"God of Genocide? A Debate on Biblical Violence" The Text of My 12 Minute Debate Opener Against Randal Rauser

There’s so much divinely caused and commanded violence in the Bible it can be said that the fear of an angry punishing God is its most prevalent theme, hands down. From the irrational and horrific punishments in the Garden of Eden, to the irrational and horrific punishments predicted in the book of Revelation, and everything in between, we see an angry, cruel, and barbaric god. That’s his usual mode of operation. If people obeyed they were rewarded. But woe to people who didn’t obey.

No wonder serious biblical scholars argue that the god of the Bible is modeled after ancient kings, who were themselves often cruel towards their own subjects. God is just like what we find in the story of Job. Job was a good man but God destroyed everything he had, and killed all his sons, daughters and servants,  just to win a bet with Satan. Such a wanton disregard toward a human being is utterly reprehensible and barbaric. Kings could do that. But a perfectly good god should not do it.

Tonight everything hinges on Rauser’s moral intuitions. His moral intuitions cause him to believe in two contrary irreconcilable propositions. On the one hand, he believes the Bible uniquely and unmistakably reveals the actions and commands of god. On another hand, he rejects the violence in the Bible which uniquely and unmistakably reveals a cruel god.

To accomplish this feat Rauser offers a scenario to show we can sometimes trust our intuitions, despite the lack of objective evidence. He asks us to consider a man who sincerely believed he was innocent of a crime even though all the objective evidence pointed to his guilt. Rauser claims the man is in a position to know he’s innocent because he personally knows that he’s innocent, even if the objective evidence points to him. So let’s picture this. There are several eyewitnesses along with video footage of the man killing someone with a gun he had purchased the day before, which was found at the scene of the crime with his fingerprints on it. With this objective evidence the man should honestly accept that he has a serious case of amnesia, or been drugged, hypnotized, or even lobotomized. He is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

I think there is a psychological reason Rauser uses this particular analogy. It’s because he is that man! He’s the one who, as an apologist, must defend the existence and goodness of an imaginary deity at all costs, despite the overwhelming objective evidence to the contrary. The very fact he uses such an absurd analogy is a tacit admission that the needed objective evidence does not exist.

The reason Rauser maintains the Bible is the divinely inspired revelation of a good God isn’t because of the texts in the Bible. It’s because he imagines himself communicating with a divine friend who only exists in his head. He should love singing the lyrics in the worship Hymn, In the Garden: “And he walks with me and he talks with me and he tells me I am his own.” In crass terms, Rauser is the sophisticated counter-part to a babbling bum who seems to be talking to someone else as he walks down the street. I mean no offense. Rauser has a brilliant mind. It’s just used in defense of the absurd.

But what exactly are moral intuitions? On my view they mainly stem from empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others as equal persons who are deserving of respect, dignity, sympathy and compassion. Once we stop viewing and treating other people as non-persons and view them with dignity and of equal value, we are able to be decent human beings, kind people, compassionate neighbors, loving citizens, and global humanitarians. Upon realizing this we inevitably will reject the Bible with its god as a product of an ancient barbaric era. There is no rescuing the god of the Bible, since that god was created by ancient barbaric people. What we have in the Bible are the codified ethics of the moral “intuitions” of ancient people. It’s time to be consistent by rejecting the Bible and its god in total.

If Rauser still wants to talk in terms of moral intuitions he should question several important Christian beliefs of his. He should reject the Adam & Eve story as reprehensible, in what's best described as the mere quest for knowledge by the first pair of humans. Yet God punished them, along with every sentient being from the beginning of time, with all the suffering this world has ever experienced. Furthermore, he should reject the belief that our sins make us deserving of intense agony forever in hell. He should also reject the belief that a completely pure and innocent person needed to die a horrific death on the cross to atone for our sins, punished as he was, in such a gruesome way by such a kind loving god. *Cough* Rauser should reject his belief that his god only saves people who accept Jesus by faith into their lives--including the death-bed conversions of sex traffickers, drug lords, and Mafia hit men--rather than saving good kind decent loving people.

In Rauser’s book, Jesus Loves Canaanites: 
Biblical Genocide in the Light of Moral Intuition, he talks about The Jesus Principle. This intuitive moral principle allows him to deny that God commanded the Canaanite genocide. He writes: “The Jesus Principle is predicated on the assumption that Jesus is the final and ultimately authoritative locus of divine revelation. As a result, Jesus provides the final guide for all interpretation and application.”
Really? Let's take a look.
Before we do, I would find it strange if Rauser didn’t accept the authority of Paul, the most important apostle of Jesus. While Jesus doesn’t explicitly affirm the Canaanite genocide, Paul does. When preaching in Antioch he said: “The God of Israel chose our fathers… and made them great in the land of Egypt, and led them out of it, and when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. (Acts: 13:16-19).
The book of Hebrews also affirms the Canaanite genocide. In the famous faith chapter it praises Rahab the prostitute’s faith, who helped the Israelites destroy the city of Jericho by hiding two men who had been sent to spy on the city (11:30-31).
This includes killing witches (Ex. 22:18) heretics (Deut. 13:12-19), homosexuals (Lev. 18:22, 20:13), people who work on the Sabbath Day (Ex. 31:14-15, 35:2), people who commit bestiality (Ex. 22:19), adulterers (Lev. 20:10), false prophets (Deut. 13:5), and children who insult or strike their parents (Ex. 21:15, 17).
Back to Jesus, leading up to the shocking conclusion.
Jesus affirmed the truth and permanence of every letter of the law. In Luke 16:17 Jesus said, “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one letter of the Law to become void.” [see also Matthew 5:17-20.] In saying this, Jesus affirmed all the laws of the Hebrew God Yahweh, who always seems to be threatening violence, committing violence, and commanding violence upon others.
Jesus also affirmed three morally atrocious biblical stories.

1) Jesus Affirmed the Genocidal Story of Noah:

Matthew 24:37-41: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.”

2) Jesus Affirmed the Genocidal Story of Sodom and Gomorrah:

Luke 17:28-30: “On the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.”

Matthew 11:23-24: “I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” [See 2 Peter 2:5-9].
Now for the shocking conclusion. 
3) Jesus Affirmed Honor Killings by Stoning:
The Pharisees accused Jesus of being too lenient in his observance of the law. So Jesus counterpunches them in Mark 7:9-12: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God) then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother.” (NIV)
Corban is an Aramaic word that refers to a sacrifice, oath, or gift to God. The Pharisees allowed for this loophole so someone could make an oath to offer a gift to the temple, like one would set up a trust fund, in order to avoid giving it for the care of one’s aging parents.

Jesus’ first scriptural quote to “Honor your father and mother” is one of the Ten Commandments. Jesus’ second scriptural quote that “Anyone who curses (literally dishonors) their father or mother is to be put to death”, is found in Ex. 21:17 and Lev. 20:9. Jesus says the Corban loophole sets aside these two commands of God. For such a son would be disobeying a direct command of God by dishonoring his parents, while the Pharisees would be disobeying God’s command by not putting him to death. 

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 elaborates (i.e., the second law): “If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, 'This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.' Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death.”

In this Jesus is affirming the Old Testament law of honor killings by stoning, for only if both of the laws Jesus cites are to be obeyed can his analogy succeed, that the Pharisees have set aside the laws of God in order to observe their traditions.

Rauser is therefore impaled on the horns of a dilemma. Give up The Jesus Principle or give up your moral intuitions. You can't have it both ways.

Rauser claims both that God was accommodating his commands to their hardened hearts, and/or that God was progressively leading believers to civilized notions about morality down through the centuries. Hindsight justifications like those can only mean God’s revelation in the Bible is indistinguishable from him not revealing anything at all. If God cannot do better than that he might as well be dead to us.