Usually it's a good thing when you can point to a practical, real-world example of a theory you've been espousing.
Unfortunately, we're referring to the Flintstones Fallacy, and this particular example is discouraging, disheartening, and damaging. But, it's also useful as a demonstration, so let's carry on.
First the details. I'll try to make this quick because quite frankly I don't want to dwell on the particulars. Depending on the circles you run in on the internets you may have already seen the reporting of an interview with John Piper back in the summer, and the subsequent firestorm. I have no interest in the discussion, other than to use it as an example of what we've been talking about.
Here is Piper's comment at the heart of the matter:
“It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases. God gives life and he takes life. Everybody who dies, dies because God wills that they die.”
Here are two quick theological comments before we get back to the Flintstones Fallacy.
First, Piper's comment is disingenuous. If we set aside the issue of the flood for a moment, I think we can count on one hand the number of people that God directly 'slaughtered' in the Bible. I'm thinking of Lot's wife for example. All of the others were killed by people. God's people, yes, and reportedly on God's orders, but people nonetheless. This is significant, as we shall see.
My second point stems from the first. In the CP article Piper goes on to say the following:
God is taking life every day. He will take 50,000 lives today. Life is in God's hand.
Of the tens of thousands who will die on this planet in the next 24 hours, many will succumb to violence, preventable diseases, and hunger. These calamities have human causes, and some--perhaps many--could be avoided if you, me, and John Piper cared enough to pay the price of changing the way the world is. We are responsible, not God. The chess-board theology that says otherwise relieves us of the responsibility of changing the way things are, and renders much of Jesus' teaching irrelevant.
Back to the Fallacy.
As I've said before the Bible is a collection of documents written for and by a certain people situated in a certain time. To be sure it is more than that, but it is as least that.
Here's an example of the slaughtering that Piper is referring to, with the added proviso, as already stated, that the Israelites actually did the killing:
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. 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. (1 Samuel 15:2-3 KJV)
This was not about land, or food, or other resources, but pure revenge. Genocide for the sake of revenge.
At this point let me make a necessary statement: I do not believe that God issued those instructions. Not in that way, not in that manner, not for that purpose. The God who would advocate that kind of violence is not the God I know.
When we make the assumption that this episode took place exactly as recorded in documents written thousands of years ago, we succumb to the Flintstones Fallacy. Do I think that those who kept the record of this time believed it was accurate? As much as I can have a personal opinion on this, I would say yes. In that sense it is true. This was reality as perceived by the people of that time and place. As we have already suggested, they simply did not perceive the world and the divine as we do. As a temporary aside, this is my problem with the question of Biblical inerrancy; I don't take the opposite side of the argument, it's simply not applicable.
Additionally, there's been some interesting work done which indicates that ancient peoples struggled with an underdeveloped sense of self. "Much of the early literature represents a struggle to find a deeper sense of subjective selfhood, but for the most part the characters simply do not refer to themselves in any kind of way that suggests internal reflection." (Carter Phipps, Evolutionaries: Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science's Greatest Idea) As a result, ideas that arose were often attributed to the whispers of various gods as opposed to thoughts internally generated. Unable to internalize their own instinctual impulses within the context of a personal structure, they externalized them as outside influences. In other words, "God made me do it." This concept will require more consideration, but regardless, I offer it not as an indictment of the Israelites, but a defence. As I've said previously they were doing the best the could with the human operating system of the day. If this theory is accurate you can see what it does to the inerrancy argument.
Now to the present day.
It would be one thing to simply believe that the historical record of a violent God is accurate. But evolution rolls on, and there are damaging implications of this fallacy.
Humanity continues to evolve, and as a species, slowly but surely, we grow increasingly intolerant of the behaviour attributed to God in some of the 'slaughter passages' of the Old Testament. If we cling to an inerrant, literal, Flintstone fallacy-infused view of scripture then we are left trying to explain, if not defend, the actions of a God who could be loving and merciful one minute and display the characteristics of a homicidal maniac the next. "His ways are not our ways" just isn't going to cut it any longer.
This does not serve the Kingdom of God, but works against it.
This does not attract those looking for purpose and meaning, but repels them.
It's time to repent - to change our minds, which in this case would be to recognize that our minds change. Otherwise the gap between an increasingly empathetic human race and an archaic, static religion will continue to grow. One wonders how much stretch there is left in that elastic.