One of the most common objections against Christianity is violence in the Old Testament. Richard Dawkins, our generation’s most famous atheist, sums up the attitude of many when he says,
“The God of the Old Testament is … a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
The question of violence in the Old Testament is a troubling one for many people, Christians as well as non-Christians. Read through the book of Joshua, for instance, and it appears that God commands genocide. So what are we to make of this large-scale, divinely-ordered violence in the OT? The answer revolves around three key words—authority, judgment, race.