I will be perfectly honest: I have never really had a problem with the accounts of the book of Judges. Some people find them morally horrific--what kind of God would authorize the Israelites to show no mercy (Deut. 7:2)? This just hasn't bugged me since I figure God knows what he is doing. But it bugs some people and in our increasingly secular world, more and more people are looking at the Bible to find faults with it. This seems to be a particularly popular thing to point out to show how God is a "moral monster." In the next few posts I would like to outline some reasons why I don't think Christians should have any problem with these passages whatsoever.
Reason #1: The Bible is About Worship and Warfare
It seems that everyone and their grandma is writing a narrative theology and is attempting to locate the "center" or the dominant theme of the Bible. There are so many good books on this topic and I think that all of them contribute to Biblical theology in different ways. I am not totally convinced that there is a dominant theme but, if I had to attempt to write a narrative theology, I would say that the dominant theme is this:
The Triune God of the Bible, because of he alone is King, deserves all glory, honor and worship and is willing to go to war to receive that worship.
A few things to say about this theme:
1) Right off the bat it offends us that the Triune God of the Bible would be willing to go to war for worship. Isn't that egotistical? Isn't that vicious? I think John Piper, in his numerous works, has defended the idea that God's concern for his own glory is actually to our benefit. So I don't want to rehash that here.
But I will say that God's concern for his worship is necessary. Since God is wise, perfect, good, righteous and loving, those same attributes are marks of God's kingdom as well. Any aberration against this kingdom is a sign of rebellion and is also a declaration of war. More importantly, it is a declaration of rejection and attack on the other members of the kingdom. As a result, it must be punished, not only to maintain order but also to uphold the values of the kingdom. Thus it is perfectly right for God to go to war for his worship. Jonathan Edwards, I think, would agree as well because the inner-workings of the Trinity also emphasize overflowing love that results in worship. To refuse to worship the Trinity is tantamount to rejecting life, love, freedom, joy, hope, and beauty. Again, anyone who rejects these things should rightly be punished.
2) God goes to war in different ways. If I were to write a book I would mention all of the ways God does, in fact go to war. He does not always go to war in violent ways. Often he goes to war by allowing other nations to wage war against another nation to bring judgment. Perhaps the most impressive act of warfare was when Jesus came to earth, healing those who were demonically oppressed and sick. This was nothing short of an invasion and attack on Satan. Further, when Jesus died, he opened the ability to be transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Jesus (Col. 1:13-14). Again, this is warfare, but a type of warfare that highlights God's grace and mercy.
3) While I hate to mention this at times because it attacks our modern feelings of comfort and inoffensiveness (but the Bible focuses so much on it I have to as well): you have to worship the king. It is built into the title and it is built into the very fact that God is supreme. God deserves it. We gotta get over it. To reject him is rebellion. Paul uses the title of Lord A LOT (just do a word study on it on Blueletterbible.com) and most of the time, I have noticed that it is at critical points of the argument. Christ is Lord; You are not Lord. God holds human kings responsible for worshiping him as well. Yes, he delegates authority to them, but it is never in doubt who the real king is.
4) The entire climax of the Bible is centered on worship. Just read Revelation. Worship is what the future is centered on. There is a restoration of all things, healing and seeing God which leads to worship. Revelation 4 and 5, in my opinion, set the stage for the whole book. We will see people fight for worship and demand worship who are not worthy of worship. Only the "One Seated on the Throne" and "The Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David" the conquering "Lamb who was slain" is worthy of worship. Thus all of human history is moving toward worship. In fact, if I had time (and was writing a book), I would point out how worship and warfare permeate Genesis 1-3 as well, thus providing a clue and sort of inclusio to the entire Bible.
Anyway, tomorrow (or when I get more time), I will post the rest of the reasons why Christians should not be offended by the Genocide in the Bible.