Show Them No Mercy


Show Them No Mercy: 4 Views On God And Canaanite Genocide. This book presents four views on the Canaanite genocide recorded in the Old Testament.

The Case For Radical Discontinuity, C.S. Cowles: This author argued that everything the Christian knows and understands about God they know because of Jesus. “In the New Testament, Jesus is not defined by God; rather God is defined by Jesus.” (pg. 22) Because of this, we need to understand the Old Testament in light of Jesus and his teachings. The author says that anything in the OT that does not conform with Jesus’s teaching is not really of God. We have to use Jesus’s teaching as a way to filter the OT to discern what is really from God and what is really sinful man’s understanding of God.  “Since Jesus has come, we are under no obligation to justify that which cannot be justified, but can only be described as pre-Christ, sub-Christ, and anti-Christ.” (pg. 36) So how do you understand the Canaanite genocide? Either through “spriritual interpretation” (it did not really happen but the story teaches a spiritual truth) or through “progressive revelation” or “dispensationalism” (the Israelites were recording the truth as they understood it; and the truth changes has they continued to learn and understand who God really is and what He is really like).

The Case For Moderate Discontinuity, Eugene H. Merrill: This author argued that the war narratives in the Bible are actual historical events. He said that “Yahweh war” was “conceived by God, commanded by him, executed by him, and brought by him alone to successful conclusion.” (pg. 81) “Israel’s role in the implementation of Yahweh war needs careful attention because only Israel was authorized to carry it out in Old Testament times. The reason for this dubious priviledge is clear: Israel was the elect people of God, chosen not just to mediate the message of salvation to the world but also to serve as his agent in bringing to pass his will on the earth.” (pg. 84) There were for reasons for Yahweh war: “1) the irremediable hardness of the hearts of its victims; 2) the need to protect Israel against spiritual corruption; 3) the destruction of idolatry; 4) the education of Israel and the nations as to the character and intentions of the one true God.” (pg. 85) “The Canaanite nations…were in illegal occupation of the land God had promised to Abraham and his descendants. Moreover, they were irretrievably lost to anti-God idolatry and were certain to proselytize Israel to do the same. Yahweh war for them had to result in their utter annihilation…” (pg. 83) Finally, because only Israel could carry out Yahweh war no one else then or now is authorized to do so. “… Yahweh war as articulated in the Old Testament has no justification in the age of the church except in terms of spiritual conflict.” (pg. 91)

The Case for Eschatological Continuity, Daniel L. Gard: This author argued that Israel had a unique relationship with God as his chosen people. They were both “Church” and “State”. God is holy and just. We can not fully comprehend his holiness and justice. God used “holy war” to justly destroy wicked nations. Sometimes he fought by himself and sometimes with the help of Israel. Only Israel could engage in holy war that resulted in genocide when ordered to do so by God. “When Israel entered Canaan, other nations occupied the land. They stood in opposition not only to the nation but also to the God who had given the land to Israel.” (pg. 136). The New Testament Church is not a political entity only a theological entity. It does not take up arms. “According to the New Testament, Jesus the judge will destroy the earth and its rebellious inhabitants and, in so doing, inaugurate his glorious kingdom.” (pg. 136) The eschatological continuity is that “…God who commanded and, at times, personally executed herem against the enemies of Israel is the same God who will execute judgment and destruction at the end of time.” (pg. 135-136)

The Case fo Spiritual Continuity, Temper Longmann III: This author argues that holy war was a spiritual act – an act of worship. He points out that Israel had to be ritually pure before engaging in holy war as directed by God and that genocide was a part of what God ordered. “God did not tell Israel that its enemies were his enemies. Quite the opposite is true, actually. Israel was to be an enemy to God’s enemies.” (pg. 164) The Canaanites were “…all part of an inherently wicked culture that, if allowed to live, would morally and theologically pollute the people of Israel.” (pg. 174) The author then connects the Old Testament with the New by outlining five phases of holy war in the Bible: ” Phase 1: God Fights the Flesh-and-blood Enemies of Israel, Phase 2: God Fights Israel, Phase 3: God Will Come in the Future as Warrior, Phase 4: Jesus Christ Fights the Spiritual Powers and Authorities, Phase 5: The Final Battle.” (pg. 175-182) We are currently in Phase 4. The battle of the New Testament Church is against spiritual powers and authorities. In Phase 5 Jesus will come again “as warrior” (pg. 182) The author concludes by pointing out that the destruction of the Canaanites is an example of the coming Final Judgment.

Since I reject the first choice I do not know which of the other three choices I think is the best explanation. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. I guess part of the decision is do I see more discontinuity or continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament. This leads to another question. Since there is so much information in the Bible people develop theological systems to understand it all. So which theological system would I lean to more: Dispensational Theology, Covenantal Theology, Cristocentric Theology, Remenant Theology, Biblical Theology, etc. The main two that seem to be represented in the Counterpoint Series are Dispensational and Covenantal Theology.

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