Was Phinehas a religious terrorist? In dialogue with Paul Cliteur

  • JM Vorster
Keywords: Hermeneutics, Revelation, Phinehas, Incarnate Word, Secularism, Secular


The Dutch philosopher Paul Cliteur wrote a defence of secular thought in his recent book: “The secular outlook. In defence of moral and political secularism” (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010). In this book he criticizes Christianity amongst other modern religions as inherently violent and as a danger to the liberal democracies and the human rights environments of our age. He is lead to this conclusion by an exegesis of several passages of scripture. One of these passages is the story of Phinehas in Numbers 25:1-18. According to his exegesis Phinehas can be considered to be a biblical terrorist in the name of God, and he states that this conclusion can entice christians to condone violence on religious grounds. This article evaluates Cliteur’s use of scripture from a Reformed Teological Ethical perspective and asks the question whether his conclusion is valid. This evaluation is done within the scope of the revelation of God in the book of nature, the written word and the incarnate word. From this perspective Cliteur’s use of scripture in an a-historical way and without the evidence of the book of nature (natural law) and the revelation in christ as the incarnate word can be termed as biblicist, and thus as invalid.