I published this article first on the Reason Blog: http://www.cck.org.uk/reason/book-review-god-moral-monster-paul-copan
I have felt for quite some time that there has been a gaping hole in popular apologetics, namely, accessible and contemporary material on ethical issues arising from the Old Testament. The New Atheists have held up the God of the Old Testament as tantamount to an evil tyrant. Is God a Moral Monster? addresses some of these accusations head on. Paul Copan begins by quoting Richard Dawkins, who says:
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” (Richard Dawkins The God Delusion, p.31)
Issues often thought objectionable are as follows:
- Destruction of the Canaanites
- Old Testament treatment of women
- Harsh legal system
- Death penalty
''The New Atheists have held up the God of the Old Testament as tantamount to an evil tyrant. Is God a Moral Monster? addresses some of these accusations head on.''
If you are someone who engages in discussion with non-Christian friends, and these friends have some understanding of the Old Testament, I am sure that they might have raised some of these issues with you. Or it may be the case that in your own Bible study you have had these questions yourself. If either of these things is true, you will find this book a great resource.
“As we delve more deeply, we’ll continue to affirm two things: 1) certain Old Testament laws and punishments were inferior to creational ideals (Gen. 1-2); 2) the Mosaic Law is not permanent, universal, and the standard for all nations” (p. 89)
There is contemporary debate within evangelical circles as to whether this is an appropriate way to interpret scripture. Therefore, there may be some that take issue with
approach. However, whether you agree or disagree with Copan ’s hermeneutic, his book is very well
researched and will be of benefit to you. I believe Copan makes a good argument for his position,
and it certainly helped me understand some of the difficult passages of the Old
Testament. I highly recommend it. Copan