Question: Sam Harris argues, "The idea that the Bible is a perfect guide to morality is simply astounding, given the contents of the book....We must also stone people to death for heresy, adultery, homosexuality, working on the Sabbath, worshipping graven images, practicing sorcery, and a wide variety of other imaginary crimes. Here is just one example of God's timeless wisdom: 'If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son, or your daughter, or the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, "Let us go and serve other gods,"...you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him; but you shall kill him, your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people'" (Deuteronomy:13:6, 9). This is supposed to represent a "loving God?" How can you defend this?
Response: As usual, this criticism from Harris displays his ignorance of the Bible and leaves common sense far behind. It also reveals an open hostility, prejudice, and an unwillingness to have his ignorance remedied. He is not interested in truth but only in tearing down the Bible and turning as many people against it as he possibly can.
First of all, these commands were for Israel, not for any other nation, either then or since: "He hath not dealt so with any other nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them" (Ps:147:19-20). Israel has a special relationship with God: "The Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth." He commanded Israel to obey His laws and warned that if they persisted in rebellion He would cast them out of the land He had given to them and would scatter them to every part of the earth. They would be hated, persecuted, and slaughtered unmercifully, suffering more than any other people in history. Dozens of prophecies written 2-3,000 years ago accurately foretold the Holocaust and also Islam's attempt to destroy Israel today.
On the basis alone of fulfilled prophecies concerning Israel, we have more than sufficient proof of the existence of God to convince anyone who is willing to face the truth. "The God of Israel" (an expression found 203 times in the Bible) promised that He would not let the Jews be wiped out. He would preserve a remnant and, in the "last days," gradually restore them to their rightful land, though surrounded by enemies vastly outnumbering them and bent on their destruction. In this remarkable prophecy God has linked Himself eternally with Israel. What an embarrassment it would be to the "God of Israel" if Israel no longer existed! Do you want to prove that God does not exist? Then wipe out the Jews. To do that you would have to wipe out Israel. I pity any man or nation that tries!
As for the penalties that God prescribes, which Harris imagines reveal God to be a monster, governments in every culture have by necessity dealt severely with those who attempt to overthrow them. This is high treason, and the penalty is death.
If God exists and is truly the Creator, then surely He, more than any earthly government, is entitled to make the rules. This He has done by establishing physical laws that hold the universe together, and then by writing moral laws in every conscience. What Harris lists are all acts of treason against the Lord of the universe. Yet the Creator is not allowed to mete out severe punishment, including the death penalty, against rebels guilty of intending to overthrow His rule?
Satan was the first to commit high treason, and he apparently took one-third of the angels with him. God is patient in His dealings with men, but those who persist in rebellion, as do atheists such as Harris, will, unless they repent, be banished from God's universe, and consigned to the Lake of Fire eternally. (See TBC , 4/08 article ; 6/08 Q&A for what that means.) Treason committed by humans will be tolerated for a time, perhaps even for the whole of one's life—but after death comes judgment.