Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God

Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God

by Paul Copan

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A recent string of popular-level books written by the New Atheists have leveled the accusation that the God of the Old Testament is nothing but a bully, a murderer, and a cosmic child abuser. This viewpoint is even making inroads into the church. How are Christians to respond to such accusations? And how are we to reconcile the seemingly disconnected natures of God portrayed in the two testaments?

In this timely and readable book, apologist Paul Copan takes on some of the most vexing accusations of our time, including:

God is arrogant and jealous
God punishes people too harshly
God is guilty of ethnic cleansing
God oppresses women
God endorses slavery
Christianity causes violence
and more

Copan not only answers God's critics, he also shows how to read both the Old and New Testaments faithfully, seeing an unchanging, righteous, and loving God in both.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781441214546
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/01/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 158,632
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Paul Copan (PhD, Marquette University) is the Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida. He is the author of several apologetics books and lives with his wife and five children in Florida.
Paul Copan (PhD, Marquette University) is the Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida. He is the author of several popular apologetics books, including Is God a Moral Monster? and lives with his wife and five children in Florida.

Table of Contents

Introduction 11

Part 1 Neo-Atheism

1 Who Are the New Atheists? 15

2 The New Atheists and the Old Testament God 20

Part 2 God: Gracious Master or Moral Monster?

3 Great Appetite for Praise and Sacrifices? Divine Arrogance or Humility? 27

4 Monumental Rage and Kinglike Jealousy? Understanding the Covenant-Making God 34

5 Child Abuse and Bullying? God's Ways and the Binding of Isaac 42

Part 3 Life in the Ancient Near East and in Israel

6 God's Timeless Wisdom? Incremental Steps for Hardened Hearts 57

7 The Bible's Ubiquitous Weirdness? Kosher Foods, Kooky Laws? (I) 70

8 The Bible's Ubiquitous Weirdness? Kosher Foods, Kooky Laws? (II) 79

9 Barbarisms, Crude Laws, and Other Imaginary Crimes? Punishments and Other Harsh Realities in Perspective 87

10 Misogynistic? Women in Israel 101

11 Bride-Price? Polygamy, Concubinage, and Other Such Questions 110

12 Warrant for Trafficking in Humans as Farm Equipment? (I): Slavery in Israel 124

13 Warrant for Trafficking in Humans as Farm Equipment? (II): Challenging Texts on Slavery 135

14 Warrant for Trafficking in Humans as Farm Equipment? (III): Slavery in the New Testament 150

15 Indiscriminate Massacre and Ethnic Cleansing? The Killing of the Canaanites (I) 158

16 Indiscriminate Massacre and Ethnic Cleansing? The Killing of the Canaanites (II) 169

17 Indiscriminate Massacre and Ethnic Cleansing? The Killing of the Canaanites (III) 186

18 The Root of All Evil? Does Religion Cause Violence? 198

Part 4 Sharpening the Moral Focus

19 Morality without a Lawgiving God? The Divine Foundation of Goodness 209

20 We Have Moved beyond This God (Haven't We?): Jesus as the Fulfiller of the Old Testament 216

Discussion/Study Questions 223

Notes 235

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Is God a Moral Monster? 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
johnbattle More than 1 year ago
Atheist warrior Richard Dawkins famously called the Old Testament God "a . . . bully." Rather than replying to this frenzied accusation with similar flourish, Christian philosopher and ethicist Paul Copan presents an argued, nuanced reply. His tone is considerate, thoughtful, and modest. The contrast between him and Dawkins could not be greater. More important than the tone of Copan's response is the content. Copan has provided a wealth of information and a number of ways to approach the questions Dawkins and others raise. The book is divided into chapters, each dealing with one of the major attacks atheists and others bring against the God of the Old Testament and the ethics of the Bible. In the first two chapters he surveys the current status of the debate, identifying the New Atheists and their major arguments. The next three chapters answer attacks against the character of God himself, including his supposed selfishness, arrogance, uncontrolled rage and jealousy, and unreasonable demands, especially illustrated in the story of his command to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac (later rescinded). I was impressed by his discussion of Abraham, especially by the way he brought in the whole biblical theology of the Abrahamic covenant and the development of Abraham's faith. We should not treat the OT narratives in isolation from their context, as Dawkins and others do. Most of the book deals with the laws and customs of the Hebrews in OT times, as shown in the OT. Dawkins considers them to be silly and weird. Copan does a good job showing the purpose for these laws, especially for the ceremonial laws, which taught covenant truths, and for the judicial or civil laws, which were adapted for the time and place of the ancient Israelite people. Comparing the OT laws concerning marriage and slavery, for example, with those of other nations of the period shows that the OT is far advanced over its surrounding cultures. In the beginning God created humans perfect, with perfect standards. But after sin took its toll, the "hardness of your hearts" that Jesus mentioned required that God give them less than ideal laws, in order to deal mercifully with them. Copan convincingly shows that many of these OT laws were temporary, but very good in their circumstances. Several chapters are devoted to marriage and warfare laws. Again, the OT far surpasses the rest of the Ancient Near East in ethical clarity and humaneness. The ideal comes later, in the New Testament and in the teachings of Jesus. But the OT laws themselves are much better than the New Atheists make them out to be. Copan demonstrates that, correctly interpreted, these laws are humane and just, especially in the cultural milieu in which they are found. Copan concludes with several chapters relating these studies to the modern debate and to our own times. While this is not the main thrust of the book, he does provide good arguments showing the positive good that biblical faith has brought to the world. He also demonstrates that morality, as such, requires a moral Governor. The God of the Bible, revealed in Jesus Christ.
JoshuaSonOfNun More than 1 year ago
First book from Copan, that I have read. Not bad and would consider reading his other books though I would prefer a more scholarly version even though it was written to be very accessible by the general public.
stitchwoman1 More than 1 year ago
finally, someone who tackels the difficult questions keeps God a holy God. thanks Paul!
DubiousDisciple on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Paul Copan responds to the New Atheist stance that the God of the Old Testament is a ¿moral monster.¿ I agreed with only about half of Copan¿s conclusions, but his book was well-written, informative, and fun to read.Copan begins by attempting to make sense of the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. I loved the short discussion comparing the two times that God called Abraham: The first time to come to the promised land, the second time to sacrifice his son. Because of similar language, Copan argues that Abraham ¿couldn¿t have missed the connection being made ¿ God is clearly reminding him of his promise of blessing in Genesis 12 even while he¿s being commanded to do what seems to be utterly opposed to that promise.¿ Outside of this, though, the Abraham/Isaac story is one of those sections of Copan¿s book that just didn¿t work for me. It doesn¿t seem to matter how it¿s explained to me, as soon as someone tries to pull this story down from the level of mythology and make me imagine it to be a true story that really happened, I start to feel queasy. I¿d have a few choice words for God if he told me to kill my son. If Copan doesn¿t mind, I¿ll continue to classify this Bible passage as ¿storied theology,¿ where it¿s much more palatable.Copan spends several chapters talking about Israel¿s slavery laws, and this section is superb. Was this law ideal? Certainly not. But there are three points I¿d like to bring out here:[1] We are discussing the Law of God, not what actually transpired among imperfect people. Yep, they kept slaves against the rules. The law was not faithfully followed.[2] Copan points out again and again that Israel¿s laws were a great improvement over the surrounding nations. God held Israel to a higher standard.[3] Although this point gets little press time in the book, as the law evolved, it became more and more humane. Compare, for example, the Book of the Covenant, quoted by the Elohist in Exodus 21, with the Priesthood writings in Leviticus 19, and finally with the Deuteronomist¿s instructions in Deut 22.Yes, the Old Testament law seems archaic and brutal by today¿s standards. Yet it¿s clear Israel was learning and was trying to become Godly. Perhaps slowly approaching the standard God had in mind. Buy the book and, if you read nothing else, study chapters 11-14.Next, Copan tackles what I feel are the most troublesome issues; genocide and ethnic cleansing. Particularly, the conquest of Canaan. Copan points out (rightly) that the Bible¿s claims of utter annihilation are highly exaggerated, and that archaeological evidence hints that no such mass conquest took place. For the most part, Israel peacefully settled into Canaan without warfare and without driving out its inhabitants. But whether or not the conquest really happened, the fact remains that the Word of God graphically describes these holy wars in quite unholy terms, and claims that God commanded this inhumanity. Read, for example, Numbers 31:17-18, where God gives instruction regarding Midianite captives: ¿Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.¿ Copan tries to soften the command, explaining that the non-virgin women were seducing Israel¿s men and the boys would grow up to become warriors, but nothing can soften that one.Copan presents a word game at this point. Moses commanded the armies to ¿utterly destroy¿ the Canaanites and not to ¿leave alive anything that breathes.¿ Joshua didn¿t do this; we have lots of evidence of Canaanite people remaining afterward. Yet if you read Joshua 11:12, it says Joshua did as he was told; he utterly destroyed them as Moses commanded. Ergo, since Joshua didn¿t kill `em all, but the Word of God says he did what he was told, then we can apparently consider Moses¿ original command as hyperbole¿the rhetoric of war. God didn¿t really sanction genocide.Well, whatever. Copan¿s next attempt to justify this evil by reminding us that God
spbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A must read for atheists and Christians alike. Provides a more nuanced and detailed evaluation of the biblical texts than most so-called "new atheists". I've only given it 4 stars, though, because in places it assumes a Christian world view that sometimes accepts something as good because God said/did it. Fo example, in one place where "holy war" is discussed (I think it was) the author says holy war is ok but only as long as God reveals it to be so. No thinking person will accept this unless they already believe in God. I'm not completely happy with the author's treatment of the Abraham/Isaac story either. But the book, overall, provides some excellent analysis and detailed discussions. Style-wise, it's not an easy book to read.
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1. Map. T.T <p> 2. SILVIE'S FO SHIZZLE <p> 3. High Rock. Or Branch. I can't remember what we use. <p> 4. Main Camp. Not sure if that 'multi res' is as matched as you thought it was, Four. <p> 5. Medicine Cat Den, whenever we happen to have a medicine cat. <p> 6. Warrior's Den <p> 7. Half a multi res. The other half is nine..... shall we make this the nursery for now? <p> 8. Apprentice Den <p> 9. Nursery. <p> Everything else is forest. Yayyyyyy