Why does God command against abortion but then order the massacre of infants?


#1

An atheist website I read on occasion brought this objection up in regards to the OT. Any ideas for replies?


#2

The murder or slaughter of the innocents usually refers to the babies killed in order to kill Jesus, but this slaughter wasn’t ordered by God, but King Herod. It is easy for people to believe God intends or tild them to kill, though. It still happens today. What is evil in men’s souls is often blamed on God’s call as justification for slaughter of others, including the current condemnation to death of the Christian woman who married a Christian but is condemned to death for marrying a Christian because her father is Muslim in a Muslim country. Even good people can think God has told them to do something that is against God’s law.
The danger is that if we seek unholy sites instead of good it can have have a negative effect on faith and our minds. If you want links to good Catholic websites I’m sure posters will very kindly oblige.
Better to study and seek Catholic sites that help us to grow in faith and understanding of what God wishes us to know, rather than expose ourselves to sites where God is neither known nor loved.

Philippians 4:
“8 In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. 9 Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you.”

Kind wishes and prayers
Trishie


#3

Atheism often trys to pull at your heartstrings to prove that God isn’t. That is what they do with parts of the Old Testament.

Atheism says that if there is a god then that god would be one to save us from all sorts of misery that mankind encounters. Because God is all powerful this would not be a problem for him at all. And it would be unreasonable to say he would not do so. Therefore, this behavior shows that there is no god.

That isn’t an argument that disproves the existence of god. For how do they know that god isn’t bad, ugly, mean, which blows away their point.

And if they can prove that god is not bad, ugly, mean, then they would have the answer to their own question.

May God bless and keep you. May God’s face shine on you. May God be kind to you and give you peace.


#4

I think they were referring to the annihilation of the Canaanites children included.


#5

3 things:

  1. In the ancient world, there wasn’t really a concept of a “civilian”, or at least not as someone who’s not a target. To the Ancient Israelites and their contemporaries, all war was total war. You didn’t spare people. So part of it could also have been God playing into their expectations of what war should be like.

  2. Suppose you have really little kids, who are just learning how to survive in the world. You’d want to keep dangerous persons and things away from them, right? Well to the Ancient Israelites, who were still getting used to Mosaic Law, the local polytheism posed a threat to their new religious sensibilities.

  3. At any rate, even if you can’t find a reasonable explanation, there’s still one big difference. This is God. God gives life, and thus can take it away. Murder’s a sin, in part because we effectively play God in doing so. “Yeah, I know you thought this guy should die later. But you’re wrong. I’m killing him now.” So from a moral perspective, there’s a difference between the divinely ordered wars of the OT and Herod slaughtering the Holy Innocents.


#6

I don’t think there is a good answer except to deny that God ordered any such thing. These accounts were almost certainly written a long time later by writers who were looking back at Israel’s history of idolatry and saying, under divine inspiration and in culturally appropriate terms, that God had commanded the Israelites to stand out against the idolatry of their neighbors and not be contaminated by it. Inspiration is complex and doesn’t work as straightforwardly as either fundamentalists or atheists (many of whom are former fundamentalists, not coincidentally) imagine.

Some conservative scholars have argued that the language of “total destruction” is a common idiom for complete victory. Certainly the language (and the horrible story of Phineas sticking a spear through a couple who were having sex) reflects moral norms that fall short of the fullness of the truth revealed in Jesus. And I think our doctrine of inspiration/inerrancy needs to reflect this–we can’t simply bend the facts, or worse abandon our commitment to moral absolutes, to meet what we think inspiration/inerrancy requires. But in fact I think a sensitive historical interpretation of the texts does not justify the idea that any such “total destruction” actually took place.

Edwin


#7

These arguments often refer to the flood, which assumedly killed small children as well as children in utero.


#8

That’s a bit different, though, because it’s not done through human beings. In my understanding, God’s relationship to the world is such that one really can’t make too close an analogy between God’s actions in the world and human actions. I think there are all sorts of ways of understanding the Flood story that aren’t morally repellent. But human beings massacring other human beings–that clearly comes within moral parameters that we know (or rather it violates them).

Edwin


#9

The parents were going to sacrifice the children to the god Molech anyway, or make them prostitutes in the temples of the pagan Gods, or some such thing.

-Tim-


#10

I agree that it’s different, certainly, but one could portray the flood story as even more morally repugnant in a way. God “regrets” (6:6) that he created humans (What? He couldn’t see this coming?) and directly choses to wipe them out. But I agree, a different type of question.


#11

One could use the same argument to justify abortion.

Molech was the god of the Ammonites.


#12

Really, it’s unknown. But, as a previous poster stated - there was the notion that all war was total war. There really was no such idea as a non-combatant at the time, and thus, no one was considered innocent. The Israelites were commanded to not spare a single person from the lands they were conquering on many occasions. And whether God told them to do this or not, they at least believed that it was God’s will.

But it’s also obvious through the OT that Israel’s notion of God and God’s will changed over time. The first drafts of the Books of Samuel and Kings were written pre-exile (the first drafts of the Books of Samuel may have actually been written during the time of Kings David and Solomon, while most of the first drafts of the Books of Kings were probably written alongside the events in the books), while the Books of Chronicles (which cover the exact same events) were written post-exile, possibly by Ezra. Near the end of 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles, King David orders a census of the entire nation of Israel. This census is considered to be sinful in both accounts, as only God was to truly know how many people existed in His Chosen People. And in both accounts, after the census, a pestilence strikes Israel for three days, considered God’s punishment for this particular sin of David’s. However, in the account from 2 Samuel, God tempts David to commit this sin, while in 1 Chronicles, God simply allows an evil spirit to tempt David.

This shows a remarkable change in thought about God. Pre-exile, it seems, God was seen as the source of all good and of all evil. Post-exile, God was seen as the source of all that is good - but that He allowed people to be tempted by evil spirits.


#13

This question specifically regards God’s command to slaughter the Canaanites during the Hebrew invasion after their 40 years in the desert, particularly the battle of Jericho, wherein God commanded that all should be killed, man, woman and child alike.

There are two considerations that aren’t normally taken by the Atheist, when looking at this question.

First, why did God command this?

Second, murder is considered the highest form of evil to an Atheist, but to God, death of the soul is.

So, before looking at the second consideration, let’s as the first question, why did God command this? When we consider the context of this war, it can become apparent. The Hebrews were being given their own land wherein they might be protected from the evils of the world about them. Now, we’re not talking about protection from oppression or slavery or murder, etc. We’re talking about protection from false worship of idols, the worship of false gods, murder, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, human sacrifice, child sacrifice, etc. That’s the world they lived in, and they had been handed a better way to live: the Decalogue.

What they specifically wanted to avoid in this new land was what had occurred in Egypt. There, they had assimilated within the Egyptian culture, and began worshipping their false gods and idols. Likewise, even after they left and were in the desert, so ingrained was this cultural assimilation that when separated from Egypt, they continued to worship false idols (i.e., the golden calf). It took many, many signs and miracles, and 40 years of “cleansing” in the desert to bring the people back to proper worship of God. So when they entered the promised land, assimilation into another pagan culture was something to be avoided, particularly because it was their special mission as a people to hold to the Covenant with God, to protect it.

Thus, when they invaded the Promised Land, they had determined to exterminate the local population in order that their culture might be protected against such assimilation as had happened to them in the past. Consider: if they had killed only the fighting men, that would leave the elderly, women and children. What would happen? The elderly would pass on their Pagan culture to their grandchildren, who would continue to live among the Hebrews. Also, the Hebrews may have been tempted to take the women of the Canaanites as wives. That represented a significant threat, considering the story of the Flood (sons of God married the daughters of men), and as we see later in their history, it was through marriage of Pagan wives that Israel came to destruction (most notably Solomon), because when the men take such women as wives, they fall into the idol worship of their wives. Note that this was the most basic problem of their history, Adam giving into the sin of Eve. Thus, they removed that temptation. But what about the children? If they had been allowed to live, they would have grown in hatred toward the Hebrews, constantly representing a future threat to the stability of their nation.

Thus, in order to protect their Covenant with God, and to protect themselves as a nation, they enacted total annihilation of the enemy.

So now, what about the second consideration? While the above may have been the intention of the Hebrews, what about God? In God’s wisdom, we may understand that this command was given in order to protect the Covenant. How is this different than the Hebrew’s desire to protect the Covenant? It’s different because while they did it for the sake of God’s blessings, protection and prosperity, God would have done it in order to bring salvation to mankind as a whole. This is why God destroyed all but Noah and his family in the Flood. It’s why God destroyed the Tower of Babel. It’s why God destroyed the pursuing Egyptian army. And so on and so forth. God’s intention throughout human history was to bring about His plan for our salvation, and that meant the protection of the Covenant.

While we may consider the destruction of the body to be a great evil, the destruction of the soul is an infinitely greater evil. One may consider the slaughter of the Canaanites to be an ultimate good, not merely for the Hebrews, and not even just for mankind as a whole, but also even for the Canaanites themselves. How can this be? Consider, if the Hebrews had not carried this out, and the two cultures in time assimilated, and the Hebrews fell back into Idol worship, as in Egypt, and in Babel, and in the time before the Flood, etc. If God had not intervened, as He had done so throughout history, then neither the Hebrews, nor anyone else, including the Canaanites, would have ever been saved. Note, the Catholic Church does not say anyone is in Hell. It could not even say that the Canaanites are in Hell. Indeed, it may be because of their ultimate annihilation, which in time lead to the fulfillment of God’s plan for Salvation, which lead to the salvation of many of the Canaanites themselves. Eternal salvation.

And that’s really what’s at stake here. The Atheist doesn’t see this though. They see physical death as being it. There is no eternal state of the soul. There is no eternal salvation, or destruction. But there is for us. And the death of the body is not worse than the death of the soul.

But we must not take this principle out of its proper, pre-Christ context. While such killing may have then been justified for the sake of the Covenant, it no longer is. This is because the Covenant has been fulfilled, and a new Covenant has been made, which precludes any such killing.

Thus, the equation with the prohibition against abortion cannot be made to this event. There is no threat to the Covenant from an unborn child. There could be no moral justification for it, neither then nor now.


#14

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.