More Probably My Last Response to Steve Hays


Steve Hays "Kevin Craig If the United States federal government, following all legal and constitutional due process, declares war on Canaanites, citing relevant Biblical statutes, e.g., Deuteronomy 20:16-18, it will be a violation of the 6th commandment, correct?" This question never got answered. It would be a violation of the 6th commandment to prosecute a war if God did not command or condone it.
i) Before proceeding, let's take stock of where the debate currently stands. Kevin made demonstrably false statements about the 6th commandment. When corrected on his own grounds ("Hebrew professors"), how does he respond? An honest and honorable disputant would withdraw his disproven claim. I've never seen the "demonstration" that my claims were "false."
But that's not Kevin's modus operandi. Although he could muster no evidence to the contrary, his response is to continue in the same direction, full speed ahead.  
He said: "The Hebrew word includes ALL killing, even involuntary manslaughter. The 6th commandment forbids killing without qualification. The Hebrew word itself does not allow any killing. It is not limited to killings which fall into the category of 'murder.' The words of the 6th commandment prohibit all forms of homicide."  
Yet I quoted five OT scholars who deny that. Not one of your scholars denied what I said.

None of them denied my claim that the 6th Commandment prohibits more than mere "murder."

The scope of the prohibition is explicitly qualified by the choice of a word with a very limited range of reference. In OT usage, it denotes two specific kinds of homicide (murder, manslaughter). The word is reserved for two kinds of homicide in particular. This is false. Contrary to your claim, I have actually demonstrated that this is false.

The Hebrew word in the 6th Commandment is not limited to what we call "murder," It includes all forms of killing, including accidental killings. I proved this.

What your scholars are talking about is how to interpret the 6th commandment in light of other verses which apparently condone various kinds of killings. They are talking about how to avoid "bible contradictions." They are not talking about the construction of the commandment itself.

Other words are used to describe judicial or military homicide. I have argued that what you call a "judicial" "homicide" is a "ceremonial" and priestly function, not a "civil" function. That claim certainly hasn't been disproved. Since God ordered their blood to be shed for the atonement (cleansing) of the eretz, the Bible doesn't describe these acts as "killings."

I have also argued that what you call a "military" "homicide" is also a "ceremonial" and priestly function. That claim certainly hasn't been disproved. The Bible describes the burning of Jericho (and other similar acts) as turning the city into a whole burnt offering, again to cleanse the Promised Land of so-called "capital" crimes, violations of God's Law by the pagan Gentile inhabitants (see Leviticus 18:24-30).

Kevin said: "The 'original intent' of the 6th Commandment is to prohibit ALL killing."  
But that, too, is obviously false. For the original intent of the 6th commandment is implicitly qualified by other commands to take human life in just war or capital punishment. The 6th commandment prohibits all killings -- not just "murder," but even accidental killings. I agree that the commandment cannot be used to contradict any command that God may issue to kill someone. I've pointed this out.

The real issue -- which is being studiously ignored -- is, while the Old Covenant saw God commanding the shedding of blood to cleanse the land, under the New Covenant those commands must not be literally followed: to do so would be murder prohibited by the 6th Commandment.

Indeed, Kevin is forced to concede that in a roundabout way. What he denied in the first clause ("The 'original intent' of the 6th Commandment is to prohibit ALL killing") he hastily affirmed in the second clause ("…unless, of course and obviously -- God commands otherwise."). That's right. I wasn't "forced" to concede this, it's obvious to everyone.
Turning to Kevin's question: beware of lawyerly questions! Beware of deceptively simple questions within which lurk tendentious assumptions.  
i) Suppose I said that would violate the 6th commandment. Does that mean the 6th commandment prohibits all killing without qualification? Not in the least. An affirmative answer on my part would not be a concession to Kevin's position. I have never argued, and have expressly denied, that the 6th Commandment prohibits God from requiring the shedding of blood to make atonement. Long ago I said it was The Book of Hebrews that prohibits those sheddings of blood to make atonement. No response from the non-pacifists.
ii) Hovering in the background of Kevin's question are two erroneous assumptions:  
a) He uses the Mosaic covenant to reinterpret the Noahic covenant. Yet the Mosaic covenant contains tons of regulations that don't belong to the Noahic covenant. The scope of the Mosaic covenant is localized in time and space whereas the scope of the Noahic covenant is global and timeless. Does Kevin imagine that the atonement of Christ abolishes ordinary providence (e.g. "seedtime and harvest")? Silly question
It's hermeneutically illicit and retrograde to reinterpret the Noahic covenant on the basis of the Mosaic covenant. The Noahic covenant is independent of the Mosaic covenant. It can be incorporated into other covenants, but it's not contingent on their focus, function, or duration. Are you saying that the "clean" and "unclean" animals that Noah brought onto the ark were a completely different list of animals than those recorded in Leviticus 11? Are you saying that the burnt offerings that Noah offered (Genesis 8:20-21) are fundamentally different than those offered by Levitical priests? I would say there is covenantal continuity on the issues under debate, and it's your burden to prove there is some essential difference.

There is no essential difference in the acts of shedding blood which we find in Genesis 9 and Numbers 35. They serve the same covenantal purpose under the Old Covenant, and are superceded in the New Covenant.

b) Holy war presupposes sacred space. Holy land. Israel's cultic holiness. This is a bumper sticker, not an argument.

My claim is that there is no New Covenant justification for "holy war." There is no other Biblical definition for "war" of any kind than "holy war." Jesus in the New Covenant, following the example of Isaiah and Jeremiah, expressly prohibits "national defense."

But that's by no means the only Scriptural justification for taking life. Even in Deut 20, there's a distinction between offensive war, concerning the holy land proper (e.g. removing pagans from the holy land) and defensive war, concerning the protection of the holy land against invasion.  
Ancient Israel didn't have laws of war simply to protect her cultic holiness. In addition, Israel had laws for warfare because national defense is a necessity for any nation-state or city-state. By the same token, Israel had a penal code that covered various violent crimes, sex crimes, and property crimes, not because Israel was cultically holy, but because any nation must have laws dealing with violent crimes, sex crimes, and property crimes. God promised safety if Israel obeyed God's Commandments. This was most notably true when Israel was commanded to observe the Feast of Booths, and was outside the gates and completely defenseless.

In this feast they were required to leave their homes and live for seven days in little "tabernacles," or booths, made entirely from "the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook" (Lev. 23:40). Israel usually dwelled in walled cities, as a protection against their enemies; yet, at the very time of prosperity (the end of harvest)—when attack would seem most likely—God ordered them to leave the security of their homes and journey to Jerusalem, to live in unprotected booths made of branches, palm fronds, and fruit! God promised, however, that He would keep the heathen from attacking during the festivals (Ex. 34:23-24), and Israel had to trust in His strength.
David Chilton, Paradise Restored

"National defense" is not a Biblical necessity. Obedience is.

The cultus (i.e. priesthood, sacrificial system) and purity codes were indexed to Israel's cultic holiness. But many other Mosaic laws were inevitable given the nature of social life in a fallen world. By this logic, any departure from God's Law can be justified as a "practical" response to living in "a fallen world."
iii) We could turn Kevin's question around and ask whether Gen 9:5-6 would apply in the case of an unjust war of aggression. The answer is yes.  
"I don't think we should shed blood as commanded in Genesis 9, whether in the eretz of Israel or the eretz of Ethiopia or the eretz of any other people."  
Notice how he smuggles false assumptions into the way he frames the issue. Yet the command in Gen 9 isn't about the where but the who. I would object to the word "smuggle," since you were the one who raised the "eretz" issue re:Numbers 35:33. Genesis 9 is about blood. It's not limited to Israel. It is, however, limited to the ages before Christ shed His blood in the New Covenant.
"Which verse of the Bible sets forth the core differences between the ritual shedding of blood in these verses (Deut 21/Num35/Gen9), and proves that after Christ's work on the cross, blood still needs to be shed by man in any case?"  
i) Once again, notice how he begs the question by recasting Gen 9 in terms of "ritual bloodshed." "Recasting" Genesis 9??? READ THE VERSES!

But you shall not eat flesh with its lifethat is, its blood5 Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.
Genesis 9:4-6

I'm not "begging" the question, I'm posing the question, and still haven't heard an answer.

I think I've presented a "prima facie" case that the ritual blood shed in cases of unsolved homicide (Deut. 21) is of the same character as the blood shedding in Numbers 35:33, which is of the same covenantal character as the blood shedding in Genesis 9. No respectable theologian contends that the blood which God required to be shed in Deuteronomy 21 should be shed in our day. I contend the same for the others.

ii) Moreover, as I already pointed out, his contention is self-defeating. Homicide doesn't require literal bloodshed. There are many bloodless methods of killing people. ANY killing pollutes the land and requires atonement. I hope I don't have to keep prooftexting that proposition.
So by Kevin's self-refuting logic, homicide is never murder unless the method of dispatching the victim involves literal bloodshed. By Kevin's definition, if you drown somebody (for whatever reason), that's not murder. Same thing with other methods. Kevin has perfected a defense for the Boston Strangler! By the same token, bloodless methods of execution bypass Kevin's strictures. Carbon monoxide inhalation doesn't count. That's not my logic; you are the one who initiated that line of thinking. Even if not one drop of blood is spilled by the murderer, there must be atonement by blood:

So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.
Numbers 35:33

  I don't think I actually heard an answer to my question:

If the United States federal government, following all legal and constitutional due process, declares war on Canaanites, citing relevant Biblical statutes, e.g., Deuteronomy 20:16-18, it will be a violation of the 6th commandment, correct?

It would be. The 6th Commandment covers that.

It also covers an employee at Best Buy who kills a would-be thief.

Patrick Chan Kevin said:  
"But the Westminster Larger Catechism says we still need to obey this command..."  
1. The Westminster Larger Catechism doesn't have the same authority over Christians as the Bible does.  
2. In addition, the Westminster Larger Catechism was penned in the mid-1600s.  
3. Why does Kevin think the Westminster Larger Catechism is relevant to the best exegesis and theology of these passages, the Law of Moses, and the rest of the Bible? The Westminster Standards rock. Some of the best theologians in the history of the Christian Church put it together. I'm disagreeing with it at this point, but it must be reckoned with.

B.B. Warfield, professor at Princeton in the late 1800's, wrote of the Westminster Standards,

[T]hey are the final crystallization of the elements of evangelical religion, after the conflicts of sixteen hundred years. . . . [T]hey are the richest and most precise and best guarded statement ever penned of all that enters into evangelical religion. . . 

The Westminster divines were correct to note that the 6th commandment prohibits more than murder, and requires more than simply abstaining from murder.