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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Book Review: Is God a Moral Monster? by Paul Copan

Let's just admit it, the Old Testament is hard to read. It's long. The cultural context can be confusing. And all those genealogies—I learned the skill of skimming a book on those bad boys. But probably the most difficult element of the Old Testament lies in all the moral challenges that it presents for us here in the 21st century. Can the religious, cultural, ethical context for what we read there help it make sense or is it all really as harsh, heinous, and offensive as the critics charge?

Paul Copan would argue for the former, and does so compellingly in his latest book, Is God a Moral Monster? He opens his book with an introduction to the New Atheists and then uses many of their charges aimed at God and the Old Testament as a rough outline for the remainder of the book. The challenges are not new: the purging of the Promised Land, slavery, polygamy, and strange Mosaic laws for example. But what is new and welcome is Copan's careful treatment of each of these issues.

If I have one critique of this book it is of its redundancy. While Paul Copan begins with the broader and more foundational challenges first and then zeroes in on specifics (e.g. from general dietary restrictions to why one should not boil a goat in its mother's milk) the general principles and foundations were repeated often throughout. Copan apparently opted for clarity over brevity, for which some readers will certainly be thankful.

Perhaps the New Atheists should be given a round of applause. While there have always been Christian apologists answering the hard questions of Christianity, the focused attacks of the New Atheists have roused the apologists to full force and Copan's work on the Old Testament is perhaps the sharpest and most accessible work on the subject.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Armchair apologists, skeptics, anyone confused or challenged by the Old Testament

This book was a free review copy provided by Baker Books.

1 comment:

Jared said...

John, I agree, God IS love. But all of us agree and understand that God doesn't love everything in the same way. Jesus said that God cares more for us than for the sparrows.

God's love for humanity is greater than His love for the sparrows.

And God the Father's love for his Son is greater than his love for humanity. So when a conflict arises between that which God loves (love for His Son and love for humanity), it is not only just but loving for God to defend the glory of the Son over and against rebellious humans.

God does not love humanity to the dismissal, disdain, and neglect of His love for the Son. The Father's love for the Son and his glory trumps all (and vice versa). I would hate to live in a world where it was otherwise.