Is God a Moral Monster?  Understanding the Old Testament God (Baker) is officially “in stock” at Amazon.com. It’s also in local bookstores one month ahead of schedule.

I wanted to alert you to this book, which sheds light on troubling problems (and misconceptions) regarding the “Old Testament God”:  “genocide,” slavery,” patriarchy and discrimination against women, the sacrifice of Isaac, harsh laws, kosher and purity laws, polygamy, concubinage, etc.

Critics are increasingly vocal about Old Testament ethical problems, yet much misunderstanding of ancient Near Eastern culture and distortion of the biblical texts accompany their arguments. According to some leading OT scholars who have endorsed the book (Christopher Wright, Gordon Wenham, Tremper Longman), this volume should prove to be a helpful resource to these vexing questions. 

Here are some of the highlights of the book:

  • THE HUMANIZING NATURE OF ISRAEL’S LAWS IN CONTRAST TO THE REST OF THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST: I argue that virtually point-for-point, Israel’s legislation is significantly morally elevated—even if not ideal or universal.  God meets Israel in the midst of deeply embedded fallen social structures and elevates them, even if not to the ideal level (cp. Matthew 19:8, where Moses permits certain laws because of the hardness of human hearts). The Mosaic Law’s morally elevated status is apparent in the far less-severe nature Israel’s punishments; the Mosaic Law’s lack of mutilation texts (I argue that Deuteronomy 25:11-12 is definitely NOT a mutilation text); the protection of runaway slaves from their masters (anti-return laws); servants automatically freed if bodily harm comes to them from their employers (anti-harm laws); and so on.
  • CANAANITE WARFARE DIRECTED AT NON-COMBATANTS: Noncombatants were not targeted in the Canaanite (or Amalekite) campaigns but rather non-civilian military, political, and religious centers (“cities”) like Jericho, Ai, and Hazor; these were not civilian centers.  War texts using comprehensive language regarding “women” and “children” are stock ancient Near Eastern phrasing, even if women and children are not involved.
  • HYPERBOLE AND ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN BRAVADO: The biblical text, like other ancient Near Eastern war texts, uses exaggeration or hyperbole (.e.g., “let nothing remain“everything that breathed”).  However, the biblical text itself (especially Judges, which is literarily linked to Joshua) reveals that a lot of breathing Canaanites remained and lived among the Israelites.  “Wiping out” all the Canaanites was not what Moses intended in Deuteronomy 20 (the term “driving out” or “dispossessing” is much more prominent in these texts—which is NOT the same as “wiping out”).  So Joshua (who didn’t literally destroy everything that breathed) “carried out what Moses commanded.”
  • CONCUBINAGE AS HAVING A “SECONDARY WIFE”: A “concubine” often refers to a “secondary” wife rather than a female used for a male’s sexual pleasure (e.g., after the first/“primary” wife has died—like Abraham’s wife Keturah after Sarah died).
  • POLYGAMY PROHIBITED: Leviticus 18:18 indicates that polygamy is prohibited by the Mosaic Law; it is not morally permissible even if less than ideal—which is unfortunately commonly assumed by Christians.
  • OLD TESTAMENT SLAVERY AS INDENTURED SERVITUDE:  While critics commonly equate Old Testament “slavery” with the antebellum South’s common harsh treatment of slaves, the term “slave(ry)” is misleading and should be understood as “contractual employment” or “indentured servitude”—much like a sports player who is “owned” by a team or a person contracted to serve a set time in the military.  Normally, according to the Law of Moses, servitude within Israel was poverty-induced, and it was to be voluntary and temporary (no more than seven years).  I deal with a number of difficult servitude passages.
  • NEW TESTAMENT SLAVERY AND ONESIMUS:  I dip into the New Testament on the topic of slavery, as this is a different issue than Old Testament indentured servitude. In addition to arguing for the radically humanizing treatment of slaves in the New Testament, I argue that Onesimus was in all likelihood not a slave; that interpretation of Philemon comes significantly later in church history. For example, there are no “flight” verbs in Philemon, which would be strange if Onesimus had run away.  Various scholars argue that Philemon and Onesimus were not only (alienated) Christian brothers, but possibly biological brothers as well.

I hope this whets your appetite for an in-depth, yet accessible, discussion of perhaps the most troubling questions Christians today must address.  Just in case, I’ve included (below) endorsements from the book.

“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 Gloustershire

“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 and that give such ammunition to the opponents of all religious faith. Paul Copan writes in such a simple, straightforward way, yet covers enormous issues comprehensively and with reassuring biblical detail and scholarly research. Use this book to stock your mind with gracious but factual answers in those awkward  conversations. Better still, give it to those who are swayed by the shallow prejudice of popular atheism without reading the Bible for themselves.  I strongly recommend this book. We have wanted and needed it for a long time.”

Christopher J.H. Wright, International Director, Langham Partnership International
Author of Old Testament Ethics for the People of God,  and The God I Don’t Understand

“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.  I recommend this book for all who want to make sense of the Old Testament.”

Tremper Longman III, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College

“In his latest book, Paul Copan strides boldly forward into a theological lions’ den, fearlessly confronting some of the most difficult ethical issues surrounding the Christian Scriptures, and the faith built upon them. I can’t think of another work that deals with these complex and sensitive issues so comprehensively, and, at the same time, in such clear and approachable language. His defense of the biblical God is learned, courageous, and convincing.”

Philip Jenkins, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Humanities, Pennsylvania State University

“In a civil and reasoned manner, Paul Copan leads us through the wilderness of challenges to the God and the message of the Old Testament.  By amassing and clearly expressing arguments aware of the ancient Near Eastern cultural context and of the Hebrew text of the Bible, the author presents a thorough treatment of key issues.  This is essential and fascinating reading for anyone engaged in the ‘New Atheism’ debate.”

Richard S. Hess, Earl S. Kalland Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages, Denver Seminary 

“Paul Copan is the nation’s leading apologist regarding problems with the biblical text, and Is God a Moral Monster? is vintage Copan.  He 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 on biblical introduction.”

 JP Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, and author of The God Question

“Paul Copan has done an outstanding job of explaining some of the most confusing and puzzling issues that emerge from the pages of the Old Testament. He engages with a myriad of serious philosophical and moral challenges to the portrayal of God in the Old Testament, and he answers these challenges adroitly with clear and easy-to-understand explanations from the biblical texts themselves. This is a very readable book, and it will be a valuable resource for all Christians who desire to understand the Old Testament in today’s context. I heartily recommend it!”

J. Daniel Hays, Professor of Biblical Studies, Ouachita Baptist University

“Most Christians today, myself included, are in dialogue with people we love who have been heavily swayed by the criticisms of Richard Dawkins, et al. against the morality of the Bible and its depiction of a horrific Yahweh God.  What struck me in reading Is God a Moral Monster? is the degree to which we as Christians need to rethink in radical ways our reading and understanding of the sacred text if we are to have any persuasive reasoning in this on-going exchange.  Sometimes the real monster lies not so much in criticisms from ‘without’ as in our own holding to certain incorrect paradigms of thinking about the Bible.  Aside from the apologetic importance of Professor Copan’s work, of far greater value for Christians the way in which his book forces us to reevaluate the very nature of the God we worship.  Read this book.  It will awaken your vision of God in wonderful ways!”

William J. Webb, Professor of New Testament and author of Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals 
Heritage Theological Seminary

“The most difficult questions that can be asked about Scripture include a list of ethical challenges to several Old Testament texts and teachings.  These issues have been taken up with more fervor of late, owing to the growing popularity of radical atheism and skepticism.  There’s virtually no scholar I’d rather read on these subjects than Paul Copan.  Building on his earlier research, Paul launches here into a treatment of a detailed list of such challenges, including the so-called genocidal conquest of Canaan.  This handbook of responses to these and other tough ethical issues is able to both diminish the rhetoric, as well as alleviate many concerns.  I recommend this volume heartily.”

Gary R. Habermas, Distinguished Research Professor, Liberty University and Seminary

“Paul Copan has written a most powerful and cogent defense of the character of God in the Old Testament in the face of vicious attacks by the New Atheists claiming that the Old Testament God is nothing less than a ‘moral monster.’ I have difficulty finding adequate superlatives to express my joy and satisfaction in the masterful accomplishments of this book.  It represents a landmark study of theodicy (the justification of God) in Old Testament ethics. Copan tackles such difficult issues as the alleged misogynist view of women and the practice of slavery in the Old Testament, and shows how God sets forth His egalitarian ideals at the very beginning (Genesis 1-2), condescends to work with Israel where He finds them in their hard-heartedness, but at the same time gives laws which are generally a great moral improvement over those found elsewhere in the ancient Near East and which call Israel steadily back toward the creation ideals. Copan provides the most comprehensive and compelling treatment I have ever seen on the problematic issue of God’s command to destroy the Canaanites. This book not only grapples with specific Old Testament passages and issues, but places them in the larger perspectives of God’s universal blessing to all nations, the revelation of God in Jesus Christ in the New Testament, and modern issues such as Islamic jihad and the divine foundation of goodness and morality (vs. the claims of naturalism).  For those who struggle with the claims of the New Atheists, or who have difficulty coming to grips with the picture of God in the Old Testament, this user-friendly book is an indispensible resource!”

Richard M. Davidson, Chair, Department of Old Testament Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary J. N. Andrews Professor of Old Testament Interpretation

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    95 replies to "Is God a Moral Monster?"

    • Paul Copan

      Eureka! Cathy, I just came up with the solution to satisfy everyone’s curiosity: Even if you don’t tell where you teach, you could at least tell everyone where you got your Ph.D. in philosophy. In light of your claim to be a college professor, a lot of people are wondering if this is a warranted assertion. This has nothing to do with your arguments, which ought be taken on their own merits; no one’s disputing that.

      …unless you are going by a pseudonym! In that case it’s conceivable that someone might charge you with being misleading—precisely the charge you bring against biblical writers!! (:)

    • Cathy Cooper


      Exactly!! The bible is so badly written it cannot keep things straight and is inconsistent and contradictory.

      Here we have Jesus contradicting himself! Jesus supposedly said “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

      Now, ANYONE is a universal term, which would include himself, but then he goes on to disrespect and teach others to break those laws when he stopped the crowd from the stoning the woman for adultery, and for saying it is not what goes in your mouth which defiles you, but what comes out.

      Yes, Jesus contradicts himself by going against Yahweh’s kosher food laws, which is contradictory to what he himself said in the fulfillment passages.

      No wonder you have to consider the bible as hyperbole and metaphor–in an attempt to try and make it consistent.

    • Cathy Cooper


      Red herring, red herring, red herring! Just assume I am an elementary school dropout. I am practically illiterate–dumb and stupid! Now that we have that out of the way……can you stick to the arguments?

    • Paul Copan

      Actually this is sounding like middle school! As I said, your arguments should be taken on their own merit and we can tackle them (as we have indeed been doing).

      For some reason you are strongly resistant to revealing your credentials, even though you claim to be a university professor. All the philosophy professors I know–including outspoken atheists—readily reveal their identity. From what others have noted (and I’ve received independent comments about your reputation), suspicion hangs over your head because you’ve apparently systematically dodged this issue.

      It just seems rather strange, that’s all….

    • Cathy Cooper


      Note, Ezekiel 28 is making reference to the King of Tyre. Lucifer is a construct based on Isaiah 14–which is actually about the King of Babylon, who is struck through with a sword, is killed and thrown into a common grave. The Jews were mocking him because he thought he was such a star, but then he fell. (Nebuchadnezzar thought he was a cow at times too, so no wonder!..lol. That is just a funny tid bit I thought you might find interesting.)

      The Jews who wrote the OT did not and still do not believe in Satan/Lucifer as a devil. To the Jews, Satan is one of the “sons of god” in Genesis 6, and works FOR Yahweh as a spy and adversary of men. (Job) There is no devil, there is no hell–only Sheol, a dark resting place. Ask a Hebrew scholar…she/he’ll tell you the same thing.

    • Cathy Cooper


      Let the suspicion hang…it is neither here nor there for me. All I care about is the arguments, and I said before, they speak for themselves. I enjoy anonymity.

    • dgsinclair

      >> CATHY: It is taught in universities and seminaries that at some point Jesus is painted as a pacifist, and at other times, he is NOT a pacisifs–as per the passages I quoted, and in Mark 11:15 where he threw the tables over and threw out the money changers.

      He was definitely not

    • dgsinclair

      >> CATHY: It is taught in universities and seminaries that at some point Jesus is painted as a pacifist, and at other times, he is NOT a pacisifs – as per the passages I quoted, and in Mark 11:15 where he threw the tables over and threw out the money changers.

      He definitely was not, and I don’t think that Christianity is either – or to clarify, while faith is not forced on anyone, it does confront, and when it comes to civil justice (and just wars), it does teach that force can and sometimes should be used. See the following link which discusses the topic somewhat academically:
      Jesus, Pacifism, and the Sword

      I also wrote my own post (Paul, if this is the type of self-promotion you don’t want, we can delete the link – I just found it relevant):
      Why the term ‘Christian soldier’ is not an…

    • dgsinclair

      >> CATHY: Exactly!! The bible is so badly written it cannot keep things straight and is inconsistent and contradictory.

      No, Jesus just went out of his way to confound intellectual and religious skeptics and fault finders. And, reality is not so simplistic that one-liners are comprehensive – there are paradoxes, and a need for nuance.

      For example, it is wrong to lie, but not if you are lying to the Nazi’s about the Jews you are hiding. Is that contradictory? Jesus’ words can be harmonized in a way that makes total sense, but not for the one looking to find fault. I’m not saying don’t be skeptical, just that under aparrent paradoxes are often hidden the most sublime and balanced truths you could imagine. You probably already know some of them, like the need for both justice and mercy.

    • dgsinclair

      >> CATHY: Note, Ezekiel 28 is making reference to the King of Tyre.

      Understood, but the passage does shift a bit, and many theologians, mostly Christian, agree that this may also be referring to Satan. But my point is still that you are making conclusions on passages that don’t explicitly say what you claim. I agree that your analyses of hell and Satan from a Jewish perspective have merit, but I don’t think that that discussion is germane to the points you make about God creating evil.

    • Cathy Cooper


      You say:Jesus just went out of his way to confound intellectual and religious skeptics and fault finders”

      So this means you can’t trust anything Jesus says, because he is just trying to “confound” you! Interesting. So, for example, when he said “I and the father are one.”–that was meant to confound people–and not to be taken literally.

      You say:For example, it is wrong to lie, but not if you are lying to the Nazi’s about the Jews you are hiding. Is that contradictory?”

      So god’s laws are not absolute then, as most Christians argue. So for example, the prohibitions against homosexuality do not apply if they are in love. According to the Normative Ethical Theory of Utilitarianism you would lie or not tell a lie, depending on whether it increased the overall good or not.

      It is the Divine Command theory that states whatever God says is right, is right. So in this case, I will assume in this case that god is the Christian god Yahweh. tbc….

    • Cathy Cooper

      dgsinclair part 2

      I leave it up to you.If Yahweh gives you a law, is it absolute, or is it not? If it absolute, such as never tell a lie, then that would mean it would be wrong to lie at any time. If Yahweh says never to commit adultery, then it always be wrong to commit adultery. Likewise, if Yahweh had a prohibition against homosexuality, it would always be wrong.If memory serves me, Yahweh’s laws in the bible were absolute.

      However, if they were not, it seems we would have an epistemological problem. Yahweh says, “Never do ‘X'” However, dgsinclair, you seem to be saying that in some instances,’ X’ is ok to do. How do we know when Yahweh’s absolute laws are not absolute? In such a case then, one could say the prohibition against homosexuality is not absolute. Who decides? This is what is wrong with the Divine Command Theory in the first place. How do we know that God said something is right or wrong? How do we know Moses or anyone else got it right?

    • dgsinclair

      >> CATHY: So this means you can’t trust anything Jesus says, because he is just trying to ‘confound’ you! Interesting.

      John 7:17
      If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.

      He seeks only to confound those looking for fault, not those who actually want to know the truth. That’s the common evangelical understanding of this principle. See also Mark 4:11-13, same idea.

      >> CATHY: So god’s laws are not absolute then, as most Christians argue.

      No, they are not meant to be taken simplistically, out of balance with other truths, or out of context where context matters. I am merely pointing out that, as I assume you agree, lying in general is bad, but also specifying that under certain conditions other principles take precidence is a logical and practical truth. We should apply this to our understanding of the things Jesus said, not just look at superficial disparities as if they are a ‘gotcha.’

    • dgsinclair

      >> CATHY: According to the Normative Ethical Theory of Utilitarianism you would lie or not tell a lie, depending on whether it increased the overall good or not.

      I don’t think that the method I describe above is the same as the ETU you mention, even if they may be similar. I think much damage has been done by both Christian absolutists as well as relativists. The truth is that there are some things that are black and white, others gray (see Navigating Moral Gray Areas, based on Romans 14). There are rules, and there are exceptions.

      I do not think that your homosexual example, however, is a valid exception. It assumes a law that ‘if you have love for someone’ that sexual involvement is acceptable, or takes precidence over male/female limitations, or adult/child limitations, or man/animal limitations.

    • dgsinclair

      Regarding the ‘overall good,’ I don’t know if that’s really the rule I would use. Certainly, the overall good needs to be weighed against the immediate good, the personal good, and the free will of the participants. But that’s another discussion.

    • dgsinclair

      >> CATHY: If memory serves me, Yahweh’s laws in the bible were absolute.

      Are you an absolutist? Is that your approach or interpretation of those texts? It is not mine, but neither am I a liberal theologian. Do you think that evangelicals present it that way? They probably do promote such an unsophisticated and simplistic view.

      I think the gospel and faith are simple, but not simplistic. They can be understood and applied at a simple level, but they also have depth for those who want to go deeper.

      As I said above, principles and rules are not applied in isolation, and they are sensitive to balancing principles, clarifications, exceptions, and sometimes, context. Some rules, like lying, may have exceptions. Others, like adultery, may not.

    • dgsinclair

      A good example is capital punishment. Right after the famous scripture “Thou shalt not murder” is a whole list of capital crimes. Is this a contradiction, or is there justification for civil justice and just war, while at the same time prohibiting vigilante justice and selfish murder? YES to the latter. It is not either/or unless you ARE an absolutist, which Christianity and Jesus are not.

      Some may see that as waffling or contradictory, but I think that they are looking to find fault, rather than seeing that the world is complex – over-simplifying is an intellectual and moral mistake.

    • dgsinclair

      >> CATHY: This is what is wrong with the Divine Command Theory in the first place.

      I’m with you, I don’t subscribe to the Divine Command theory, nor do I choose the other horn of the Euthypro dilemma. I split this false dilemma, as per Wm Lane Craig, by assuming that by nature God declares the good. In that case, he is both necessary for deciding what is good (it is not independent of God) and authoritative.

    • Cathy Cooper


      I am just finishing up on a post on the subject of the Divine Command Theory. In it I address WL Craig’s position. I will not give a long reply to you now, as I cannot stay long, but in it I address the points you have brought up in this post. I will let you know when it is posted. It will be either tonight or tomorrow.

      I have to go right now, but I will give you a short reply tomorrow. I do not know if it is appropriate on this blog to give you my hushmail, but if it is, I will do so and let you know when I post it. Perhaps you can let me know if it is ok to do that.

    • dgsinclair

      You can email me at dgsinclair at gmail dot com.

    • Gruesome_hound

       What I find extremely troubling is that many critics of the bible continue to describe the events reported in the old testament as real “genocides”.

      In fact, both the conquest of Canaan and the massacre of the amalekites are not true genocides.

      In reality, both events never occured:it is a well accepted fact that there was no exodus from Egypt, no Mose, no Joshua, no conquest of Canaan.
      The israelites actually emerged from the canaanites, that is from the very folks they are accused of having slaughtered !

      Although David existed, it is extremely unlikely that the reports of the Bible have any kind of ressamblance with the true historical figure (Finkelstein): they never was a great unified kingdom regrouping Judah and Israel, and the books describing David were written much later, at a time where historical evidences contradicting the theological fiction were no longer available.

      By the way, the same can also be said about the conquest of Canaan.

      It is therefore…

      • Ed Kratz

        I address the Canaanite-Israelite topic in the book. On the historicity of the exodus, see the work of James Hoffmeier (Oxford University Press). On David, historical anachronisms, and other questions of Old Testament reliability, see Kenneth Kitchen, *On the Reliability of the Old Testament* (Eerdmans).

    • Yancy Smith

      “I wouldn’t say Jesus was a pacifist, but he opposed zealots who wanted to overthrow Rome.”

      Paul, if you wouldn’t say Jesus is a pacifist, would you say—that he would advocate “just” war? Loving your enemy by praying for then killing him? How would we decide when laying down one’s life for the enemiy is the best course? Or killing the enemy? If Jesus is not a pacifist—because, perhaps that view would be problematic and unappealing to the majority of folks—does Jesus actually advocate another view of violence, especially a view of the chaotic violence of war? It appears to me that such violence arises most typically from human, base desires and consequent enmity and rivalry eventuating in the search for a group or indivual to blame and demonize. As James says, “Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you?”

      Does your defense of Yahweh’s wars in IGMM suggest your view of Jesus’ wars?

      • Ed Kratz

        Yes, Yancy, I would say Jesus (and Paul!) *would* permit the use of force to prevent injustice. (Jesus was no pacificst when it came to temple cleansings!) He would have tried to stop a man trying to rape his mother, don’t you think? (I hope you would try to stop a person–forcibly if necessary–from kidnapping your children! Do you think Jesus would have stood by?) For the record, I would distinguish between force and violence; all violence is force, but not all force is violence, and one can engage in a principled use of force.

        Notice too that John the Baptist doesn’t tell soldiers to quit their job, but to act justly as soliders. Or think of how Paul speaks of the minister of the state in Romans 13, who doesn’t bear the sword for nothing. Of course, the sword is a metaphor for death, and this suggests that the state (e.g., police or even the military) could legitimately engage in protect innocent civilians or defend itself from invasion. In Acts 23, Paul himself appeals to the Roman military to protect him from those who were plotting to kill him, and he gets a Roman escort to Caesarea! Here’s a legitimate use of force to protect innocent life!

        I know Christian police officers who forcibly arrest people but then share the gospel with them in their prison cells. There need not be a conflict between force and faith. In fact, parents themselves exert force against their children at times when using corporal punishment. This is force, not violence.

        As for Yahweh wars, these are unique historical events. I would want to keep this distinct from, say,other cases of justified warfare—such as the Allied attempt to stop Hitler….

    • Karen

      Greetings to you! I have not read your book, but it sounds interesting. Two things I would like to share…when I think of the endless sea of sacrifices in the OT, certainly a bloody horror imagine, and the wars, etc….But I have found there is a certain peace when one realizes the HOLINESS OF GOD and what was demanded. Furthermore, The LORD said He was NOT pleased or desired sacrifices…why? Because every sacrifice displayed the glaring reality that they SINNED. People were not getting it right. Finally, God dies in our place. So the bottom line is what do we do with such a Holy God Who died for us, in our place? Even more gives out His Holy Spirit so that we can live right and do right. But seeing the Huge contrast between a Fallen World and a Holy God…does that not give us a huge sense of peace to the One Who is Moral and Perfect and Loving and Kind to us anyway? It really is about LOVE, and the Bible says that God is Love and a HOLY God is amazing and brings peace to us.

    • Steve C

      I haven’t read the book, so I can’t say to what extent I agree with Dr. Copan generally, but I think his distinction between force and violence is very important. In fact, I feel that it helps put God’s motivation in this regard in a clearer perspective. So much of the time, when dealing with “gray areas” (whether in theology or just life in general), intent is paramount. It makes all the difference. As Dr. Copan mentions, in one particular instance, Jesus’ passion for justice justifies force – the moneychangers taking advantage of the faithful. You might say, in one respect, that they were doing violence against the poor’s ability to worship in the prescribed manner. It was a perversion that Jesus met with a forceful, physical response. But I believe He was making a statement as opposed to trying to beat someone senseless – force, as opposed to violence. And again – for the purpose of self preservation, force is an absolutely appropriate response: in Rev. 12:7, we see that “war broke

    • Steve C

      out in heaven.” The term “war” necessitates a response from BOTH sides, right?

      I think that the perception of God as a doddering, old fuddy duddy with an ill-fitting crown, or the “stained-glass” Jesus as some milquetoast do-gooder or frail pacifist is a big part of the problem when trying to reconcile the idea of God’s use of force. It is God’s prerogative as Sovereign to determine when injustice or violence is best met with force. Moreover, a physicality or forcefulness (after sin is introduced, anyway) is a legitimate part of God’s arsenal. Just look logically at Jesus’ assigned station in life: a tekton – a carpenter/laborer. This is an inarguably physical, strenuous job, and certainly more so back then (no power tools, etc!). Jesus was no 98 lb. weakling that cowered from the rigors of life or intimidation of men. He could have just as easily been assigned an insulated, “white-collar” job as a priest or the like – he certainly showed Himself to have an exceptional grasp of…

    • Steve C

      spiritual matters as early as the age of twelve, perhaps with insightful statements beyond His years or poignant and complex questions to elders in the temple. But He was destined to have a very physically demanding existence instead. Even in His mature ministry, you could say that he tacitly condones the use of force to insure order when he heals the centurion’s servant. He wasn’t required to help a soldier. He could have made some decisive statement condemning war and all its agents. On the contrary, not only does He grant his request, He gives him a massive compliment regarding his faith for his analogy of supernatural power and directing soldiers! The bottom line for me is that, in a world beyond repair, Jesus seems to tell us that division and conflict and *not* pure pacifism are the only solutions: Matt. 10:16 – 34-39. Having said all this, I’m certain God does not prefer force to peaceful means. “Turn the other cheek” and “Love your enemy” are not statements made by some…

    • Steve C

      troublemaker nor bully. It is simply the agents of evil and opposition to God (all of us included) that leave him no choice but to use force on specific occasions. In fact, I believe that it is God’s love for peace and desire *not* to be seen as a violent tyrant that prompts Him to allow sin’s perversion and destruction to play out generally instead of having eradicated it in its beginnings.

    • Matt

      “Let’s assume for your purposes, that i am an elementary school dropout. Now that you have that out of the way, what is wrong, you don’t have a good counter argument?”

      Cathy, I see you used the word “drop out” should I take this to mean that you fell out of a school window? Or is this a loose figure of speech used in western culture?

      Seeing its the latter, I propose to you that everything you say is unreliable, and can’t be trusted. I am sure you see the logic in that, after all, you advocate it.

    • Matt

      All I care about is the arguments, and I said before, they speak for themselves. I enjoy anonymity.

      I see now arguments can “speak for themselves” all this loose non literal language Cathy?

      You really must be contradicting yourself all over the place, clearly what you say is not reliable.

    • Frances

      I haven’t read Dr Copan’s book & I’m not inclined to after hearing him on the “Straight Thinking” podcast. 2 of his arguments are prefaced by the words “we take it for granted that..” then followed by pretty much the point he was supposed to be establishing in the first place.
      His arguments on naturalists use of reason seemed a bit thin to me. We use reason because we know it works. There is a good evolutionary basis for it to do this – if you are able to work out what is true then you are going to be better able to work out how to defend yourself, catch your next meal etc. The truth may not set you free but it is going to be helpful in enabling you to avoid that hungry predator….
      And don’t get me started on his arguments about atheism & moral relativism!

    • Paul Copan

      Frances, of course there I am speaking with Christians.

      Give a listen to my “Unbelievable Radio” debate with atheist Norman Bacrac on this topic and see if I’m question-begging. I even challenge Bacrac on evolution and reason. Accidental true belief is not knowledge; warranted true belief is. As I (along with many naturalists) maintain, reason takes a back seat to survival, which may regularly enhance or reinforce false beliefs that enhance survival. Many of us believe that humans have intrinsic dignity and worth. If, as many naturalists argue, this is false, one could argue that this belief enhances survival (i.e., “it works”)—even if it doesn’t match up with reality. Atheist Michael Ruse says that our moral beliefs in objective morality are a corporate illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate. At any rate, here’s the link to the debate:

      http://www.premierradio.org.uk/listen/ondemand.aspx?mediaid=%7bbd4a5c6a-9c16-417c-8c3d-5d833b5f654c%7d .

    • Frances

      Paul, to my mind you fail in both this debate & the “Straight Thinking” podcast to deal with the question of the moral status of the order rather than whether the order was literally carried out. In Samuel 1 the order from God is to kill all the Amalekites, including women children & infants. If this is not to be taken literally, if God is just indulging in hyperbole (really? you think God does that?) why was God angry because of Saul’s failure to kill the cattle as commanded? That part was literal, but the rest wasn’t? How do you know? After the war we know some Jews survived the holocaust, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take orders to kill all of them as being meant literally. Is there any point for me (an atheist) to buy your book if it’s pitched at Christians?
      I can’t respond to your other points within the 1000 character limit so will revert to you on those in seperate emails.

    • Frances

      I agree that accidental true belief is not knowledge. E.g. if, being of a nervous disposition, I am always convinced that there is a murderer hiding under my bed, it doesn’t mean that one night when I am so unlucky as to have a murderer get into my house & hide under my bed I “knew” there was a murderer there. But that is entirely different from saying that because accident is partly responsible for me being born with the ability to reason, all my beliefs acquired through use of that skill are themsleves only accidentally true. The problem (for you)is that what is “rational” is that which we mean when we use the word in our everyday language. You are trying to go behind that & say “Although this conforms to what we understand by the word ‘rational’ when we ordinarily use it, it cannot be *really* rational unless it comes from God”

    • Paul Copan


      Thanks for your reply. I commented at length on this very point at another Parchment and Pen posting:

      The problem is that if naturalism is true, we have one bit of organic matter bumping into another bit of organic matter producing that belief. Such non-rational processes produce certain inevitable beliefs. and the naturalist is in no more a privileged (rational) position than the theist. Even if the naturalist’s beliefs happen to be true, they are the product of forces beyond his control. The atheist is no more rational than the theist since the same materialistic, deterministic belief-producing processes are at work in both.

      Just a few thoughts, but do have a look (and give a listen) via the link above. Thanks!

    • Frances

      Paul, I think you’re missing the point. Intelligence, which includes our ability to reason, is what we have developed as a result of evolution because it enables us to to tell what is true from what is is false. That ability will *more often that not* be an advantage in our quest to to pass on our genes. The fact that there may be instances where false be beliefs would be more helpful doesn’t alter the evolutionary imperative which has created our intelligence. Evolution often works that way. Eg a peacock has a big showy tail because that way it it attracts more mates. But a big tail is heavy & can slow it down in flight from a predator, leading to end of it’s life (& therefore reproductive abilities). On balance, the tail offfers more evolutionary advantages that disadvantages & so the tail exists even though in some individual cases it is positively unhelpful.
      I don’t agree that this is just 1 bit of organic matter bumping into another. Much more to it than that.

    • Ed Kratz

      I don’t think so, Frances. I believe you’re missing mine! Recently on NPR, neuroscientist David Eagleman was interviewed. He claimed that “everything we think, do and believe is determined by complex neural networks battling it out in our brains.” Aren’t the same neurological forces at work in both theists and atheists?
      And what shall we say about the very strong belief held even by naturalists that humans have dignity and worth and genuine duties? Believing this (like having a prehensile tail) does confer survival advantages/passing on genes, but is this belief true? Survival is often quite distinct from its truth status. People can believe noble lies which help them to survive. A good number of neurologists are also telling us that we have a come with a HADD—a hyperactive agency detecting device; this explains our inclination to believe in a divine being (or in divine beings) which confers survival advantage. Should we believe that God exists? Can theists really…

    • Chris

      Hi there, I am a christian who is struggling with many parts of the bible. So much of it seems immoral – how can I trust a god who set up a slavery system? Many apologist say slavery was like indentured servitude – but this was only if you were a Jew – non Jews were slaves for life. If gods moral character is greater than mine, how can I be repulsed by slavery, yet god doesn’t seem to mind it? God bless

      • Ed Kratz


        I’ll touch base with you shortly. Thanks for your questions.

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      • Ed Kratz

        Thanks, Mason. I appreciate it. I’ve been a bit behind on blogging, but I hope to get back on track soon!

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      • Ed Kratz

        Thanks for your kind words. I have been a bit behind on posting at Parchment and Pen with my wife’s neck surgery and recovery. I hope to be back at it soon.

    • Gregory

      Is this blog being moderated?

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