“It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases.” @JohnPiper Really?

Here’s how John Piper begins his response to a question about God’s commandment to slaughter the Canaanites:

It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases. God gives life and he takes life. Everybody who dies, dies because God wills that they die.

Peter Enns has some problems with that.

I do too, though I’m not sure I completely agree with Enns’s critique of Piper.

Your thoughts?

9 thoughts on ““It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases.” @JohnPiper Really?

  1. There is often confusion, in my opinion, in people’s minds between something “being right” (i.e. – ethical allowance) and someone “having the right” (i.e. – authoritative allowance). As one of the richest people in the world prior to his death, Steve Jobs “had the right” to do with his money whatever he deemed fit. It was his money. But given the charitable contributions of Bill Gates to charities globally, there are many who argue that Steve’s hoarding of cash “was not right.” Does God have the right to take life whenever and however He deems fit? Of course. We are His creation and He can do with us as He sees fit. Is it right to take what we would call “innocent life?” That’s a harder issue to answer since we are putting ourselves in a judge’s seat to determine what is “ethically allowable” when it comes to God’s behavior.

    Not sure I have actually lended anything to the discussion, but Piper has made comments like this before and this is how I have always framed the discussion in my own thinking….

  2. Yes, Piper’s response is harsh, but here are the questions I’m compelled to ask. Is God sovereign? Yes. Does He get His way? Yes. Does He determine what is good? Yes. Then as a believer, my response is obedience, right? I don’t have a theology degree, but what would be the use of a Christian faith if the Bible were only a combination of “faith stories”? Why have faith in a God who doesn’t have the power to intervene in my life?

  3. I am with Piper. Reading Old Testament, I believe God kills and give life as He pleases. It is hard to swallow in our mordern rosy-cool god we create but the more I read Old Testament’s wars as a means of God’s earthly judgment, the more I understand that God’s holy wrath and the holiness of God, I find no problem with Piper’s remark.

  4. Hi George,

    I think Peter shows his true colors in his closing paragraph defaulting back to the “Isn’t the God of the NT suppose to be a God of love” argument. Peter seeks to go deep but merely finishes on the surface. Where ever one might land on the extent of God’s sovereignty there will always be things we view as unfathomable and unloving for a “loving God” to do.

    Asking “How could God” or “Why would God” testifies to our finite minds and understanding.

    Thanks for sharing,


  5. I agree with Lane’s distinction between “being right” (character) and “having a right” (authority). What bothered me about Piper’s remarks is (it seemed to me) that he emphasized God’s authority in the Canannite destruction, but not his character. But God exercises his authority within the bounds of his character. In other words, his power serves moral purposes (judgment in this case).

  6. Ditto, GPW. I was thinking that just because he can doesn’t mean he would. We can’t compartmentalize his character from his actions. If God (for some seemingly horric reason) decided to act in this way, there must have been a reason consistent with his character to allow for it. And who among us is willing to be the judge of that?

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