Re: [asa] Creationists for genocide

From: PvM <>
Date: Sat Aug 25 2007 - 21:42:40 EDT

So let's add some corrections to David's 'arguments' and attempt to
understand what Avalos is actually saying.

Two helpful resources

Examining the Intersection of Religion and Violence

Talk of the Nation, August 22, 2005 · Two authors look into
correlations between Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and other
theologies, and violent acts.


Hector Avalos, associate professor of religious studies at Iowa State
University; author of Fighting Words: The Origins Of Religious

Charles Kimball, professor of religion at Wake Forest University;
author of When Religion Becomes Evil

and "In defense of Hector
Avalos" by Chris Heard, Associate Professor of Religion at Pepperdine

What's telling here is that, despite their outrage, the best critique
the DI can muster is a half-hearted attempt at something resembling
post-Holocaust sensitivity. They do not, and indeed could not argue
with intellectual integrity (not usually high on the list for the DI
when it goes into attack mode), that Hector is wrong—because, simply
put, he's not. The Tanakh—the focus of my professional activities and
a significant factor in my own religious convictions—offers up some
positively genocidal texts, and not just as narratives, but as divine
law. As a Christian believer, I wish that weren't the case, but I'm
not going to whitewash matters and pretend that those texts aren't
there. I have even written about this myself (but unfortunately that
article sits right in the gap between the SBL's online Semeia archive
and Rosetta's archive of older Semeia volumes). Yes, of course
Hector's comparison is provocative, but it's also accurate.

Heard then references a short article and a full paper on the topic

Hearing the Children's Cries
Commentary, Deconstruction, Ethics, and the Book of Habakkuk
Summary of an article published in Semeia 77 (1997) 75-89
and the full paper at

From this we learn that Avalos is not stating that Christianity is the
only cause of violence. In fact, he is clear that any time there is a
scarcity of resources, there is a potential for violence. What Avalos
is arguing, much like Heard is that just and unjust violence cannot be

As to Torrey, David may have missed how Avalos presents the quote.

<quote>For example, Louis T. Talbot (1889-1976), a former chancellor
of Biola College, a creationist mecca, answers a question concerning
the destiny of those who die in infancy as follows:

    Yes, all infants, including stillborn babies, and young children
who have not reached the age of accountability at death, go
immediately into the presence of God. [33]

That would mean that abortion should result in a 100% salvation rate
for fetuses who are aborted. Abortion would also eliminate completely
the risk of sending aborted fetuses to an eternal torture in hell. So,
by this logic, creationists should be for abortion, not against it.

In fact, Reuben A. Torrey (1856-1928), a famous creationist, nearly
comes to this conclusion when explaining why killing Canaanite
children was justified:

    Even today I could almost wish that all the babies born into
families of wicked influence might be slain in infancy, were it not
for the hope that some concerned Christian will carry to them the
saving gospel of the Son of God. [34]

Yet, even this wish is illogical if all dead infants go directly to
heaven. Torrey substitutes a risky hope of salvation through the
gospel for what is the certainty of salvation through abortion or

About the table David argues

<quote>He claims this table applies not only to the holy war passages
in the OT, but to the whole Bible, including the NT. Of course, he
makes no effort at all to understand how Jews and Christians actually
read and understand scripture.</quote>

Yet, the text is clear, even ignoring David's unsupported accusation.

<quote>Given the foregoing discussion, we can demonstrate that almost
every feature Weikart and his cohorts list for Nazi ideology is
advocated by at least one passage/biblical author in the Bible (Old
Testament or New Testament). Here is a summary:</quote>

Surely one can easily appreciate that David's 'defense' is one of
creating a strawman and ignoring Avalos's arguments.

David's followup response further avoids dealing with Avalos's
arguments and instead turns the focus on what I believe. Surely David
must appreciate that my beliefs have no relevance to the accuracy or
veracity of Avalos's claims. David's simplistic accusations ignore, as
have the DI's accusations about Avalos, what Avalos is actually
stating. While his arguments may be troublesome to us Christians, they
do show a significant level of veracity.

Chris Heard from Pepperdine,,
rather than ignoring Avalos, or resorting to avoidance, accusations
etc, he accepts his scholarship and attempts to incorporate them with
his faith.

What I find quite interesting is how David responds to Avalos's quote of Luther.

<quote>Like just about all Christians today, I deplore Luther's
statements about the Jewish people. Which makes Avalos' reference to
them all the more frustrating. No one, outside a lunatic fringe,
argues that Luther was right about the Jewish people. Talk about a
straw man... </quote>

This of course is irrelevant to Avalos's argument which is that
anti-Judean arguments, including genocide, preceded Darwinian theory
and where in fact founded in a religious position. That we may
disagree with Luther merely shows how Heard and Avalos may have a
strong argument that individuals get to define what is moral and
immoral or just and unjust. If religion lacks a way to distinguish
between to two then how can a biblical foundation for morality be
justified. Unless perhaps such a morality is inherent in us all, based
on a foundation linked with evolutionary history. Absolute morality
may very well exist, but I doubt that we as Christians will ever be
exposed to its full extent during our life time. At best we can try,
based on often confusing examples, to do our best. I am sure that
Luther worked from such a position when he reached his comprehensible
list of seven.

<quote Heard>
The book of Habakkuk leaves its readers with no reliable way to tell
the difference between just and unjust violence, and "when a
distinction cannot be rigorous and precise, it is not a distinction at
all" (Derrida, Limited Inc. [Northwestern, 1989] 123-124).</quote>

Understanding Avalos is perhaps a better way to deal with his
arguments than rejecting them as the musings of an atheist.

So let's focus on what is being said lest we get distracted by a
strawman argument.

Iowa state btw has an interesting program in Bio Ethics

Avalos and Sarfati

David also asked

<quote>BTW, I forgot to ask: how does Avalos fit the Barmen
Declaration -- one of the greatest and bravest statements of
Christian ethics in history -- and the writings and martyrdom at the
hands of the Nazis of Dietrich Bonhoeffer -- into his notion that
Biblical ethics are equivalent to Naziism? Curiously, he mentions

Many people have been martyrs at the hands of the nazis. Once again
David ignores the discussion and Avalos's argument in favor of a non
sequitur. Furthermore suggesting that Avalos mentions neither may
amongst some be seen as a rebuttal, however I am confident that most
will recognize it as an attempt to distract.

Let's remind all of what Avalos stated:

<quote>Given the foregoing discussion, we can demonstrate that almost
every feature Weikart and his cohorts list for Nazi ideology is
advocated by at least one passage/biblical author in the Bible (Old
Testament or New Testament). Here is a summary:</quote>

Perhaps David would like to explain in another posting why he believes
 Barmen Declaration, which spoke out against the state Church of
Hitler, was the greatest and bravest statement of Christian ethics,
or why Dietrich Bonhoeffer is particularly relevant as one of the
countless people persecuted?
Kathleen Rusnak provides her unique perspectives on the holocaust.

<quote>The church didn't speak out for the Jews in the 1930's either.
In fact, the German Lutheran church became Nazified. An underground
church, The Confessing Church formed, and even in this movement only a
minority were for Jews. The heroes of that movement are well known
among scholars and many lay persons. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Martin
Niemoller, even though he admits that he was an antisemite. Bonhoeffer
is known and lifted up as the one who from the beginning could see
clearly amidst a church and clergy that were so blind to Nazism and
the plight of the Jews. How lonely he must have felt, I thought, even
as he wrote his book The Cost of Discipleship, in 1934. I am beginning
to feel lonely too, as I experience mainline Protestant churches
focusing almost exclusively on the Palestinians and their situation,
buying their view of the history of the Middle-East, without batting
an eye, without an urge for Israel's survival.

Bonhoeffer was hanged by the Nazis. Niemoller spent time in
Sacksenhausen and Dachau concentration camps, and survived.</quote>

So once again we see a moral relativism between interpretations by the
State Church and a small minority of Christians (did the Barmen
declaration even mention anti-semitism?)

David Alan Black writes (
<quote>Even fewer Americans are aware that the Barmen Declaration was
not so much a critique of Hitler's policies as it was an alarm sounded
against the usurpation of power and authority in the church by the
"German Christian" movement. As such, the document is a profound
statement of the supreme authority of Jesus Christ as the one Word of
God. This is indicated clearly by the two verses that introduce the
entire document:</quote>

Similarly we learn from a review of The Bonhoeffer Legacy:
Post-Holocaust Perspectives that

<quote>Haynes begins with a survey of Bonhoeffer in the popular
(primarily Christian) memory. With the gravity of the murderous scope
of the holocaust and the Church's acquiescence there is a need for
moral heroes and, in the mind of many, Bonhoeffer fits the bill
excellently. It enables us to see that in spite of all its failings
the Church "did something" to say no to the persecution of Jews.
Bonhoeffer's involvement in "Operation 7" is cited in support of this
assertion. In contrast, in his second chapter Haynes focuses on the
response of Jewish scholars to Bonhoeffer's thought and actions. This
Jewish reading is never the wholehearted elevation of Bonhoeffer as
moral paradigm the Christian (and primarily evangelical) popular
memory; the most benevolent position was to consider Bonhoeffer "the
best of a bad lot". Why? Bonhoeffer's writings early on, particularly
in the 1933 essay "The Church and Jewish Question" displayed not only
a supercessionism but also echoed themes of anti-Jewish rhetoric
common in the Nazi and pre-Nazi era. For example, Bonhoeffer repeats
the "witness people" myth that affirms the charge of deicide on the
Jewish people and their historic sufferings as retribution for this
sin. Hayne's study is an attempt to steer a middle course between the
rejection of Bonhoeffer by some Jewish Scholars and the Christian
'spin control' of his defenders.</quote>

But enough on this side issue.
Bonhoeffer, whatever his contributions may have been, has little
relevance to the arguments made by Avalos and in fact, the stark
contradiction between the State Church and the Confessing Church show
how there may indeed be no claim to moral high-grounds. In fact, even
within the Confessing Church there seemed to be several conflicting

An interesting research side track into the confessing church and the
role it played in Germany.
See also as a final
parting with this side step.

<quote>Many conservative Lutherans shared Mesier's strategy and
beliefs. After 1934 these Lutherans distanced themselves from the
declaration; they felt Barmen's revision of core Lutheran doctrine was
too drastic. They quite rightly perceived that the Barmen declaration
challenged four of the conservative Lutherans most sacred tenets: the
law-gospel dialectic, the orders of creation, natural revelation, and
the orthodox Lutheran understanding of Martin Luther's doctrine of
the two kingdoms.

Interesting... History

On 8/25/07, PvM <> wrote:
> On 8/25/07, David Opderbeck <> wrote:
> >
> > Thanks for giving the link. It demonstrates that Avalos doesn't understand Christian ethics or Christian history -- or for that matter, ethics and history in general.
> >
> > For example, Avalos says this:
> >
> >
> > Christianity is actually founded on moral relativism that is even more chaotic than secular systems of ethics. Ephesians 2:15 tells us this about what Christ did to the Law of Moses: "by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace." In fact, from a traditional Jewish viewpoint, Christianity is founded on systematically destroying God's laws as revealed to Moses, and so speaking of a Judeo-Christian tradition is also akin to speaking of a Capitalist-Marxist tradition.
> >
> > If Avalos weren't so serious about this, it would almost be amusing that he engages in the same sort of willy-nilly proof-texting as religious fundamentalists. There are many ways to understand the relationship between the Gospel and the Law, but no responsible Christian interpreter is as antinomian as Avalos is here. At the very least, Avalos seems to be ignorant of the many rich streams of Christian thought that wrestle with the Gospel-Law relationship in ways that are not in any sense relativistic or antinomian. I wonder, for example, if Avalos has read Frank Thielman's recent study "Paul and the Law" ( Indeed, I wonder if Avalos is aware of the depth of the entire Christian tradition on the Gospel-Law relationship. Somehow, I doubt it.
> Your doubt at most shows the weakness of your argument not that of Avalos's. I find it fascinating how people tend to respond to criticism by resorting to the adhominems such as 'no responsible Christian interpreter'.
> >
> > This is only one of the many clunkers and recycled chestnuts in Avalos' article. As another example, he picks on R.A. Torrey -- who is not even a contemporary creationist of the sort Avalos supposedly is doing battle -- for the following statement:
> Why should the creationist be contemporary when Avalos's argument is that this kind of thought predates Darwinism?
> >
> >
> >
> > Even today I could almost wish that all the babies born into families of wicked influence might be slain in infancy, were it not for the hope that some concerned Christian will carry to them the saving gospel of the Son of God.
> > In context, Torrey is trying to understand the OT's "holy war" passages, and is suggesting that perhaps in some sense it was better for some of the Canaanite infants to die young rather than to be raised in a context in which they would surely have worshipped Baal. We can reasonably debate whether Torrey's approach to these passages is a good one, but notice that, contrary to Avalos' argument, Torrey is not in any way advocating abortion, infanticide, or genocide. Even the out-of-context- quote Avalos provides makes clear that Torrey is not advocating infanticide, but rather is expressing the hope that concerned Christians will share the gospel with everyone.
> Aha, surely your accusation of out of context quote fails since it is, as you state, not out of context. Furthermore, a more careful reading of what Avalos wrote shows that he refers to Torrey as a 'defender' of the kind of genocide found in these examples.
> >
> > Moreover, none of this has anything at all to do with Torrey's views about creation. What Avalos is really arguing here is that any view that incorporates the perspective of an afterlife is morally abominable. This, again, is an
> You seem to be missing Avalos's argument then. Love those strawmen...
> >
> > old atheist chestnut -- the promise and/or threat of an afterlife makes people less attentive to things in this life, less sensitive to suffering, etc. And again, it's a fundamentalist-style argument that relies on extremes. True, some people who believe in an afterlife use that belief to justify or support evil actions. But, as an empirical matter, it simply isn't true that all, most, or even an appreciable percentage of the afterlife-believing population do anything of the sort. Indeed, the evidence might suggest that belief in an afterlife can encourage people to act more compassionately in this life. And of course, many, many atrocities have been perpetrated by people who believed their actions in this life carry no repurcussions for them beyond the grave.
> And yet we see how Avalos is documenting a Christian thought process which if not condones, surely understands the concept of genocide and how these thoughts precede Darwinian theory.
> >
> > As one last example of Avalos' embarassingly shallow treatment, take a look at the summary tables at the end of his article. Avalos compares Nazi ideology and the Bible as follows:
> >
> >
> >
> > Nazi Ideology
> > Anti-Judaism YES YES
> > Homosexuality condemned YES YES
> > Genealogical purity demanded YES YES
> > Life unequal in value YES YES
> > Whole groups devalued YES YES
> > Genocide permissible YES YES
> >
> >
> > He claims this table applies not only to the holy war passages in the OT, but to the whole Bible, including the NT. Of course, he makes no effort at all to understand how Jews and Christians actually read and understand scripture. His is a kind of cherry-picking literalism that not even the most fundamentalist of Christian exegetes would employ. With regard to the Christian understanding of the Bilbe, he completely ignores the primacy of the Cross, and he seems blind to the socially leveling influence that Christianity has actually had in history.
> So he ignores thing although he is right to point out these similarities? Surely analogies do end at a certain level, but this is in response to the somewhat irresponsible arguments by Weikart. All Avalos is doing is showing how genocide and Christian and Judean thought on these matters precedes Darwinism.
> >
> > With regard to the Jewish understanding of the Bible, one can only describe Avalos' tables as alternating between incoherent and anti-semitic. Let's be clear about what Avalos is saying concerning the Jewish scriptures and, by implication, the Jewish tradition that is based on those scriptures: he is arguing that Judaism is equivalent to Nazism! Let that really sink in if you are at all tempted to think Avalos' approach here is reasonable.
> Love them strawmen. Accuse Avalos of anti-semitism, surely that's going to make his arguments go away. Never mind whether or not there is some level of veracity to Avalos's arguments... It's much simpler to make it go away by distracting from his arguments.
> >
> > Avalos' concluding paragraph is a fitting summary for this mess of an essay. He says:
> >
> >
> > Creationist ethics are based on the whims and claims of people who tell us they know what God wants. Scientific ethics, as imperfect as they may be, at least can demand verifiable evidence that violence in self-defense is necessary. Theistic violence, on the other hand, often relies on the unverifiable belief that a supernatural being said we had to sacrifice human life.
> >
> > It's hard to know where to begin with a passage like this. Avalos seems to equate "creationist ethics" with some radical form of divine command theory tied to an even more radical interpretive framework that would allow for random prophetic utterances without any normative framework. Once again, Avalos displays his ignorance of the variations of religious ethics, which often incorporate at least some limited type of natural theology in addition to the divine command. Avalos further ignores the idea that the divine command itself, in the Christian tradition, is not given at the whims of some people at any point in history, but is normed by the commands and actions of Christ -- in particular by the Cross -- and by the canonical scriptures.
> >
> > Avalos' notion of "scientific ethics" in this concluding paragraph is equally baffling. There is no serious, sustained school of thought concerning "scientific ethics." There are some interesting, recent proposals concerning how evolution might have conditioned ethical thinking, but no ethicists, religious or secular, outside of perhaps a very small minority of die-hard reductionistic materialists, conceive of ethics as a science of the same sort as, say, physics or microbiology.
> Another nice non sequitur. Whether or not the science of ethics is of the same level as say physics, is irrelevant. There is quite an extensive scientific literature on the concept of ethics, ignoring this is just irresponsible.
> >
> > In fact, if Avalos' notion of "scientific ethics" is correct, then not only religious ethics, but every system of ethics employed by all people throughout all of human history must be scrapped. Not just divine command theory and natural law ethics, but also eudaimonistic virtue ethics, consequentialism, and social contract theory must go by the boards, because all of them involve normative judgments that are not reducible to falsificationist "science."
> I love these strawmen...
> >
> > And that, at the end of the day, is Avalos' real argument -- an argument in favor of a reductionistic materialism and against anything that stands in its way.
> Yes, let's redefine his argument in the same manner Avalos shows how creationists get to redefine the interpretation of 'ethics' and avoid having to deal with Avalos's arguments.
> Nothing to say about Luther's statement? I wonder why?
> Avalos's argument is about the flaws in Weikart's arguments but somehow David seems to know better. Fascinating...
> >
> >
> > On 8/25/07, PvM <> wrote:
> > > Aha, I notice that I forgot to add the link to the complete article.
> > > What I posted was just the introduction
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > I apologize for the omission
> > >
> > > On 8/25/07, PvM < > wrote:
> > > > I was somewhat surprised to read about the seven steps by Luther.
> > > > Furthermore, David's response seems to do a disservice to Avalos's
> > > > arguments. Is ad hominem the only response possible here?
> > > >
> > > > On 8/25/07, David Opderbeck <> wrote:
> > > > > It seems to me that Avalos and his other atheist fundamentalists are
> > > > > out-fundamentalist-ing the religious fundamentalists. Apparently, anyone
> > > > > who rejects the Dawkins line that God as portrayed in the OT is merely
> > > > > petty, mean, etc., must be a supporter of genocide. Rubbish.
> > > > >
> > > > >
> > > > >
> > > > > On 8/25/07, Michael Roberts <> wrote:
> > > > > > A quickie response.
> > > > > >
> > > > > > I have never been impressed with the alleged bloodline running from Darwin
> > > > > > to Hitler, and from what I have picked up about Wiekart I am not
> > > > > impressed.
> > > > > >
> > > > > > Historical attitudes by Christians to others over history have often been
> > > > > > wicked eg Luther on Jews and many others.
> > > > > >
> > > > > > However a quick look at Avalos indicates an equally unimpressive argument.
> > > > > > To say Torrey (a TE not a creationist) Safarti and Craig support genocide
> > > > > > is not accurate as they were seeking to understand the OT.
> > > > > >
> > > > > > I haven't time to do more.
> > > > > >
> > > > > > Michael
> > > > > > ----- Original Message -----
> > > > > > From: "PvM" < >
> > > > > > To: "AmericanScientificAffiliation" < >
> > > > > > Sent: Saturday, August 25, 2007 6:01 AM
> > > > > > Subject: [asa] Creationists for genocide
> > > > > >
> > > > > >
> > > > > > > Professor Hector Avalos, Professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State
> > > > > > > University has recently finished "Creationists for genocide" which
> > > > > > > explores the link between ethics, the holocaust, Darwinism and Luther.
> > > > > > > An interesting reading with some challenging positions.
> > > > > > >
> > > > > > > <quote>
> > > > > > > One understands nothing about creationism unless one understands that
> > > > > > > it is meant to be a system of ethics. That is why the assault on
> > > > > > > evolution has always included a lengthy history of moral judgments
> > > > > > > against evolution. Perhaps none of these judgments has been more
> > > > > > > accusatory than the idea that Darwinism led to the Holocaust. Such an
> > > > > > > idea is trumpeted in many creationist venues, including books and
> > > > > > > blogs. A prime example of this accusation today is found in Richard
> > > > > > > Weikart's From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and
> > > > > > > Racism in Germany (2004).[1] Weikart is a member of the Discovery
> > > > > > > Institute who has devoted his career to elucidating the supposed
> > > > > > > immoral consequences of evolution.
> > > > > > >
> > > > > > > For Weikart, the materialistic basis of evolutionary theory is
> > > > > > > responsible for the devaluation of human life in general. In
> > > > > > > particular, the idea of the survival of the fittest leads to the
> > > > > > > devaluation or extermination of those considered "unfit" in society.
> > > > > > > Death becomes a good thing insofar as it helps the species rid itself
> > > > > > > of unfit organisms. The principal goal of all such anti-evolutionary
> > > > > > > moral arguments is to show that creationism, especially in its
> > > > > > > Judeo-Christian form, is a superior moral system.
> > > > > > >
> > > > > > > Aside from exposing the historical flaws found in the work of Weikart,
> > > > > > > this essay demonstrates that the defense of genocide, infanticide and
> > > > > > > "eugenics" by creationists actually has a very venerable and lengthy
> > > > > > > tradition that precedes Darwin. In fact, the most blatant defenses of
> > > > > > > genocide ever penned are still to be found among creationists. Some of
> > > > > > > these defenders of genocide include Reuben A. Torrey, the famed
> > > > > > > fundamentalist apologist, William Lane Craig, Jonathan Sarfati, an
> > > > > > > Australian Young-Earth creationist with a Ph.D. in chemistry, and
> > > > > > > Glenn Miller, an American business executive who fancies himself to be
> > > > > > > a biblical scholar.[2]
> > > > > > > </quote>
> > > > > > >
> > > > > > > To unsubscribe, send a message to with
> > > > > > > "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
> > > > > > >
> > > > > >
> > > > > >
> > > > > > To unsubscribe, send a message to with
> > > > > > "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
> > > > > >
> > > > >
> > > > >
> > > >
> > >
> >
> >

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Received on Sat, 25 Aug 2007 18:42:40 -0700

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