Tuesday, February 15, 2011

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.


Anonymous said...

I have this book sitting on my desk to read in the near future.

Also, has Christians in Context taken a new turn in recent months, mainly focusing on book reviews? Is Andrew not around much anymore?

Andrew Faris said...


I no longer write for Christians in Context, though I suppose that doesn't mean I'm "not around", since I still read every post!

I blog now with a good friend at Someone Tell Me the Story. There was no fall out or anything like that. Just time for me to move on.

Andrew Faris

Jared Totten said...


Andrew chimed in, but I thought I'd give a little more detail!

Most of our contributors have become otherwise occupied by other projects, work, and life. Norm is still on board and will be writing again soon, but he is in the finishing stages of the Theologian Trading Cards and that has been occupying all of his creative time and energies. As that project nears the end of production, there will be some exciting things here at CiC in conjunction with the release, so stay tuned for that!

In the mean time, I am the only one that has been making regular posts. I originally signed on with CiC primarily to write book reviews, so I've continued in that vein to maintain a working relationship with all our publishers. Occasionally I add some original content, but I don't want to post just for posting's sake.

That being said, the coming months should be exciting for CiC, not the least of which will be the Theologian Trading Cards, so stick around! We promise good things come to those who wait!

Anonymous said...

Thanks guys.