I composed the following argument about a dozen years ago in response to the claim of a certain priest of my acquaintance, a philosopher whose analytical mind I had expected to make hash of my question, that he was going to deal with it in print, some day, somewhere. To my knowledge he never made good on that informal promissory note. I posted it on my site during 2004, its inaugural year. Perhaps a different forum will improve its chances of being paid the courtesy of a refutation. If anyone reading this would like a crack at solving this specific problem, or can cite someone else's having done so, I invite him or her to post a comment.
* * *
1. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 105, states that God is the author of Sacred Scripture and that the Church “accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts” because they were “written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”
2. Paragraph 106 states that God inspired the human authors of the sacred books and that “they consigned to writing whatever he [God] wanted written, and no more.”
3. Paragraph 107 states the inspired books teach the truth, and that “without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wish to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.”
4. Paragraph 120 lists the Old Testament Book of Joshua among the sacred books.
5. Paragraph 121 states that the books of the Old Testament are divinely inspired and retain a permanent value.
6. Paragraph 311 states that “God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil.”
7. Paragraph 2313 states that in war, non-combatants “must be respected and treated humanely” and that genocide is a grave moral evil: “the extermination of a people, nation, or ethnic minority must be condemned as a mortal sin. One is morally bound to resist orders that command genocide.”
8. The eleventh chapter of the Book of Joshua states that God commanded Moses to cause the genocide of various non-Israelite peoples.
In summary, the Catholic Church teaches that the Book of Joshua is divinely inspired, contains all and only what the human author of Joshua was inspired to write, and teaches truth for the sake of our salvation.
Presumably, then, even if a book of the Old Testament was in error about, say, the number of people killed in a given battle, it could not be in error where it speaks about God’s relationship to man: on this matter we can count on an Old Testament book to tell us only the truth.
But in Joshua 11, God specifically relates to man by telling one group of men to annihilate other groups, including their noncombatant women and children.
Did God give a command that “one is morally bound to resist”? Since the command was carried out, does not that make God at least an indirect cause of a moral evil? Can a coherent negative answer be given without giving up one or more of propositions 1-8?