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Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God Paperback – January 1, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Books (January 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801072751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801072758
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (144 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Is the God of the Old Testament nothing but a bully, a murderer, and an oppressor?

Many today--even within the church--seem to think so. How are Christians to respond to such accusations? And how are we to reconcile the seemingly disconnected natures of God portrayed in the two testaments?

In this timely and readable book, apologist Paul Copan takes on some of the most vexing accusations of our time, including:

God is arrogant and jealous
God punishes people too harshly
God is guilty of ethnic cleansing
God oppresses women
God endorses slavery
Christianity causes violence

Copan not only answers the critics, he also shows how to read both the Old and New Testaments faithfully, seeing an unchanging, righteous, and loving God in both.

"This is the book I wish I had written myself. It is simply the best book I have read that tackles the many difficulties that the Old Testament presents to thinking and sensitive Christians. Paul Copan writes in such a simple, straightforward way, yet covers enormous issues comprehensively and with reassuring biblical detail and scholarly research."--Christopher J. H. Wright, international director, Langham Partnership International; author of Old Testament Ethics for the People of God

"Lucid, lively, and very well informed, this book is the best defense of Old Testament ethics that I have read. A must-read for all preachers and Bible study leaders."--Gordon Wenham, emeritus professor of Old Testament, University of Gloucestershire

"The New Atheists have attacked the morality of the Old Testament with a vengeance. In honesty, many Christians will confess that they struggle with what looks like a primitive and barbaric ethic. Paul Copan helps us truly understand the world of the Old Testament and how it relates to us today."--Tremper Longman III, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College

"Copan takes on current New Atheist biblical critics and powerfully addresses virtually every criticism they have raised. I know of no other book like this one, and it should be required reading in college and seminary courses."--J. P. Moreland, distinguished professor of philosophy, Talbot School of Theology; author of The God Question

"There's virtually no scholar I'd rather read on these subjects than Paul Copan. This handbook of responses to tough ethical issues is able to both diminish the rhetoric as well as alleviate many concerns."--Gary R. Habermas, distinguished research professor, Liberty University and Seminary

Paul Copan (PhD, Marquette University) is the Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida. He is the author or editor of many books, including When God Goes to Starbucks.

About the Author

Paul Copan (PhD, Marquette University) is the Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida. He is the author of several apologetics books and lives with his wife and five children in Florida.

Customer Reviews

This was a very informative book.
Copan's popular-level book succinctly sets out to demonstrate how we can reconcile both the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New Testament.
Canuck Monk
While this is not the main thrust of the book, he does provide good arguments showing the positive good that biblical faith has brought to the world.
John A. Battle

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

222 of 262 people found the following review helpful By George P. Wood TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 8, 2011
Format: Paperback
In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins writes:

"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

In short, God is a "moral monster."

Paul Copan begs to differ with Dawkins' evaluation of the Old Testament God, not to mention the similar critiques of other New Atheists--e.g., Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. In Is God a Moral Monster? he uses these critiques as "a springboard to clarify and iron out misunderstandings and misrepresentations." More than that, he essays to defend the justice of God, properly understood and correctly presented.

Copan divides his work into four sections. Part 1 identifies the New Atheists and outlines their critique of God. Part 2 responds to critiques of God's character that revolve around his desire for the praise of his people, his "jealousy" for their fidelity, and his command to Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Part 3 tackles what Dawkins calls the Bible's "ubiquitous weirdness" and those passages he sees as morally monstrous. This section, the book's longest, deals with kosher laws, criminal punishments, relationships between the sexes, slavery, the killing of the Canaanites particularly, and the so-called "religious roots" of violence generally.
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178 of 217 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca of Amazon HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 5, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I can see why atheists have problems with the Old Testament. I personally read it fairly recently and was shocked, horrified in places and very troubled about how God came across as jealous and angry. This was surely not the God of the New Testament at all was he? Isn't God the source of all love? Isn't he love itself? To add to this I see a contrast between Jesus loving his enemies and God seemingly leading the Israelites to destroy their enemies. Jesus claimed that those who had seen him had seen the Father. For some reason it is difficult to think of God and Jesus being the same person when you compare the Old Testament God to Christ.

In "Is God a Moral Monster?" Paul Copan answers many questions and seeks to put Christians minds to rest. He explains why atheists are not entirely correct in their assumptions and dissects each of their attacks in creative ways. Even though Paul Copan tries to explain away many details I still felt troubled. Some of the things he discusses like slavery did however make complete sense. Slaves in America were totally different than slaves in biblical times. At least in most cases it seemed to be a more voluntary arrangement by those seeking money to provide for their families, etc. Could this explain why Jesus did not speak out against slavery?

Paul Copan also attempts to explain genocide, the treatment of women, holy wars, religious laws and customs, God testing Abraham, barbarism, polygamy, religion and violence and finally morality without God.

When Paul Copan describes Jewish laws and then the laws of neighboring nations the Jewish people actually look pretty good and seem to be more humane. However stoning someone to death still seems pretty brutal to me.
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56 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Paul Kurtz on January 9, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am a Christian who believes the Bible, including the Old Testament. I came to this book with high hopes after reading an interview the author gave to a magazine. While I appreciate Copan's desire to defend God as he is represented in the Old Testament, I was very disappointed with his effort. Many of his statements were unsubstantiated and/or fell outside what I would consider orthodox Christian faith.

I actually thought God came off looking worse than what the "new atheists" would try to paint him. Too much of the book made God out as having to compromise his moral standards because he was incapable of making his people understand or obey them. In essence, Copan is left defending a weak, less than morally upright god.

It was also disappointing that the author tried to argue that the Old Testament doesn't really mean some of the harsh things it says, especially about the Israelite conquest of Canaan. The conquest of Canaan is the part of the Old Testament that I find most difficult to understand and this book did nothing to help me. Copan's answer is that only military strongholds (where there were no women or children involved) were attacked and that the Israelites assimilated the land rather than destroying or driving the existing peoples out of Canaan. Even if this is true it doesn't solve the problem. The Old Testament clearly portrays God as being angry with Israel for disobeying his command to completely destroy/drive out the people who were already living in Canaan. A proper defense must somehow account for why it was right for God to command the complete destruction of the people living in Canaan at the time of the conquest and book doesn't even come close to doing so.
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More About the Author

Paul Copan (Ph.D., philosophy, Marquette University) is Professor and Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University. He is author of "True for You, But Not for Me" (Bethany House), "That's Just Your Interpretation,""How Do You Know You're Not Wrong?", When God Goes to Starbucks: A Guide to Everyday Apologetics (all with Baker), and Loving Wisdom: Christian Philosophy of Religion (Chalice Press). These are all books that seek to make available accessible answers to the toughest questions asked of Christians.

He has co-authored (with William Lane Craig) Creation Out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration (Baker Academic). He is co-editor of three books on the historical Jesus and of three other books in the philosophy of religion, The Rationality of Theism (Routledge), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion (Routledge), and Philosophy of Religion: Classic and Contemporary Issues (Blackwell).

He has co-edited (with William Craig) Passionate Conviction and Contending with Christianity's Critics. He has contributed articles and book reviews to various professional journals as well: Philosophia Christi, Faith and Philosophy, Trinity Journal, Southern Journal of Theology, the Journal for the Evangelical Theological Society, and The Review of Metaphysics.

He is presently writing a book on Old Testament ethics and co-authoring a book on the moral argument.