear cousin of mine recently called me out on a statement I made about the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate. I was arguing that abortion was unjustified according to God’s law, which eventually degenerated into a debate about the consistency of God’s character concerning murder. This went on for dozens of comments back and forth (we were on a Facebook status update when all of this started), until we both had to sit down and seriously formulate some arguments. I think that Facebook is an awful place to carry on a debate, so I decided to reproduce some of my arguments here, on my blog, for clarity. Perhaps some of my readers have input for me, either encouragement or criticism. Whatever anyone has to offer, I would be appreciative of anything that will help sharpen my wits and keep me grounded in the truth.

My cousin said, “"God is not a reliable source for morality, therefore he should not be used in the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate." As I understand it, his position rests on the idea that God is inconsistent because he forbade his people to murder, (“You shall not murder.” Exodus 20:13) while commanding them to do that very thing (“When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—…seven nations larger and stronger than you— and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally.” Deuteronomy 7:1-2a).

1.       God commands that one human should not murder another.
2.       God commanded humans to murder one another.
3.       God’s laws are contradictory.
4.       Therefore God’s morality is not consistent.
5.       Therefore God is not a reliable source for morality.
6.       Therefore his morality cannot be cited as a deciding factor in the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate.

The whole argument rests on whether or not the killing of the Canaanites was “murder”, the same kind of murder which God forbade in Exodus 20. Here is my argument.

·         The “killing” of the Canaanites and the “killing” of the Ten Commandments are not the same kind of killing. Therefore God’s laws are not contradictory, they are consistent, and God is a reliable source for morality, therefore his morality can be cited as a deciding factor in pro-life vs. pro-choice debate.

Murder is the unlawful taking of life.  Killing is the lawful taking of life. Murder, as the dictionary defines it, is “the crime of (a person) killing another person deliberately and not in self-defense or with any other extenuating circumstance recognized by law.”  The word in the Hebrew for "kill" in Exodus 20:13 is תִּרְצָח (ratsach). It is translated into the English many different ways, depending on the context:  "slayer 16, murderer 14, kill 5, murder 3, slain 3, manslayer 2, killing 1, slayer + 310 1, slayeth 1, death 1" (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, [Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.] 1995.).  Clearly this is not a commandment that humans not take human life, it is that humans not unlawfully take human life. Murder is clearly forbidden by the Christian God.

So is God guilty of murder, as defined above? If the Israelites had taken it upon themselves to destroy the Canaanites and take their land, they might have been guilty of murder. However, the supreme ruler of the universe commanded them to destroy the Canaanites, for his own reasons. Suddenly it is no longer a situation of one person killing another person, it is God killing a person.

i.         A human being who takes the life of another human being “deliberately and not in self-defense or with any other extenuating circumstance recognized by law” is guilty of a crime, according to God’s law.
ii.       But if God takes the life of a human being “deliberately and not in self-defense” he cannot be guilty of a crime
a.       Because God is the one who decides what an “extenuating circumstance” might be. He is not acting outside of the law or contradictory to it, but he is able to define exactly what the justifying factors in a case are. In an American court of law a justifying factor for the taking of a life is self-defense. In God’s “court of law” he has his own set of justifying factors; he “made the rules” and has the authority to decide what qualifies as an “extenuating circumstance” in the case of taking a life.
b.      Because murder is the taking of one human life by another human being. If God takes a human life then it is not murder. If he executes his divine judgment on somebody through another human being, then it is ultimately God’s responsibility.  

When it comes right down to it, the destruction of the Canaanites was only lawful because God says it was. This all sounds like a circular argument because the “person” committing the action is the same “person” who determines what is and is not legal. So the whole argument hinges on the question, “What is ‘law’?” If it is law which divides the murderers from the executioners, then law is the deciding factor in this case.

1.       Christians believe that God is the source of law and morality.
2.       Therefore, whatever he does in lawful and just, quite literally “because he said so.”

So do Christians serve a whimsical God who makes rules and then goes along merrily breaking them, singing, “It’s OK because I said so?” Of course not. There is no instance in the Bible of God going against his character, which is love (1 John 4:8), truth (John 14:6), holy (Isa 6:3), spiritual (John 4:24), righteous (1 Cor 1:30), perfect (Matt 5:48), good (Luke 18:19), just (Deut 32:4), pure (1 John 3:3), and unchangeable (Jam 1:17). Even the killing of the Canaanites is consistent with the character of God.

Let me bring up one more point, Romans 6:23a, “For the wages of sin is death….” It can be argued that the Canaanites were a depraved, cruel, degenerate people who by every rule of justice deserved to die—every man, woman, child. therefore their extermination was more like the carrying out of a just sentence than a wholesale slaughter of innocents.  Even though the Canaanite children may have never worshiped a false God or taken part in sinful rites, they were born “short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and so were under the death sentence. Every human deserves to die; that is the penalty for sin and God would be justified in carrying it out. The last half of Romans 6:23 is what gives hope to our world, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


  1. Still thinking about this post.

    Have you seen the 180 Movie? It is very interesting and thought provoking, esp to do with the abortion issue. You can find it at

    1. Thanks for the comment, Claire! I have heard about the movie from several sources, but have yet to see it.

  2. 1. Christians believe that God is the source of law and morality.
    2. Therefore, whatever he does in [sic] lawful and just, quite literally “because he said so.”


    1. Levi believes that a giant starfish is the source of law and morality.
    2. Therefore, whatever the giant starfish does is lawful and just, quite literally "because it said so."

    This is not valid or sound logic! It doesn't even make sense!

    Abby picks and chooses what she wants the character of god to be! Without shame she professes that:

    "There is no instance in the Bible of God going against his character, which is love, truth, holy, spiritual, righteous, perfect, good, pure, and unchangeable."

    This is FALSE.

    What is loving about ripping pregnant women open with a sword?

    What is truthful about "hardening the heart of Pharaoh?"

    "Now, therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee."

    ^ What is honest about that?

    "Anyone who is captured will be run through with a sword. Their little children will be dashed to death right before their eyes. Their homes will be sacked and their wives raped by the attacking hordes. For I will stir up the Medes against Babylon, and no amount of silver or gold will buy them off. The attacking armies will shoot down the young people with arrows. They will have no mercy on helpless babies and will show no compassion for the children."
    Isaiah 13:15-18

    Sounds like a great guy! Holiness in the flesh! Oh wait...god is immaterial? Yeah, unless you're Jesus.


    A cosmic Jewish zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.

    Satire? No. Biblical facts.

    Is god spiritual? Yes, this is true by definition. Spiritual=magic=god

    "And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also." Genesis 38:6-10

    Yes. God is so righteous. You can sleep with your brothers wife, but if you pull out, god will kill you! No wonder the Bible belt leads in teen pregnancy!

    Oh yes. God is good. So good that he inspired anonymous writers to tell us how to treat our sex slaves!

    "When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment." Exodus 21:7-11

    God is unchanging? ha. ha.

    1. Woah now, brother. Rational argument is one thing. Heated emotional ridicule and cruel slander of someone I would give my life for is another.

    2. Pardon my tone, my sarcasm is not directed at you, I promise! Just beliefs, in general. If you examined my statements rationally and carefully, you would see that they are neither personal attacks, nor slander. What would you say to someone who commanded you to have sex with your sibling's spouse, or kill children? Would you get a little heated? Me too. Christians tell me I'm going to burn in hell for eternity, and if that's not disenchanting, I don't know what is! Please don't take anything I say personally, detach yourself, and look only at the information presented. It's in the bible, and when presented lucidly, yes, it looks absurd. I don't mean to be offensive at all!

    3. I've snatched a few minutes away from college to ask you about one aspect of this discussion that seems to be the crux of the whole matter. It relates to your comment, "What is loving about ripping pregnant women open with a sword?"

      From whence do you derive this idea of "love"? Is it a concept that you have gleaned from your own experience of the world, or from the ideas of others?

  3. 1. God is satisfied with his works
    Gen 1:31
    God is dissatisfied with his works.
    Gen 6:6
    2. God dwells in chosen temples
    2 Chron 7:12,16
    God dwells not in temples
    Acts 7:48
    3. God dwells in light
    Tim 6:16
    God dwells in darkness
    1 Kings 8:12/ Ps 18:11/ Ps 97:2
    4. God is seen and heard
    Ex 33:23/ Ex 33:11/ Gen 3:9,10/ Gen 32:30/ Is 6:1/
    Ex 24:9-11
    God is invisible and cannot be heard
    John 1:18/ John 5:37/ Ex 33:20/ 1 Tim 6:16
    5. God is tired and rests
    Ex 31:17
    God is never tired and never rests
    Is 40:28
    6. God is everywhere present, sees and knows all things
    Prov 15:3/ Ps 139:7-10/ Job 34:22,21
    God is not everywhere present, neither sees nor knows all
    Gen 11:5/ Gen 18:20,21/ Gen 3:8
    7. God knows the hearts of men
    Acts 1:24/ Ps 139:2,3
    God tries men to find out what is in their heart
    Deut 13:3/ Deut 8:2/ Gen 22:12
    8. God is all powerful
    Jer 32:27/ Matt 19:26
    God is not all powerful
    Judg 1:19
    9. God is unchangeable
    James 1:17/ Mal 3:6/ Ezek 24:14/ Num 23:19
    God is changeable
    Gen 6:6/ Jonah 3:10/ 1 Sam 2:30,31/ 2 Kings 20:1,4,5,6/
    Ex 33:1,3,17,14
    10. God is just and impartial
    Ps 92:15/ Gen 18:25/ Deut 32:4/ Rom 2:11/ Ezek 18:25
    God is unjust and partial
    Gen 9:25/ Ex 20:5/ Rom 9:11-13/ Matt 13:12
    11. God is the author of evil
    Lam 3:38/ Jer 18:11/ Is 45:7/ Amos 3:6/ Ezek 20:25
    God is not the author of evil
    1 Cor 14:33/ Deut 32:4/ James 1:13
    12. God gives freely to those who ask
    James 1:5/ Luke 11:10
    God withholds his blessings and prevents men from receiving
    John 12:40/ Josh 11:20/ Is 63:17
    13. God is to be found by those who seek him
    Matt 7:8/ Prov 8:17
    God is not to be found by those who seek him
    Prov 1:28
    14. God is warlike
    Ex 15:3/ Is 51:15
    God is peaceful
    Rom 15:33/ 1 Cor 14:33
    15. God is cruel, unmerciful, destructive, and ferocious
    Jer 13:14/ Deut 7:16/ 1 Sam 15:2,3/ 1 Sam 6:19
    God is kind, merciful, and good
    James 5:11/ Lam 3:33/ 1 Chron 16:34/ Ezek 18:32/ Ps 145:9/
    1 Tim 2:4/ 1 John 4:16/ Ps 25:8
    16. God's anger is fierce and endures long
    Num 32:13/ Num 25:4/ Jer 17:4
    God's anger is slow and endures but for a minute
    Ps 103:8/ Ps 30:5
    17. God commands, approves of, and delights in burnt offerings,
    sacrifices ,and holy days
    Ex 29:36/ Lev 23:27/ Ex 29:18/ Lev 1:9
    God disapproves of and has no pleasure in burnt offerings,
    sacrifices, and holy days.
    Jer 7:22/ Jer 6:20/ Ps 50:13,4/ Is 1:13,11,12
    18. God accepts human sacrifices
    2 Sam 21:8,9,14/ Gen 22:2/ Judg 11:30-32,34,38,39
    God forbids human sacrifice
    Deut 12:30,31
    19. God tempts men
    Gen 22:1/ 2 Sam 24:1/ Jer 20:7/ Matt 6:13
    God tempts no man
    James 1:13
    20. God cannot lie
    Heb 6:18
    God lies by proxy; he sends forth lying spirits to deceive
    2 Thes 2:11/ 1 Kings 22:23/ Ezek 14:9
    21. Because of man's wickedness God destroys him
    Gen 6:5,7
    Because of man's wickedness God will not destroy him
    Gen 8:21
    22. God's attributes are revealed in his works
    Rom 1:20
    God's attributes cannot be discovered
    Job 11:7/ Is 40:28
    23. There is but one God
    Deut 6:4
    There is a plurality of gods
    Gen 1:26/ Gen 3:22/ Gen 18:1-3/ 1 John 5:7

    The list could go on and on and on.

    "God" changes.

    1. So many of these "contradictions" are completely subjective, and completely fallacious. Genesis 3:22 proves a plurality of gods? It is impossible for God to be warlike and peaceful at different times in different circumstances? Really?

      These are verses ripped painfully out of scriptural and cultural context, copy-pasted from a book written by someone who says, "I am not a trained minister and have not completed formal theological or seminary studies. I do not consider myself to be a Bible expert."

      Sorry, I won't be convinced by such "evidence."

    2. Typical. Why don't blatant contradictions bother you? Yes, of course you would pick the most subjective contradictions from the list. Plurality of gods? Why would god say "Let US make mankind in OUR image?" What about Genesis 3:22 don't you find compelling? Why would god say "The man has now become like one of us..?" Who is he talking to? Who is "us?" In the Ten Commandments, (there are two sets, and interestingly, they differ) god commands his people to "put no other gods before him." Are there other gods? Why doesn't god say "There are no other gods?" As for your war and peace claim, no, it is not impossible for god to be warlike and peaceful at different times and in different circumstances. But, to claim that both are his overall "nature?" That is contradictory. You seem to have ignored all of the more provocative contradictions, focusing instead upon weakest. I encourage you to look at all of them again.

      I'm no bible expert, but I can read. If it requires a trained minister who has completed formal theological or seminary studies to "decipher" the word of Christians are in trouble. One would think that an all good god would provide a less complicated text, or perhaps reveal himself in less contradictory language. Do you have to be an expert to spot biblical inconsistencies? No. You have to be an expert to weave a convincing web of deceit, and present it as truth.

    3. Also, if you'll claimed that god was "unchanging." However, you also admitted that it's possible for god to have different attributes at different times and in different circumstances. By doing so, you have contradicted yourself and defined god as "changing," or as I like to put it, "whimsical."

  4. But! Christians will typically say: God doesn't change because the Bible says he doesn't change and we can believe what's in the bible because God is good, says so in the Bible, God is good, so what he tells us is true, if it's true, then we should make it a law, if it's a law, then it's just, it's also just because god said so in the bible, but let's be preposterously intellectually dishonest by ignoring what we don't like and accepting what we do like. Oh, and circles are our friends, but we'll say they aren't circles and avoid that problem."

    Sounds like the perfect way to justify whatever you want, true or false!

    May I ask a question?

    You've given god the attributes of love, truthfulness, holiness, spirituality, righteousness, perfection, goodness, purity, and unchanging-ness.

    What basis do you have for giving god these qualities?

    If you pick and choose what you like about god, then what ethical system do you use to do the picking and choosing?


    As a side note: I'm giving a presentation to my ethics class and will be arguing in support of the pro-life stance :-P I'll be discussing several compelling arguments which do not appeal to fairy-tales, and if you'd like to attend or ask questions, I could arrange it, May 2nd at 3:30 P.M. Also if you'd like to debate this topic in person, I'd be happy to!

    We're not so different.

    I don't think we believe in Zeus, Odin, Krishnah, Ahura Mazda, Hari, Ra....

    ....hundreds of thousands gods...

    As a Christian, you pretty much have to reject hundreds of thousands of other gods!

    I just believe in one less than you.


    1. It's true that many Christians pick and choose. For many reasons, which I may explain later, I see no real conflict between the God who slaughtered the Canaanites and the God who said, "Let the little children come to me." I accept it all, though sometimes it's a bitter pill.

      I'm proud of you for taking the pro-life stance, Levi! It shows that a lot of this debate is purely theoretical. You have standards of morality, you just base them on personal whim rather than a Creator God.

      About rejecting hundreds of thousands of Gods--I find it interesting that as an atheist you have to believe that the vast majority of the human race has always been utterly and drastically wrong about the subject that mattered to them most, while I am free to believe that there is at least a seed of truth in every religion. Which stance is more counter-intuitive?

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  6. How can you not see any conflict between the god who slaughtered the Canaanites and the god who said, "Let the little children come to me?" What sort of doublethink allows one to swallow that aptly named "bitter pill?" I cannot and will not do it. Supposing god existed, and he/she/it? told me to kill children, I would refuse. I would tell him to do it himself! Why would god need "us" to kill "evil" children? Why would anyone call a child evil in the first place? Is it because they're born atheists? It escapes me.

    There's a few things I'd like to clarify so we're on the same page:

    I don't base my morality on a personal whim! Virtue based ethics, Kant's deontological ethics, utilitarianism, and contractarianism are all ethical accounts which condemn killing children. They also have the beauty of consistency. Given that they all are independent of a contradictory deity (or any deity!), it's my opinion that they are superior. Using them to guide my morality has eliminated the frustration of an unbelievable god and made me a more responsible, peaceful, and open-minded person.

    Also, in calling me an atheist, the only thing you can say with certainty is that I reject the belief in god. You can't say that I have to believe the vast majority of the human race has always been utterly wrong about the things that matter to them most! I don't even think that's true. I think food and water have always mattered most, and I would never say our ancestors were wrong about how to eat and drink! (though I doubt rain dances accomplished anything, save social bonding)

    But for kicks and giggles, what's WRONG with believing that the human race has been WRONG all these years? If you look at a timeline, we thought the earth was flat for...most of the timeline! Some people still do, and it's pretty funny, check out this link haha
    Off the top of my head, many cultures believed in demonic possession, but they obviously didn't know of psychological disorders, such as schizophrenia. Humans have been wrong for a long time, but when they figure stuff out, it usually makes sense! Our world is becoming increasingly explainable.
    ...these are obvious examples, but you have no idea how difficult it is to prove that an invisible immaterial being does not exist! It's impossible! I think that's why god has stuck around...

    You mentioned the words of Jesus, so I wanted to talk about the gospels a little. Every gospel was written decades after the death of Christ by anonymous authors. That bothers me, especially when they read like myths. Take the biblical account of who the disciples met at the tomb, for example. (there's SO many!) Each successive gospel (chronologically) becomes more and more embellished.

    Oldest (65-70AD): There was a young man present. Mark 16:5
    Second oldest (75-80AD): There were two men present. Luke 24:4
    Third oldest (80-85AD): There was one angel present. Matt 28:2
    Latest (90AD): There were two angels present. John 20:11-12

    The only place (throughout all the gospels!) where this trend is not consistent is in the last 12 verses of Mark, and contemporary biblical scholarship agrees that these verses were forged for synchronicity. Huh.

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  8. Also, you implied that I, as an atheist, am not free to believe that there's a "seed of truth" in religion. What's up with that? There's plenty of truth and wisdom in the Bible! So is there in the Koran, The Book of Mormon, Mein Kampf, Hank the Cowdog, and every other piece of literature and film besides Jersey Shore! I just don't claim that any of those sources of wisdom are "divine" or "magic," or that they're the ultimate last-word on morality, or how to live one's life. The Christian god demands this, so I'm not sure how you can believe any other religious account's "seeds of truth," while still maintaining the Christian faith. In this way, I'm much more free than you.

    To answer your question, no, I don't think it's intuitive to believe that hundreds of thousands of gods are false, but only one god, yours, is true.

    Isn't that what everyone thinks?

    How can you tell which god is the true god?

    If you grew up in certain parts of India, you'd probably believe just as firmly in Brahman, Shiva, and Vishnu!

    When I examine all the different religions, especially throughout history, I find no reason why one god is more likely to exist than the others. They can't all exist, by definition!

    Until I'm presented with evidence for god, I think it's more intuitive to say god does not exist, and I'm happy with that!

    If the Biblical god did, in fact, exist, I'd still deny him because he's a bloodthirsty baby killer! At least I wouldn't have to call myself an atheist though, people hate that label! ...and I don't like the negative connotations people associate with it either! I remember when I shuddered at the word, it wasn't long ago.


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