Is God a Moral Monster?

Making Sense of the Old Testament God

Paul Copan

p11 Introduction

States the intent of a readable book but with notes for sources. Uses new atheists as springboard for discussion. Has some interesting general observations on the difficulty of Old Testament study and the variety of viewpoints.

Part 1 Neo-Atheism

p15 Ch 1: Who Are the New Atheists?

Met Daniel Dennett at Greer-Heard Forum at NOBTS and shared forum with he and Alister McGrath. Includes Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens to round out the "four horsemen" of the new atheists. Lists some historical atheists.

  • p16 Sept 11, 2011 gave capital to new atheists on evil done "in the name of religion"
  • Rodney Start - big media splash and some best sellers, but 4% atheists in 2007, same as 1944!
  • Christianity growing rapidly in non-western world.
  • Rodney Stark describes as "angry and remarkably nasty atheists" (gives Dennett a little bit of a bye except for his 'brights' label)
  • p17 "surprisingly flimsy" arguments
  • Rodney Stark "like expecting to learn..medieval history from someone who had only read Robin Hood." they really ticked off Rodney!
  • "Michael Ruse says that Dawkins's arguments are so bad that he's embarrassed to call himself an atheist."
  • p18 Criticizes Hitchens as much as Dawkins, which surprised me.
  • William Lane Craig crowns Dawkins for "worst atheistic argument in the history of western thought" replacing Stephen Hawking, but if he included the Hawking/Mlodinow book, the crown would probably go back to them.
  • Spends a couple of paragraphs on the new atheists reluctance to associate with Stalin,Pol Pot, etc and the atrocities of atheism.
  • Also criticizes for reluctance to acknowledge the positive influences of Christians.

p20 Ch 2: The New Atheists and the Old Testament God

The new atheists "compile quite a catalog of alleged offenses" attributed to God

  • commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac -Dawkins 'disgraceful', 'child abuse and bullying'
  • Dawkins jealousy, killing Canaanites
  • Joshua and Jericho, Lot seduced, Abraham lying, Jephthah vow led to daughter sacrifice, David Bathsheba
  • Cites Richard Dawkins's favorite description of the God of the Old Testament.
  • Dennett reacts strongly to pride, jealousy,appetite for praise and sacrifices.
  • Hitchens: nightmare of the OT, Canaanite conquest, slavery, bride price, massacre
  • p22 Harris: should be stoning people to death for heresy according to Bible, thinks we can handle all morality without God.
  • List of the charges from the new atheists.

Part 2 God: Gracious Master or Moral Monster?

27 Ch 3: Great Appetite for Praise and Sacrifices? Divine Arrogance or Humility?

Copan easily wipes out this caricature. It really is silly to treat the Creator of the Universe as an equal who shouldn't ask for any recognition of that greatness.

  • p28 God doesn't ask praise that He doesn't deserve, or take more credit than He deserves!
  • 28-29 Contra Dennett, God making man in His image is an expression of God's kindness, not divine arrogance. Simply "spreading the wealth"
  • 29 We are "incurably religious", we are made that way, (not a Dennett "spell") but we are functioning properly when we are directed toward belief in God.
  • 30 God's calling for our worship isn't a manifestation of pride -- the call to worship means inclusion in the life of God"
  • Two C.S. Lewis quotes we delight to praise what we enjoy -- consummation of earthly discipleship
  • 31-32 The humble, self-giving God - triune, becomes human, takes our place on a cross
  • 33 Martin Hengel quote "The discrepancy between the shameful death of a Jewish state criminal and the confession that depicts this executed man as the pre-existent divine figure who becomes man and humbles himself to a slave's death is, as far as I can see, without analogy in the ancient world."
  • 33 "We can set aside the false accusation that God is a divine, pompous windbag seeking to have his ego stroked by human flattery. That's the argument of village atheists, not those who have seriously examined the Scriptures"

34 Ch 4: Monumental Rage and Kinglike Jealousy? Understanding the Covenant-Making God

Richard Dawkins accuses God of "monumental rage whenever his chosen people flirted with a rival god"

Copan makes the case for good jealousy and bad jealousy, and the case that the jealousy of the covenant-making God is for the benefit of man. It is against idolatry.

p35 "God laments over Israel:'For my people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water'(Jer 2:13)"

Copan gives several examples of the disaster of idolatry. Uses the picture of adultery. Bible speaks of God's hurt at such idolatry. Quotes of Tim Keller and C.S. Lewis on p 40.

42 Ch 5: Child Abuse and Bullying? God's Ways and the Binding of Isaac

Part 3 Life in the Ancient Near East and in Israel

57 Ch 6: God's Timeless Wisdom? Incremental Steps for Hardened Hearts

70 Ch 7: The Bible's Ubiquitous Weirdness? Kosher Foods, Kooky Laws?(I)

79 Ch 8: The Bible's Ubiquitous Weirdness? Kosher Foods, Kooky Laws?(II)

87 Ch 9: Barbarisms, Crude Laws, and Other Imaginary Crimes? Punishments and Other Harsh Realities in Perspective

101 Ch 10: Misogynistic? Women in Israel

110 Ch 11: Bride Price? Polygamy, Concubinage, and Other Such Questions

124 Ch 12: Warrant for Trafficking in Humans as Farm Equipment? (I) Slavery in Israel

135 Ch 13: Warrant for Trafficking in Humans as Farm Equipment? (II) Challenging Texts on Slavery

150 Ch 14: Warrant for Trafficking in Humans as Farm Equipment? (III) Slavery in the New Testament

158 Ch 15: Indiscriminate Massacre and Ethnic Cleansing? (I) The Killing of the Canaanites.

169 Ch 16: Indiscriminate Massacre and Ethnic Cleansing? (II) The Killing of the Canaanites.

186 Ch 17: Indiscriminate Massacre and Ethnic Cleansing? (III) The Killing of the Canaanites.

198 Ch 18: The Root of All Evil? Does Religion Cause Violence?

Part 4 Sharpening the Moral Focus

209 Ch 19: Morality Without a Lawgiving God? The Divine Foundation of Goodness

216 Ch 20: We Have Moved Beyond This God (Haven't We?): Jesus as the Fulfiller of the Old Testament

223 Discussion/Study Questions

235 Notes

Reading Reference
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