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Can We Trust the God of Genocide?
Illustration by Rick Beerhorst

I recently taught a Bible class at our local Christian school. I was assigned the topic, "Can the Bible Be Trusted?" I prepared well—a skillful blending, I thought, of watertight arguments, personal anecdotes, and historical underpinnings. I gave a whirlwind history of the development of the canon. I toted out comparative stats on existing copies of ancient documents. I addressed the old vexing problem of the mystery cults and their relationship to Christianity. I told those students how the Bible was a wise and trusted guide in my own life. I gave examples. I delivered it all with what I thought was conviction and verve.

It was a flop. The students could barely stay awake.

I might have guessed the outcome from the get-go. I started with a question: "If anyone asked you why you trust the Bible, what would you tell them?"

It left them dumbfounded.

As I was leaving, a young man who had seemed especially bored in the class approached me in the hall.

"Thanks for coming," he said, surprising me. I asked him if I'd helped him answer the question, Why do you trust the Bible?

"No."

"Well," I said, "do you trust the Bible?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Hosea 13:16," he said.

"Remind me," I said.

With icy precision he quoted: "The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open."

Now it was my turn to be dumbfounded.

John Milton opens Paradise Lost claiming to "justify the ways of God to man." It's questionable whether he succeeds. It's ...

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Can We Trust the God of Genocide?
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