Rob Bell and Joshua 6

A good friend recently informed me that he was reading Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell, which I had previously read.

My friend’s admission made me pick up my copy of Bell’s book and leaf through it.   In pages 041-042, Bell asks a series of questions regarding the following Biblical text,

They [The Israelites under Joshua] utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword… So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land. — Joshua 6:21, 27

Bell’s questions are,

God was with Joshua when he killed all those women and children? Is God really like that? What does a thinking, honest person do with a story like this?

Though Rob never answers his questions, I do wonder what he is trying to get at?

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12 Responses to Rob Bell and Joshua 6

  1. kimita says:

    a rational, thinking person would accept that he/she is not God and does not have the mind of God and therefore cannot always understand the decisions of God. but is that rational?

  2. Ryan Imel says:

    I think Rob purposely did not answer his own question. Granted, I think his writing style is such that he doesn’t feel he needs to give all the answers, but it’s also a matter of the book’s purpose: he wanted to present a whole lot of things and get people thinking. Too many authors try to wrap things up with a nice neat bow, and that’s not how Bell always operates.

    I read his statement and think about how different, culturally, we are from Israel during that era. Their understanding of what it meant to have “God with you” was very different from our understanding now. To them, and this doesn’t cover all instances of course, one way they knew when “God was with them” was when they defeated their enemies. I’m not suggesting it isn’t true that God was with them, I’m only pointing to how their understanding was different than ours is now, and that might also mean that God interacted with them differently than he interacts with us now.

    Thoughts?

  3. Steve says:

    I think the point was not strictly about what “God was with them” meant, but rather, how God would condone the slaughter of innocents. Granted, they were a pagan culture, but I keep hearing the voice of Darth Sidious from the Star Wars movie, “Wipe them out. All of them.”

    This passage is obviously very popular on the atheist sites to show how nasty the God of the OT was.

    Rob Bell just sidestepped the issue. It’s easy to ask tough questions, but much harder to answer them. I don’t have an answer, either, not surprisingly. I see it as being similar to the passage where Abraham is asked to slaughter Isaac, only in this case, they were expected to follow through. Perhaps because the Israelites lacked the faith of Abraham?

  4. Steve says:

    Kimita,
    That doesn’t wash. I went to catholic grade school years ago, and whenever the nuns couldn’t answer a question about God they came back with, “Well, that’s just one of the mysteries of the church.”

  5. kimita says:

    Steve,

    You have to admit that while some sections of Scripture can be explained, others cannot be completely understood because that’s how God intended it. We will not have all the answers on this side of heaven. Isaiah 55:8-9 explains this well. People may not like this but they can take that up with God.

  6. Steve says:

    Understood. Just because the Scriptures were given to us doesn’t mean that we will have understanding of everything within them. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in, to bring that wisdom we lack. This topic – God condoning/directing slaughter of the pagan nations – is one that I probably won’t grasp this side of heaven.

  7. Laz says:

    Thank you all for your comments.

    Taking the totality of the Bible into account, is it so hard to accept that yes, God is like that?

  8. Steve says:

    I’m not sure I would say, “God is like that.” I would say that God is just too darn big for me to get my brain around. As a Christian, I have a new appreciation for Monty Python – though my wife still doesn’t see the humor.

    This is from The Meaning of Life:

    O Lord, you are so big,
    so absolutely huge.
    We’re all really impressed down here I can tell you.
    Forgive us, O Lord, for this,
    our dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery.

  9. Pingback: God is Big « Careful Thought II

  10. Laz says:

    Steve,
    Think about what I said above in the context of the ‘wages of sin’.

  11. me says:

    Romans 12 says that God can do what He wants with people. does the potter not have the right to use some pottery for simple use and some for elegant use? God was with Joshua and helped him win in order to bring glory to Himself.

  12. Laz says:

    I think you meant to say Romans 9:20-22, no?

    On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?

    Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?

    What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

    Most people cannot see God like this, but well, HE IS.

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