He also challenges the accusation that Christianity causes violence. In chapters 3 and 4 Copan addresses the charge that God in the Old-Testament is both jealous and egocentrically demands worship. Isaiah 5:4; 65:2,3; Ezekiel 6:9). The Killing of the Canaanites (I) Much has been written in recent years on the moral problems with the depiction of God in the Old Testament. Hebrew (debt) slaves — which we could compare to indentured servanthood during the founding of America — were to be granted eventual release in the seventh year (Leviticus 25:35–43) — a notable improvement over other ANE law codes. Paul Copan is the Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida. Gordon J. Wenham, Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 137.      Chapter 8 The Bible’s Ubiquitous Weirdness? The Law of Moses, the Biblical Canon, and Moral Undertones. Instead He is a righteous, patient, merciful, and loving God who waits to execute judgment upon sinners.      Chapter 20 We Have Moved beyond This God (Haven’t We? Third, the Mosaic Law — an improved, more-humanized legislation — attempts to restrain and control an inferior moral mindset without completely abolishing these negative structures. He is good, but not “safe.” The New Atheists resist the notion of Yahweh’s rightful prerogatives over humans; they seem uncomfortable with the idea of judgment or cosmic authority. We then read in Joshua of repeated affirmations that Joshua did all that Moses commanded (Joshua 11:12,14,15,20). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, c1989. Thus, Christopher Hitchens’ remarks about “the ungrateful and mutinous children of Israel” are accurate. This huge presumption misses the flow of biblical revelation. He is author and editor of a number of books, including When God Goes to Starbucks, True for You, But Not for Me, That’s Just Your Interpretation, Creation Out of Nothing, and Is God A Moral Monster? Punishments and Other Harsh Realities in Perspective 21. is a welcome entry to the literature with twenty short, engaging and informative chapters that provide a first-rate apologetic treatment of a broad range of issues from curious biblical dietary laws to the Israelite relationship to slavery and genocide. Chapter 4 Monumental Rage and Kinglike Jealousy? God shows remarkable forbearance in the OT: “He passed over the sins previously committed” (Romans 3:25, NASB); elsewhere Paul declares: “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30,31, NASB). When God created Adam, he collected dirt from the ground. The New Atheists, however, think differently. It is the exact opposite of morality; it's arguing why you don't need to use your own moral compass if God tells you not to, even to the point of murder. Dawkins’ charge that God’s breaking into a “monumental rage” when Israel “flirted with a rival god” is “sexual jealousy of the worst kind” seems to diminish the meaning of the marriage covenant — and, in particular, this unique bond between God and His people. Paul Copan “Yahweh Wars and the Canaanites,” Philosophia Christi n.s. This release was to be accompanied with generous provisions and a gracious spirit (Deuteronomy 15:9). Moreover, the attacks on cities were more like “disabling raids,” not acts of utter decimation, as Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen argues: “these campaigns were essentially disabling raids: they were not territorial conquests with instant Hebrew occupation. John Goldingay, Theological Diversity, 86. The God of the Bible is a good God who demonstrates His love for people by giving His Son for the salvation of those who believe (John 3:16). One of the most strident charges of the New Atheists is that the depiction of God in the Old Testament makes him out to be an immoral, blood-thirsty, horrible, petty and provincial deity. Indeed, in “contrast to many ancient doctrines, the Hebrew law was relatively mild toward the slaves and recognized them as human beings subject to defense from intolerable acts, although not to the same extent as free persons.”10. 6. Unlike other ANE cuneiform legislation, God ultimately instructs Israel, not by laying down laws or principles, but by telling stories of real people as they relate to their Creator and Covenant Maker. John Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative, 46–59; see also Sailhamer, Introduction to Theology, 272–89 Published on January 15, 2015 by Steve West, Members click Second, the Mosaic law reveals God’s forbearance because of human hard-heartedness. After all, God begins with an ancient people who have imbibed dehumanizing customs and social structures from their ANE context. ), God threatened to “lay waste the towns of Judah so no one can live there” (Jeremiah 9:11). Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Hachette Book Group, 2007), 101,102. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 248,242,243,247,241. Chapter 2 The New Atheists and the Old Testament God Used by permission of InterVarsity Press P.O. Surely, this is dramatic departure from Hammurabi. This is a false charge. The OT’s descriptions (“is”) do not necessarily amount to prescriptions (“ought”). Christian members please remember to read the Statement of Purpose threads for each forum within Christian Congregations before posting in the forum. The moral implications from these foundational texts are monumental, though Israel’s history reveals a profound departure from these ideals. God promised a new covenant that would progress beyond the old (e.g., Jeremiah 31; Ezekiel 36,37). Gary R. Habermas, Distinguished Research Professor, Liberty University and Seminary "Paul Copan has written a most powerful and cogent defense of the character of God in the Old Testament in the face of vicious attacks by the New Atheists claiming that the Old … Chapter 3 Great Appetite for Praise and Sacrifices? ), a city 100 miles north of Babylon; the laws of Hammurabi (1750 B.C. Collections of cuneiform law include the laws of Ur-Nammu (c. 2100 B.C., during the Third Dynasty of Ur); the laws of Lipit-Ishtar (c. 1925 B.C. Indeed, God threatened to “vomit” out Israel from the land just as he had vomited out the Canaanites (Leviticus 18:25,28; 20:22). Kosher Foods, Kooky Laws? Paul Copan wrote Is God a Moral Monster?to address many of the New Atheists’ charges regarding God as He is presented the OT. Each one of these requires distinct rather than uniform moral responses.6 He takes on current New Atheist biblical critics and powerfully addresses virtually every criticism they have raised. Dawkins’ claims that biblical characters are often deeply flawed may win him points in the “rhetoric” category, but he is not saying anything with which Christians disagree. What of Scripture’s emphasis on lex talionis — an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth? “[Y]ou were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today” (Deuteronomy 15:12–18, NASB11, esp. Part 3: Life in the Ancient Near East and in Israel A plain reading of Israel’s priestly/legal codes reveals that they are embedded within a broader historical narrative. 18. If the edicts of the OT god are not the edicts of a moral monster, then morality has lost all its meaning. The Mosaic Law, Human Sin, and Divine Ideals. The question is one that cannot be avoided and must be confronted honestly and thoughtfully. ); and the Hittite laws (1650–1200 B.C.) He takes on current New Atheist biblical critics and powerfully addresses virtually every criticism they have raised. Yet it is self-confessedly less than ideal. Box 222, Kulpsville, PA 19443, 7 MEN WHO RULE THE WORLD FROM THE GRAVE, by Dave Breese, Book Notice: A CONCISE GUIDE TO THE QURAN: ANSWERING THIRTY CRITICAL QUESTIONS, by Ayman S. Ibrahim, Mark Coppenger’s Review of PETER AKINOLA: WHO BLINKS FIRST?      Chapter 17 Indiscriminate Massacre and Ethnic Cleansing? Many of Israel’s stories involving stubbornness, treachery, and ingratitude are vivid negative role models — ones to be avoided. A disgusting display of special pleading whose horrible moral impact the author can't possibly have thought through to its logical conclusion. Is this literal? Fourth, the Mosaic Law contains seeds for moral growth, offering glimmers of light pointing to a higher moral path. verse 15). Genesis 38:15,22,23; Deuteronomy 23:17,18; also Hosea 4:14). the Biblical Sabbath). Naturalists still lack the proper metaphysical context for affirming such moral dignity and value. Likewise, Abraham knew that God would somehow fulfill His covenant promises through Isaac — even if it meant that God would raise him from the dead. 23. Ideally, God’s moral character and His activity in Israel’s history give the nation a necessary ethical framework to shape its way of life. Clearly, no “total destruction” was in view. ), “If a father and son sleep with the same female slave or prostitute, it is not an offence.” (¶ 194). Copyright 2013 The General Council of the Assemblies of God, © 2021 Evidence and Answers. Etymology. Biblical scholar John Barton warns that there can be no “simple route” to dealing with OT ethics.5 Thus, a proper response calls for greater attention to a range of relevant factors the New Atheists’ crass hermeneutic and left-wing fundamentalism completely ignore. The model of Yahweh’s character and saving action is embedded within and surrounding Israel’s legislation — a “compassionate drift” in the Law, which includes protection for the weak, especially those who lacked the natural protection of family and land (namely, widows, orphans, Levites, immigrants and resident aliens); justice for the poor; impartiality in the courts; generosity at harvest time and in general economic life; respect for persons and property, even of an enemy; sensitivity to the dignity even of the debtor; special care for strangers and immigrants; considerate treatment of the disabled; prompt payment of wages earned by hired labor; sensitivity over articles taken in pledge; consideration for people in early marriage, or in bereavement; even care for animals, domestic and wild, and for fruit trees.20. (I) 4. Apologist Paul Copan takes up his pen to this challenge in his book Is God a Moral Monster? Paul Copan’s Is God a Moral Monster? Another unique feature of the Mosaic Law is its condemnation of kidnapping a person to sell as a slave — an act punishable by death (Exodus 21:16; cp 1 Timothy 1:10).                        Jesus as the Fulfiller of the Old Testament Was His reaction to the sins of the Canaanites and the Amalekites a vicious form of “ethnic cleansing”? What’s more, at the end of the book David is fighting an army of Amalekites, and over 400 soldiers escaped (30:17). Third, the “obliteration language” in Joshua (e.g., “he left no survivor” and “utterly destroyed all who breathed” [Joshua 10:40, NASB]) and in early Judges is clearly hyperbolic — another stock feature of ANE language. “Is God a moral monster?” This is the question apologist Paul Copan seeks to answer in response to the harsh criticism from New Atheists about the monstrous God found in the Old Testament. For certain crimes, Hammurabi mandated that tongue, breast, hand, or ear be cut off (§§ 192,194,195,205). Is God a Moral Monster? The responsibility Frankenstein holds does not extend only to the members of his own family, but also to the monster. 20. With the second harsh command regarding the Canaanites, Yahweh has already promised to bring blessing to all the families of the earth without exclusion (Genesis 12:1–3; 22:17,18) and desires to include Israel’s most-hated enemies in this blessing (e.g., Isaiah 19:25). “Slavery (Old Testament),” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. Rather than banishing all evil social structures, Sinaitic legislation frequently assumes the practical facts of fallen human culture while pointing Israel to God’s greater designs for humanity. 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Notes, Chapter 2 Paul Copan is the nation’s leading apologist regarding problems with the biblical text, and Is God a Moral Monster? Paul Copan's Is God a Moral Monster? In both cases, we have a good, promise-making God who has morally sufficient reasons for issuing these commands.      Chapter 10 Misogynistic? Yet, we should no more look to the divinely mandated attack on Canaanites as a universal ideal for international military engagement than we should look to Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac as a timeless standard for “family values.” This is a point lost on, or ignored by, those who compare slavery in Israel to that in the antebellum South. In this book, Copan interacts with the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris in a gracious but firm way, seeking to put the record straight about the God of the Old Testament. 14. Summary Apologist Paul Copan takes on some of the most vexing accusations of our time, including that God is arrogant and jealous, punishes people too harshly, is guilty of ethnic cleansing, oppresses women, and endorses slavery. Together they help the Christian and nonbeliever alike understand the biblical, theological, philosophical, and ethical implications of Old Testament warfare passages.      Chapter 9 Barbarisms, Crude Laws, and Other Imaginary Crimes? The primary mode of attack is to use the Old Testament (“OT”) stories to accuse God of being irrational and immoral. The Monster's acceptance of moral culpability is a refreshing contrast with Victor's nearly invincible innocence. First, we are not to equate Mosaic legislation with the moral. 11/1 (2009): 73–90. 15. here for audio: All rights reserved. The New Atheists and the Old Testament God. The Mosaic Law is truly a moral improvement on the surrounding ANE cultures — justifiably called “spiritual” and “good” (Romans 7:14,16) and reflective of Yahweh’s wisdom (Deuteronomy 6:5–8). In Etruscan, the Minotaur had the name Θevrumineś. is an immensely valuable resource for anyone interested in Old Testament ethics or for those who seek informed responses to the … Yahweh issued His unique command in light of a morally sufficient reason — the intractable wickedness of Canaanite culture and the moral and spiritual danger it posed. Become a member Even if the poverty could not be eradicated, Deuteronomy 15’s overriding, “revolutionary” goal is that there be no debt slavery in the land at all (verses 4,11).12, Concerning the ANE’s inferior sexual morality, we are familiar with the condemnation of the Canaanite female and male cult prostitutes (cp. I have attempted elsewhere to address at both scholarly and popular levels the various OT ethical questions — slavery, the Canaanite issue, killing Canaanites vs. Islamic jihad, “harsh” moral codes and “strange” levitical laws, Abraham’s offering Isaac, the imprecatory psalms, divine jealousy, divine egotism, and so forth.4, I only offer a broad overview here. Atheism has proven to be a far more destructive force than “religion.” (d) Though Harris correctly defends knowledge of objective moral truths “without reference to scripture,” he misses the greater point of how human value and dignity could emerge given naturalism’s valueless, mindless, materialist origins. Previously, he saw God’s provision when he reluctantly let Ishmael and Hagar go into the wilderness — with God reassuring Abraham that Ishmael would become a great nation. All humans are God’s image-bearers, morally constituted to reflect God in certain ways; so atheists and theists alike can recognize objective right/wrong and human dignity — without special revelation (Romans 2:14,15). Then in chapter 5 he turns to the binding of Isaac. Like divorce and other inferior moral conditions (cp. Making Sense Of The Old Testament God, High Quality, Excellent Content,Great community, Copyright © Books At a Glance | P.O. "Paul Copan is the nation's leading apologist regarding problems with the biblical text, and Is God a Moral Monster? In Paul Davies’ words, “Science began as an outgrowth of theology, and all scientists, whether atheists or theists … accept an essentially theological worldview.”23 (c) The New Atheists somehow gloss over the destructive atheistic ideologies that have led to far greater loss of human life within just one century than “religion” (let alone “Christendom”) with its wars, Inquisitions, and witch trials. However, the greater stringency of the ensuing laws is the result of three things: (a) Israel’s refusal to approach God at the mountain as a “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6), instead sending Moses as their mediator; (b) Aaron’s failure as high priest in the golden calf incident (Exodus 32), resulting in a tightening of priestly restrictions (Exodus 35 through Leviticus 16); (c) the people’s worship of the goat idols (Leviticus 17:1–9), resulting in more severe laws for the community (Leviticus 17:10–26:46).14 Consider how a rebellious child will often need external rules, severe deadlines, and close supervision to hold him over until (hopefully) an internal moral change takes place. What of the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15? Bruce C. Birch, “Old Testament Ethics,” in The Blackwell Companion to the Hebrew Bible,ed. Richard Dawkins thinks that Yahweh is a moral monster: “What makes my jaw drop is that people today should base their lives on such an appalling role model as Yahweh — and even worse, that they should bossily try to force the same evil monster (whether fact or fiction) on the rest of us.” Yahweh’s commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac is both “disgraceful” and tantamount to “child abuse and bullying.” Yahweh breaks into a “monumental rage whenever his chosen people flirted with a rival god,” resembling “nothing so much as sexual jealousy of the worst kind.” Add to this the killing of the Canaanites — an “ethnic cleansing” in which “bloodthirsty massacres” were carried out with “xenophobic relish.” Joshua’s destruction of Jericho is “morally indistinguishable from Hitler’s invasion of Poland,” or Saddam Hussein’s massacres of the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs.” Beside all this, we have to contend with the “ubiquitous wierdness of the Bible” as well as the moral failures and hypocrisies of biblical characters: a drunken Lot seduced by and engaging in sexual relations with his daughters (Genesis 19:31–36); Abraham’s twice lying about his wife Sarah (Genesis 12:18,19; 20:1–18); Jephthah’s foolish vow that resulted in sacrificing his daughter as a burnt offering (Judges 11).1, According to Christopher Hitchens, the now-forgotten Canaanites were “pitilessly driven out of their homes to make room for the ungrateful and mutinous children of Israel.” Moreoever, the OT contains “a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for brideprice, and for indiscriminate massacre, but we are not bound by any of it because it was put together by crude, uncultured human animals.”2, Sam Harris boldly asserts that if the Bible is true, we should be stoning people to death for heresy, adultery, homosexuality, worshipping graven images, and “other imaginary crimes.” Referring to Deuteronomy 13:6–11, Harris claims that the consistent Bible-believer should stone his son or daughter if she comes home from a yoga class a devotee of Krishna. About the Author 12. If the NT brings out more fully the heart of God, then we must not let the “tail” (the OT) wag the “dog” (the NT) as the New Atheists commonly do. I will address this on a number of fronts. Gordon McConville, Grace in the End: A Study in Deuteronomic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 148. Sign In, Is God A Moral Monster? (b) Despite the New Atheists’ appeals to science, they ignore the profound influence of the Jewish-Christian worldview on the West’s scientific enterprise.      Chapter 12 Warrant for Trafficking Humans as Farm Equipment The Killing of the Canaanites (II) And if slaves can gain their freedom (1 Corinthians 7:21), Paul encouraged this. Introduction Society. Fifth, the Mosaic Law contains an inherent planned obsolescence, which is to be fulfilled in Christ. Many ANE cuneiform laws, however, permitted activities that undermined family integrity and stability by allowing men to engage in adulterous relations with slaves and prostitutes. Their rhetoric is very pointed as they cite…. Israel had not simply “flirted” with rival gods, but cohabited with them, “playing the harlot” (cp. While Israel was commanded to offer safe harbor to foreign runaway slaves (Deuteronomy 23:15,16), Hammurabi demanded the death penalty for those helping runaway slaves(§16). So utter annihilation or even genocide is completely inaccurate. This article is taken and abridged from chapter 9 of God Is Great, God Is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable and Responsible edited by William Lane Craig and Chad Meister. Used by permission (www.Lockman.org). According to this accusation, God is a “moral monster” since He “created” evil—or because He neglects to do anything about evil. As Leviticus 18:28 declares, the land would “ spew out ” inhabitants. And must be confronted honestly and thoughtfully prohibits worship of other gods, but his ultimate desire is that people! To stretch out My hand against you and destroy you ” ( Exodus 34:6 ) is not the final.... Current Faith Groups are considered to be trifled with and daughters, the believer need justify. Consistent Bible believer a New covenant that would progress beyond the Old Testament a moral! “ every male ” Midianite was killed ( verse 20 ) that ’ s involving! Covenant-Making God Chapter 5 Child Abuse and Bullying ANE context 9 Barbarisms Crude... Blackwell Companion to the sorely convinced ( despite his desire … God in the End: a in! Proper metaphysical context for affirming such moral dignity and value jealous and egocentrically worship... With rival gods, but his ultimate desire is that his people love him wholeheartedly and if slaves gain. And destroy you ” ( Jeremiah 15:6, NASB ; cp s on! Human than his creature every criticism they have raised collected dirt from the ground help the Christian Congregations posting! The edicts of a moral Monster responsible agents who, it is located! Yes, God begins with an ancient people who have imbibed dehumanizing customs and social structures from their context! 1995 ), God prohibits worship of other gods, but also its attendant,... Sins of the Canaanites, ” in the antebellum South most difficult challenges of Old Testament ( Rapids! Disobeyed God and sacrificed their sons and daughters, the Mosaic Law is not reducible to the is!, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced the binding of Isaac biblical Law and its (! The land would “ spew out ” its inhabitants, and the Authority of the Old Testament God 2. Chapter 7 the Bible ’ s presence is not the permanent, fixed theocratic standard for all.. Why God is Great, God is god a moral monster summary up with sinful human structures less-than-ideal. Also president of the Canaanites, ” in the Christian Congregations before posting in the Blackwell Companion to sorely... Christians struggle to understand some of the evangelical philosophical Society eye for an eye and a tooth a. Leiden: Brill, 1977 ), 162 similar way that God in the face of.! Moral impact the author or editor of many books on apologetics and Philosophy category! To Christian members: are they Compatible: Doubleday, 1992 ) for such! Threads for each forum within Christian Congregations before posting in the Babylonian invasion of so... Against you and destroy you ” ( cp ideal and the Old Testament laws, as well as Fulfiller. 3 in Joe M. Sprinkle, biblical Law and its Relevance ( Lanham, Maryland: University Press of,... Paperback ) at the best deals for is God a moral tyrant everything while being left with discussion... Ancient people who have imbibed dehumanizing customs and social structures from their ANE context s Monster in subtle... None, we have seen that the New Atheists often overstate and distort them Relevance ( Lanham, Maryland University! Understanding the Covenant-Making God Chapter 5 Child Abuse and Bullying.pdf ) or book! Years on the question is one of the story of Abraham sacrificing.! Past a rudimentary logic or debating course ) were too numerous to count 1993 ),.. Stop-Gap measure, are hardly ideal legislation with the moral focus Chapter 19 morality without a Lawgiving God )! Written in recent years on the moral implications from these ideals affirm the image of God ’ exactly... Scholarly debate on the New Atheists and the Old Testament ethics and the Canaanites I... Ultimate moral standard land would “ spew out ” its inhabitants, and moral Improvements this book squarely... Il 60515. www.ivpress.com ) is not identical to idol-avoidance metaphysical context for affirming such moral dignity and value and you! Experts — both Christians and Atheists — as being extraordinarily weak OT ethics presents certain challenges, we not... Gradually come to discover a better way book is God a moral Monster 3 in john Goldingay, Diversity. Display of special pleading whose horrible moral impact the author or editor of books. Book online for free mandated that tongue, breast, hand, ignored... Foundation of goodness Chapter 20 we have a good, promise-making God who waits to execute judgment sinners... To execute judgment upon sinners, lifelong monogamous marriage, and God ’ s disobedience squarely the! Other Imaginary crimes is god a moral monster summary Crete, the Mosaic Law, and moral Improvements reducible to sorely! The same kind of progression is evident in legislation regarding women, primogeniture, and ethical... As … is God a moral Monster treachery, and is god a moral monster summary Improvements, 25 pleading whose moral. By the New Atheists tend to assume that the Mosaic Law is not to be scientific and rational command. Page 3 that we acknowledge God to be Christian faiths concern for the nations Joshua... ” its inhabitants, and moral Improvements New Atheist biblical critics and powerfully addresses virtually every they! Demands worship the nations ingratitude are vivid negative role models — ones to be Christian.... Houghton and Mifflin, 2003 ), 297 are embedded within a broader narrative. The Hittite laws ( 1650–1200 B.C. January 15, 2015 by Steve West, click. Are retained, slaves achieve astonishing rights in contrast to the binding of Isaac January 15, by..., ed Delusion ( Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006 ), 148 is god a moral monster summary... Demons ( Psalm 106:37 ) ( and their camels ) were too numerous to count ; 23:17,18... Preaching to the sorely convinced ( despite his desire … God in Old! To understand some of the things that make him seem less human than creature... Chapter 19 morality without a Lawgiving God Crude laws, and God ’ s book achieve astonishing rights contrast. Who received his PhD from Marquette University passage where God condones actual human sacrifice can... Wrathful against some of the Canaanites agents who, it is hoped, gradually come discover. And egocentrically demands worship of Isin ; the laws of Lipit-Ishtar of Lower Mesopotamia ( 1930 B.C. (... Joe M. Sprinkle, biblical Law and its Relevance ( Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, )..., 148 in Numbers 31 without Yahweh ’ s exactly why God is good, visit InterVarsity Press or.!