What Made It Okay for God to Kill Women and Children In the Old Testament?: A Response

What Made It Okay for God to Kill Women and Children In the Old Testament?: A Response October 25, 2021

Today’s frontpage article at desiringgod.org is a doozy. In it, John Piper, Calvinist darling and author of over 50 books, is posed the question, “Why was it right for God to slaughter women and children in the Old Testament? How can that ever be right?” And the answer he gives, while not surprising, is out-and-out insanity. He states:

“It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases. God gives life and he takes life. Everybody who dies, dies because God wills that they die.

God is taking life every day. He will take 50,000 lives today. Life is in God’s hand. God decides when your last heartbeat will be, and whether it ends through cancer or a bullet wound. God governs.”

Without a doubt, given that all theology is basically fan fiction, it is entirely possible that God is as insane as Piper describes. God may very well be a monster. He may be a tyrant. He may be a control freak. He very well may slaughter 2-week old babies, or give them cancer, or spontaneously abort them during the third trimester. I don’t know. If he can do all this whenever he pleases, who’s to say God doesn’t love baby-slaughtering?

If this is the case, however, what makes God any better than the worst among us? If what we call sin God calls good, why is this God even worthy of adoration? I guess it could be logically possible that God indeed decides to kill whom he pleases when he please and how he pleases, but again, what about such behavior makes him “set apart” (read: holy) from the power-hungry humans who attempt to do the same? Is it only because God is God that allows him to be what we would typically call evil? Well, if that is the case, has not all meaning behind the very words we use to describe things become utterly void of any meaning whatsoever?

To Piper, I ask these questions sincerely, not simply rhetorically. I truly want to know the reasoning behind this.

Digging deeper, if the Bible tells us to be perfect in the same way God is perfect (see Matthew 5:48; Luke 6:36), how does that play out in the real world if God kills whom he pleases when he pleases and how he pleases? Obviously, it doesn’t. How do I know? Well, I can’t be certain, but if the two passages I just referenced mean anything to anyone, it’s because the context of both are God’s mercy and love – not God’s wrath, not God’s bloodlust, not God’s vengeance, but God’s mercy and love.

In Matthew 5, how is God’s perfection described? By . . .

  • Turning the other cheek (v. 39)
  • Loving his enemies (v. 44)
  • Blessing the righteous and unrighteous (v. 45)
  • Loving the unloving (v.46)

And in Luke 6, by . . .

  • Blessing those who curses others (v. 28)
  • Asking us to pray for those who mistreat us (v. 28)
  • Giving to everyone who asks (v. 30)
  • Loving his enemies (v. 35)

And then, the crescendo: “Be merciful just as God is merciful” (v. 36)

So, how do we reconcile the passages in Matthew and Luke with the God who can kill diaper-wearing babies whenever he pleases? The only way is to create a theology of two faces. To put it this way, God essentially becomes the protagonist from the Netflix show “You.” On the one hand, he is charming and loving. He only wants to pour out his love on you and shower you with praises. On the other hand, he’s a complete psychopath who will hit you over the head with a hammer, or chop up your body and bury you in the woods, or shove you off of a two story balcony before stabbing you in the chest repeatedly.

This makes for great fiction on Netflix, but not so great theology.

Again, given that I am of the belief that we can’t be 100% certain that God is not a sociopath, I can’t say for sure that God isn’t two faced. I just find that A) there is no proof that God is, and B) that if God is, he isn’t worthy of any praise or adoration.

Certainly, anyone who is a rational and empathetic enough individual could understand that if God is handing out childhood leukemia instead of candy bars for Halloween, then he isn’t gonna get my worship. Piper may not understand this, but then again, it’s probably predestined that way.

All Calvinist-bashing puns aside, if this is the God you can worship, have at it. I can’t. Nor do I want to.

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About Matthew J. Distefano
Matthew J. Distefano is an author, blogger, podcaster, and social worker. He lives in Northern California with his wife and daughter You can read more about the author here.

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