Is God a Moral Monster? by Paul Copan

Is God a Moral Monster by Paul Copan   *** out of ****

The new atheists have often criticized God for his Old Testament practices. In his book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins said, “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…malevolent bully.” These guys claim the Old Testament supports slavery, polygamy, rape, and murder. It is quite a charge laid out against God.

In his book Is God a Moral Monster? Paul Copan tackles the issues surrounding these charges and explains what the Bible actually says about them. He deals with everything from the strange laws (like do not boil a baby goat in its mother’s milk) to difficult laws (like stoning a disobedient child). He does not shrink back from even the most difficult of Old Testament passages.

Using historical and textual scholarship, Copan clears up the misconceptions and simplistic thinking that has driven much of the popular discussion on Old Testament difficulties. Take slavery for instance. Copan says that the slavery of Israel was nothing like the slavery of the 1800s to today. He reminds us that if the slave traders who justified their trade by the Bible had actually read they would have seen that kidnapping people for the slave trade was actually punishable by death (Exodus 21:16). He explains that “slavery” in Israel was temporary (all slaves were released in the 7th year regardless of what they owed) and that people who entered into “slavery” did so because they were poor and needed to pay off debt. They were to be treated well and if they were abused they were to be set free with no further penalty. God even set up laws for foreign slaves who came to Israel to work or as the result of war.  

So, instead of supporting the brutal, inhumane slave trade of the 1800s, the Bible actually would have stopped it – if only it had been read and put into practice.

Copan does a good job discussing these issues in the wider framework of the Old Testament, the history of the time, and in what the original language was actually conveying. If the Old Testament causes you trouble, it is a good accessible read that will shed light on what the Bible does and does not say.

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