We are born into this world involuntarily. The ground rules were established before we were born. We may disagree with them but we are not at liberty to change them. Our reasoning faculties were given us by God. If, like Charles Templeton, we reason ourselves to be more righteous than our maker, then we have to question whether we are in possession of all the facts.
God made man with free will. Man can choose to serve his creator or go his own way, but God will judge him on the choice that he makes.
Ecclesiastes 11:9 Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.
Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
God is the judge over his creation. Men are created by him; he is free to do that which he chooses with them.
Romans 9:20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
God makes his character very clear through Moses
Exodus 34:6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
Deuteronomy 5:7 Thou shalt have none other gods before me. 8 Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: 9 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, 10 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
God does not see things as we see them.
Isaiah 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God judges righteous judgment because God looks upon the heart of each individual.
1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
Psalms 139:2 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.
Jeremiah 17:10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
Luke 16:15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
Hebrews 4:13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
God knows the end from the beginning. He knows how each of his creation will turn out even before they are born.
Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
God has the qualities of both mercy and severity.
Romans 11:22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
None of mankind is ‘innocent’ in the sense that they should not die.
Adam through his disobedience brought sin and death upon all his descendants. Everyone is under sentence of death as soon as they are born. They have no assurance of longevity or quality of life and no control over how they die.
As children they die because they have Adam’s nature; as responsible adults they die for their own sin.
Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
God’s purpose is to fill the earth with his glory in the form of men and women raised to the divine nature in whom he can dwell.
This life is therefore temporary and what matters is the choice that men and women make. Those who believe God and serve him will be raised from the dead to eternal life. Those who reject God will perish forever.
The choice that people make affects their children. If they reject God and his morality and substitute gods and morality of their own which they pass on to their children, then their children suffer the consequences. Sadly this is the route that men have been inclined to take from the beginning.
Romans 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator,
Falling away from their creator results in a great deal of evil perpetrated on one another.
God judges and punishes nations for their collective sins.
Genesis 15:14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.
Isaiah 10:12 Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks.
Jeremiah 25:12 And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.
National punishment does not affect the eternal salvation of the individuals who serve God.
1 Kings 19:18 Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.
Malachi 3:16 Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. 17 And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
To deal with the examples you have raised.
Genesis 6:17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.
God tells us why he is doing this; it is not a vindictive act on his part.
Genesis 6:5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.
He gave them 120 years to repent.
Genesis 6:3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
We must assume that Charles Templeton believed that corrupting God’s way and filling the earth with violence was insufficient to warrant their destruction. Unfortunately he wasn’t there so cannot be in possession of all the facts. He lacked the foreknowledge of God in knowing how much worse things would have become had God not acted.
Jesus has no problem with the judgment of the flood.
Matthew 24:38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
Jesus declares his Father to be righteous, a statement with which Charles Templeton must of necessity disagree.
John 17:25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.
Jesus says that God is the only one who is truly good.
Mark 10:18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
Peter has no problem with the judgment of the flood.
2 Peter 2:5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
The writer to the Hebrews has no problem with the judgment of the flood.
Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
Sodom and Gomorrah
Genesis 19:24 Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.
God tells us why he is going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah
Genesis 13:13 But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.
Notwithstanding this God saves the people of Sodom by the hand of Abraham
Genesis 14:5 ...Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar...11... took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way... 16 And he (Abraham) brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. 17 And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him... 21 And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. 22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, 23 That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich..
They did not change their ways and some years later God brought judgment upon them.
Genesis 18:17 And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; 18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. 20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; 21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. 22 And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD. 23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? 25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? 26 And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. 27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: 28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. 29 And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty’s sake. 30 And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. 31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. 32 And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.
If there had been 10 righteous persons (meaning 10 that served God) God would not have destroyed the city.
The depravity of the inhabitants is illustrated when the angels were residing in Lot’s house.
Genesis 19:4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: 5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.
‘That we may know them’ means ‘so that we can have sex with them’.
It wasn’t just a few evil men; it was ‘both old and young, all the people from every quarter’ who intended to perpetrate this wickedness.
Again we must assume that Charles Templeton believed it to be wrong to punish this kind of behaviour.
Jesus has no problem with the judgment of Sodom
Luke 17:29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
Peter has no problem with the judgment of Sodom
2 Peter 2:6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;
Jude has no problem with the judgment of Sodom
Jude 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
Deuteronomy 7:1 When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; 2 And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them:
Deuteronomy 20:16 But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: 17 But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee: 18 That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God.
Joshua 6:21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.
The wickedness of the Canaanites in Abraham’s time was allowed to continue for another four hundred years
Genesis 15:13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years... 16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.
The Canaanites were idol worshippers who indulged in abominable practices. They were to be destroyed because of their wickedness in the sight of God.
Deuteronomy 9:4 Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee. 5 Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Leviticus 18:24 Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: 27 (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;) 28 That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you. 30 Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God.
If the Israelites did not destroy them, their descendents would be seduced into idol worship and the same abominable practises.
Deuteronomy 20:18 That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God.
Numbers 33:55 But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.
Israel did not do as God commanded, the Canaanites continued in the land; Israel forsook God and turned to idol worship. They wouldn’t listen to the prophets that God sent. Because of this Israel were punished as a nation and removed from the land, first by the Assyrians and Babylonians, and then by the Romans.
Jeremiah 16:10 And it shall come to pass, when thou shalt shew this people all these words, and they shall say unto thee, Wherefore hath the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? or what is our iniquity? or what is our sin that we have committed against the LORD our God? 11 Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the LORD, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my law; 12 And ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me: 13 Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night; where I will not shew you favour.
Stephen has no problem with the driving out of the Canaanites.
Acts 7:45 Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus (Joshua) into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;
Paul has no problem with the destruction of the Canaanites.
Acts 13:17 The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it. 18 And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness. 19 And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot.
1 Samuel 15:3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.
Amalekites were a people descended from Abraham through Esau.
Genesis 36:12 And Timna was concubine to Eliphaz Esau’s son; and she bare to Eliphaz Amalek: these were the sons of Adah Esau’s wife.
They incurred God’s anger by an unprovoked attack on Israel after they came out of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 25:17 Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; 18 How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God. 19 Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it.
Hence the instruction given to Saul in 1 Samuel 15:3, which he failed to fulfil.
Agag the king of the Amalekites was killed by Samuel for the reason he explains.
1 Samuel 15:33 And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.
Haman the Agagite who tried to destroy all the Jews in the Persian Empire in the time of Esther is thought to be a descendent of Amalek.
If this is the case, the wisdom of destroying the Amalekites is not without good reason.
The God that Charles Templeton finds fault with is the very God who provided his only begotten son to die for the remission of our sins.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
If we want eternal life we must accept it on God’s terms.
Supposing that we are more righteous than our creator is an act of folly, for it is obvious that we cannot save ourselves.
We must take our lead from Jesus Christ whose life and teachings are manifestly without fault. He believed in the God portrayed in the Old Testament.
Luke 16:31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
Only through him can we have hope of life.
Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Jesus demonstrated the character of God in his life.
John 14:9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father...
I believe that Jesus’ positive commendations of the righteousness and goodness of God are more reliable than Charles Templeton’s poorly thought out criticisms.
I hope you have found this helpful.
God bless you,