Answer the skeptic: How might it be fair that God ordered the killing of Canaanite children?

It is interesting whenever a skeptic discusses the problem of evil and the destruction of the Canaanites. Many times the skeptic will say that if God is good then He would get rid of evil in the world. Yet at the same time say that God is wrong for destroying the Canaanites because they were evil. I hope you can see the inconsistency here. Either God is wrong for allowing evil or He is wrong for destroying evil. It seems like no matter what God chooses the skeptic will have a problem. However, there are some skeptics that will agree that the adults deserved punishment for their evil actions, but that it wasn’t fair to order the killing of the Canaanite children. So, are there any good reasons for God to order the killing of the children?

Short Answer: It is fair that God ordered the killing of Canaanite children because it kept them from further harm.

Upon studying the Canaanite culture, you will discover that they were committing horribly evil acts including: idolatry, incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and bestiality.  The children were sacrificed to the Canaanite god Molech, and even molested. If these children were kept alive, it is possible that they would continue to suffer and die in their sinful culture. If it is possible that these horrible things would continue to happen, then it seems reasonable for God to order the killing of the children to save them from this further torture and death.

“Although Christians differ about this, many Christians, including many apologists such as Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig, and Greg Koukl have argued that all who die before the age of accountability (see Deut. 1:39) will be saved.”[1] Jesus spoke to the disciples in Luke 18:16 saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” It is because of this verse as well as others that many Christians hold to the view that children are saved. This is why Greg Koukl states, “Regarding the children, I personally take comfort in the fact that, on my view, those who die before the age of accountability are ushered immediately into Heaven.” In this view, when God ordered the killing of the Canaanite children, He was not only saving them from further harm but was giving them salvation.

Another option that needs to be discussed is the possibility of the Israelites adopting all of the Canaanite children. Wouldn’t it be possible for the Israelite families to take the children into their homes after conquering the land? How do you think the children would react when they found out that their new parents were responsible for the death of their birth parents? Dr. Jones makes the argument that, “If they were kept alive they would have turned against the Israelites for killing their parents.” It therefore seems unreasonable to offer adoption as a solution.

Since adoption doesn’t seem like a viable option and since many Christians believe children go to heaven, it seems that God had good reasons for ordering the killing of Canaanite children; He was protecting them from an evil culture. Now, the skeptic may not be satisfied with this answer, but it does respond to the logical problem of evil. We may not know the exact reasons why God ordered these killings, but when asked “How might it be fair?” we only need to offer a possible reason, and this does just that.

This is one part in a series of posts on why God allows evil.  Look below to read previous posts that you missed and see what is coming up. Each section will be posted weekly in the order they appear below.

  1. Why do people suffer for a sin Adam committed long ago?
  2. Why does God let a child die?
  3. How might it be fair that God ordered the killing of Canaanite children?
  4. Why do bad things happen to good people?
  5. Why is eternal punishment fair?
  6. If conscious belief in Jesus is required for salvation, how is that fair to those who have never heard the gospel?
  7. Free will isn’t so valuable for God to permit so much suffering.
  8. What good is the suffering I endure?
  9. How will Heaven mitigate our suffering on earth?
  10. Why does God allow evil?

[1] Clay Jones, “Why Did God Let that Child Die?”