Last week, I challenged Mormons to defend the genocide their god committed in 3 Nephi 8 and 9. Coincidentally, someone also recently challenged Christian apologist extraordinaire Dr. William Lane Craig to defend the genocide his god condoned in Deuteronomy 20, where Yahweh orders the Israelites to kill every man, woman, and child in the neighboring territories. Craig’s response echoes many of the sentiments that were expressed by Mormons at this blog.
Craig first defends the genocide with an appeal to divine command theory. Nixon infamously said that, “When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.” Well, Craig would have us similarly believe that when god perpetrates genocide, that means that it is not immoral.
According to the version of divine command ethics which I’ve defended, our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a holy and loving God. Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill. He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are. For example, I have no right to take an innocent life. For me to do so would be murder. But God has no such prohibition. He can give and take life as He chooses.
Regarding the slaughter of Canaanite children, Craig thinks it’s really a blessing in disguise.
Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.
A couple of Mormons made an identical point in defense of 3 Nephi.
It is Craig’s concluding argument that I find most appalling:
So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life. So who is wronged? Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.
Whoa. So not only does Craig blame the victims, he even sympathizes with their killers.
In our discussion about 3 Nephi, I compared the faith of those who defended their god’s genocide(s) to the faith of Islamic jihadists. Because if you can believe in a god who sanctions genocide, you can surely believe in a god who sanctions suicide bombing. On this point, Craig and I actually agree.
The problem with Islam … is not that it has got the wrong moral theory; it’s that it has got the wrong God.
And in yet another uncanny parallel to our previous discussion, Bible scholar Dr. Robert Price responds to Craig by arguing that he needn’t defend the god of Deuteronomy, because Deuteronomy is not history and the genocides it records never happened.