– engaging mind & culture

Show Them No Mercy- 4 views on God and Canaanite Genocide

I’m not quite sure how this will work out but I hope to use this blog (in part) to review books that I have read- for the readers benefit but also as a sort of note taking tool for my own rememberance. My first book review regards a books which I have recently completed and is one which is sure to stir controversy.

Some of my favorite books are the “views” books. I have begun to collect these books of which there are hundreds. I enjoy these books because in most cases, there are several perspectives for every issue and I do not ever want to be accused of ignorance. I do not want to affirm a position or advocate a point of view without at least recognizing that there are others positions. My desire is to understand the various ideas so that I can make an informed decision in regard to the view that I will hold. I am not suggesting that each view is equally valid. Rather, I realize that there is not always agreement on every issue and dialogue results as we seek the truth. Of course there are essential issues in Christianity that all Christians agree, but as we go deeper into the Faith, we notice that so-called secondary, and tirtiary issues arise. Part of the problem is that to some people, the nonessential issues become essential issues and thus cause division in the body of Christ. Many of these people are ignorant (in the way I just mentioned)- in that they dogmatically advocate a position without (in many cases) even realizing that another point of view exists. My hope is that Christians will be thoughtful in their approach to Scripture, Philosophy, Theology, etc. being open to learn from others who don’t agree with their perspective. This intentional thoughtfulness will give Christians a better understanding of various issues and will help them to be more effective and winsome ambassadors for Christ. Again, I do not in any way want to advocate the self-refutting philosophy of relativism, the idea that multiple and contradictory views are simultaneously true. Rather I want to encourage people to be informed of the various views so that when they stand for their convictions and beliefs they have solid reasons to do so.

Show them No Mercy: 4 Views on God and the Canaanite Genocide

This book (part of the Zondervan counterpoint series) is one that I could not put down. The reason for this is the difficulty of the subject matter with which the book attempts to grapple. On September 11th, 2001, western civilization became much more familiar with the term jihad or holy war. We heard some people call Sept 11th a judgement from God, and others call it pure unadalterated evil. Holy war, however, is not new and it was not invented by muslims. The Old Testament records the genocide of the Canaanites in the name of Yahweh. What this book does is try to reconcile the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament with the Old Testament Yahweh war. It asks the question- Is there continuity or discontinuity between the Old Testament concept of Holy War and the New Testemant ideals? This book is very interesting because it goes beyond the basic discussion of pacifism and just war theory. It wrestles with the Scripture’s portrayal of God’s nature as either the Lord of Hosts or the Prince of Peace, or both.

Stan Gundry, the series editor, writes by way of introduction:

Anyone who read the Old Testament from cover to cover will encounter roadblocks to understanding its abiding message… [A] potential pitfal arises when readers encounter God’s revealed law on war against the Canaanite nations (e.g., Deut.20) and then how these rules were played out in, for example, Jericho (see Josh.6:17-21). How could the God of the Bible command such indiscriminate slaughter of an entire people, especially since in the New Testament Jesus commands us to love and to pray for our enemies? Our tendency is often to push this question into the backs of our minds and allow it to sit there, unresolved. The authors of the various essays in this book seek to assist us in bringing this second issue to a resolution in our minds…The particular problem of biblical interpretation discussed in Show Them No Mercy has come to the forefront in recent years as many of us have learned a new word: jihad. Indeed, there is some correspondence in theme between the Muslim term jihad and the biblical expression holy war (or, perhaps better, Yahweh war). Not coincidentally, all four contributors make a passing reference to the events of Sept 11, 2001, when Muslim radicals in the name of their religion and inspired by Osama Bin Laden, destroyed thousands of innocent civilians. All civilized people abhor what happened on Sept 11; are we equally to abhor what happened in Jericho more than three millenia ago? Moreover, in such places as Rwanda, Bosnia, and Kosovo, we have seen the indiscriminate slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians of a single ethnic group. We are now familiar with the terms genocide and ethnic cleansing – words that were not a part of our vocabulary a couple decades ago. The images we have seen on our television screens pull at our heart strings and make us ask: What difference, if any, is there between modern ethinic cleansing and the Canaanite genocide sanctioned in the Old Testament text? We hope that in some way the various essays provided in this book will help you bring about a resolution in your mind to this troublesome issue. Through it all, may God and His Word be glorified.”

This book has definitely challenged me to wrestle with the various positions presented by the contributors regarding the relationship between the Old and New Testaments especially in light of Yahweh war: 1) radical discontinuity 2) moderate dicontinuity 3) eschatalogical continuity and 4) spiritual continuity. I am grateful for their diligence to pursue truth and to communicate their ideas with respect. The book has given me greater understanding of the issues and ultimately a deeper commitment to follow the living God. Soli Deo Gloria



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