Robert M. Price is a world-famous biblical scholar who (among other things) does the Bible Geek podcast where he takes questions from listeners about the Bible.
I sent in a letter (below) asking what he thought of William Lane Craig’s crazy explanation of the Caananite genocide. Here is my appearance on the Bible Geek:*
He finishes reading the question at 3:35, but skip ahead only if you are willing to miss Dr. Price doing Charlton Heston. He then covers the Canaanite evidence, and the high point begins at 5:53 when he turns to Craig’s words, calling them “horrifying ruminations.”
Note that Dr. Price accidentally attributes my quip “God’s morality is not our morality” to Craig, but it makes little difference since in the same article Craig says that God “is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are.”
My letter to the Bible Geek follows.
O Geekiness Kurios,
On an apologetics website someone asked William Lane Craig about the slaughter (or genocide) of the Canaanites in Deuteronomy 20:12-18:
If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the LORD your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the LORD your God gives you from your enemies. This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.
However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them–the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites–as the LORD your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God.
Dr. Craig began his response with the standard [Note: Price misreads, saying statement instead] “God’s morality is not our morality” line of argumentation, however I was astonished by what he said next:
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.
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.
I began to outline a response but I found the process too exasperating. Dr. Craig appears to be greatly respected among evangelicals, but more than ever I sense from him an aura of pure nuttiness (I almost said pure evil, which is pretty much how I feel about his reasoning and its implications).
What do you make of Craig’s response? Could you provide some background on these passages from Deuteronomy? I think you once discussed some archaeological findings on the Canaanites—would you mind mentioning them again?
[*] This is lifted from the May 26, 2010 Bible Geek podcast. You can find it online here but the player is clumsy and won’t let you jump to an unbuffered position. I recommend the podcast subscription route (free).
Extra bonus: Listen to Robert Price pillory Rick Warren in the September 29, 2006 Point of Inquiry podcast, starting at 10:33.