In a recent blog post, I wrote for David C. Cook’s content site for kids ministry leaders called Spark I talked about in recent years how the paths that apostates take their “de-construction” stories have a familiar ring to them. One of those familiar tunes they all seem to play is the God of the Old Testament vs. the God of the New. This is where problems seem to start with most modern apostates. They see the God of the Old Testament as a grumpy, angry, indefensible curmudgeon whose actions are embarrassing and shameful. They contrast this angry God with the all-loving view of Jesus that modern evangelicalism seems to be pushing to fill seats.
Because they see God as only love to the exclusion of His justice and holiness, they cannot reconcile how God could order Israel to destroy whole groups of people—in their conquest of Canaan—and still be good. How could the God of love order His chosen people to kill and destroy in His name?
Once you separate the attributes of God or feel that you can no longer “defend Him,” you invariably erode the authority of Scripture. Because it no longer presents a holistic view of who God is from the Garden to the City.
I have heard many people say that “all the Bible is inspired, but not all of the Bible is applicable for children.” I agree with this statement to a point. The problem I have is in the application of this line of thinking. The problem with saying, “not all of the Bible is applicable for kids is you edit the Bible for kids. The result of this edited version of their faith causes them to grow up inoculated with the gospel rather than gripped by it. If you sanitize the stories of the Bible and avoid the hard stories, our understanding of sin is muddied, and our need for salvation is minimized.
We don’t get to decide if something is applicable for kids what our job as communicators of the gospel is HOW do we apply it to kids. Do kids need to hear the story of Hosea and Gomer? YES. Do they need to listen to the ins and outs of ancient or modern prostitution? No. They need to hear that God loves us with relentless love, just like Hosea loved Gomer. In our desire to find happiness, we turn from God over and over again, love other things more than him. Just like Gomer left Hosea over and over.
So what about the Canaanite conquest? The reason this becomes an issue is that we spend eighteen years of our kids lives telling our kids that God is not just love as the Bible states, but “only” love as the Bible never says. In elevating one of his attributes over the others, we end up with a picture of God that is incompatible with the reality of God.
I recently saw a debate on Facebook, asking if we should cut pictures of Jesus out of the curriculums we use. This is a question worth asking as we should do all that we can to avoid breaking the second commandment. The question we should ask and rarely ever do is this “Have I made God in my own image?” Do I say that “my God would never do that?” What we say when we talk about God forms who God is and is not in the hearts and minds of our kids. It’s important that when we talk about God, we talk about God in the ways he has revealed himself in Scripture.
The primary problem we have with the Canaanite conquest, and when we read the Old Testament, is often people say, “my God would never do that.” We in subtle and overt ways prefer the God of the New Testament to the God of the Old. We think that the God of the Old Testament is different. Leading some major evangelical leaders to separate the two.
In a symposium at Knox Theological Seminary, Dr. Bruce Waltke address this disturbing trend in modern evangelicalism.
I find the problem is that I don’t hear much about judgment I don’t hear much about…[the fear of the Lord]..it seems that there is a lot going on about psychological therapy, making people feel good. We are making people happy and not holy…I think that the person who realizes they are lost forever loves more than the person who doesn’t realize from what they have been saved.Dr. Bruce Waltke
In discussing this same topic, Dr. Tremper Longman responded by saying
I believe that the church is doing a grave injustice by avoiding the message of judgment. This is part of a whole movement to make the Bible more palatable to the general population, make it more winsome, and bring people in. So that people like Richard Dawkins aren’t talking about how horrible the Old Testament God is.Dr. Tremper Longman
The problem of the Canaanite conquest is a newer problem for the church because, as Dr. Longman says, there is a movement within the church to make the Bible more palatable to the general population. We, as parents and ministry leaders need to unhitch ourselves from this line of thinking.
The question of the Canaanite conquest in the minds of people raising the objection to it, can be reduced to this. “If God is a God of love, how can he authorize, support, and require genocide.” This is what people are wondering, and this is something as a pastor I have answered many, many times.
How do I answer this question when my kids ask this question?
- There is no difference between the God of the Old and New Testament. – God is love, but God is also just.
- The Bible is not primarily a story about God’s love for you, It’s mainly a story of his self-revelation of himself to us.
- God is Holy. God hates sin. The Canaanites were not innocent people. They had committed many evils, and the conquest was God’s judgment on sin. We see that Israel was not exempt from this. They failed to keep God’s laws, and they were expelled by the Assyrians and Babylonians.
- What happened at Cannon is a preview of what will happen on the last day if we do not repent.
- One thing we must always remember in Scripture God doesn’t judge people based on ethnicity. He does so based on obedience and disobedience to his expressed will.
- God is a God of love and grace but also a God of justice.
- God is not who we think he is, he is who he says he is. He is a just God who is not just Holy but Holy, Holy, Holy.
Our first step towards apostasy is making God in our own image. It’s to make God a God of only love at the expense of his other virtues. If we were in a courtroom and were testifying against a man who killed one of our children in cold blood, and is known as loving, he let the man go free. Would this judge be loving? No. He would be wicked and evil. Love in this situation requires judgment. A loving God does not turn his back on justice but properly administrates it. This is the beautiful thing about the cross of Christ. It is where the Divine justice of God was satisfied by the divine loving sacrifice of God in Christ.
God is not like you and me he is other than us. The only way we will know this God is though the way he has chosen to reveal Himself in the scriptures. Tell your kids that God is love, but don’t forget to tell them he is Holy, he is just, and he is good.