Two links: moral relativism in elementary schools and charges that God is savage

By Thomas V. Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Mar 03, 2015

Today I read two articles which should both be of interest to our readers, albeit for different reasons.

First, in an NYT blog piece called "Why Our Children Don't Think There Are Moral Facts," philosopher Justin P. McBrayer shows that while we might think young people are indoctrinated into moral relativism in college, it is actually happening in elementary schools. Common Core standards emphasize teaching children to recognize the difference between fact and opinion - and it is hammered in that any value judgments referring to right and wrong, good and bad, fall squarely on the "opinion" side of the divide.

A fact is said to be something not just true, but able to be tested and proven, while an opinion is anything someone "thinks, feels or believes." Thus a false dichotomy is set up which says that something must be either a fact or an opinion, never both - yet surely by the definitions given, many things are both provable and believed.

Second, we've all heard it said that the God of the Old Testament is barbarous and savage, because He (seemingly) ordered the Israelites to wipe out entire peoples, such as the Canaanites and the Amalekites - women and children included. I used to gloss over that issue, but lately I've found myself increasingly bothered by it, and desiring to understand how a loving God could give such commands. I found an old essay by a Christian writer named Glenn Miller very helpful in understanding these Old Testament military actions in their full cultural and historical context.

Miller closely analyzes the relevant scriptural passages, and consults a great deal of scholarship on ancient peoples and religions to answer several important questions: Is the accusation of "genocide" justified in reference to the campaigns of Israel against the Canaanites and Amalekites? Consulting the historical record, what abominable "religious" practices might these nations have committed to deserve God's wrath? Did God actually order the Israelites to kill even the innocents among these groups, and if so, why? What sort of limitations did God place upon the Israelites in their military actions? How do these commands in fact reflect God's justice and mercy?

(Note that Miller is seemingly Protestant, not Catholic. I can't vouch for anything else on his website.)

Thomas V. Mirus is an administrative assistant and writer at CatholicCulture.org. A jazz pianist with a music degree, he often takes the lead in our commentary on the arts. See full bio.

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