This entire POST by Justin Taylor is problematic in a considerable number of ways. For example, there is no consideration of literary genre. Joshua is a narrative concerning ancient warfare. Descriptions of ancient warfare are not the most historically accurate literary texts in the corpus of ancient literature. Rulers often described their battles as far more successful and complete than they actually were. For example, they might describe their subjugation of a nation as complete only to have to write a year or two later that they had to go back and subjugate the people again. How complete could the original subjugation have been?
Yet let’s throw all of those considerations out the window to defend “acts of God” that may be overblown in the first place (see the beginning of the book of Judges for evidence that the description in Joshua is overblown). But I’ll leave that alone now to deal with Taylor’s specific misuse of one text, namely Genesis 18.25. In the same section in which Taylor cites Genesis 18.25, he says:
While it is ultimately illegitimate to ask if God’s ways are just in securing the Promised Land, it is perfectly appropriate and edifying to seek understanding on how God’s ways are just—whether in commissioning the destruction of the Canaanites or in any other action.
The fact of the matter is that questioning if God’s actions are just is exactly what Abraham is doing in Genesis 18. The verse in question reads: “Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” In fact, let me rephrase what I said at the beginning of this paragraph. Abraham is not just questioning whether or not God is just, he is actually insinuating that what God is about to do is not just. Notice 18.23, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” If Abraham knew the answer to that question was “no,” he wouldn’t have had to go into trying to sell God on not destroying the whole city. And, it is only at Abraham’s behest that God goes about his business in a just manner. *
To limit the types of questions that people should ask represents to me a weak kind of faith. People cannot ask these kinds of questions because they are afraid of what the answers might be. Beyond this, critiquing the depiction of God and beliefs about God in the Bible is a long standing tradition that begins in the Biblical text itself. If you can reconcile Ezra 9-10 with the Book of Ruth without allowing one to critique the other, I’d like to see those mental back flips. It would be entertaining.
* Genesis 18.25 is even more pertinent to Taylor’s post than he may think since in point 3 he says no one deserves God’s mercy. Yet this is exactly the point on which Abraham’s argument hinges. In other words, there are possibly righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah who have done nothing wrong and who do not deserve to be killed (perhaps like the Canaanite infants). But, if I get into all of that, this could go on for hours.