Tag Archives: Unjust

Paul Copan interviewed on the hard passages of the Old Testament

How would you respond to all of the troubling stories in the Old Testament, (conquest, slavery, etc.), and the characterizations of God as jealous and angry and vengeful? Paul Copan has written a new book on those topics and more.

From the Evangelical Philosophical Society blog. (H/T Mary)

What surprising thing did he learn while researching the book?

Surprising—and yet not surprising—is the fact that the more deeply I dug into understanding the ancient Near East, the more the biblical text made sense and the more favorable it looked in comparison to other relevant texts in the ancient Near East.  For example, the strong bravado and exaggeration typical of ancient Near East war texts (“leaving alive nothing that breathed”) was used even when lots of the enemy were left standing and breathing!  What’s more, Israel’s warfare—directed at non-combatants in citadels or fortresses (“cities”)—is tame in comparison to other ancient Near Eastern accounts of, say, the Assyrians.
As far as servitude (“slavery”) goes, this was voluntary and contractual rather than forced (unless Israel was dealing with, say, hostile foreign POWs who might be pressed into service to cut wood and carry water).  Yet Israel’s laws prohibited (a) kidnapping, (b) returning runaway (foreign) slaves to their masters, and (c) injuring servants.  If these three Mosaic regulations were observed during by Western colonial powers, slavery would not have emerged and the nineteenth-century history of the United States would have looked much different.

What kinds of questions will people who read the book be able to answer?

While I can’t cover all the territory I would like in this book, I try to address the range of topics that are most pressing and most frequently raised by the critics.  Part I deals with the phenomenon of the New Atheists and their arguments—and their case against the “Old Testament God.”  In fact, as you can see in the table of contents below, I use their quotations as my chapter headings!  In Part II, I deal with issues related to the nature of God: Is God narcissistic?  Why should God get jealous?  How could God command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?

Part III looks at life in the ancient Near East and how Israel’s laws look in comparison to those of other ancient Near Eastern cultures.  I maintain, first, that while many of Israel’s laws are not ideal (human hard-heartedness is part of the problem, as Matthew 19:8 indicates), they are generally a significant humanizing improvement over other ancient Near Eastern cultures.  God meets his people where they are—with their embedded, fallen moral and social patterns—but he challenges them to greater moral and spiritual heights.  Then I go on to address topics like Israel’s kosher and purity laws, its civil laws and punishments, the treatment of women in Israel, slavery (or better “servitude”) in Israel (and I extend the discussion to include the New Testament), then finally the question of Canaanite “genocide” (which it most certainly is not!) and of whether “religion” produces violence.

In Part IV, I argue that the biblical God serves as the basis for objective moral values and that atheists borrow the metaphysical grounding for human dignity and rights from a theistic worldview in which God makes human beings in his image. Finally, I refer to the role of Jesus Christ as the fulfiller of the Old Testament, who illuminates the Old Testament and puts it into proper perspective.  Moreover, his followers, when living consistently with his teachings, have actually made a remarkable moral impact on the world which scholars in both the East and the West, both Christian and non-Christian, acknowledge.

If some of you are following my debates on Facebook, then you know that I am using this argument against one of the atheists I am currently debating on the topic of spanking. Never, ever let an atheist get away with making moral statements. Moral statements are meaningless in an atheistic universe.

Paul Copan’s new book might be worth picking up because I don’t have anything on that topic. Not many people ask me questions like that, but maybe that’s God’s grace since I would not be able to answer them well anyway. Usually when I read something, he sometimes gives me that question from someone the very same week. It’s very interesting when this happens. But that’s what I mean when I say relationship with God. I mean we work together.

By the way, if you are looking for some good apologetics books for Christmas, take a look at this list at Apologetics 315.