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Is God a Moral Monster? (Paul Copan) 2: Strengths

I’m in the midst of a three-series review of Paul Copan’s Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Baker 2011).  My first blog focused on differences between his book and God Behaving Badly, the last one will look at issues, concerns and questions I have about the book, this one will discuss its strengths.

Copan’s critique of the New Atheists borders on brutal, but in general is spot on: “The Neo-atheists are often profoundly ignorant of what they criticize” (p. 17).  I agree.  To be honest, I’m surprised that Richard Dawkins is from Oxford, because he doesn’t come across as a serious academic who has done his research, but simply as a writer who caricatures Christians.  Copan systematically addresses many of Dawkins’ critiques.  For example ,Copan responds to Dawkins complaint about God’s obsession with “his own superiority over rival gods” (p. 29) by helpfully referring to C.S. Lewis’s classic, “A Word about Praise” from Reflections on the Psalms.

Copan works through many problematic OT laws that appear overly weird or harsh (e.g., the holiness codes; the Num. 15 Sabbath-breaker; the “eye for an eye”) and he sheds insight into the tragic story of the sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter (p. 97) which I ignored in GBB.

I particularly enjoyed his discussion of Genesis 1-2 in his chapter on Misogyny (partly because we make similar points) about how women are made in the image of God and therefore this “original ideal” should shape how we interpret other problematic texts on women.

On a more personal level, I wish I had had Copan’s book while I was writing mine because it would have been helpful (in my next blog, I’ll mention a few ways it could have been more helpful).  I have already recommended Is God a Moral Monster? to people who are interested in topics I discuss in GBB, but want more depth.

What are your thoughts about Copan’s take on the God of the God Testament? 


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