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← Respected theologian defends genocide and infanticide

CFM's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by CFM

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.

A little further down in the original article Craig writes:

No one was wringing his hands over the soldiers’ having to kill the Canaanites; those who did so were national heroes.

Sorry, but in this case I have no option but to "play the Nazi card".

Not because I think that Craig is a Nazi or sympathizes with Nazi ideology, but because these statements raise a serious question Craig needs to confront if he really believes what he writes.

His deliberations, especially what he says about the "Isreali soldiers" remind me of a certain speech by Himmler (the infamous Poznan speech):

"Most of you will know what it means when 100 bodies lie together, when there are 500, or when there are 1000. And to have seen this through, and -- with the exception of human weaknesses -- to have remained decent, has made us hard and is a page of glory never mentioned and never to be mentioned. (...) We have carried out this most difficult task for the love of our people. And we have taken on no defect within us, in our soul, or in our character."


Where is the difference between:

"God knew that if these Canaanite children were allowed to live, they would spell the undoing of Israel." (Craig)


"We have the moral right, we had the duty to our people to do it, to kill this people who wanted to kill us." (Himmler)

Craig would argue, of course, that the difference is that in the Canaanites case, genocide was committed based on his gods commands, in order to "prevent assimilation to Canaanite identity but also (...) as a shattering, tangible illustration of Israel’s being set exclusively apart for God."

Let us for one moment assume Craig is right. The problem he has to confront is that people have claimed, throughout history, to act in the name of god(s). Craig writes:

"On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command."

Therefore he cannot base his judgement of whether those who made these claims truly acted in gods name on the characteristics of their deeds. Genocide, murder, rape, war. ..everything becomes justifiable, even good, if commanded by his god.

Coming back to the Nazis: They also claimed to act in gods name, irrespective of whether they really believed it in their hearts or just claimed it for propaganda reasons.

I will not bore people with the evidence for this - it has already been been pointed out again and again - and just point to one book and one article on this matter: Claus-Ekkehard Bärschs Die politische Religion des Nationalsozialismus. Die religiöse Dimension der NS-Ideologie in den Schriften von Dietrich Eckart, Joseph Goebbels, Alfred Rosenberg und Adolf Hitler, 2.edition, München 2002 and Die Schoah und „Das Reich, das kommt“. Die politische Religion Joseph Goebbels‘ und der religiöse Gehalt der Rassedoktrin Adolf Hitlers which can be read online in the (peer reviewed) theological (!) journal theologie.geschichte (3/2008;

I know Dr. Craigs German is very good, he should be able to read these texts...

Craig goes on to ask - trying to draw a distinction between the war he just legitimized and Islamic holy war:

"The question, then, is not whose moral theory is correct, but which is the true God?"

No, Dr. Craig, the questions you have to answer, if you really believe what you write:

How do people know that the commands they are acting upon really came from (your) god?

How can you discern whether people really followed gods commands or just claimed they did? Especially as you are so adamant that we cannot judge deeds commanded by your god by "normal" ethical standards?

To ask a very specific question: How do you know that Hitler and Goebbels and the men they commanded did not act in your gods name?

Bärsch makes a very good, evidence-based case that they at least thought they did...

Sun, 01 May 2011 09:57:27 UTC | #621468