Wrestling with the Old Testament Holy Wars

In his sermon this morning, Ryan briefly talked about God’s command for the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites upon their entrance to the Promised Land. If you’d like to read more about how to understand this difficult and sobering chapter of biblical history, I’d invite you to look at a short series of articles I wrote a few years ago called “Wrestling with the Old Testament Holy Wars.”

Part 1 deals with a challenge to Christianity from a well-known atheist regarding this episode, while part 2 and part 3 discuss several biblical considerations we need to keep in mind as we process God’s command.


  1. Jack Bragg said:

    Very interesting article. I enjoyed reading it however, I noticed some errors and misunderstandings regarding Christianity and the Bible that I would like to correct.

    First of all Christianity is a religion that took place in space and time and makes truth claims that can be verified, some of which are falsifiable. Example- the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Produce a body and the whole jig is up. Fulfilled prophecy- show that it’s wrong in its predictions and that it could not possibly be the way Christians have understood it and we lose.

    The author’s biggest complaint seems to be that there’s no evidence for the existence of God or that he has obscured all the evidence in order to preserve free will. (It’s not clear to me how obscuring the evidence for God preserves free will because people can still choose not to believe even when there’s evidence, if they have free will.) I don’t know what the author would consider as evidence, he doesn’t say but even a casual look at the claims of today’s science, history and philosophy gives enough facts for reasonable belief if not proof.

    God has provided plenty of evidence that he exists in two forms. What Christians refer to as general revelation, meaning nature itself and special revelation or the Bible.

    General revelation-Paul states in Romans 1:19-20 that “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
    What does that mean? It means the mere fact that there is something rather than nothing indicates there’s a God. Nature’s existence, complexity and design indicate that a supernatural mind is at work here. The universe began to exist (the big bang) and is not eternal. Simple philosophy says that anything that begins to exist must have a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore it has a cause.

    In their book, “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek quote Robert Jastrow, an agnostic astrophysicist, on page 85 that in regards to the big bang…”That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientific proven fact.”

    Atheist scientists and philosophers have been struggling ever since the big bang theory was described to find an alternate theory and have come up with about 17 different possibilities for how the universe began but they all, including Stephen Hawking’s theory, involve getting something from nothing, a logical impossibility.

    There are other examples from general revelation or nature we could discuss such as the beginning of life, the origin of consciousness or how DNA encodes information. There’s no naturalistic explanation for any of these and now we’re starting to see atheists such as Thomas Nagel, an atheist and member of the philosophy department at NYU make statements such as the following in his book, “Mind and Cosmos, Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinin Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False.” On page 5 he says, “But for a long time I have found the materialist account of how we and our fellow organisms came to exist hard to believe, including the standard version of how the evolutionary process works. The more details we learn about the chemical basis of life and the intricacy of the genetic code, the more unbelievable the standard historical account becomes.”

    Special revelation involves the Bible and Geisler and Tourek provide ample evidence as to the historical reliability and accuracy of the New Testament that has even many secular historians accepting the accounts as good history. They recount the writings of Colin Hemer, classical scholar and historian who chronicled Luke’s accuracy in the book of Acts. Verse by verse he relates 84 facts in the last 16 chapters of Acts confirmed by historical and archaeological research on pages 256-259 of Geisler and Turek’s book.

    This is a minuscule amount of the available information that demonstrates the reliability of science, history and philosophy in providing excellent reasons to believe Christianity is true.

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