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ABR has conducted extensive research on the historicity of the Conquest narratives of the Old Testament. Regularly, we receive inquiries about the moral and theological dimensions of these events. Committed Christians are often perplexed about how to answer objections posed by skeptics. Those self-same skeptics often contact ABR, railing against God because of these events recorded in Scripture. This article seeks, in part, to deal with some of these issues by interacting with an article published in the book: 'The Impossibility of God'.

Genocide in Canaan?
A Response to Raymond D. Bradley’s
A Moral Argument for Atheism

Introduction

In his essay, A Moral Argument for Atheism, 1 Raymond Bradley argues that "...if there are objective moral truths, then God does not exist. I present a moral argument for atheism." 2 His argument consists of five main points3 where God has allegedly violated moral principles that theists and atheists presumably agree upon. The purpose of this article will be to critique and refute Bradley’s arguments as it pertains to God's command for the Israelites to kill men, women and children in the Conquest of Canaan, as recorded in the Old Testament Book of Joshua.

Bradley's Assertions

1. Supposed Points of Agreement

The first step in Bradley's moral argument for atheism is to attempt to establish four 'points of agreement' with theists,4 two terminological and two substantive.

Point of Agreement #1: Agreement with theists on the definition of 'God'. Bradley must be given partial credit for getting certain aspects of the Biblical view of God5 conceptually correct initially in his essay and rejecting views of God asserted by liberals such as Paul Tillich and deists such as Thomas Paine.6 Bradley affirms that:

First, he is holy (that is, morally perfect). Second, he reveals himself to us in Holy Scriptures.7 It is by virtue of his holiness that he is deemed worthy of worship and obedience. And it is by virtue of his having revealed himself to us in Scriptures that we know about his nature and what he would have us do or forbear from doing. The God of theism...is a robust supernatural being."8

Point of Agreement #2: Agreement with theists on the meaning of 'objective morality'. Bradley writes:

I think that theists would agree with me as to what we mean when we talk of objective morality. We mean a set of moral truths that would remain true no matter what any individual or social group thought or desired. The notion of objective morality is to be contrasted with all forms of moral subjectivism.9

Point of Agreement #3: Agreement with theists that some moral principles are 'objectively true'. Bradley wants the theists to agree that:

...since nothing counts as a belief unless it is either true or false, we conclude that our moral beliefs---like beliefs about the shape of the earth and the age of the universe10 --- are either true or false.11

Point of Agreement #4: Agreement with theists on some 'concrete examples' of moral principles that are 'objectively true'.

The requirement of objectivity is a strict one: it entails that they should be universal in the sense of being exceptionless---of holding, that is, for all persons, places and times.12

2. Supposedly Agreed Upon Moral Principle, P1.

After laying these foundational points of 'agreement', Bradley establishes the following principle, with which he assumes theists would agree. P1. It is morally wrong to deliberately and mercilessly slaughter men, women and children who are innocent of any serious wrongdoing. Bradley cites Nazi Germany’s atrocities in World War II13 as an example, which Christians and atheists should both, of course, find morally abhorrent and worthy of disdain. Bradley proceeds to indict God by claiming he ordered Joshua to commit the same kinds of atrocities in Canaan (Joshua chapter 10, in particular). 14

Critique

Point of Agreement #1: Agreement with theists on the definition of 'God'. Should Christians agree with Bradley on this first point? The answer is both 'yes' and 'no'. Yes, because Christians do indeed hold that God is holy and that He does, in fact, reveal Himself and many other matters regarding His will, human nature, etc., in the Scriptures. Nevertheless, this agreement should be qualified with a number of emendations and clarifications.

1. Inconsistent Application of the Doctrine of God

The same Scriptures that Bradley cites to indict God regarding the Conquest of Canaan are the same Scriptures that are replete with references15 to the moral perfection of God’s character. God is incapable of malice or lawlessness, as expressed in Deuteronomy 32:4: "He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he." (NIV).

Not only is God morally perfect, he is also omniscient. “God’s omniscience may be defined as his knowledge of all actual and possible states of affairs, and/or of the truth value of all propositions.”16 An example is found in Psalm 147:5: “Great is our Lord and mighty in power, his understanding has no limit”. This text is further supported by John 21:17, Hebrews 4:12-13, and I John 3:20.

God’s knowledge is also eternal (Isaiah 46:10). God possesses exhaustive knowledge of all things, including the intents and secrets of the human heart. He knows the secrets sins of all humanity (Prov. 24:12, Hos. 5:3, Ps. 10:10-14). He knows the intentions and thoughts of all (Ps. 94:11, Romans 8:27, Acts 1:24). God also knows the future, exhaustively and fully (Deut. 18:21-22).

As stated previously, Bradley appears to initially accept certain characteristics of the God of Scripture. He proceeds to disregard those characteristics by claiming that God has acted in a manner that is morally evil, which is impossible according to the same Biblical testimony to which Bradley refers. By using the term slaughter, Bradley really means to murder, and in this case, to commit mass-murder. One definition of murder is: “the unlawful and malicious or premeditated killing of one human being by another.” 17 The attribution of murder to God, or genocide 18 in this particular case, is in direct conflict with the testimony of Scripture pertaining to God's moral character.

A full orbed, orthodox doctrine of God is beyond the scope of this article. 19 To simplify the discussion, we must insist that God is completely independent; He is utterly and completely a se. 20 The Christian theist ought not agree with Bradley's limited articulation of God's characteristics without insisting that all His characteristics as revealed in the Bible are open for inclusion in the Christian theistic response to Bradley's argument. Bradley must not be allowed to treat the doctrine of God in a piecemeal fashion, which effectively takes the Biblical references and imports them into the framework of his atheistic worldview. In other words, Bradley tries to "extend the olive branch" by agreeing with the theist on a briefly stated doctrine of God, but it is actually a subtle way of disarming the Christian of his weapons. 21 We cannot agree to Mr. Bradley's definition of God without much further correction and qualification.

2. Presupposing the Bible is a Human Work

The commands of God to Joshua and the Israelites to enter Canaan and take the lives of men, women and children, must be interpreted within the larger framework of the Exodus-Conquest period, the larger context of the Old Testament itself, and then, of the entire Bible. Particularly illuminating is the rest of the Biblical material that deals with the attributes and character of God. The Westminster Confession of Faith 1.9, is informative in this regard:

The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

Accepting a non-Christian approach to the Biblical material that presupposes human authorship invariably leads to an atomistic attack on selected passages, often ripped out of the immediate, and/or larger Biblical context. Once this presupposition is established, then the Bible can be attacked piecemeal as a human work, instead of a divinely inspired book with one ultimate author, God Himself. 22

Given this set of unstated criteria to examine the Bible, Mr. Bradley can then focus on certain Biblical passages he finds objectionable, and ignore the rest of the Biblical teaching that provides a further understanding of the text under examination. Mr. Bradley, at the very outset, comes to the Biblical material with an imbedded bias and anti-supernatural stance before his article even begins. The Christian theist ought not accept this presupposition, for it mitigates directly against a foundational truth of Christianity, with no substantiation given for such an erroneous starting point.

3. Fallacious Equivocation: The Knowledge of God vs. the knowledge of man

God commanded Joshua and the Israelites to wage war against the Canaanites with the exhaustive and comprehensive knowledge of every fact connected to Canaanite society. Moreover, He had perfect knowledge and exhaustive data about every person in that society, 23 another important fact ignored by Bradley in his analysis.

In his essay, The Inductive Argument from Evil and the Human Cognitive Condition, William Alston succinctly points out that our knowledge of our fellow human beings is severely limited:

...we are often in a poor position to assess the degree and kind of a certain person's sinfulness, or to compare people in this regard...[It] is not to say we could not make a sound judgment of a person's inner state if we had a complete record of what is publicly observable concerning the person. Perhaps in some instances we could, and perhaps in others we could not. But in any event, we rarely or ever have such a record. 24

In stark contrast, the God of Scripture would have such a record; a faultless, exhaustive and infallible record. God was fully acquainted with the Canaanite sins, intents, futures and very thoughts. God possessed a perfect and exhaustive understanding of every interconnecting reality and possibility regarding the Canaanite people, including their long history dating back to the time of Abraham. 25 In fact, God knew them all far better than they could ever have known themselves.

The knowledge situation for human beings, including Mr. Bradley, is substantially minute compared to the epistemic state of affairs in the mind of God. Alston has elucidated the severe knowledge limitations regarding humanity. God, as defined by Scripture, is subject to no such limitations. He articulates six such categories of human limitation, including:

1. Complexity greater than we can handle. 2. Difficulty of determining what is metaphysically possible or necessary. 3. Ignorance of the full range of possibilities. 4. Ignorance of the full range of values. 5. Limits to our capacity to make well-considered value judgments.

6. Lack of Data. This includes, inter alia, the secrets of the human heart, the detailed constitution and structure of the universe, and the remote past and future, including the afterlife... 26

It would be exceedingly strange if an omniscient being did not immeasurably exceed our grasp of such matters. 27

In summary, POA #1 is burdened with unproven and biased assumptions that militate against the Christian position from the beginning. In a strict and limited sense, the Christian can agree with Mr. Bradley, but that agreement cannot be maintained unless Bradley's assumptions are evaluated, examined and are opened to critique and alteration.

Point of Agreement #2: Agreement with theists on the meaning of 'objective morality' and Point of Agreement #3: Agreement with theists that some moral principles are 'objectively true'. 28

No Justification Provided for Morality in an Atheistic World

Thus far, it has been shown that Mr. Bradley makes several unstated assumptions in his attempt to craft points of agreement between atheists and Christian theists. For the sake of argument, if we grant Mr. Bradley some of his assumptions on a temporary basis, we find his position on morality to be untenable when it rests on those atheistic assumptions.

Fundamentally flawed is Mr. Bradley's assumption that moral values can logically be asserted within an atheistic framework. Mr. Bradley's two 'points of agreement' are based on an assumption with which the Christian should not concur. We agree with Mr. Bradley in his formal statement that objective morality actually exists and that his definition is formally correct. The epistemological basis and justification for objective morality, however, is completely different for the Christian theist versus the atheist. On what epistemological foundation does Mr. Bradley make such a claim? How can there be objective morality in a naturalistic, mechanistic, non-theistic universe? 29

To reiterate, Mr. Bradley has established P1 (It is morally wrong to deliberately and mercilessly slaughter men, women and children who are innocent of any serious wrongdoing) to be a principle we should accept within an autonomous human framework. He compounds his mistake by not providing a philosophically justified argument for morality in an atheistic universe. 30

In arguing for transcendent moral values, Bradley does not explain how these transcendent moral values could have arisen in a randomly materialistic and autonomous universe. To remain consistent in his worldview, Bradley must consistently maintain that objective moral standards are derived from impersonal clouds of hydrogen gas that exploded from the so-called cosmic-egg 15 billion years ago. 31 John Frame has summarized this point:

Certainly if the laws of the universe reduce to chance, nothing of ethical significance could emerge from it. What of ethical significance can we learn from the random collisions of subatomic particles? What loyalty do we owe to pure chance? ...And the main question here is, How can an impersonal structure create obligation? ...Or: on what basis does an impersonal structure demand loyalty or obedience? 32

We summarily turn the argument back upon Mr. Bradley and point out that his moral assertions are logically incoherent within his own philosophical framework. If the universe were truly one without the Creator, 33 there would be no good or evil, only random chance and non-rational material. G.K. Chesterton’s sarcastic and insightful anecdote illustrates the point:

A cosmos one day being rebuked by a pessimist replied, 'How can you who revile me consent to speak by my machinery? Permit me to reduce you to nothingness and then we will discuss the matter.' Moral. You should not look a gift universe in the mouth. 34

Mr. Bradley fallaciously assumes that human beings can autonomously make those moral determinations, and he wants the unsuspecting Christian theist to go along with his unstated assumption. John Frame again is helpful:

Unbelievers must surely not be allowed to take their own autonomy for granted in defining moral concepts. They must not be allowed to assume that they are the ultimate judges of what is right and wrong. Indeed, they should be warned that that sort of assumption rules out the biblical God from the outset and thus shows its character as a faith-presupposition. 35

Bradley is asking the Christian theist to agree upon moral principle P1, but he is asking the theist to make that determination in a framework of agreement governed by human autonomy. Bradley essentially asks the theist: "Let's join together to autonomously and independently agree upon certain moral absolutes without reference to the God of the Bible." This far-reaching and unwarranted presupposition cannot be accepted.

Humans measure their own personal morality and the moral behavior of others against a certain transcendent ideal. Bradley has some moral ideal in mind when he lays out his argument. That moral ideal stands "outside" or "above" any act in and of itself. It is supposed to be "objective". C.S. Lewis observes:

If no set of moral ideas were truer or better than any other, there would be no sense in preferring civilized morality to savage morality, or Christian morality to Nazi morality. In fact, of course, we all do believe that some moralities are better than others. The moment you say that one set of moral ideals can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other. But the standard that measures two things is something different from either. You are, in fact, comparing them both with some Real Morality, admitting that there is such a thing as a real Right, independent of what people think, and that some people’s ideas get nearer to that real Right than others. 36

Human beings are constantly appealing to this objective standard, whether in everyday life or in philosophical discussions such as this. Atheists, just as Christian theists, rightly become angry and indignant about all the suffering and evil in the world. 37 The world is indeed a disastrous mess. 38 Everyone becomes angry because we all know there is an objective morality (Lewis calls it a "Real Morality") and it is constantly being violated. But the atheists are being inconsistent with their underlying philosophy. If they efficaciously and consistently applied their atheism, they would understand that they should not get angry at all. The account of God's command to destroy the Canaanites, a fiction in the naturalistic world, should not be morally bothersome to the atheist at all.

The atheist would not theoretically possess the ability to get angry because objective morality would not exist and the evil and disastrous state of affairs in the universe would be absolutely normative. Since the mind of man is no more than an accident of random chance and impersonal matter, how could he possibly even conclude there is anything wrong with the world as it exists now? Rather, if he were being consistent, he would naturally accept his fate in the manner prescribed by Chesterton's indifferent and mechanistic cosmos. "Immorality" would be absolutely normative.

C.S. Lewis examined his own atheistic thinking in this vein after his conversion to Christianity, paraphrased as follows: If God did not exist, and human beings are just another collection of random particles in the long chain of mindless cause and effect in an impersonal, mechanistic and atheistic universe, "...why did I...find myself in such violent reaction against it?" Lewis proceeded to add: "If the universe is so bad, or even half so bad, how on earth did human beings come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator? Men are fools perhaps; but hardly so foolish as that." 39

A remarkable example of unchallenged atheistic moral outrage comes from the famous philosopher and atheist Bertrand Russell. Russell, the quintessential activist, constantly had moral objections to everything from WWI to the United States intervention in Vietnam, to the development of atomic weapons. 40 He unwittingly undermined the justification for his own moral outrages when he stated:

...man is the product of causes which had no pre-vision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms. 41

Bradley is faced with the same problem as it pertains to both evil and good. What basis or justification is there for goodness? How does goodness come about in a mechanistic universe? "How can we jump from atoms to ethics and from molecules to morality?" 42 This issue of moral assertion (or any intellectual assertion, for that matter). 43 can be ironically summed up by Charles Darwin:

With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind? 44

Bradley's moral outrage against God for destroying the Canaanites through the human agency of the Israelite people is untenable and unsupportable on his own atheistic assumptions.

Point of Agreement #4: Agreement with theists on some 'concrete examples' of moral principles that are 'objectively true'.

Turning to POA #4, we must now briefly examine what Bradley means by "objectivity". Bradley uses the term "objectivity" in POA #2 and 3 as well. Consistent with his other points of agreement, Bradley wants the Christian theist to accept the idea that agreement can be reached within the framework of human autonomy. Now, he would like the theist to accept the idea of "objectivity" within that same autonomous human framework. A couple of salient points and questions are appropriate with respect to objectivity.

1. Can objectivity be consistently asserted and maintained by finite and flawed human beings? Is it even theoretically possible to make such a claim about human reasoning and human viewpoints, given our limited condition? Further, objectivity is invariably defined, influenced and determined by one's underlying presuppositions and worldview.

Greg Bahnsen has articulated this problem, as follows:

Philosophers have typically fought to defend propositions that are true in a public sense, regardless of any particular person's feelings or attitudes or beliefs...But since the person who believes whatever propositions we wish to consider has prejudices, feelings, aims, blind spots, a personal perspective, etc. the influence of subjectivity poses difficulties for the very possibility of objectivity.

... different schools of thought maintain different conceptions of objectivity (in accordance with their underlying metaphysical, epistemological and ethical commitments). 45

Plainly speaking, objectivity is manifestly impossible for humans to achieve, and therefore the concept of objectivity as defined by Bradley (though unstated), should not be accepted by the Christian theist.

2. The unbelieving position of Bradley assumes right from the beginning that human reasoning faculties operate in a normative fashion. The Biblical teaching on the subject, however, is that the mind of man has been corrupted by his sinful nature, 46 militating against any possibility of objectivity, especially as it pertains to God. Cornelius Van Til often noted that unregenerate epistemology "is informed by [its] ethical hostility to God."47

True and ultimate objectivity can only be found in someone who has infinite and perfect knowledge, and perfect moral character. True objectivity requires an absolute being. Again, we find the unbelieving position loaded with grand and sweeping assumptions as its proponents enter into the debate. 48

Supposedly Inconsistent Tetrad

After trying to get Christian theists to unwittingly agree to his four points of agreement, Bradley presents what he calls a logical quandary for theists, an "inconsistent tetrad" of four statements that theists would be unable to affirm without contradicting themselves. Bradley asserts:

These—and countless other—passages from the Bible mean that theists are confronted with a logical quandary which strikes at the very heart of their belief the God of Scripture is holy. They cannot, without contradiction, believe all four of the statements:

1. Any act that God commits, causes, commands, or condones is morally permissible.

2. The Bible reveals to us many of the acts that God commits, causes, commands, or condones.

3. It is morally impermissible for anyone to commit, cause, command, or condone acts that violate our moral principles.

4. The Bible tells us that God does in fact commit, cause, command, or condone acts that violate our moral principles. 49

Bradley's tetrad argument can be summarized thus: A denial of 1 is a denial of God's holiness. A denial of 2 is to deny the Bible as a revelation of moral principles, such as the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount. A denial of 3 would be to assert that it is morally permissible to violate P1. It is morally wrong to deliberately and mercilessly slaughter men, women and children who are innocent of any serious wrongdoing. And, a denial of 4 "would be to fly in the face of facts ascertainable by anyone who takes the care to read: objective facts about what the Bible actually says." 50

The main problem with his tetrad lies in point #3, which refers to P1. The underlying assumptions and presuppositions with respect to P1 have already been dealt with. The Christian cannot accept the premises or the wording of P1, thereby nullifying Bradley's entire tetrad argument. A restating of P1 is in order here. P1. It is morally wrong for human beings, of their own autonomous accord, to deliberately and mercilessly murder other men, women and children. 51 Point #4 assumes the correctness of #3, so its premise is also erroneous.

Part II of this article will consist of Bradley's response to prospective theistic objections, an examination of numerous other errors, an analysis and discussion of the actual situation in Canaan at the time of the Conquest, and a summary.

Footnotes:

1. Raymond D. Bradley. A Moral Argument for Atheism, in: Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier, eds. The Impossibility of God. (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2003), 129-146. Return to text

2. Ibid., 130. Return to text

3. This article will focus solely on Bradley's argument with respect to the Conquest of Canaan, and his main point, P1. It is morally wrong to deliberately and mercilessly slaughter men, women and children who are innocent of any serious wrongdoing. His other four, presumably agreed upon, moral truths are: P2. It is morally wrong to provide troops with young women captives with the prospect of their being used as sex slaves. P3. It is morally wrong to make people cannibalize their friends and family. P4. It is morally wrong to practice human sacrifice, by burning or otherwise. P5. It is morally wrong to torture people endlessly for their beliefs. Although some of the details differ, the main points I am using to refute Bradley's P1 argument with respect to the Conquest would apply just as effectively in critiquing these other four points. Return to text

4. Bradley references other 'gods' at the outset, but wants to focus his criticisms on the God of the "orthodox Judaic, Christian and Islamic traditions." Bradley, 131. Theologically, there are clearly irreconcilable differences in the truth claims made by these three groups, the most important differences centering on the person of Jesus Christ. For the purpose of this analysis, it is not necessary to examine the doctrine of the Trinity versus the Islamic understanding of Allah, for example. Practically speaking, Bradley's essay criticizes Christianity, although he claims a broader criticism at the outset of his essay. Return to text

5. Bradley does not articulate a full blown orthodox doctrine of God. His characterization of certain attributes is formally correct, as far as it goes. The reason I say formally correct is that behind that formal statement, Bradley does not fundamentally mean or understand it the same way that the Christian does. Later it will be shown that Bradley will not consistently hold to these attributes in his argument, revealing what truly lies behind the formal statement. He essentially sets up a straw man he can summarily attempt to knock down. Van Til often pointed out that it was illegitimate for believers to allow non-Christians to use Biblical teachings in a piecemeal fashion, or for Christians to defend Christian doctrines in a piecemeal or atomistic way. For more from Van Til on this, see: Greg Bahnsen, Van Til's Apologetic, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1998, 269-287. Return to text

6. Bradley points out early in his essay that any view of God differing from the Biblical view is “semantic obfuscation in the liberals’ clothing of humanistic sentiments with pietistic God-talk.” In Bradley’s opinion, deism and other liberal views of God are ultimately atheistic. Bradley, 131. Return to text

7. Note Bradley's reference to 'Holy Scriptures', not the Holy Scriptures. No doubt he includes the Koran in his category. He strangely does not criticize the Koran in his essay, which some scholars assert gives commands to murder with impunity as normative and binding for today, the very acts Bradley condemns. This is a minor point as it pertains to the purpose of this paper, but it should be noted that the Scriptures which the Christian accepts as inspired by God are different than a broader category of religious writings by the three major world religions. Bahnsen states: "Accordingly, from an epistemological perspective, these sacred books are not and cannot be anything like what the Bible claims for itself, namely, to be the personal communication and infallible revelation from the only living, completely sovereign, and all-knowing creator." Bahnsen, 524, n. 126. Return to text

8. Bradley., 131. We will see how Bradley ignores his own characterization of God throughout his essay. Return to text

9. Ibid., 131. Return to text

10. Although it is a tangential point to this essay, there is a profound difference between the observable phenomenon of the shape of the earth, determined through the classical, empirical scientific method, versus the unobservable age of the universe, an assertion which is based on unprovable and unobservable assumptions about the past, which no human being has witnessed, observed or measured in any empirical way. As Van Til famously pointed out, there are no brute facts in the universe. Every fact is an interpreted fact, and claims about the age of the universe require several additional layers of philosophical assumption, interpretation and presupposition. "The question of origins is plainly a matter of science history—not the domain of applied science. Contrary to the unilateral denials of many evolutionists, one’s worldview does indeed play heavily on one’s interpretation of scientific data, a phenomenon that is magnified in matters concerning origins, where neither repeatability, nor observation, nor measurement—the three immutable elements of the scientific method—may be employed." www.TrueOrigin.org. Last accessed 2/1/2013 Return to text

11. Bradley, 132. Return to text

12. Ibid. Return to text

13. The extreme use of force through total warfare was required to bring an end to the Nazi and Japanese empires during World War II. Many innocent civilians were killed by the Allies in the pursuit of a higher moral purpose: destroying the Nazi and Japanese regimes because of the horrific evils they were inflicting on civilian populations and nation-states. Although there is a small minority of people who think differently, World War II is considered, by and large, a just war that was necessary for the Allied forces to fight. It is probably safe to say that Bradley does not object to the Allied actions overall in WWII. After all, he finds Nazism in particular morally abhorrent. At times the Allies had to deliberately and mercilessly slaughter men, women and children who (were) innocent of any serious wrongdoing. If human government, with limited and fallible knowledge, can have a higher moral purpose in the killing of innocent civilians in a just war, it is certainly the case that God, a being with infinite knowledge of all the variables involved, could have had a higher moral purpose in killing the Canaanites and destroying their culture through human agency. It is highly unlikely that ending the moral horror of Nazism would have been possible without deliberately and mercilessly slaughter[ing] men, women and children who [were] innocent of any serious wrongdoing. This just war analogy is limited due to the ontological difference between God and mankind, and the fact that Joshua and Israelites were not acting in a civil government capacity, per se. But, there is a useful Creator-creature analogy between the acts of God and the acts of men on matters involving the taking of human life through the use of force in a just war. Return to text

14. Bradley also cites the Flood (Genesis 6-9) as an example of one of God's violations of P1. There was, of course, no human agency involved in the cataclysmic, worldwide Flood recorded in Genesis. Return to text

15. II Sam. 22:31; Ps. 18:30, 25:8, 34:8; Mk. 10:18; Mt. 5:48 are just a few other examples. Return to text

16. John Frame. The Doctrine of God: A Theology of Lordship. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2002), 483. Return to text

17. David B. Guralnik, ed. Webster's New World Dictionary. (New York: The World Publishing Company, 1970), 936. Return to text

18. Technically speaking, genocide is racially motivated. The destruction of the Canaanites had nothing to do with their ethnicity, rather it was based primarily on their abhorrent moral behavior. Skeptics often use this term to stoke the emotions of their readers. At the end of his article, Bradley gleefully quotes a former Presbyterian minister, who resigned after concluding his congregants would sanction genocide if God commanded it. The term is completely fallacious in this instance. Bradley, 145, n. 17. Return to text

19. I am not criticizing Bradley per se for not getting into a full discussion on the doctrine of God. It is beyond the scope of his article. I merely point out that: 1. The Christian cannot allow the skeptic to define God. We must insist on the Biblical definition. 2. Bradley's formal and correct acknowledgement of certain attributes of God must be seen as an opportunity to push the door open further and insist that all the attributes become part of the debate. Return to text

20. K. Scott Oliphint. Reasons for Faith. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006), 169-208. From God's utter independence, or aseity, flows a discussion of His other attributes. Return to text

21. It is unlikely that Bradley consciously realizes this, so we must point it out in our argument. Return to text

22. "We affirm that the whole of Scripture and all its parts, down to the very words of the original, were given by divine inspiration. We deny that the inspiration of Scripture can rightly be affirmed of the whole without the parts, or of some parts but not the whole." Article VI, The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Return to text

23. If one accepts the idea that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to unborn children prior to a prescribed age of maturity, then those ‘innocents’ who perished in the Conquest were saved from an almost certain future of wretched sin and eventually, eternal judgment. This would make God’s act toward the children of Canaan infinitely merciful in the light of eternity. Alston writes: "...according to Christianity, one's life on earth is only a tiny portion of one's total life span. This means that...we are in no position to deny that the suffering qua punishment has not had a reformative effect, even if we can see no such effect in [t]his earthly life." William Alston. The Inductive Argument from Evil and the Human Cognitive Condition in Daniel Howard-Snyder, ed., The Evidential Argument From Evil (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1996), 104. For a brief discussion on the sin guilt of children, see: Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology. (Leicester, England: Intervarsity, 1994), 499-501. Return to text

24. Alston, 104. The problem of evil is not the focus of this paper, but Alston's arguments have a direct bearing on the issue of the Conquest: human vs. divine knowledge. Return to text

25. Alfred Hoerth. Archaeology and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2001), 219-221. Return to text

26. Alston, 120. Return to text

27. Alston, 109. Return to text

28. I deal with Point #2 and #3 together here because they are so closely related to one another. Return to text

29. Scott Oliphint points out that the problem of evil (which is partly, but not solely, a moral problem) should not just be dismissed and ignored by the Christian theist because the atheist has no epistemological justification for his objection. "...some have wanted to respond to the problem of evil by intimating that, since atheists believe there is no god, they have no standard for good and evil. Therefore, they cannot pose the challenge themselves because they have no standard by which to judge what is evil and what is good. This kind of response, however, confuses the issue and has a ring of disingenuousness to it. The problem of evil is...fundamentally a problem of Christianity." Oliphint, 262-263, n. 3. I think this is fundamentally correct, in that the Christian must work to understand and deal with the problem of evil within a Biblical framework, but I still think there is great value in pressing the atheist to justify his objection (which is partly a moral objection) within his own atheistic framework. Return to text

30. To be fair, Bradley has limitations of space and subject matter in his article. But it is very clear he completely takes for granted that morality is philosophically compatible with atheism. It is this assumption that must be challenged. Return to text

31. This, of course, does not answer the question of where the hydrogen clouds came from to begin with. Whatever his atheistic shade of naturalism (and there are many varieties out there), Bradley must present a justification for morality in a mechanistic universe that arose from impersonal matter. Return to text

32. John Frame. Apologetics to the Glory of God. (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1994), 97-98. Emphasis mine, italics in original text. Return to text

33. The universe could not exist without God, so technically speaking, this point is mute as well. For the sake of argument I am not pressing the discussion that far, although it would be perfectly acceptable to do so. I only accept the premise for the sake of argument. Return to text

34. Masie Ward. Gilbert Keith Chesterton, (London: Sheed & Ward, 1944), 48. Return to text

35. Frame. Apologetics to the Glory of God, 169. Emphasis mine. Return to text

36. Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. (New York, New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1952), 13. (My emphasis). Return to text

37. The atheist becomes angry because the image of God has not been wiped fully from him, despite sin and deliberate suppression of the truth (Romans 1:18ff). There is a sense of justice in all men, having its source in the infinite and perfect justice of God. Atheistic anger toward evil is confirmation of Romans 1-2. Return to text

38. The Bible explains why the world is a disastrous mess, particularly in Genesis 3:1-19 and Romans 1:18ff; 8:18-23a. The judgment of God has come upon the world because of the sin of man. The non-Christian does not accept the answers that Scripture provides, instead always wanting to wrongly impugn God. Return to text

39. C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, (New York: Harper Collins, 1940), 3. Return to text

40. Donald Palmer, Looking at Philosophy, (New York: McGraw Hill, 2006), 324-5. Return to text

41. Louis Greenspan and Stefan Andersson, eds. Russell on Religion (London: Routledge, 1999), 32. Emphasis mine. Return to text

42. John Blanchard, Where was God on September 11?, (Auburn, MA: Evangelical Press, 2002), 13. Return to text

43. Chesterton famously said: "The man who represents all thought as an accident of environment is simply smashing and discrediting all his own thoughts, including that one." G.K. Chesterton. "The Wind and the Trees" in Stories, Essays and Poems, (London: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1939), 93. Return to text

44. Darwin, Francis ed., The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin Including an Autobiographical Chapter. (London: John Murray, 1887), Volume 1, 315-316. Darwin should have realized further that the very reasoning process that brought him to the place of 'horrid doubt' is untenable in his evolutionary, naturalistic world as well. The discursive intellectual process of having doubts about his theory refutes his theory! Return to text

45. Bahnsen, 283-4. Alston's comments on human knowledge in footnote 26 are applicable here as well. Return to text

46. Romans 1:18ff, I Corinthians 2:6-16. Even Adam in the garden before sin was unable to be ultimately objective, because of his finitude. Adam would have correctly thought God's thoughts after Him, but could only have objectivity in a derivative or analogical way. Return to text

47. Van Til, Cornelius. Defense of the Faith, (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1955), 189. Return to text

48. The atheist, of course, would likely agree that his reasoning is limited and flawed, but would never acknowledge his bias against God and his unjustified assumption of human autonomy without the intervention of God's Spirit. The acknowledgment of finitude and fallibility never stops the unbelieving mind from trying to usurp God from the throne anyway, which contradicts the acknowledgment of finitude! The Christian understanding of finitude and fallibility goes much further than the atheist would ever admit. Return to text

49. Bradley, 135. Return to text

50. Ibid., 136. Return to text

51. The exception in this instance could still be situations involving just war by civil governments, as mentioned in footnote 13. I am restating P1 without reference to those scenarios, for the sake of simplicity. Return to text


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ABRT 24 | 4/13/2019