You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.
When it came to God’s instruction for Israel for entering the promised land of Canaan, God was not big on toleration and inclusion. There were provisions, but they were for the individual, not for the groups of Canaanites around them. If find it interesting that at the first part of this chapter, God warns Israel to take care of the sojourner. This would be a person who was a refugee or traveler seeking refuge in Israel. This is what the New Testament would later call a “God-fearer”, a gentile who was drawn to Israel and her God. They were not to take advantage of that type of person. They were to welcome them and receive such proselytes. They were to instruct them in the ways of the Lord.
But this was not the same treatment they were to give to the large ethnic groups and nations of Canaanites once they reached the promised land. God told Israel that His plan was to slowly “drive out” the Canaanites because Israel would not survive well any contact with their idolatry. And history bears this out. Archeology has uncovered evidence of rampant infanticide, the worship of dogs, bestiality, homosexual prostitution, and all sorts of immoral perversion as the regular practice in the worship of fertility gods among the Philistines and other residents of the land God was giving the Jewish nation.
Even with these warnings, Israel still managed to get so enamored with the idolatry of the nations around them that they lapsed into apostasy and God had to bring them to ruin in captivity in Babylon before Judaism truly grasped monotheism and His people committed to Him exclusively. The Old Testament shows us an accurate record of how inclusion and tolerance lead to spiritual disaster.
More and more, secularism calls for the sins of Israel’s past to be the defining marks of morality in our culture. And we must not be deceived by it. It is one thing to live in a culture that practices religious liberty. It is another thing altogether to make every adherent to every religion agree that all religions are equally valid. And in our culture there is an insane push to make all moral judgments equally valid. To do so is to divorce religion from reason on a permanent basis, to make Christianity admit that it is a collection of logically disconnected dogma. And it is not! Inclusionism (the belief that any and all religions will eventually lead someone to God) is as dangerous today as it was for Israel. For them it was a national spiritual suicide. For us it is also individual intellectual suicide.