I have never posted a book review here before, but I recently read a book that has great impact upon the topics discussed in this blog. Creationism hinges upon a literal interpretation of Genesis. A major reason many resist this interpretation is that it requires accepting many other seemingly “problematic” portions of scripture. Author Paul Copan addresses many of these in his book Is God a Moral Monster? (Making Sense of the Old Testament God). Copan begins by establishing a crucial principle: God’s sovereignty and goodness. It is only through an understanding and appreciation of these essential attributes of God that any sense can be made of His actions and commands. He also emphasizes the progressive style of law-giving in God’s dealing with man. After the Fall, things went so bad so fast that God couldn’t simply jump back to the ideal that had been ruined. It required “do-able steps” moving slowly through the covenants with Abraham, Law of Moses, and culminating on the New Covenant through the cross. Just as Jesus Himself explained in Matthew 19:8, God permitted some things temporarily that were less than ideal so He could move humanity closer to the ideal.
Copan provides fascinating insight on many aspects of Judaism which the modern world finds “weird.” The four main areas he covers are: “kooky” (Copan’s word) laws of the Israelites, alleged sexism and mistreatment of women, laws regarding slavery, and the conquest of Canaan. The significance of Jewish dietary law is explained at length and reveals why this was so important to God and His chosen nation. A common theme in many odd-sounding commands was to draw a clear line of distinction between Israel and the reprobate nations surrounding them. Readers who have been left unable to respond to atheists’ charges regarding slavery in the Bible will find meaty answers here. Many tired, old atheistic canards (e.g. selling daughters into slavery, women commanded to marry their rapists, etc.) are dealt with handily and shown to be the illogical attacks they truly are. Radical feminists who allege that the Bible was written by misogynists who worship a sexist god can be responded to with valid explanations. Seekers will find real, logical answers to their questions in this book. Faithful Christians who have struggled trying to reconcile these moral dilemmas will find renewed confidence in God and His divine word. Anyone who has questions about taking the Bible seriously will benefit greatly from this book. While I do not always agree with Copan’s conclusions (some are a bit of a stretch), he at least offers plausible explanations for these issues which have troubled believer and non-believer alike. I mainly purchased this book to find an answer to the seeming immorality of the slaughter during the conquest of Canaan. Of particular interest to me was the issue of non-combatants (women and children). Unfortunately, Copan’s brief explanation was interesting, but unsatisfying to me personally. He addresses the overall conquest quite adequately, but is a bit lacking in the specific area of innocents. Having said that, the book is very helpful and enlightening in many other areas. In conclusion, I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the Bible, or to anyone who has an axe to grind with God for what they have perceived as contradictions and inconsistency on His part or among His followers.