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Tricky Passages: 1 Samuel 15 – The Amalekite genocide

(This article is an adapted version of: J Allister, ‘The Amalekite Genocide’, The Briefing, 12 August 2013,

And Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the Lord.  Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” (Genesis 15:1-3 ESV)

This picture actually shows Exodus 17 rather than 1 Chronicles 15 - it seems artists are unwilling to tackle 1 Chronicles 15!

This is, for many Christians, one of the most uncomfortable verses in the Bible. For this reason, many knowledgeable atheists will use this passage as a means of attacking the Christian faith, and many Christians are unable to defend against such a criticism. After all, it seems, at first glance, that God is commanding Israel to commit genocide against a people simply on account of what their ancestors did 400 years ago.

However, on closer reading, almost everything in that sentence (after “Gods is commanding Israel”) is incorrect.

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Zealot: Old News

Zealot by Reza Aslan is in the news at the moment, not least because of a disastrous interview on Fox in the US. Unfortunately, the book itself is hardly newsworthy, as explained in this article by John Dickson.

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Needless opposition: The Bible and Science

Physician, heal thyself

In a previous post, I said that each person holds a collection of ideas about life, the universe and everything. These ideas come together to form their overall view of the world, in the same way that tiles come together to form a mosaic. I argued that, to effectively defend and proclaim the gospel (humanly speaking), we need to think about people’s ideas, critique them and present better mosaics.

However, before we critique other’s mosaics, we should first examine our own. And one point where many Christian’s mosaics may be in need of correction is in the intersection of the creation account and science.

(If I’m going to alienate half my readership, I might as well do it early on. This is a long post, so “gird your loins.”)

The conflict

(I won’t be analysing this video – it’s just hear to get you thinking.)

“Science has proven,” some Non-Christians say, “that all the things we can see today came about in a certain way – in a way that is different to what the Bible says. If I had to choose between the evidence I can see with my eyes and touch with my hands, and the theories of some guy how-many-thousands of years ago, I’ll stick with the former, thanks.”

Now, there are many holes in the above logic, as one would expect from a straw man. But this is not an article to pick apart every part of the above argument – this article is about us Christians.

My issue is this: I think that most of the effort Christians spend in arguing against scientific theories is wasted effort, because most scientific theories don’t (have to) contradict the Bible in the first place.

Or, to put it more bluntly: We have read the Bible badly, and it doesn’t have to contradict the science.

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Bio of William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig is probably the world’s foremost Christian apologist at present, but seems to be surprisingly little-known in wider Christian and secular society – at least, this is the case in my circles.

The Chronicle recently published a lengthy but very readable article on him. You can find it here:


Craig debated … New Atheist author, Sam Harris, in a large, sold-out auditorium at the University of Notre Dame. In a sequence of carefully timed speeches and rejoinders, the two men clashed over whether we need God for there to be moral laws. Harris delivered most of the better one-liners that night, while Craig, in suit and tie, fired off his volleys of argumentation with the father-knows-best composure of Mitt Romney, plus a dash of Schwarzenegger. Something Harris said during the debate might help explain how Dawkins reacted: He called Craig “the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists.”

(Don’t take this post as a wholesale affirmation of everything he does and says; and don’t take this disclaimer as the opposite, either. It’s just good for every apologist – and, therefore, for every Christian – to know about such people.)

Christian exceptionalism

Christians dismiss the gods of every other religion – atheists just go one god further!

John Dickson writes for the ABC:

Launching the book For God’s Sake: An Atheist, a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim Debate Religion, columnist Peter Fitzsimons revelled in the opportunity to offer his favourite atheist one-liners. “There have been 10,000 gods through history,” he said to my colleague Simon Smart, one of the authors of the book. “You reject 9,999 of them. I just go one god further!”

It was a well-rehearsed line straight out of the atheist joke book – Dawkins likes to tell it, too. It got the laugh a witticism deserves. Simon replied laconically, “Is that meant to be an argument, Fitz?” Apparently, it was. “I’ve put this to a lot of believers over the years,” Fitzsimons said with gusto, “and none of them has been able to reply.” I was surprised to hear that. So let me give it a go.

To see John’s reply, go to:

Mosaic Mindset: The “how” of apologetics

Mozaic 1

Learning from our mistakes

Why is it that Christians have been so spectacularly unsuccessful in defending “marriage” as “one man and one woman for life?” I think that this is the primary reason: we haven’t thought about how people think.

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Introduction to Apologetics

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:13-17 ESV)

This blog exists for one primary purpose: to help Christians answer challenges to the faith we profess. “Apologetics” is the reasoned defence of a religious belief; as you can see in 1 Peter 3 above, all Christians are commanded to be ready to engage in apologetics.