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Is the God of the Old Testament a Moral Monster? An Interview with Paul Copan

Think Christianly: Is the God of the Old Testament a Moral Monster? An Interview with Paul Copan

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is the God of the Old Testament a Moral Monster? An Interview with Paul Copan

Here is an excerpt from an interview with Philosopher of Religion Paul Copan on navigating the strange and sometimes troubling world of the Old Testament:

How did you become interested in thinking and writing about Old Testament ethics? In a nutshell, what are you trying to accomplish with this book?

A lot of atheists say that Christians don’t read the whole Bible, and at least in North America (where even professing Christians are increasingly biblically illiterate), this often seems to be the case. In an era when pastors like to “go topical” in their sermons to try to make the Scriptures “practical,” what often gets lost is the equipping of Christians to think deeply about the whole of Scripture. So, many of them are ill-equipped to respond when skeptics challenge them to interpret some of the strange-sounding levitical laws or seemingly bizarre ancient Near Eastern themes. Again, pastors and Christian leaders contribute to the problem by avoiding such texts and preaching on the more straightforward or comfortable-sounding texts.

As I began (in high school) the habit of through the Bible starting in high school, I myself found a number of Old Testament passages that were difficult to understand. They seemed to present a somewhat baffling and even troubling worldview with its purity laws and taboos, its harshness, its “patriarchy”—let alone servitude (“slavery”) and warfare.

Over the years I have sought to better understand this slice of the ancient Near Eastern world and context out of which the Messiah would come. As I have spoken on university campuses, students have increasingly raised questions regarding troubling Old Testament passages, and I found that accessible resources for a lay audience on this theme were glaringly absent. As one trained in both philosophy and biblical and theological studies, I thought I had something to contribute to the discussion I started to write about these themes in books like That’s Just Your Interpretation, How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong? and When God Goes to Starbucks (all with Baker Books)—not to mention journal articles in Philosophia Christi. This eventually led to a full-blown treatment of key Old Testament themes in the book Is God a Moral Monster? Given the strong commendations from Old Testament scholars like Christopher Wright, Gordon Wenham, and Tremper Longman, I find my thinking confirmed that this book has a special niche to fill.

As I have indicated, I wanted to make the available scholarly research on difficult (or obscure or misunderstood) Old Testament ethical topics accessible to a lay audience. And I don’t want to shy away from the troubling passages that critics—especially New Atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens—routinely accuse Christians of doing. (More...)
I think everyone will find something helpful in his new book--Is God a Moral Monster?

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