"Thank you God! Thank you for killing them. They deserved it."
But don't we all deserve the same treatment, from that perspective?
My longtime friend and Christian sparring partner, Ollie Wallflower, and I were in a recent debate regarding whether or not God caused a worldwide famine to enslave the Jews in Egypt. One of the collateral points I discussed was how, through this famine, God caused the suffering and death of an untold number of people worldwide, especially those who were without practical means to get to Egypt. In defense, he said this of his perception of my viewpoint:
"In your view, people are, generally speaking, innocent and undeserving of punishment. *That* is an irreconcilable difference of opinion [between us], and one that will cause you to look unfavorable upon nearly chapter of the Bible. Which is, of course, what you've done on [The Wise Fool] blog."
I've run into Mr. Wallflower's thoughts here before from the mouths and the typing fingers of other Christians defending God's mass killings. They assume, and perhaps sometimes correctly, that the doubter/objector presumes everyone is innocent, or mostly good, such that there could never be justification for God to paint His wrath in such broad strokes. Such a position is not without merit, but it is not necessarily Biblically based, and, thus, folds like origami in the mind of the Christian. Contrary to the thoughts of Mr. Wallflower, I try to avoid positions like that at all cost precisely because they are easily circumnavigated.
The Bible is my perspective. To quote Shakespeare's Hamlet:
"For 'tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petard, an't shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines
And blow them at the moon."
What the heck does that mean? Well, my sport is to use God's Self-ascribed characteristics to prove the incongruous, non sequitur nature of the Bible. That is what I've done on The Wise Fool blog, but apparently I haven't done that well enough, as Mr. Wallflower missed this perspective. Let's see if I can do a little better, right here, for this issue of God-directed slaughter:
- God has perfect justice.
- God has perfect mercy.
- God has perfect love.
- Everyone sins.
- Sin is repaid by death.
Based on the Givens:
- The first time any person sins, or perhaps the first time a person sins after they reach the age of culpability, God is entitled to kill that person.
- It is a question of when they will sin, not if they will sin.
- Ergo, at any given time, God is entitled to kill nearly everybody on the face of the planet.
- If death is the payment for sin, then justice demands death.
- However, mercy and love promote betterment and preservation, which is contrary to the justice of death.
- There is no clear resolution to this conflict of mercy and justice, but love, spread to everyone, would suggest that the really bad people would be killed off early for the betterment and preservation of the others.
- If everyone deserves death at the moment they sin, then every moment they live beyond that point is a gift of mercy.
- With perfect justice and perfect mercy, there must be a perfection to the distribution of mercy, because otherwise it would be unjust.
- Ergo, all similar sinners should have a similar life expectancy.
- From the above conclusions, the worst sinners should always die young, while those who live relatively sin-free should expect to live relatively long.
- On the other hand, if mercy or justice, or both, were unequally distributed with regard to merit, then God would appear arbitrary and capricious, and therefore justice and mercy would be imperfect.
- Nobody can die before they sin, because otherwise justice is imperfect.
Let's go with everyone's favorite God-cause disaster: The Flood of Noah. The Flood is covered in Genesis 6-7, for reference.
Imagine, if you will, one thousand dice. Just regular, six-sided dice. The "one" represents the state (with regard to sin) in which you were born. If you are a true Catholic, it sucks to be you, because you inherited sin, so God has license to kill you from the moment of birth. For Protestants, or anyone else with better sense, "one" represents a sinless state. The "two" represents when you commit your first sin. Additional increments on the dice represent degrees of wickedness, so to speak. So a "six" is someone who kicks puppies, makes burn sacrifices of his own children, and your children, defrauds your grandparents out of their life savings, and actively plots out and participates in genocide; you know, the scum of the earth.
Time to roll the dice... Wow! What a racket!
Now that the dice have settled down before you, you are gazing on one thousand souls, representing the much larger population of the earth at the time of the flood. You've got innocent "ones" in the midst of sinners, including a fairly good distribution of the worst of the worst, and everything in between. What a surprise! And they will be surprised, too, when that wave of destruction of the Flood comes their way.
Take the dice and roll them again. This time, the rolled numbers correspond to ages. "Ones" are five years old and under. "Twos" are six to ten years old. Continue on in increments of five years to where "sixes" represent people above the age of twenty five, because, hey, this is several thousand years before Christ, and the life expectancy was not very high back then.
Undoubtedly, some of the "sixes" from the first roll remained "sixes" on the second roll. These lucky bastards were as despicable as any one you'd never want to meet, and yet they lived long lives up until the Flood. And some of the "ones" and "twos" from the first roll, well, surely they made it up to a relatively long lifespan on the second roll too. However, others got a low roll again, being mere youths at the time when they got to experience what breathing water felt like.
Evaluation: Just like in the Reality Check up above, based on age and status, what we see is a whole bunch arbitrary justice, only this time it is doled out on an epic scale. God shed His mercy on some truly despicable people for a relatively long time, and, on the hand, stomped out thousands of budding lives before they had a chance to bloom. God is also killing people who have never sinned, an act that He has no right to do so if constrained to justice. You could also call it capricious, given that many prior generations existed, with all of their evils, which eventually gave birth to the people living at the time of the Flood.
These are the Bible-based issues I have with the Biblical, God-caused, epic exterminations of peoples. It's not that I think everybody is innocent, or that nobody deserved punishment, although clearly a subset of those kind of people would be victims of God's wrath as well. It's that these Acts of God make a mockery of justice and mercy, and love for that matter.