Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God By Paul Copan
What is the Book About? “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?” From the Back Cover.
Why I Wanted to Read This Book Overseeing a ministry that is counter-cultural and having to defend an extremely unpopular Biblical sexual ethic in doing so, I was drawn to Moral Monster. Not only has the God of the Old Testament caused me some personal inner confusion when comparing Him to the God I feel so safe with in the New Testament, but I’ll confess that God’s seeming multiple personality disorder between the two testaments has made His ethic more difficult to defend to a 21st-century culture that has little patience for understanding these complex texts or historical contexts. Quoting C. S. Lewis who warns against chronological snobbery – “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our age is the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that count discredited.” Indeed. Strength in Weakness Ministries deals directly with the controversial issue of homosexuality and how it relates to us in matters of faith. For obvious reasons, Moral Monster piqued my interest. The Old Testament injunctions against homosexuality carry the punishment of death. How do we reconcile this with the teachings of the New Testament where, while clearly stating that homosexual activity is not representative of what God intended for human sexuality, certainly does not demand capital punishment as a penalty? How do we explain the severity of suffering inflicted on homosexual offenders in the Levitical passages or the story of Sodom and Gomorrah when compared to the call of Jesus; to love our enemies, respect a person's right to free will, and showing love and kindness to the sinner? Add to this the various controversial issues that weave themselves throughout the Old Testament such as women's rights, slavery, ethnic cleansing, and I was eager to dive in to find some reconciliation.
The Premise of the Book Using a collection of well-known God-deniers such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens and their arguments against God as the basis for his defence, Copan does indeed provide stellar answers to the accusations carelessly thrown at the Bible and those who live and die by it. This alone makes Moral Monster a great read and will not only help enable you to better defend the gospel to those who question it but it will add a world of confidence to your faith. This book does not focus specifically on issues that are at the heart of the Strength in Weakness Ministry but that said, the author does go into some great detail on sexual ethics and the issue of homosexuality. The book offers effective explanations as to why the Mosaic law was written as it was.
Was the Book Helpful? Reading the book Moral Monster was helpful to my faith overall. While we may at times find ourselves troubled by specific passages when reading Old Testament texts, when put in perspective by looking in the right places, we can have an assurance that the God of the Old Testament is the same God we read about in the New. It’s just a little trickier to see when we don't have an understanding of the history and context of the more problematic passages. I finished the book with a deeper appreciation that the God who many consider a monster is a Holy God who desires Holiness from those who follow Him and as a truly loving, self-sacrificing God, He invites us to be reconciled to Him.
The SIW Book Review Scores: Out of Five Stars
Commitment to Traditional Biblical Sexual Ethics: 5 out of 5
Relation to the Strength in Weakness Ministry: 2 out of 5
General Readability: 4 out of 5
Commitment to Biblical Veracity: 5 out of 5
Strength in Weakness Ministries Gives Moral Monster 4 out of 5
Bottom Line: Trust it!