Book Review – Did God Really Command Genocide (3/3)

Non-christians have always pointed out that God of the Old Testament is angry and vengeful. And that He ordered a genocide to massacre the entire population. So what is the christian’s response towards such a statement?

Did God Really Command GenocidePaul Copan and Matthew Flanagan attempts to answer this thorny question in this book. Copan and Flanagan are no strangers to these questions and has showed that christians does have a very good answers against this questions.

First, Copan and Flanagan helps the readers understand the question at hand, which centers around the Crucial Moral Principle, “It is morally wrong to deliberately and mercilessly slaughter men, women, and children who are innocent of any serious wrongdoing.” Which Copan and Flanagan distills into 4 clauses :

1 Any act that God commands us to perform is morally permissible.
2 God is the author of the Bible.
3 It is morally impermissible for anyone to commit acts that violate the Crucial Moral Principle.
4 The author of the Bible commands us to perform acts that violate the Crucial Moral Principle.

Having allowed the reader understand the question at hand, Copan and Flanagan then skilfully moves to explain each of the clause. And how the crux of the question lies mainly in the third and fourth clause.

Having done that, Copan and Flanagan then moves on to discuss about the bible text itself. This, I thought was where the book really excelled. Copan and Flanagan helps the readers to see that what might be read as “every single one”, might not mean literally “every single one”. Indeed, in some passages, the authors of the book (within the bible) mentions that “every single one” was killed, yet the same author would refer to these group of people again later in the book, showing that not literally “everyone single one” was killed. Copan and Flanagan really helps the readers learn these passages in their historical and cultural context.

Having explained the passages, they then move on to ask whether the commands to kill is always wrong. Although that might seem to be quite a simple question, Copan and Flanagan helps us see that, this questions is not as simple as what we think it is. He also highlights that although this action was indeed commanded by God, yet one must remember this are special occasions where He tells His people to act this way. They are certainty to not take that as a convenient excuse to act however they like to.

Lastly, Copan and Flanagan deals with the issue of, will God ask us to do these same actions again? and what if someone says God commands them to kill today, how should we answer? Reading the answers provided in this book at a time where religious extremism has prompt some to kill, shows how this is certainty not how a christian should ever act.

I think college students will find this book very helpful as they try to answer questions regarding this faith. Pastors might want to consult this book if they find themselves preaching through passages where God commends the people to kill “every inhabitants ”. They will find very helpful answers in this book.

Rating: 4.25 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review