Sunday, August 19, 2012

Is God a Moral Monster?

Book: Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God by Paul Copan

Description:  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.

This book was very enlightening for me. The seeming differences between the God of the Old Testament, who at the very least seems much more legalistic and violent than the God of the New Testament, are something that I've had questions about for a long time. I was therefore pretty excited about reading this book, and I wasn't disappointed. 

Copan did a very good job explaining why God seems the way that He did in the Old Testament. He mostly focused on the Law and explaining how and why they came to be. He also talked, surprisingly a lot, about how those laws apply to us today. I'm not saying Copan calls for us to follow the Law today, because he definitely doesn't. Instead, he examines what aspects of God made Him create the Law the way He did. One example that really struck me was the food laws, about unclean and clean animals. Copan argued that these laws were so all-encompassing to remind the Israelites that God should be everywhere in their life. A reminder we could all use, huh?

Although I have no background in Biblical scholarship or anything of that kind, I found Is God a Moral Monster? easy to read and understand. Copan's knowledge of and use of Scripture was also extremely impressive. My one complaint was that Copan's chapters became repetitive at times, as he seemed to be making the same point over and over. But it was a small problem for me as a reader, and I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who's interested in the topic.

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