Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Review of Paul Copan's Is God a Moral Monster

This is a really good book. Copan does a great job handling the assaults of the New Atheists and working through difficult texts of the Old Testament (including the so-called terror texts). Copan deals with slavery, the Bible's treatment of women, holy war, and several other topics that often give Christians (and atheists!) problems. While I gave the book 5 stars for its basic excellence, there are a number of minor points I would raise questions about had I the time or were I myself a better scholar. I'll just mention two.

Copan frequently resorts to the language of exaggeration in his dealing with OT texts. Scripture certainly does use hyperbole in places, but I'm not convinced that it does so as often as Copan suggests. Sometimes this appears to be an argument of convenience.

Copan also goes in several directions regarding the Conquest that I felt were sort of weak, such as giving credence to the Infiltration theory of the Conquest. The account in the Bible of the crossing of the Red Sea and of the Jordan, in my view, pretty much vitiates the Infiltration theory. Both speak of sudden mass movements, and Joshua speaks of a sudden overthrow of the Canaanite dominance of the Promised Land. The fact that Canaanites continued to live in Canaan after the Conquest does not change the basic facts. Copan's resort to studying some of the various Hebrew words surrounding Israelite warfare merely opened the possibility for his interpretations (words do, after all, possess a semantic range), but certainly did not demand (or even suggest) his interpretations. Copan seems to acknowledge this in places with several "even if" statements.

Anyway, the book is excellent. All the chapters are good; the final chapter is outstanding. Well documented, well argued, this is certainly a book that should find a place on your apologetics shelf.