Saturday, January 14, 2012

Is God a Moral Monster?




If you've spent any amount of time on the web letting your light shine (Matt 5:16), you have no doubt encountered some of whom call themselves, the New Atheists. These are an angry sort, who delight in blaspheming our God and his Holy Scriptures, with emotional accusations of barbarity and injustice, which they attribute to His words and actions as recorded in the Old Testament.

This is how Dawkins describes him.
"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."
Needless to say, Dawkins isn't a fan!

So as Christians, how should we respond to these charges? The problem is that if we are honest with ourselves, most of us struggle with many of the same passages and ideas that the New Atheists voice. We are left wondering, yet fearing to look as though we are guilty of doubting God and his Word, we simply bury our feelings and stand behind, "Well if God said it, then that settles it."  Which isn't always a bad thing, unless it's used to hide our doubts and fears. How much better would it be to seek for the answers in his word, proving to us, and them that our God is both Great and Good.

This is exactly what Paul Copan sets out to do in his book, Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God. This book is an excellent go-to resource for all of those challenging concepts and passages. Paul writes in a very informative, yet readable style, suitable for seekers of all levels. Here are some of the challenges he covers, that the New Atheists have presented.

  • Canaanite "genocide"
  • the binding of Isaac
  • a jealous, egocentric deity
  • ethnocentrism/racism
  • chattel slavery
  • bride-price
  • women as inferior to men
  • harsh laws in Israel
  • the Mosaic law as perfect and permanently binding for all nations
  • the irrelevance of God for morality
(page22)

 I really like this book. I found it both informative and challenging. Many of the "difficulties" I thought I had all figured out, until I read his explanations. Paul states that many of the problems Christians face, stem from an overly simple, surface reading of the Old Testament, much like a children's Sunday School lesson. By looking deeper into the text, and into the historical background of the cultures of the Ancient Near East, many of these difficulties can be put into their proper perspectives. Yes, most of our problems come from trying to read an ancient text in a modern time. Things don't always translate one to one. Not that everything can be neatly packaged for everyone, but with some willingness to explore the issues thoroughly, acceptable answers can be found.

Paul Copan's Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God is a book that all of us would do well to have on hand while engaging in evangelism and apologetics.
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