Thus Abraham informed his servants, “we will worship, and then we will come back to you” (Genesis 22:5 [NRSV18]; cp. 18. Yet Yahweh desires to treat them as morally responsible agents who, it is hoped, gradually come to discover a better way. Beside punishments such as cutting off noses and ears, ancient Egyptian law permitted the beating of criminals (for, say, perjury or libel) with between 100 and 200 strokes.13 Contrast this with Deuteronomy 25:1–3, which sets a limit of 40 strokes for a criminal. The Killing of the Canaanites (III) Each stage offers enduring moral insights —faithfulness/covenant keeping, trusting in God, showing mercy. Chapter 20 We Have Moved beyond This God (Haven’t We? But if he did so, and many Canaanite survivors remained, then clearly Moses did not intend this to be literal either. We have in the Mosaic law some genuine, previously unheard-of improvements. 3 in John Goldingay, Theological Diversity and the Authority of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987). 17. The Divine Foundation of Goodness In Hittite law (1650–1500 B.C. McConville, Grace in the End, 148–9. Making Sense of the Old Testament God . In part one of the book, Paul Copan spends two chapters summarizing the angry but flimsy arguments of the New Atheists, and lists their typical complaints against the Old Testament God. This review should be read as a supplement to Copan’s book. If the edicts of the OT god are not the edicts of a moral monster, then morality has lost all its meaning. 3 in Joe M. Sprinkle, Biblical Law and Its Relevance (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 2004). Bruce C. Birch observes that the ANE world — its slavery, polygamy, war, patriarchal structures, kingship, and ethnocentrism — is “totally alien” and “utterly unlike” our own social setting. The Mosaic Law is truly a moral improvement on the surrounding ANE cultures — justifiably called “spiritual” and “good” (Romans 7:14,16) and reflective of Yahweh’s wisdom (Deuteronomy 6:5–8). It is primarily located in the second stage — and not throughout Israel’s OT history. For example, in the first stage, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are apolitical characters (except for Abram’s rescuing Lot in response to an invasion/raid [Genesis 14]). 12. Is God a Moral Monster? ), God threatened to “lay waste the towns of Judah so no one can live there” (Jeremiah 9:11). They question God’s goodness by raising abundant complaints about Old Testament (OT) ethics. to continue reading. About the Author From the beginning, the earliest legislation (Exodus 21–23) was intended to be simple and much less harsh — comparable to patriarchal religion (cp. In fact, some of the worst condemnation in the Bible is directed at those who sacrifice their children to Moloch (Leviticus 18:21; Jeremiah 32:34–35)—and archaeological evidence shows that these were usually infants. Chapter 12 Warrant for Trafficking Humans as Farm Equipment The Genesis creation narrative is the creation myth of both Judaism and Christianity. Both claims are contrary to reason and evidence, as well as the biblical understanding of God’s nature. Likewise, Abraham knew that God would somehow fulfill His covenant promises through Isaac — even if it meant that God would raise him from the dead. Notes, Chapter 2 Indeed, in “contrast to many ancient doctrines, the Hebrew law was relatively mild toward the slaves and recognized them as human beings subject to defense from intolerable acts, although not to the same extent as free persons.”10. Etymology. Society. 4. The word Minotaur derives from the Ancient Greek Μῑνώταυρος, a compound of the name Μίνως and the noun ταύρος "bull", translated as "(the) Bull of Minos". Chapter 7 The Bible’s Ubiquitous Weirdness? Used by permission of InterVarsity Press P.O. 10. Shelley portrays the creation of Victor’s monster in a subtle but similar way that God created man. the Biblical Sabbath). Chapter 19 Morality without a Lawgiving God? Despite the significant moral advances at Sinai, the Law is not the final word. 23. While Israel was commanded to offer safe harbor to foreign runaway slaves (Deuteronomy 23:15,16), Hammurabi demanded the death penalty for those helping runaway slaves(Â§16). Copan is a distinguished evangelical apologist who received his PhD from Marquette University. So utter annihilation or even genocide is completely inaccurate. (III): Slavery in the New Testament Thus, stopping at OT texts without allowing Christ — the second Adam and the new, true Israel — to illuminate them, our reading and interpretation of the OT will be greatly impoverished. 22. I have attempted elsewhere to address at both scholarly and popular levels the various OT ethical questions — slavery, the Canaanite issue, killing Canaanites vs. Islamic jihad, “harsh” moral codes and “strange” levitical laws, Abraham’s offering Isaac, the imprecatory psalms, divine jealousy, divine egotism, and so forth.4, I only offer a broad overview here. Collections of cuneiform law include the laws of Ur-Nammu (c. 2100 B.C., during the Third Dynasty of Ur); the laws of Lipit-Ishtar (c. 1925 B.C. Chapter 3 Great Appetite for Praise and Sacrifices? When the Monster is driven to crime by frustration and rage, he does not justify himself morally. Polygamy, Concubinage, and Other Such Questions “[Y]ou were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today” (Deuteronomy 15:12–18, NASB11, esp. Previously, he saw God’s provision when he reluctantly let Ishmael and Hagar go into the wilderness — with God reassuring Abraham that Ishmael would become a great nation. John Goldingay, Theological Diversity, 86. My last resistance to the idea of God’s wrath was a casualty of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come. (http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/201203/201203_034_Good_God.cfm). God shows remarkable forbearance in the OT: “He passed over the sins previously committed” (Romans 3:25, NASB); elsewhere Paul declares: “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30,31, NASB). Mosaic Law, Cuneiform Law, and Moral Improvements. Our focus, though, is on the varying ethical demands on God’s people. Atheists have existed since ancient times, and the percentage of self-proclaimed atheists in the United States has not gone up since the advent of the New Atheists. Is God a Moral Monster? ), “If a father and son sleep with the same female slave or prostitute, it is not an offence.” (Â¶ 194). ), a city 100 miles north of Babylon; the laws of Hammurabi (1750 B.C. 3. Does Religion Cause Violence? Many of Israel’s stories involving stubbornness, treachery, and ingratitude are vivid negative role models — ones to be avoided. Even many Christians struggle to understand some of the Old Testament laws, as well as God’s commands to destroy the Canaanites. Harris’ attempt to “demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity” is quite ironic for a several reasons: (a) biblical theism has historically served as a moral compass for Western civilization’s advances despite historical deviations from Jesus’ teaching (e.g., the Crusades, Inquisition). This article is taken and abridged from chapter 9 of God Is Great, God Is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable and Responsible edited by William Lane Craig and Chad Meister. When the Israelites disobeyed God and sacrificed their sons and daughters, the Bible says they sacrificed them to demons (Psalm 106:37). In Etruscan, the Minotaur had the name Θevrumineś. Later in the New Testament (NT), referring to this language that was being used as a pretext for personal vengeance outside the lawcourts, Jesus himself did not take such language literally (Matthew 5:38,39) — no more than He took literally the language of plucking out eyes and cutting off hands if they lead to sin (Matthew 5:29,30). God is love, and God loves every person and every creature. This huge presumption misses the flow of biblical revelation. The same is true of the Midianites in Numbers 31. The narrative is made up of two stories, roughly equivalent to the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis.In the first, Elohim (the Hebrew generic word for God) creates the heavens and the Earth in six days, then rests on, blesses and sanctifies the seventh (i.e. In the OT, God puts up with sinful human structures as less-than-ideal. While negative aspects of slavery are retained, slaves achieve astonishing rights in contrast to the rest of the ANE. See ch. Though OT ethics presents certain challenges, we have seen that the New Atheists often overstate and distort them. Chapter 1 Who Are the New Atheists? 19. Is God a Moral Monster? In the simplest terms, … "Paul Copan is the nation's leading apologist regarding problems with the biblical text, and Is God a Moral Monster? The biblical text, supported by archaeological discovery, suggests that while Judah’s political and religious structures were ruined and that Judahites died in the conflict, the urban elite were deported to Babylon while many “poor of the land” remained behind to inhabit the towns of Judah. Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (New York: Basic Books/Harper Collins, 1995), 132-33. Israel had not simply “flirted” with rival gods, but cohabited with them, “playing the harlot” (cp. This is a false charge. We then read in Joshua of repeated affirmations that Joshua did all that Moses commanded (Joshua 11:12,14,15,20). Each one of these requires distinct rather than uniform moral responses.6 In the Babylonian invasion of Judah (sixth-century B.C. 7. Unlike other ANE cuneiform legislation, God ultimately instructs Israel, not by laying down laws or principles, but by telling stories of real people as they relate to their Creator and Covenant Maker. Sixth, God’s difficult command regarding the Canaanites as a limited, unique salvation-historical situation is in some ways comparable to God’s difficult command to Abraham in Genesis 22. Genesis 38:15,22,23; Deuteronomy 23:17,18; also Hosea 4:14). Frankenstein's unwillingness to admit to any serious moral fault is one of the things that make him seem less human than his creature. The New Atheists and the Old Testament God. The text is very clear about this.”16. Copan is clearly preaching to the sorely convinced (despite his desire … Muhammad A. Dandamayev, s.v. Yahweh fought on Israel’s behalf while bringing just judgment on an irredeemably Canaanite culture and religion that had sunk hopelessly below any hope of moral return — with the rare exception of Rahab and her family and the Gibeonites at the end of Joshua 9. In Isaiah 43:28, the Lord uses this term herem (“[consignment to the] ban”) in an exaggerated fashion: “So I will pollute the princes of the sanctuary, and I will consign Jacob to the ban and Israel to revilement” (NASB). David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992). Fourth, the biblical language of the Canaanite “utter destruction” is identical to that of Judah’s destruction in the Babylonian exile. Third, the “obliteration language” in Joshua (e.g., “he left no survivor” and “utterly destroyed all who breathed” [Joshua 10:40, NASB]) and in early Judges is clearly hyperbolic — another stock feature of ANE language. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 248,242,243,247,241. Fifth, we should take seriously the numerous references of “driving out” the Canaanites (e.g., Exodus 23:28; Leviticus 18:24; Numbers 33:52; Deuteronomy 6:19; 7:1; 9:4; 18:12; Joshua 10:28, 30,32,35,37,39; 11:11,14) or “dispossessing” them of their land (Numbers 21:32; Deuteronomy 12:2; 19:1; etc.). And if slaves can gain their freedom (1 Corinthians 7:21), Paul encouraged this. 15. All rights reserved. Chapter 17 Indiscriminate Massacre and Ethnic Cleansing? Yet it is self-confessedly less than ideal. Naturalists still lack the proper metaphysical context for affirming such moral dignity and value. : Making Sense of the Old Testament God by Paul Copan (2011, Trade Paperback) at the best online prices at eBay! Even so, Deuteronomy 15 expresses the hopeful goal of eventually eradicating slavery while both (a) diminishing the staying power of slavery in light of the exodus and (b) controlling the institution of slavery in light of the practical fact misfortune in a subsistence culture could reduce anyone to poverty and indebtedness.19. First, Israel would not have been justified to attack the Canaanites without Yahweh’s explicit command. What of Scripture’s emphasis on lex talionis — an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth? Human sacrifice is detestable to God because it falls into the category of murd… Indeed, we see unchangeable biblical ideals highlighted from the very beginning of the Scriptures (Genesis 1:26,27; 2:24), which are reaffirmed throughout. This is in contrast to the prologue/epilogue to Hammurabi’s Code, which, rather than offering historical narrative, contains lofty language about Hammurabi’s being endowed by the gods as a benevolent earthly sovereign to be a just ruler on earth. Thus, Christopher Hitchens’ remarks about “the ungrateful and mutinous children of Israel” are accurate. Published on January 15, 2015 by Steve West, Members click He is author and editor of a number of books, including When God Goes to Starbucks, True for You, But Not for Me, That’s Just Your Interpretation, Creation Out of Nothing, and Is God A Moral Monster? Fifth, the Mosaic Law contains an inherent planned obsolescence, which is to be fulfilled in Christ. Punishments and Other Harsh Realities in Perspective Much has been written in recent years on the moral problems with the depiction of God in the Old Testament. They also refuse to acknowledge that atheism has been responsible for certain global atrocities, while refusing to give Christianity any credit for doing anything good in human history. Baker Books, 2011. To purchase a copy of God Is Great, God Is Good, visit InterVarsity Press or Amazon. John Barton, Ethics and the Old Testament (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1998), 7. 20. The Monster's acceptance of moral culpability is a refreshing contrast with Victor's nearly invincible innocence. 11/1 (2009): 73–90. A plain reading of Israel’s priestly/legal codes reveals that they are embedded within a broader historical narrative. When God created Adam, he collected dirt from the ground. Copan begins by attempting to make sense of the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. 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