Objections to the Purity of Bible Ethics


by Wayne S. Walker

     The argument can be made that the superior ethical standard presented to mankind in the Bible gives weight to the claim that the Bible is from God and not man. However, through the years Biblical critics have objected to this argument. They have often cited a number of examples which they think impugn the ethical standard of the Bible.

     One such example is the destruction of ancient people. How, it is asked, can the Bible be an ethical book when it records the wholesale slaughter of Canaanite tribes, even innocent babies, at the command of the same God who is said to be its author? However, the fact is that these tribes were grossly immoral and evil. God gave them time to repent, saying that in the days of Abraham their iniquity was not yet full (Genesis 15:16). Yet, they did not repent [in fact, many of those tribes themselves sacrificed their innocent babies as offerings to their pagan gods], and the time came when God could no longer tolerate their wickedness, so He ordered them destroyed. It was far better for such ungodly societies to be annihilated than for them to continue and new generations be allowed to follow their ways

     Also it is asked, how can the Bible be ethical when it permitted polygamy, concubinage, divorce for any cause, and slavery. It must be admitted that God’s Old Testament law did permit these things, which were already practices among the Middle Eastern nations and apparently adopted by the Israelites, to exist as customs among them, but they were strictly regulated to avoid abuses, and nothing is ever said to indicate that God Himself instituted or actually approved of them. Jesus’s observation about divorce might well be applied to all of them. "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so" (Matthew 19:6). From this we can conclude that it was never God’s will for them to exist, and today they are condemned. They have always brought unhappiness wherever practiced, even in the Biblical accounts, and where Christianity has gone they have ceased to exist.

    Another question often asked is, how can the Bible be ethical when it has spawned the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem witchhunts, and religious wars such as we have seen in Northern Ireland and Lebanon? As Christians, we answer that these things are perversions of Bible ethics, and we are not obligated to defend them any more than the unbeliever is obligated to defend everything that has been done by other unbelievers. Rather, we oppose them just like all other right-thinking people. The Bible itself warns us about those who would have a form of godliness in professing to know God, but deny its power by their abominable works (2 Timothy 3:5, Titus 1:6).

     In our "politically correct" educational establishment today, pre-Columbian cultures like the Toltecs, Aztecs, Mayas, and Incas are praised for their accomplishments despite the fact that they were fierce warriors who exterminated their enemies, engaged in human sacrifice, and sometimes practiced cannibalism. Ancient sub-Saharan cultures of Africa are also looked upon with pride by many of their descendants even though some of their leaders subjugated women through polygamy and sold their own people into slavery. And while Adolph Hitler would be considered among the twentieth century’s most notable unbelievers, no one would suggest that every atheist be held responsible for his actions. In fact, these examples show that where the influence of the Bible has not been felt, the ethical standards of people have been much lower. Indeed, what a wonderful book it has been! (—taken from With All Boldness; October, 1998; Vol. 8, No. 10; p. 16)


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