Violence and War in the Old Testament

Sproul01Why in the Old Testament does God demand so much violence and war of the Jewish nation?

Dr. R. C. Sproul women, and children. They were forbidden to take prisoners and were to utterly destroy and put the ban, or curse, upon this land before they occupied it for themselves.

When we look at that, we shrink in horror at the degree of violence that is not only tolerated but seemingly commanded by God in that circumstance. Critical scholars in the twentieth century have pointed to that kind of story in the Old Testament as a clear example that this couldn’t be the revealed Word of God. They say that this is the case where some bloodthirsty, ancient, seminomadic Hebrews tried to appeal to their deity to sanction their violent acts and that we have to reject that as not being supernaturally inspired interpretations of history.

I take a different view of it. I am satisfied that the Old Testament is the inspired Word of God and that God did in fact command the Jewish nation to institute the herem against the Canaanites. God does tell us in the Old Testament why he instituted that policy against the Canaanite people. It’s not as though God commanded a group of bloodthirsty marauders to come in and kill innocent people. Rather, the background was that the Canaanites were deeply entrenched in unrestrained forms of paganism that involved even such things as child sacrifice. It was a time of profound inhumanity within that nation. God said to Israel, “I am using you here in this war as an instrument of my judgment upon this nation, and I’m bringing my violence upon this unbelievably wicked people, the Canaanites.” And he said, “I’m going to have them destroyed” (Deut. 13:12-17). In effect, he said to the Jewish people, “I want you to understand something: I’m giving to the Canaanites their just deserts, but I’m not giving them into your hands because you’re a whole lot better. I could put the same kind of judgment on your heads for your sinfulness and be perfectly justified to do it.” That’s basically the sense of what God communicated to the Jews.

He said, “I am calling you out of my grace to be a holy nation. I’m tearing down in order to build something new, and out of what I build new, a holy nation, I’m going to bless all of the people in the world. Therefore, I want you to be separated, and I don’t want any of the influences of this pagan heritage to be mixed into my new nation that I’m establishing.” That is the reason he gives. People still choke on it, but if God is, indeed, holy—as I think he is—and we are as disobedient as I know we are, I think we ought to be able to handle that.

Well Meaning Nazis???

by R.C. Sproul Jr.

Do you think it possible that there were during World War II Nazi’s that were Christians? Do you think there were Nazi’s that were committed to the rule of law, even that hoped that the Allies would defeat Germany? Isn’t it likely that there were men in uniform, in the party, that found themselves there because of sundry social pressures, and not a small amount of confusion and ignorance about what Nazi’s believed? I would argue that such a truth is self-evident. Given the size of the party, given the confusion of the times, given the propaganda skill of the Nazi leadership there surely must have been at least one genuinely born again Christian that was a Nazi. And I think, had I been an Allied soldier during that time it would have been my duty to kill him. Why? Because he’s a Nazi, a servant and soldier of a regime that declared war against these United States.

If such a view shocks you, you might want to thank Rousseau. Rousseau was the great engine of romanticism, that worldview that drives us today to believe that forms, oaths, uniforms, formal loyalties mean nothing at all, that all that matters is the invisible recesses of our hearts. What a man feels is sacrosanct. What he says means nothing, except insofar as he is speaking about his feelings. Thus the Nazi can tell us, “I know I am dressed in a Nazi uniform. I know I have fought for the Nazi cause. I know I have sworn fealty to the Fuehrer. But I didn’t really know what I was doing. I didn’t really know what I was thinking. Besides, that was then, and this is now. “

Before I shoot the man, I would want to ask him one more question- “Do you disavow your loyalty to the Reich? Will you now take off that uniform? Will you come and join the Allies?” If so, what a cause for celebration. A brother has been rescued from an evil system. Kill the fatted calf, bring a robe and a ring. But what do I do if he replies, “Well, no. I was raised in the Nazi’s. And I happen to know there are a lot of people like me, people like you, who believe what we believe, in the Nazi’s. Why can’t we, Nazis and Allies, work together for the greater good?” What if he meant every word he was saying? He is speaking out of both sides of his mouth, and my duty is to believe the solemn oath, the uniform, the salute, not his self-report on his subjective feelings. One truth, the uniform, will get him shot. The other truth, his faith, will take him straight to heaven.

Of course this is all moot, because that war is over. But there are other uniforms, other loyalties, other solemn oaths. Rome solemnly and irrevocably asked, in the sixth session of the Council of Trent, during the counter-Reformation, that God would damn all those who say a man is justified by faith, apart from the works of the law. They have not changed that dogma, whether anyone inside the institution actually believes it or not. And when we enter the Roman fold we swear an oath to uphold and believe all Roman dogma. When we come to the mass we solemnly salute their system. When we receive her baptism we put on her uniform.

I am not, of course, equating Roman Catholicism with Nazism. The Nazi’s, after all, sent six million Jews to their deaths. Rome, on the other hand, has no concentration camps, no gas chambers. All she has is a false, damning gospel that sends billions to a lake of fire. That, not our feelings, not even our friendships, is what matters.