Yes, Actually, We Should Question God’s Justice

As soon as I saw that an article was exploring the subject of whether God ordered the Israelites to commit genocide, I knew that one of the defenses was going to be this: “God is perfect, and it’s wrong of us to assume that we have the right to judge Him.”

I know this because this is one of the standard answers for this question. It’s an easy way to shut down an uncomfortable inquiry. And it’s wrong.

The article was written by Justin Taylor, who uses a variation of the argument I mentioned above to answer the question of how God could order genocide. Taylor published his post on The Gospel Coalition website (where he also regularly blogs), and I can understand why they think God is justified in ordering the slaughter of the Canaanites. As Calvinists, they believe that God has divided mankind into two groups: those who are destined to receive the power to have faith in Christ and be saved, and those who are destined to remain in their sin and go to hell. (In shorter terms, you’re either “elect” or “non-elect”.) In this theological system, God sends people to hell for not having faith in Christ when He both knows that they lack the ability to have such faith and has the power to give them that ability but withholds it anyway. It’s as if God ordered a bunch of paraplegics to run a foot race and then got mad when they were unable to stand.

(I know. It doesn’t make sense to me, either.)

But for this group, God is perfectly justified in refusing to give the non-elect the power to believe and be saved. They also appeal to Romans 9 in support of not only their particular understanding of predestination but also for their retort against anyone who questions it: “God is the potter, you are the clay, and He will fashion us as He will. Who are you to argue otherwise?”

It’s no surprise, then, that this retort would be repeated when they explore the issue of Canaanite genocide in the Bible.

Now, I’ve written on this subject before and argued that God’s orders were not only not ethnic cleansing but were also subject to change. God had no problem showing mercy to Canaanites who wanted mercy. Think of Rahab. Think of the Gibeonites. Both were spared by Israel without any sort of divine retribution for allowing Canaanites to live.

That said, it’s still a disturbing part of our Scriptures. It’s understandable why would we wonder how God could do this, especially in light of the God who has been revealed in the enemy-loving, cross-bearing rabbi from Nazareth, Jesus the Christ. But for folks like Taylor, such questions reflect a sinful mindset.

From the article:

It is commonplace in our culture to ask whether this or that was fair or just for God to do. But if you stop to think about it, the question itself is actually illegitimate. Merely asking it presupposes that we are the judge; we will put “God in the dock” and examine him; God must conform to our sense of fairness and rightness and justice—if God passes the test, well and good, but if he doesn’t, we’ll be upset and become the accuser. … To think otherwise is the ultimate act of arrogance, putting your own mind and opinions and conceptions as the ultimate standard of the universe.

I want to make three points in response to the argument that challenging God somehow puts us above Him. I’ll be responding specifically to the charge that to question God is somehow to make ourselves judge over Him. I haven’t decided whether I’ll respond to the rest of the post, but if you’re so inclined, you can read it in full by clicking the link above.

First, challenging God is biblical. Abraham argued with God in an attempt to save the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. (And Justin Taylor ought to be familiar with this, as he quotes from Genesis 18 in his blog post.) Moses prevented God from destroying the Israelites after they worshiped the golden calf. The psalmist wondered why God has forsaken him, and Jesus himself raised this question right before he finally succumbed to torture and crucifixion.

Second, our sense of justice may be flawed but it has not been destroyed. Taylor speaks of two different kinds of justice here: our sense of justice and God’s sense of what’s right. Now, let me be clear: our sin has absolutely affected our ability to love what’s right and to do it. There’s no question about that. What I have an issue with is the idea that our sin has so corrupted our sense of justice that we have no understanding of what “justice” means.

If we are no longer capable of understanding what’s just, then how is God able to expect us to abide by a system we have no hope of understanding, let alone fulfilling? If you’re going to argue that human beings deserve to be judged for failing to live up to God’s moral code, then you have to also believe that human beings are able to understand that moral code in the first place.

Again, that doesn’t mean we understand perfectly, but it does mean that we understand enough to the point that God can hold us accountable for what we know and how we act. So when people raise objections to these difficult parts of the Bible, it’s not because they’re operating from a sense of justice that is completely foreign to God’s. It’s because our sin has not so destroyed the divine image in us that we are unable to perceive justice and evil.

Third, people object to this presentation of God because it is so different than Jesus. And if you’re going to insist that Jesus has given us the best and fullest idea of what God is like–as Christian orthodoxy has always claimed–then this one is big. Jesus said that peacemakers are blessed. He commanded us to love our enemies. He condemned any attempt by his disciples to use violence against their opponents.

Now, it’s true that this same Jesus also cleared out the Temple–with a whip, of all things–but this appears to have been less about kicking someone’s ass than it was about establishing his messianic credentials and exposing the corrupt religious system in Jerusalem for what it really was.

There’s the passage in Revelation in which Jesus returns, covered in blood, and destroys the hostile armies with the sword coming out of his mouth. But we also know that the two-edged sword in Revelation has also been called the word of God in other places. So is Revelation using some graphic imagery to describe the triumph of God’s message over the nations, or is the author actually suggesting that Jesus is going to put a sword in between his teeth and violently swing his head back and forth until he’s killed everyone who hates him? It’s also worth pointing out that the blood on Jesus’ robes is present before this battle takes place, which is probably the author’s way of reminding us that the victory Jesus won was won by the shedding of His own blood.

Those are two of the more common passages people refer to when trying to prove that Jesus, as God, wouldn’t have had a problem with slaughtering every single Canaanite. I hope it’s become evident at this point that those two passages–which don’t even really back up the argument that people think they do–don’t invalidate everything else Jesus told us about our relationship to our opponents.

I should also saying something else. I’m not making this argument because I just don’t want to accept what the Bible says about God but because the Bible and church tradition are firm in their insistence that Jesus of Nazareth was God in the flesh, who manifested His love for sinners (yes, I believe in the existence of sin, too) by dying on a cross for our sins and defeated death by rising from the dead. Those same Scriptures also give us a picture of what Jesus was like, and when that picture appears to contradict the portrait of God that we see somewhere else, then we have every right–indeed, the responsibility–to ask why that is.

Are we putting ourselves in the position of judge when we question God? Hardly. If you’ve going to take Jesus and his Scriptures seriously, then you’re going to have lots of questions as you learn how to do so. Questions about faith, questions about God and why He doesn’t always appear to act like Jesus did.

You’re going to have questions and, following in the tradition of Abraham, Moses, the psalmist, and Jesus himself, you need to ask them. Besides, how will you ever learn if you don’t?

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14 thoughts on “Yes, Actually, We Should Question God’s Justice

  1. jacobcerone February 17, 2013 / 5:18 pm

    I’m in almost complete agreement with you Justin. Yet, I find myself in agreement with that other Justin as well.

    I would have liked to see a bit more nuance here on both parts. That is to say, we must be careful about the manner in which we inquiry of God’s ways. For Taylor to say that we must not question God disregards whole swaths of Scripture. You pointed to many of those texts. I might even add Paul’s complaint to God about the thorn in his side.

    On the other hand, to say that the Christian is right to question God’s dealings with man in whatever manner he sees fit overlooks other texts. We must not disregard Paul’s use of the potter and the clay imagery, which was a common image for the prophets when responding to Israel’s outcries against God when he punishes them. We must also not overlook God’s ultimate response to Job. God asks Job if he was there when creation was birthed. In essence, God says, “You are not God. You cannot search out my ways.”

    From this we learn a number of things. First, we must question God when evil, pain, and tragedy occur. The holy men of Israel do this, because they truly recognize that God is powerful and has say in the affairs of men. How can he allow these things to happen in his domain? Second, we must not ask out of spite, anger, or judgment. We must ask in faith seeking understanding. Third, we must recognize that in the end, we may not get the answer we want to hear. We most often receive the answer that Job received: who is man to understand the ways of God? Yes, this is a conversation ender. But it ends a conversation that has taken place. It does not end a conversation before it has begun.

    Sorry for the lengthy response.

  2. Justin Boulmay February 17, 2013 / 6:10 pm

    Dude, no worries about the long response! I think you make some good points that I didn’t make, but I would point out that in his article, Justin Taylor says that merely asking the question is a sign of an arrogant attitude, which I think both you and I would disagree with. Sure, there are times when our questions are expressions of an evil attitude, but there are also a number of instances in which we’re asking because we’re actually using the sense of justice and righteousness with which we were endowed when He created us (and which we continue to see in Jesus).

    In the case of Job (and after reading your response, I can’t believe I didn’t include him as an example in my original post), I think it’s interesting that at the end of the story, it’s Job’s friends, who had spent so much time trying to defend God’s honor. Twice in chapter 42, God rebukes them because they, unlike Job, had not spoken rightly about Him, and much of their response had involved defending the righteousness of God in punishing sinners.

  3. andrew February 17, 2013 / 11:36 pm

    i’m starting to find this curious trend of folks sitting in judgement of the “god of the OT” by saying “hey jesus is the fullest revelation of God and he was a nice guy”
    couple things, the God of the OT wasn’t mean all the time

    “Love your enemy” didn’t originate on the sermon on the mount. it actually originated in levicticus:”Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD”

    even went into detail about how to serve those who you were beefin with:
    ” 5If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it”

    and jesus wasn’t all warm and fuzzy in the New T either:

    He characterizes himself as the returning King in a parable which ends with the king saying the following:
    “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over
    them–bring them here and kill them in front of me.” Luke 19:27

    He characterizes the father the following way:
    “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city”
    which is a clear reference to the judgement that God brought about in 70AD and that is literally what happens (read josephus’ account)

    As for jesus being bloody in revelation that’s actually an allusion to Isaiah 63
    ” Who is this who comes from Edom,
    in crimsoned garments from Bozrah..
    Why is your apparel red,
    and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?
    3 “I have trodden the winepress alone,
    and from the peoples no one was with me;
    I trod them in my anger
    and trampled them in my wrath;
    their lifeblood spattered on my garments,
    and stained all my apparel.
    4 For the day of vengeance was in my heart”

    The red garment/ winepress language are obvious in both passages. John’s point in revelation was that there is a great day of vengence coming and that Jesus is the great executor of the wrath of God. I don’t know exactly how that’s going to look revelation is full of metaphor, but metaphors INDICATE something and it’s obvious that when jesus comes back he’s not going to be patting folk on the head whispering sweet nothings into their ears.

    As far as the argument that God is perfect and he shouldn’t be questioned i think it depends on how you define question.

    A: there’s questioning the way a child does a father (Abraham, David in the psalms, Christ on the cross)
    B: there’s questioning the way a prosecutor does a defendant (christopher hitchens etc)

    I can’t speak for justin but i’m assuming he’s referring to the “B” type of questioning. what’s interesting is that Job is always credited as a heroic doubter for questioning God, but at the end of the narrative he says in chapter 42:

    “I have uttered what I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
    4 ‘Hear, and I will speak;
    I will question you…..
    6 therefore I despise myself,
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

    Job doesn’t say “hey I questioned God and I was totally right to do so. he recognized that there was a prosecutorial (is that word) aspect to his questioning and for that he was wrong. this is what’s missing in a lot of these “it’s cool to question god’s justice” discussions.

    Grace is a gift, it cannot be demanded. God would be totally and completely just to eradicate the entirety of humanity tommorrow. the wages of sin is death (or do we not really believe that?) every day we work and earn a death check, and every day God decides not to write it to us. so if God decides to cash in on the canaanites, the folks in the flood, or if he decides to do so on a mass scale in this country in the next 24 hrs he has done us no wrong.

  4. Jenny E February 18, 2013 / 10:34 am

    Hey, thanks for posting your response on RHE! I was JUST having a conversation about this exact Gospel Coalition article and I was having a hard time articulating why it bothered me so much without just getting all foamy at the mouth about Calvinism.

  5. Justin Boulmay February 18, 2013 / 10:35 am

    Andrew,

    Thanks for responding. I’ll copy and paste your comments in quotes and respond after them.

    Andrew: “i’m starting to find this curious trend of folks sitting in judgement of the “god of the OT” by saying “hey jesus is the fullest revelation of God and he was a nice guy”
    couple things, the God of the OT wasn’t mean all the time”

    – We differ on the nature of this discussion. The question isn’t, “Why is God mean when Jesus is so nice?” That actually downplays the concerns people have. It’s whether His command to destroy the Canaanites was just, as there is no other circumstance in which we would find genocide to be acceptable. That said, my post wasn’t even meant to settle that question; it was meant to defend the right of people to ask that question.

    Andrew: “The red garment/ winepress language are obvious in both passages. John’s point in revelation was that there is a great day of vengence coming and that Jesus is the great executor of the wrath of God. I don’t know exactly how that’s going to look revelation is full of metaphor, but metaphors INDICATE something and it’s obvious that when jesus comes back he’s not going to be patting folk on the head whispering sweet nothings into their ears.”

    – Look at Revelation again. Jesus already has a blood-stained robe before the battle commences. It’s most likely a reference to the shedding of his own blood, which the Scriptures, including Revelation, insist is how He won the real battle against the forces of evil. (Revelation 12, for instance, tells us that the saints defeat Satan by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.) Also, no one here has said that Jesus would just come back and whisper nice things in people’s ears.

    Andrew: “A: there’s questioning the way a child does a father (Abraham, David in the psalms, Christ on the cross)
    B: there’s questioning the way a prosecutor does a defendant (christopher hitchens etc)

    I can’t speak for justin but i’m assuming he’s referring to the “B” type of questioning.”

    – You seem to be doing two things here. On the one hand, you admit that you can’t speak for me, but in the very next breath, you assume you know what I’m thinking. I’ll ask that you please not do this, especially since you came up with A and B and didn’t draw them from my post. (I’m not even sure I accept that your two points are the only types of questioning that people have.) If you have a question, just ask.

    Andrew: “Job doesn’t say “hey I questioned God and I was totally right to do so. he recognized that there was a prosecutorial (is that word) aspect to his questioning and for that he was wrong. this is what’s missing in a lot of these “it’s cool to question god’s justice” discussions.”

    I would encourage you to read the discussion between Jacob and me in the comments above. Chapter 42 includes Job acknowledging that he doesn’t understand, but it also includes God saying that Job spoke rightly of him, unlike Job’s friends, who, as I pointed out above, had spent considerable time defending God’s justice in punishing sinners.

    Andrew: “Grace is a gift, it cannot be demanded. God would be totally and completely just to eradicate the entirety of humanity tommorrow. the wages of sin is death (or do we not really believe that?) every day we work and earn a death check, and every day God decides not to write it to us. so if God decides to cash in on the canaanites, the folks in the flood, or if he decides to do so on a mass scale in this country in the next 24 hrs he has done us no wrong.”

    – No one is saying that we deserve grace or that God is unjust if He doesn’t give it to us. (Yes, I really do believe the wages of sin is death.) But the question that many people ask, and the inquiry that I’ve said they have the right to maintain, is how God could be just by ordering the Israelites to do something that seems to run contrary to Jesus’ very clear commands to love our enemies, as well as his repeated injunctions to the disciples to not take action against their opponents.

  6. Andrew February 18, 2013 / 3:01 pm

    thanks for the thorough response. a couple things

    when I said “justin” I didn’t mean you boss! I meant the justin you were commenting on.

    you didn’t address the passages where jesus characterized himself and god the father as kings who were explicit about executing judgement on the wicked. (ie bring them here and kill (greek word is closer to slaughter) them in front of me”) this was an important point not in regard to winning an argument but to communicate the fact that jesus didn’t only preach a message of non-violence. he preached a message about not taking personal vengence which was an already established teaching of the torah. that however doesn’t preclude he idea that He/The father wouldn’t execute judgement on the last day (which is why the disciples weren’t confused in the least at the violent imagery he attributed to himself and the father in those parables)

    In regard to revelation: I’ve been in it for the last five years friend. which of course doesn’t mean i’m an expert but it does mean that I (like yourself) have done some homework on it. the allusions to the OT are legion in that book. surely you can see the clear parralell between the warrior in isaiah whose garments are red because he was treading the winepress of the wrath of God, and the picture of the warrior christ whose robes are red for the same reason. by the way, in revelation there doesn’t seem to be the dichotomy of the crucified christ executing judgement. consider:

    “calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

    you see here jesus is characterized not as a warrior but as a “lamb” which harkens back to his humble and sacrificial death, and yet he evokes terror in the hearts of the wicked such that they don’t want to even see his face because of the great day of Wrath. so I don’t even necessarily disagree that john may be applying a double-meaning to the red robe in chapter 19. My area of disagreement would be that it is ONLY applicable to his sacrificial death and not the execution of judgement. as demonstrated in the passage above, john has both in mind.

    In regard to job, I wasn’t disagreeing about what you said earlier, my point was that while job did get some things right, there were areas where he was completely wrong, which illustrates my point. it’s not either or in these situations it’s both and (by the way job attributed the disasters that fell upon him and his family to a sovereign God. he didn’t say “the lord gives and satan takes away which seems to be something that folks who have issues with ‘calvinism’ always bring up)

    “His command to destroy the Canaanites was just, as there is no other circumstance in which we would find genocide to be acceptable”
    of course characterizing God’s just judgement as “genocide” would obviously give folks problems. genocide is what evil dictators do to people because they’re evil. god’s judgement is grounded in his Holy character and is an expression of his reaction to sin. I wouldn’t characterize sodom and ghommorah as genocide, nor would I characterize the flood that way. that is not the same as genocide any more than the father sending the son to the cross was “Child abuse” (It pleased the lord to crush him, He (the lord) has put him to grief Isa 53:10)

    • Justin Boulmay February 18, 2013 / 4:13 pm

      Hey Andrew! I’ve only had time to briefly read your response, so I hope you don’t mind if it takes a bit longer for me to respond to it. I did want to say sorry for the confusion; I hadn’t realized you were talking about the other Justin!

      I’ll try and get back to this discussion soon. For now, work calls!

    • Justin Boulmay February 18, 2013 / 11:15 pm

      Okay, I’m back.

      Andrew: “you didn’t address the passages where jesus characterized himself and god the father as kings who were explicit about executing judgement on the wicked. (ie bring them here and kill (greek word is closer to slaughter) them in front of me”) this was an important point not in regard to winning an argument but to communicate the fact that jesus didn’t only preach a message of non-violence. he preached a message about not taking personal vengence which was an already established teaching of the torah. that however doesn’t preclude he idea that He/The father wouldn’t execute judgement on the last day (which is why the disciples weren’t confused in the least at the violent imagery he attributed to himself and the father in those parables)”

      – You’re right, I left those out earlier. That was mostly because I already knew the other points I wanted to make, and by the time I had finished typing those, I had forgotten to address the other passages you cited. My apologies. But to finally answer you, I agree that Jesus as the Son of God will sit as judge of humanity. I think Scripture is pretty clear on that. I do want to point out, again, that the primary focus of my post (and responses) has been to defend people who have hard questions about this issue. And while I may not agree with some of the conclusions that some of them reach, I do agree that the image of Jesus we have in the gospels doesn’t line up easily with the God presented in Joshua. If Jesus is the fullest revelation of God that we have ever had, as Christianity has always insisted, then this particular objection shouldn’t be lightly dismissed.

      (To clarify: I don’t buy into any kind of Marcionite distinction between the God of the OT and God of Jesus.)

      Andrew: “In regard to revelation: I’ve been in it for the last five years friend. which of course doesn’t mean i’m an expert but it does mean that I (like yourself) have done some homework on it. the allusions to the OT are legion in that book. surely you can see the clear parralell between the warrior in isaiah whose garments are red because he was treading the winepress of the wrath of God, and the picture of the warrior christ whose robes are red for the same reason. by the way, in revelation there doesn’t seem to be the dichotomy of the crucified christ executing judgement. … you see here jesus is characterized not as a warrior but as a “lamb” which harkens back to his humble and sacrificial death, and yet he evokes terror in the hearts of the wicked such that they don’t want to even see his face because of the great day of Wrath. so I don’t even necessarily disagree that john may be applying a double-meaning to the red robe in chapter 19. My area of disagreement would be that it is ONLY applicable to his sacrificial death and not the execution of judgement. as demonstrated in the passage above, john has both in mind.”

      – I’m not questioning your studies and while there are some parallels, there are also some differences, at least with regard to Chapter 19. (I think Chapter 14 would be more in line with what you’re arguing here.) Again, Jesus is already wearing a blood-stained robe prior to any battle, so I don’t see how that can be the blood of his enemies, who hadn’t even been killed in battle yet. I think it’s also important to remember that this isn’t a literal sword coming out of his mouth, so that too makes me wonder how much of Revelation’s description of this battle is meant to be taken literally.

      Andrew: “In regard to job, I wasn’t disagreeing about what you said earlier, my point was that while job did get some things right, there were areas where he was completely wrong, which illustrates my point. it’s not either or in these situations it’s both and (by the way job attributed the disasters that fell upon him and his family to a sovereign God. he didn’t say “the lord gives and satan takes away which seems to be something that folks who have issues with ‘calvinism’ always bring up)”

      – I don’t think Job was attributing these things to a “sovereign” God in the way that Calvinists use the term, but that’s for another post. Also, I have a lot of issues with Calvinism but I didn’t bring up Satan, so I have to disagree with your last sentence. 🙂

      Andrew: “His command to destroy the Canaanites was just, as there is no other circumstance in which we would find genocide to be acceptable”
      of course characterizing God’s just judgement as “genocide” would obviously give folks problems. genocide is what evil dictators do to people because they’re evil. god’s judgement is grounded in his Holy character and is an expression of his reaction to sin. I wouldn’t characterize sodom and ghommorah as genocide, nor would I characterize the flood that way. that is not the same as genocide any more than the father sending the son to the cross was “Child abuse” (It pleased the lord to crush him, He (the lord) has put him to grief Isa 53:10)”

      – Is calling it “genocide” the only thing that makes people queasy here? Or is it the actions themselves that are giving them trouble?

      I’m up for keeping this discussion going, but I should warn you ahead of time that work is getting busy and I’ve got a test this week. So if I’m not quick to respond, that’s the reason why. 🙂

  7. Andrew February 19, 2013 / 12:20 am

    LOL. i’m with you boss. i’ve got close coming up this week so i’m in and out. this sentence is curious to me
    “I do agree that the image of Jesus we have in the gospels doesn’t line up easily with the God presented in Joshua” do you take the position that the “captain of the lord’s host” that joshua met up with was a cristophony? (sp?) if so, that’s got tons of implications for that statement right?
    the only way a person could say that is if they were ignoring the hard sayings of jesus. jesus spoke about the wrath of god more than he spoke about turn the other cheek. he used graphic language to describe what it was like to fall into the hands of God at the judgement. I don’t see any issue between the joshua of the new testament and the joshua of the old.the only reason folks would have those questions is if they haven’t read through everything that christ has said on these matters. if they had a half-christ that was all love and no wrath then of course they’d find issue with the destruction found in joshua. keep in mind jesus mentions the story of noah for example and he made parralell to the looming destruction that was going to fall upon israel for their rejection of the truth. there again jesus is taking an old testament judgement and bringing it into the new. or his reaction to those who perished at pilot’s hand “unless you repent you will likewise perish” if you take all of these phrases together, and take them I then I don’t even see a “tension” between the captain of the host in joshua and the preacher in the sermon on the mount.

    there are some parralells? come on dude, you’ve got to admit there is an extremely tight parralell between what’s going on in rev 19 and isa 63. as a matter of fact, of all the OT allusions found in revelation it would be difficult to name off-hand one that was closer. the emphasis john makes in revelation isn’t really about the time in which the battle takes place, john is putting all these descriptors together to make his OT-conversant audience remember the isaiah passage. so the placing of when the robe was dipped in red misses the point which I think is pretty clear. and even if I were to concede the point, are we to assume that he treads the winepress of the wrath of God in a clean robe? serious question?

    i’ll give you that you didn’t mention calvinism or satan hahahahah

    I understand that it’s the actions themselves that trouble folks, and I do think it’s a pastoral duty to encourage the right kind of questioning. however Isn’t the solution to show folks that they’re operating from a presumed innocence of the canaanites? they’re not taking seriously enough the fact that the wages of sin is death because if they did they’d be troubled that anyone breathing is walking the earth wouldn’t they?

    • Justin Boulmay February 19, 2013 / 8:16 am

      Andrew: “the only way a person could say that is if they were ignoring the hard sayings of jesus.”

      – Out of curiosity, which of Jesus’ sayings would you classify as “easy”? 🙂 But I don’t think the only way a person could reach this conclusion is to ignore what Jesus taught. I don’t think that’s a fair charge.

      Andrew: “jesus spoke about the wrath of god more than he spoke about turn the other cheek. he used graphic language to describe what it was like to fall into the hands of God at the judgement. I don’t see any issue between the joshua of the new testament and the joshua of the old.the only reason folks would have those questions is if they haven’t read through everything that christ has said on these matters. if they had a half-christ that was all love and no wrath then of course they’d find issue with the destruction found in joshua. keep in mind jesus mentions the story of noah for example and he made parralell to the looming destruction that was going to fall upon israel for their rejection of the truth. there again jesus is taking an old testament judgement and bringing it into the new. or his reaction to those who perished at pilot’s hand “unless you repent you will likewise perish” if you take all of these phrases together, and take them I then I don’t even see a “tension” between the captain of the host in joshua and the preacher in the sermon on the mount.”

      – I agree that what’s missed in these conversations from the side I’m defending is that awareness that Jesus stood in the prophetic tradition of telling his audience that they would face destruction for breaching their covenant with God. We’re not that far apart on that point.

      “there are some parralells? come on dude, you’ve got to admit there is an extremely tight parralell between what’s going on in rev 19 and isa 63. as a matter of fact, of all the OT allusions found in revelation it would be difficult to name off-hand one that was closer. the emphasis john makes in revelation isn’t really about the time in which the battle takes place, john is putting all these descriptors together to make his OT-conversant audience remember the isaiah passage. so the placing of when the robe was dipped in red misses the point which I think is pretty clear. and even if I were to concede the point, are we to assume that he treads the winepress of the wrath of God in a clean robe? serious question?”

      – Here, though, we are still a little farther apart haha. I did agree that there are some parallels. I’m also pointing out that there are important differences, too. (And to answer your last question, I think the robe wouldn’t be clean after he treads the winepress, not before.)

      Andrew: “I understand that it’s the actions themselves that trouble folks, and I do think it’s a pastoral duty to encourage the right kind of questioning. however Isn’t the solution to show folks that they’re operating from a presumed innocence of the canaanites? they’re not taking seriously enough the fact that the wages of sin is death because if they did they’d be troubled that anyone breathing is walking the earth wouldn’t they?”

      – But who gets to define the right kind of questioning? I don’t think the Bible lays out a systematic way to ask questions.

      As far as the innocence of the Canaanites is concerned, I’m not saying they were innocent. Your experience may be different than mine in this regard, but I’ve never heard anyone argue that the Canaanites were guiltless. If anything, I hear this charge coming from the other side, but as there’s almost never a specific quotation added or a reference cited, it’s hard to tell if they’re responding to actual people or just using a caricature to make a point.

      I feel like we’re going to be going in circles pretty soon, so I’ll probably let this comment be my last word on those. If you want to talk more about what counts as the right kind of questioning, though, I’d be down for that.

  8. Andrew February 19, 2013 / 10:20 am

    really enjoyed the discussion. ya I think we’ve exhausted the points!! i agree with you as far as questioning, you can’t really define to a person what the right kind of questioning is b/c as soon as you place limitations around it, you’ve just defeated the purpose of questioning in the first place. all I was pointing out was that our questions usually expose our unconscious presuppositions. thanks for taking the time to dialogue about it. definately an edifying discussion for sure. for now……… WORK AWAITS

    • Justin Boulmay February 19, 2013 / 10:22 am

      Ah I see what you’re saying. And I enjoyed this, too. Good luck with work!

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