Last Sunday morning Chris and Alun spoke in church about Joshua and the walls of Jericho, and they asked if God, by giving Jericho into the hands of the Israelites, sanctioned the mass killing that followed.
They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it - men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys. (Joshua 6:21)
Apparently - I'm not very hot on the Old Testament - if was Moses who had ruled that the Canaanites, which included the inhabitants of Jericho, be executed for their idolatry and moral corruption. And I'm not sure of his authority i.e. whether that came from God or was his interpretation. And that's one of the things about the Jewish scriptures: they're very open to interpretation. The rabbis love to discuss and argue over points.
But that isn't really what I was thinking about.
As I said, Chris and Alun spoke and they put forward various ideas, explanations, reasons, excuses, for this massacre. And that's what they are. Just guesses, an individual's theory. Not one can be proved to be right or wrong.
A few months ago I had a discussion/disagreement with Chris in the office. I said my faith was simple; he said we should question everything. He repeated that idea in regard to the genocide theories. Question; don't just accept; try and find out.
When we'd talked he'd beaten me down with his arguments. He's very intelligent and good at debating. My mind goes blank until three days later when i think 'I should have said ...' And it had the same effect on me at first on the Sunday morning. But then I thought about it some more.
It's not that I don't question; it's not that I just believe everything I hear; it's not that I'm gullible and open to any idea that comes along.
I do question. I have no idea whether God sanctioned this mass murder at Jericho. I don't understand why bad things happen to good people - or even to bad people. I do shout at God at what I see as the unfairness of many things in life.
I don't know the answers. And it doesn't really matter. No, that sounds terrible. What I mean is that I don't know and I won't know in this life, but I do know Jesus. I do know that he is the visible manifestation of the invisible God. I know what he did when on this earth, how he lived and what he taught. I know what his message was, his attitude and his response. And that matters more to me than stressing out over why.
So I say that my childlike faith - God loves me and I am forgiven - is no less valid than that of the man who will sit down and discuss for four hours the importance of a comma in the book of Nahum, chapter 2, verse 3.
That's all I wanted to say really. It's more to get it clear in my mind than to persuade anyone else. So if you've read this far, well done.