Paul Copan - "Is God a Moral Monster?"
9:08PM Jul 7, 2020
Jonathan J. Armstrong
On our conversation with Dr. Paul Coburn on his book is
God a moral monster,
making sense of the Old Testament God. That's Corbin is a Christian theologian and apologies and analytic philosopher. He is currently the pleasure family Chair of philosophy and ethics at West Palm Beach, Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida. We are glad to have you on our panel today. Dr. Cooper. Thank you. Yeah, we're excited. I'm looking forward to discussing your book. not talk about can you let us know why. And when did you first decide to write this book and why did you give this book this title?
Well, I began by This book as a result of an article that I had written in Philadelphia Christi, back in, I think around 2008, where I was responding to the new atheists who Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, who had basically come on the scene after September 11, denouncing not just Islam, but all manner of religion, including the Christian faith. And so it was, and given my background in biblical studies and theology, I thought it would be worth tackling some of their challenges and I'd say caricatures of the Old Testament portrayal of God. And many of them were verses were taken out of context, there was a lot of misconstrued misrepresentation. And so what began as an article, turned it eventually into a book and I actually got the phrase more monster from Richard Dawkins, who uses that that phrase to describe the God of the Old Testament.
Thank you so much for that introduction. Well, we noticed that you've designated the new atheists as a collective composition partner throughout the book. Could you briefly educate us as to the identity and assumptions of the new atheist?
Right? Well, I listed a few of those new atheists as having come out of this September 11 attack. And again, they basically removed a lot of the intellectual arguments that say, atheist in previous days had used, for example, Jael Mackey of Oxford, or when he was an atheist, Antony Flew, again, they used sophisticated, philosophical, thoughtful arguments. And now, what we were getting were your anecdotes that allegedly represented the Christian faith. These caricature False representations about what, you know what faith is, for example, they would define faith as basically believing against all possible evidence, as opposed to faith being open to evidence and seeing where it leads. And so So again, this was they just misconstrued faith, they misconstrued what religion was, and so forth, and especially the Christian faith. And so, so again, it was not a fair philosophical presentation of faith, it was a lot of dismissiveness, again, a lot of a lot of false portrayals. And so, so when you see this sort of thing going on, you can't really engage in principle discussion when so so again, they'll just repeat the same old tired sayings that, that that science flies rockets to the moon, but religion flies planes into buildings. And, and again, it's not it's just a failure to take history seriously. In the impact of the Christian faith on science itself, and so again, a lot of those sorts of arguments, I'm not saying that in their own discipline like Richard Dawkins, in biology, or Daniel Dennett, engaging in various philosophical tasks, they don't do some of their thinking well, but when they step out and criticize faith and really don't do their homework, it becomes problematic.
Thank you so much for that. Now. One of the new atheist mentioned in about page 28 of your book, that God
is likened to a Superman is self absorbed for praise,
total fun in your estimation?
What is the consequence of that kind of characterization? What kind of image is being projected on God
makes God look as though he is somehow insecure, that God needs human affirmation that God is basically seeking seeking Human praise because of some sort of insecurity within himself, as opposed to really what worship is what praise is, is simply acknowledging who God is. It's getting in touch with reality. Worship is realigning ourselves with reality, recognizing that God is God and that we are not. And praise is basically one creature calling to another, to acknowledge who this God is. That's typically how you see it even in our doxology we say praise God from whom all blessings flow. We are calling on other creatures creatures here below the heavenly host above and so forth. We're calling on them to join with us in praise and acknowledging who God is and and the fact that we are dependent upon God, the fact that we are in need of God's forgiveness and so forth. So those are the sorts of things that again, the Superman image this idea of Gods being insecure and and needing funding human beings to prop him up. Just a false representation. Worship is basically reality alignment.
Thank you for that definition. And later on in your book, we will have to connect this chapter three to chapter 1516 and 17 when it has to do with properly conceiving what God was doing in the Old Testament, right, thank you very much. Ah, if you would, a consistent theme that runs across your book is that I quote, while the mosaic laws do not always reflect the ideal of wish, the test itself of knowledge, you claim that these laws themselves and the mindset the exhibit revealed a dramatic improvement, and grit and moral sensitivity than the mere enchant is kind of part of talk about what are the implications of this understanding, especially when we have to evaluate some of the laws and retribution commands in the Old Testament?
Yeah. Well, I think just Just set a little bit of context, it's helpful to distinguish between the vision of the Old Testament and the various laws that are within the Old Testament. The broader vision of the Old Testament acknowledges that all human beings are made in the image of God, male and female. So whether there is servitude that comes later on, there is this fundamental acknowledgement that all human beings are gods are made in God's image, that they are made to worship and know God and to relate to him and so forth. And so, and to rule creation with God. And so knowing that this is the broader vision, which is again articulated in various ways throughout the Old Testament, like Jobe talks about how he and his own servants are, they come to the same place, their mother's womb, that there is a fundamental equality between them, but then there are laws that are put in place that acknowledge human fallenness human sin, many laws in the in the Mosaic Law anticipate that human beings We'll sin that human beings will go wrong. And so you have in place, then various laws that take this fallenness into account that takes certain fallen structures into account, rather than overhauling everything dramatically. God begins where people are and then moves them in a redemptive direction. So you have, for example, Jesus in Matthew 19 eight saying that certain laws were given because of the hardness of people's hearts didn't mean that these were ideal, but God put up with certain things that the creation had fallen away from its original ideal. And so God was now working with this creation, and having to get his hands dirty as it were, though, and issuing laws that try to address the this fallenness and repair it and again, move it in a proper direction. So yes, it acknowledges sin but again, seeks to move God's people into different directions. So So yes, you will have you know, this broader vision that that's For example slaves are, are equal to their, their mass shooters. And and that you cannot simply do whatever you want with them. And so there are regulations for that, as opposed to the ancient Near East where you have you there, it didn't you could do whatever you wanted with your slave, that there were not these sorts of limitations, but there were certain that you know, or you could even talk about, you know, certain sexual laws and so forth, or punishments and so forth that we could compare to the biblical record. So, so without going into a lot of detail here, we do see that there is a, you know, that there is a fallenness. There is there are also some severe laws, which a lot of people say, Well, those are bizarre laws. Well, I think we have to be careful about being chronological snobs here, that we think that we are better than they are, rather than trying to understand how these laws would have been understood in the ancient Near East. I think they would have considered some of our punishments to be bizarre and strange, because maybe we're too solid on crime, maybe we're too sympathetic, as opposed to being severe and, and and direct and addressing those crimes that needed to be dealt with in a very severe way so as to set an example for those around etc. So, so again, those are a few thoughts on on your question there.
Absolutely. Great. Thank you so much, Dr. copelan. When we are dealing with issues of the Old Testament ethics, we come across suggestions such as God being misogynistic in your evaluation, would you say that the structure of the Old Testament society portrays the misogynistic conceptions that God give to Israel?
Well, in the in this portrayal, we need to understand that Israel itself is a patriarchal society. It's not as though God has endorsed endorsing patriarchy. He is addressing the people of Israel who are living within a patriarchal society. And what is interesting is that you will have Various protections for women in light of this that were in a society where women could be taken advantage of, there are certain structures in place so that they will be protected, that they will be guarded. So for example, and also treated as responsible agents within that society, as opposed to say near property. So you we have laws to Honor your father and your mother, that it wasn't just honoring your father and your mother really doesn't count. No, this is something that was fundamental to the the law, the Old Testament. Also we see, in the Old Testament, the law you have when adultery is committed, both the male and the female were held responsible. It wasn't as though the male got off easily or lightly. Both were subject to the same judgment. You also see certain protections like even in Numbers, chapter five, there is this law of adultery, this this this case of adultery, where there's an accusation and if there isn't If the woman is is found guilty, then there is a supernatural sign that indicates that she indeed committed adultery. Now some people see this as anti woman, as opposed to I think seeing it actually as a protection for a woman. If she committed adultery, then it becomes revealed. But if she did not commit adultery, then this protects her against a probably an all male court, a male judge and so forth, who could perhaps just in other circumstances, simply side with the accuser and the woman be punished unjustly? So again, that's just an example of how what is seen as anti female is actually a support for the female in this patriarchal society.
Absolutely. Now, in relation to that this might be his subordinate question. In the case of bright prize in the engineer his culture, just still practice in some part of the world like in Africa where I was born. Would you say that right price is a sign of misogynistic endorsement in the old system?
Well, what some people would call bride price as though you're somehow paying for your bride could also be seen as a means of security of social security in case there is something that happens to the husband and and the woman is left vulnerable and so forth so that there is a price paid. But if there's something that happens to the woman, that there is this fall back security that she has, you know, in the case of some misfortune that befalls her, her husband so that she is left unsupported by him. So again, there are those protections that are seen. And I think so often we superimpose maybe a modern understanding of of a payment associated with, with marriage and think somehow this is property or whatever, as opposed to seeing it is as a way of supporting of helping of giving security.
Absolutely. God was addressing people in a patriarchal society not endorsing that. That's right. Thank you so much. Dr. copelan. You argued that the holiness course in the penalty function to live all of his life in the direction of chalon, which is nearly conceived as human flourishing in the Western world.
Could you tell us a little more about that, please? Yeah.
In terms of Israel's calling, to be God's distinctive people, there were certain moral and missional distinctives that God had put upon his people, that they would be set apart from the nation and that is Deuteronomy says that when they would see the Israelites carrying out these laws that God had given, they would see what a wise people, these Israelites were. And so this, this whole moral and missional holiness this this distinctiveness was to characterize them. Of course, we know what happened to Israel and Israel's failure in terms of its idolatry and not being a light to the nations but being a compromiser with the nations. And so we see that this, you know, but we see this kind of a law that is these laws that are set to help the Israelites move in a this, this Redemption of bringing blessing to the nations. So that, you know, again, even part of this, though there are certain boundary markers that Israel has like kosher laws and circumcision, so forth. These were actually to be indicators of Israel's distinctiveness from the nations around them, that they had certain characteristics that set them apart visibly as the people have gone, but unfortunately, morally that didn't match up. But we see this kind of thing carrying over into the New Testament. As well, even the Sermon on the Mount emphasizes how disciples are to be different. So we see that this carries over to the new covenant people of God as well, that they don't, we're not to touch what is unclean. Paul tells the Corinthians in Second Corinthians six to, to remove ourselves from any kind of impurity. And so when we are living these lives, you know, it's like what Jesus said, you know, when you let your light shine before men in such a way that when they that they will see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Well, that was what Israel in the Old Testament was to look like, but unfortunately failed to, to show to the nation's
Thank you so much. Now, in relation to the context of the Old Testament as Christian scriptures. How should we understand this holiness codes today?
Yeah, well, I did touch a little bit on that, you know, like the Sermon on the Mount is to emphasize how the disciples are to be different. There is a kind of this new holiness code that Jesus is giving in Matthew five through seven. But there is even we see, as we look at the Old Testament and the Old Testament law, we see certain carryovers, or certain principles or certain ideals that inform how we as the people of God or to think today, again, not that we are under the law of Moses, but there are certain things that we see within the law of Moses that that reflect the kind of heart that God has. So for example, in Deuteronomy 22, there is the command that when you're building a new house, that you're to build a parapet on the roof. Well, today we don't use parapets, or these these these railings or protections around the, you know, on the roof because we don't sit on our roof for entertainment or meals or whatever. But we could say today that if you're building a house and our law codes reinforce this, you've got to have a railing when you go up the stairs. You've got to have a railing on your balcony and so forth that people don't fall and injure themselves or put a scarf Green around your pool so that a child in the neighborhood doesn't just walk in and fall into the pool and so forth. So So again, there are those sorts of carryovers that we can talk about certain principles. But fundamentally, Jesus Jesus articulated, loving the Lord your God with heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself is the articulation of the law in its essence. And so we see that carried over in the New Testament, this is the heart of the law, the law of liberty, the Royal laws, James talks about and so so this is this definitely has carry over, even if some of the the context and the distinctives of those of those laws and those covenant regulations are different. Thank you so much for that explanation.
Now, what are the complaints of the new 80s anchored on the binding of issac? Which midrash Actually, it's called the acara. So, in page 47 to 52 of your book, you have some conversations in there with several of the proponent of new atheist. The argument is that the binding of isaac and the crucifixion of Jesus constitute divine child abuse and bullying. And the same argument is also extended towards Jeff cause daughter and his vow in Judges 11. Upon in your evaluation, do you agree that this points to God's sanction of child sacrifice in the Old Testament?
Yeah. Well, I think when we look at jetha, I would simply dismiss that as someone who made a rash a vow and felt obligated to carry that out, even though he should have used again, better judgment than that, that it's better to break this rash vow and preserve life, rather than to stick with this vow in a legalistic sort of way. And of course, the latter part of the book of Judges is not a good sample for us to follow. In terms of moral behavior. We see a lot of deterioration in Israel. This is just one example of the kind of deterioration that there is in Israel. But, you know, so no, the the, of course, the law of Moses condemns this sort of a practice of child sacrifice and so forth. But But when it comes to Abraham, I'll just kind of briefly say a few things here. Abraham, of course, is convinced even you know, of course he is this, Isaac is this miracle child. But as they go to Mount Mariah, they, Abraham tells us servants that we will worship and we will return he has confident that even though there is this command to offer up Isaac, he is convinced that this promise child, this sign child is going to accompany him back because that's what God promised. There's been a context for, for Abraham's command that it's not as though this simply comes out of the blue without any sort of setting. Already God has promised that Ishmael who who with his mother was sent into the wilderness. God said, Let them go, but I will still Make a great nation out of Ishmael. And likewise God is all the more going to do so with the promise child Isaac, he will make a great nation out of him. So that so the, the moral facts of the matter need to be considered that there is a God who promises it's not simply a matter of just some somebody waking up one day and saying God told me to do this. There's been a context here. And so we need to take those those historical facts into consideration. So there isn't this child abuse God is God has promised that he is going to bring blessing to the nations through Isaac, when it comes to Jesus and the Atonement of Jesus. This is by no means child, no sacrifice. This is rather Jesus willingly laying down his life. He said, No one takes my life from the I lay it down of my own accord and take it up again. He says in john chapter 10. And also Jesus is taking punishment the just for the unjust, but it's in a forensic way. It's sort of like when someone's child is on his insurance policy and that child ruins a car, well, who is held responsible? Well, the parents are, who own this insurance policy. But yet, they are innocent, they haven't done anything wrong. And so in the same, we have all sorts of structures within our legal system in which someone who is innocent still could pay the price for those who are guilty. So in the same way, it's not as though this is some some terrible miscarriage of justice, but rather Jesus who willingly lays down his life, he does so voluntarily, and this is in, in concert with the Father and the Spirit who from eternity plan this, and it's not three parties, the Father, you know, and the Son and the world. It is God who loves the world, God who sends his son who gives his life willingly. It's two parties, really, it's the Triune God and the world and God makes possible redemption through the death of his son who gives himself willingly for the world.
Thank you so much. And if you would coupon Could you briefly show how Abraham's obedience differs from the child sacrificing culture of the engineer is just in in one or two sentence?
Sure, in the ancient Near East, it was common for pagan deities to require this, it was common for them to be pleased. But I would but this is utterly prohibited. This is not part of the worship of God. In fact, some theologians say that, that the very point that God is making or at least one of the points is that God will does not require infant sacrifice or child sacrifice, by this example of God saying, I'm going to take you to the brink, but I will not require it.
Awesome. Thank you so much.
Right? In about page number 68 of your book, you mentioned that
the scripture flows redemptive Lee.
So in light of redemptive movement of Scripture, how should we evaluate Most of the attunement that I've been raised by the new 80s from the Old Testament as being
preserved in the New Testament era.
Well, I think the whole idea of czar can be very subjective. We can judge certain things as bizarre because we don't know what these sorts of symbols or rituals perhaps represent. So when we, you know, there's a lot of regulation or ritual relating and taboos related to semen and to blood in the Old Testament, and we think, well, what's what's the big issue here? But But on the other hand, we could say that, that this is something that is highly significant, highly symbolic, a highly representative within an ancient culture. And so what we may call bizarre is simply part of the mindset that they had and how they understood things. And so, so as I said earlier, some of those regulations That, you know that maybe even some of the laws that we have today might be considered bizarre by an ancient people who may not be able to make sense of, you know what is going on here. And so I would say, it requires patience and understanding of a context that may be utterly, utterly alien to us. And so it takes more homework to go not only back in time, but also go to a radically different culture than our own. And we need to be careful about superimposing our own understanding of things as superior and enlightened without considering that there is moral development that is taking place and so we need to allow for that sort of a thing, rather than being a CS Lewis said chronological snobs about it.
Thank you so much as an ethicist.
So, we are going to ask for your ethical opinion, as the redemptive movement of Scripture applies to certain things like divorce or remarriage or capital policy. You've wrestled with this in your book. But can you speak to our audience briefly about that?
Again, Christians will say differ on the whole issue of polygamy, some will say God utterly prohibited polygamy. And I think that there's a good case to be made for that other Christian scholars and Jewish scholars will say that God simply permitted polygamy. But But again, it was something that he was putting up with not because it was ideal, but it was something that that was not to be utterly overturned suddenly because this would change the social structure and leave a lot of people destitute or, or even in a position of shame and dishonor. So if we applied it to today, for example, let's say a missionary goes over to Africa, and and there's a remote tribal people and the chieftain becomes a Christian, but he has a number of wives. What should he do? Well, you don't say well, you divorce all of your wives, and just keep one No, there is a dependence there is a security there is an already a commitment that has been made to support these these wives, and to send them all away would leave them destitute would leave them without any sort of means of support. And so, so but what what needs to be done then as to pass on to the next generation, that polygamy is not God's ideal, but rather monogamy is and to live within the structures of God's ultimate ideal. So, again, it's it's putting up with a certain negative fallen structure within this situation, but again, passing on to the next generation, what God's ideal ultimately is, and to live in accordance with that, when it comes to say capital punishment. I mean, I think that the, you know, we may have a different basis for talking about capital punishment. There were certain theological and moral reasons that God had for for certain punishments in the Old Testament that we don't carry over into the new but I do think that there is a Place in highly exemplary cases as significant moral cases for capital punishment, even in our day. So that's why Paul talks about the minister of the state not bearing the sword for nothing in Romans chapter 13. That's not simply a metaphor for an officers ticket book, or something like that. something much more severe and indeed lethal. So I would say but again, there have to be certain, you know, certain care exerted here when it comes to capital punishment, but I do think that it is morally permissible not mandated, but morally permissible for a government to undertake that.
Thank you so much for that clarification. Now, still on the ethical side of things here.
One of your
contextualization of the holiness codes, was that ease does not mean up in the Old Testament. We would like to have your perspective on how to evaluate the all male Levitical priesthood Independence, you're in light of that ethical convolution, essentially, as it flows into ministry, in terms of men and women serving in the church. It should just,
yeah. Okay. Well, great, great question. I would just make a couple things about the Levitical priesthood. For one thing, keep in mind the ancient Near Eastern context where you would have gods and their sexual partners or consorts, engaging in sexual activity, you'd have temple prostitution, that was part of their worship. And so God is steering people, his people clear from this possibility that there be no sexual activity within the temples and so forth. Also keep this in mind that that only a select group of people are priests, it is certain males from a certain tribe of Levi, and you know, again, so it's not just any tribe and also these are specifically with the sons of a Aaron, the offspring of Aaron males and from Aaron's line. So not just any family, these were involved in a priesthood. So it's actually very limited. It's not just, you know, simply all males can, can be priests, but no, it's a very narrow slice of this. And so, but but keep keep in mind the broader picture in Exodus 19, God tells his people that all of them, male and female are priests, that they are a nation of priests or royal priesthood to God. And of course, this theme is picked up in First Peter chapter two, you know that all believers are kingdom and priests, that we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation and so forth. So all of God's people, male and female, like, share in this proximity to God and also in service to God as well. I won't go into all the details here, but I think that there can be a very good case made for women sharing faithfully think of junia who is known among the apostles. It looks like she's a church planter. She is known to be someone who is a leader within the early church. So Paul mentions her in chapter 16 of Romans. You have Phoebe, the deaconess you have or the deacon, you have language of leadership with, you know, even a quillin. Priscilla we have, you know, Priscilla, as mentioned first after the first mention, every time thereafter, and she is one who teaches a Paulus more, you know, more clearly in the ways of God. So, so again, you know, I would say there is plenty of room for women to be involved in leadership, even at the highest levels within the Christian church.
Thank you for that constructive response was sure do appreciate it because it does have a lot of implication for Christian appropriation of the Old Testament text. You touch on a controversial subject of slavery in the Old Testament in your book, and would like to hear what you think the Old Testament slavery system was like, income prison to slavery in the Enlightenment period and up to today, especially in the Western world.
Well, in the ancient Near East, if a slave ran away and was returned, he could be mutilated. He could be harmed bodily. There was a certain despotism that the master had over his slave, and, and in the same carries over into the antebellum south in the United States in certain colonial settings, where, where the life of the slave was utterly in the hands of his master. This is a far cry from what we see going on in the Old Testament Scriptures. The term for one thing, the term slave itself has a negative connotation. And so I think the term should be rendered more like servant or even worker from the Old Testament as opposed to someone who is comparable to a black slave in the in the antebellum south. The term slave, you know, that you know, is is, as I said, should be served or work or even it's related to the verb to work. And Israel interestingly, left servitude in Egypt, they were slaves in Egypt, to become slaves of God or to be served to serve God in the wilderness, the same terms are being used. One is negative one is positive. So it's really a neutral term that reflects a dynamic dependency relationship. And depending upon the context, it could be positive or it could be negative. Joshi, Joshua and Moses are called the servant of the Lord, that we have. Interestingly, Israel's laws themselves sought to remove tyranny from this institution of servitude. So if a run a slave ran away from another country, that the slave could find refuge within Israel could settle within any of Israel cities. Unlike other ancient law codes, which mandated the return of these slaves to their masters no doubt they had left because of harsh conditions, and there have they had to be returned to their extradition treaties between nations to return runaway slaves. to their masters and if you harbored a slave who ran away, you it was punishable by death. Israelite servitude by contrast was indentured servitude with limited Terms of Service. And even for foreign servants like Leviticus 25 talks about foreign servants who whom you can acquire, well that term acquire as a legal kind of term just like God acquired the Israelites when he brought them out of Egypt in Exodus 15. It's mentioned, but the the foreign servant could become a person of means within Israel. And so therefore, they that they could acquire same word, it's us acquire an Israelite to work for them. Again, it's not saying that the Israelite is simply a possession, but rather that same legal transaction, every language is being transactional language is being used both for the Foreign Service as well as the Israelite so so again, I think there's a lot of misunderstanding about what servitude involves in ancient Israel and and hopefully this clear, some of those things are possible.
So maybe this is more of a subsidiary Question but nonetheless significant in Galatians
328 Apostle Paul
relativized his slavery and mixed the master to be a brawler, we'd be flips. What do you think about that?
I think it's a marvelous picture. I think it's a reminder of the fundamental equality of not just all human beings before God is Genesis one reminds us, but the fundamental equality of all Christians before the cross of Christ, that we have one common Master Jesus, and in light of that common master that we have this changes how we relate to one another within the body of Christ. What's interesting is that you have in Romans 1616, you have this command greet one another with a holy kiss. Well, you have in Romans 16, to slave names mentioned, urbanists and Andronicus and here they are, to be greeting one another with a holy kiss here these slaves in Rome are actually to be greeting one another. And so as a picture of family acceptance of relationality of warm affection and so forth. And furthermore, they were to sit at the Lord's table together and partake in a feast rather than having slaves over here and masters over there. They're all to partake in the same common family meal. So again, you see the Roman system of slavery being undermined in a very significant way by the Christian community.
Thank you so much. Now, later on in your book, we would relate the concept of violence and militarism. But for the time being, what can you say about the law could of Israel in which an AI was required on a and it to fight tooth? Was that sanction just to send on Spyro the continued violence in the society or was that more of a protective measure put in place by God to protect it? Yeah,
yeah. I mean, this this kind of language, indeed, was to keep that kind of Okay to prevent overdoing the punishments that you didn't overextend the punishments and maybe act in rage and overdo what the appropriate punishment was. But the fundamental principle here is, of course proportionality. That that you shouldn't go beyond what the crime mandates the punishment must fit the crime. So it's interesting too, that it's not even a literal, obviously not a literal I and so forth. What do you see, there is a life for life, which which could be literal, of course, murder was something that was to be taken with, with the seriousness of capital punishment itself. But it's interesting when it comes to there's often monetary compensation that comes with that eye for an eye, tooth for tooth command. It's not, again literal. So what's it for example, take a look at Exodus 21, where you have an employer or master who strikes a servant. If he dies, the master was to be capitally punished. So again, it's not some mirror possession or property here, the master could be punished capitally. Also in excess 21, it mentions that if the master knocks out one of his servants eyes or teeth, the punishment was not knocking out the eye or the tooth of the master. But rather the servant was to go out free and without any remaining debt. So that gives you a picture of how this sort of thing operates. But there is the goal of a fundamental proportionality here that should not be, again, overdone that you don't that you let the punishment fit the crime. And I think that that is a an appropriate understanding of how we look at that both in the ancient world as well as today. Thank you so much
proportionality is the goal. Dr. copan. You would agree with us today that one of the contemporary concern impacting Christian discipleship is reflected in your petition of Martin Luther and I quote, you cited that the Christian is both free and subject to not Office full of human beings as well as dutiful servant, who is subject to all. In your perspective, as a Christian leader, how should we think of duty, freedom and self giving love in a kind of culture we live today.
I love that quotation from Martin Luther. That's one that I've used a number of times. And I think it captures very much when it comes to, to duty and freedom and so forth. I think that this is very, very accurate, that we have, you know, even the web the term in the New Testament, when when Paul or James calls himself a slave or a servant of Jesus Christ. You see here that there is a fundamental commitment both to we have that there is a duty to our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, and that this informs how we within the body of Christ then are to serve one another, that we are to serve one another in love, as Paul Taylor. Our simulations. And and this also is to spill over into our own materialistic society, which And so Paul says again, again Galatians chapter six, he says, that we are to do good to all, especially those of the household of faith. So so there is that concern to move, you know, again from from Gods to inform how we treat one another within the body of Christ. And then to move beyond that to serve our fellow human beings who are outside and again, serving them so that they will see our good works and glorify a Father who is in heaven. So there is this, there is a freedom to do that because we have been set free through Jesus Christ, that that we are no longer because we have been accepted by God as Paul says in Romans 15. We can therefore show acceptance to one another that gives us freedom not to depend upon our own status or identity based upon how other people perceive But knowing just like Jesus in john 13, knowing who we are knowing that we've been accepted by the father, knowing that we have been received by him, we have the freedom to go ahead and serve others, regardless of how they happen to treat us. And so this is, I think, a wonderful picture of how the Christian faith can impact society, how it can inform how we ought to live in society. So So again, excellent question. And I think it's one that really, bears pondering. Thank you so much. Because just
after that quotation, you raised what I might consider to be a prophetic warning. That divine judgment were not relegated to biblical times alone. So I'm wondering, in what ways may you have you discern that demand judgment is impacting our society today? What are some of those was that we in the church as leaders and also in the academy might have to pay attention to?
Yeah, yeah. Well, it as we You read even in the book of Revelation, there is a mention of divine judgments you think of the the four horsemen, you know the various judgments of the bowls and the trumpets and the seals and so forth, where you see divine judgment being unleashed against rebellious people who, who are citing with, with with evil with Satan, rather than with Christ to his kingdom. So you see this connection of their of this, of this period of judgment that comes from God, you know, between the first and second coming of Christ, but I think we have to be careful about saying this is this happened this this event in New Orleans, the the flooding of New Orleans happened because of God's judgment upon a decadent city. As it turns out, the more decadent part of New Orleans, the the French Quarter was actually left untouched. It was all those nice people in the suburbs that ended up getting harmed by the flood. You know, those kind of outside The French Quarter. But in Luke 13 Jesus reminds us to be careful not to proclaim divine judgment concerning moral or natural disasters, like pilot having people killed in the temple or the Tower of Siloam, falling on people and killing them. Jesus says, Do you think that these were worse sinners than the rest? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will likewise perish. So there is a kind of general judgment that comes out that can, on the one hand, remind people of their need to repent their their need to fall upon God's mercy and grace. But also the the judgments that come can also remind believers that they need to look to God themselves and trust in Him. And that even through the judgments that fall upon those around them, that they can be the faithful people of God who who represent Jesus well, and are faithful witnesses within this sort of a setting. I should I could add to that Jesus Himself talks about judgment in Revelation two and three He's going to bring temporal judgments upon various churches in Asia Minor if they don't repent. So, you know, he is going to know he is going to do things like cast decibel on a bed of sickness or, you know, or he will, you know, make war, you know, and strike dead, her followers. So again, very severe judgments here coming from the lips of Jesus. And again, this is a temporal judgment in history, not merely something that is reserved for for end times.
Thank you so much. Now, in pitch one room 45 of your book, you shift that the laws in the mosaic code were remarkably more human
than those of the ancient Near Eastern cultures.
In your opinion, how should we qualify the Canaanite genocide or the killing of other nations whom Israel fuckwit and were purportedly assumption by our What's our opinion on this?
All the time. genocide is, of course, misleading. It's a very loaded term, and one that actually doesn't fit with what is happening on the ground. We see, for example, the language of, for one thing, hyperbole, which mentions utter destruction. And when you see people who have been utterly destroyed in, say, the Book of Joshua, you can read a verse or two later, and maybe a couple of chapters later that those same people who are utterly destroyed and there were no survivors, that there are plenty of them who are left behind that there are plenty of survivors. What's going on here? Well, this is the ancient Near Eastern war text, hyperbole that is common. It's sort of like what we do in our sports language. We are we totally we totally destroyed those guys. We totally annihilated that team. We use that same kind of language. It's kind of a trash talk. And the same thing the ancient Near East had its trash talk. And so you could win a narrow victory or even be at a stalemate, but say, Oh, we totally, we totally destroyed our opponents. And so that was a common theme, and that's what we see especially highlighted in in the book of Joshua. But as you read, you know, even though there's, there's there's utter destruction, we read at the end that there are many other nations that need to be driven out. And so it's not as though the job has been done by any stretch. Also the command, the primary command to the Israelite system was to drive out the Canaanites. And those foolish enough to remain behind would leave themselves open to judgment. Of course, typically men, women and children would be the first ones to leave a threatening situation. But But again, beyond that, the Canaanites certainly had fair warning throughout as we read the book of Joshua. And we read into early for Samuel, that the Canaanite peoples knew what God had done in Egypt and in the wilderness, that they were, they were in a sense well prepared for who this God was and they knew that this God was powerful and greater than all of the gods that the Canaanites and the Egyptians also keep in mind that this judgment again, keep in mind this is a kind of a last resort. judgment that God is engaging in, and it's very limited. It's very highly controlled. And it is exceptional in its in its warfare tactics. It's not describing how Israel ordinarily engaged its enemies. But this is a highly specific situation where you're dealing with peoples who are engaged in crimes are what would have been considered crimes, and in any any civilized society, so you have ritual prostitution, incest, bestiality, and infant sacrifice, all of these things are characterizing these peoples whom God is driving out, and that there is a certain task that Israel has to basically prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah, who would bring redemption to all the nations including even any remaining Canaanites that might be there, like the Canaanite or the syrupy Phoenician woman mentioned in Matthew 15.
Thank you so much. Now, the new big piece argue that God sanction of driving people out of their native land or whatever reason committing these crimes that you've just cited, is immoral. What do you have to say to that? Does God have any jurisdiction over any people and their territory?
Well, well, God certainly has, you know, who is the one who is the king of the universe, that King of the earth certainly has jurisdiction, and and certainly has a right to bring judgment where people are living in, in in ways that are not only defiant of God's ways that are that bring harm to those within their society, but also that spillover an influence negatively those who are outside their society. So when there is a pernicious influence, God is going to be addressing it. I think many of the new atheists think Oh, those people are just minding their own business. They were not bringing any harm to anyone. Why Why not just leave them alone? Well, God, remember had waited. As Genesis sic 1516 reminds us he waited until the sin of the answer Right had been filled up that he waited until it reached full measure, which meant over 500 years of waiting, including Israel's time of servitude in in Egypt. So this was a patience that was finally had reached full measure until the time had run out and then judgment will illustrate for judgment.
Thank you very much, Dr. Cooper. Now we reached the bottom of your book. It's about the challenge to monotheism in new atheism, I guess. monotheism is the cause of violence in society. And given the evidence we have in history that the Judeo Christian texts, or the Muslims Quran have been used to justify wars and oppression. Is it true that monotheism is a cause of violence in society?
Well, I think it's helpful to distinguish between those who practice monotheism or practice, say the biblical faith can insistently and those who don't keep in mind that the, the language that was directed against the Canaanites was very limited. It was a limited period of time for the Israelites, and and it was restricted to the land of Canaan. It didn't extend to the ends of the earth. Of course Muhammad, by contrast, in his farewell speech said that Allah has commanded me to fight until all men say there is no God, but a law. So, you have with Israel, you have something that is limited, it is restricted in time it is restricted in geographic location, it is it is something that is very narrow and highly regulated, and does not characterize how the people of God are to act outside of that period of time and space. So so so that's one thing. Also, interestingly, you know, after say, the fall of Jerusalem, in in AD 70, the Jewish people were People generally given to violence, they they didn't feel that they needed to work needed to carry out something from Joshua or Deuteronomy, into into the modern world. And those Christians who were those professing Christians who say, attacked people in you know, say North America and called the Native Americans, Canaanites, and so forth utterly unwarranted, the Canaanites for those who lived in a particular place. And so if you have people who are misusing the scriptures, I mean, you can again, you can take that, you know, you can take that even further by saying those people who engaged in the Crusades and I'd say the Crusades were largely a defensive measure against Muslim aggression. There were some abuses of course, but but what were what were those leaders citing? when they're talking about crusades and and engaging in protection of Christendom while they were citing the words of Jesus to You know, take up their cross and follow Him to lay down their life for their friends to, to love their neighbor, and so forth. You know, Jesus words were being used. And so does the person want to say, Well, you know, that's, you know, that's that's not, that's, you're misusing Jesus words there. But But you were properly using those Canaanite texts, you know, in other settings. No, I think you can take any kind of Scripture and twist it and misuse it. So the question is, I think, a larger theological one, to where, to whom were these commands regarding the Canaanites directed the people of Canaan, it was limited, it was it was restricted. It was unusual as unique and was not to be carried further beyond that.
Thank you so much. Now, in specifically talking about the causes of violence in society, it's Christian form. Can monotheism be the foundation Have a peaceful society, all resolution of conflict?
That's a great question. And I think that you're right to point out that I think so often the discussion of monotheism, there is a loss of or neglect of the Christian understanding of who God is that God is intrinsically relational Father, Son, and Spirit. God is intrinsically loving. God does not create to become relational, he does not create to become loving. He is this within himself from eternity. And so we have within the doctrine of the Trinity, I think a great resource for for addressing the importance of peacebuilding of building, understanding with one another of being face to face with one another. This is very important. I'm not saying that there isn't a place for just warfare, but these can work in tandem with one another. It's not pitting one against the other but saying that we ought to do the best that we can in building bridges. In, in making treaties in, in, in working together for for the common good and building peace for future generations. So I think that the that the Christian faith actually gives to us a solid foundation for how that could work, you know giving us a theological basis for on which to proceed in this manner.
Thank you so much. Now if I may push a little bit more farther on this subject, specifically to the postmodern mindset being a philosopher, you will be aware of the implications of postmodern thinking on the subject of monetarism having one thing being devoted to in a postmodern context, how difficult that might be specifically, sort of millennials. What advice do you have to give to us?
Well, when it comes to the I mean, if we're talking about a postmodern setting, I think that post modernism actually emerged out of a disaffection of the really man's inhumanity to man through the second In World War, the First and Second World Wars, the Nazi concentration camps, the Soviet labor camps and so forth, that the impulse for post modernism is actually rooted in a strong sense of evil, and, and morality, in which the other those who are not part of the system, those who are outside of these particular meta narratives, that they were being, that their harm came to them that they were being, that they were not being treated in a way with dignity and worth and so forth. And I would say that the postmodern actually needs to recover Trinitarian monotheism in order to ground the dignity of human beings, humans are made in the image of God if you're going to affirm no concern for humanity, but you don't have any theological basis as to why human beings have dignity and worth, where their duties come from. Where that justice is objective, that justice is something that we To pursue that it is not simply a social construct, which is, again, kind of the theme of post modernism, these things are socially constructed, these things don't, that we can't have access to real justice or you know, it again, these are the Christian faith actually gives us resources for affirming human dignity, moral duty, the avoidance of evil, the the, the using coercive force, if need be to stop the evil aggressors, and so forth. So I'd say that if you get rid of God, if you get rid of the Trinitarian, God in particular, you're getting rid of your best hope for actually addressing these deep evils within the world that actually gave rise to the postmodern impulse and the concern for the other and so on. So I would say that we need to kind of step back and assess well what is actually the the foundation for our belief system, what is the metaphysic that actually informs how we treat human beings. If you get rid of God, you actually don't have that option. Have a foundation.
Thank you very much. Now one of the questions that is hanging over Christianity and the academic academic part of the church, is a question of whether the Old Testament text is still relevant for the Christian church today. In essence, in effect, how do we equip the Canaanite, punishing God, a God who sanction war against non combatants, while women and children as a gracious God confessed by the Church of Jesus Christ today, what do you have to say about this?
Well, when it comes to the, you know, the way that things were, were put you know, that, you know, how can we actually, you know, talk about this God who does ethnic cleansing, how could this God be, say, the foundation for us? You know, I would say it's kind of interesting that as you look at the Old and New Testament texts, you see that the New Testament actually mentions the love compassion of God far less than the Old Testament does. We see loving kindness, compassion, patience and so forth mentioned far more in the Old Testament. And again, keep in mind that even in the midst of all of this, that God in the Old Testament, his ultimate goal is to bring blessing to all the nations. And then when God does bring judgments, they are limited their specific judgments in the short term that will eventually yield benefits to all in the long term. So Israel's mission to bring blessing to the nations and again, through obviously, through the Messiah, Jesus, that this you know that God was constantly bringing warnings to the people of Israel, who were in danger of compromising or undermining their identity. And so judgment was necessary not just for the Canaanites, who were influencing the who could were a pernicious influence, but for the Israelites themselves, who were not being the people of God in order to properly prepare the way for the coming of Messiah. So God brings judgment on his own people Israel when they stand in the way of God's redemptive purposes. And it's interesting too, that even Jesus himself the most respected moral and spiritual exemplar in history, in the New Testament mentions that he is actually involved in judgment himself. For example, it's kind of interesting in Jude chapter in Jude five, Jesus Himself, you know that the best texts mentioned that he says, Jude writes, now I desire to remind you that though, you know all things once for all that Jesus, after saving the people out of the land of Egypt subsequently destroyed those who did not believe here, Jesus Himself as being the one who is bringing judgment upon those people who rebelled in the wilderness. So so it's very interesting to see that there is this kind of continuity between the Old and the New Testaments, and but yet here, Jesus, who is the one who exemplifies goodness and love and reconciliation is also one who is just one who is Who brings vengeance upon those who, again bring harm? And Jesus, of course, says in Luke chapter 18, those who are the ones who know the who will not the elect, who are constantly crying out, Will God not bring them justice? You know, so there is this this concern that not just love and so forth, but also justice are part of the bigger theological picture that we need to consider. And we see those themes cutting across both the Old and New Testaments.
Thank you very much. Now that being a foundation for us to step further into the next question, what exactly is morality? When we say something is moral? What do we mean by that? And how do we come to determine what is moral?
Well, morality of course has to do with duties has to do with right and wrong, that this is the same as goodness. You know, there is if you look at a big circle and you you see this as goodness, duty or right and wrong fit within the a small Circle have that. So you can have some that is good but not not necessarily a duty or you know what is moral. So you can donate a kidney to a stranger. That is good, but it isn't a moral duty. Also, God is good by his very nature, so he couldn't act in an evil way or Command something is evil. But this doesn't mean that God has duties or that God is, you know, bound by morality, no, God commands something, and that becomes our own moral duty. So so this is basically what we mean by morality. morality is a subset of goodness. But morality is not the same thing as goodness morality has to do with duty has to do with right and wrong. Now we can become informed about right and wrong not simply through the Scriptures, but also through general revelation and for example, in Amos, chapter, Amos chapters one and two, God is threatening judgment against the nation surrounding Israel, not because they have paid attention to the law of Moses, but because they've engaged in an act of atrocity acts of inhumanity. And so God said, He's going to judge those people. Why? Because they should have known better, they should have paid attention to their conscience. And so because they didn't, because they ripped up and pregnant women to expand their borders, because they broke treaties and lead vulnerable people into the hands of their enemies. God says, I'm going to send fire I'm going to bring judgment. So there is a general revelation that reveals the the nature of God that God is a holy and just God. And that tells that informs us so it's not simply the scriptures that give us a guidance about morality, but our own general understanding of who we are and how we ought to treat others. This is something that comes even early on in childhood as CS Lewis argues in the early chapters, early chapter of Mere Christianity, we all know when playing on the playground, that's not fair. Don't cut in line. He's don't pick on him, he's not bothering you. Even as children, we get that sort of thing.
Thank you so much for that. clarification because there is some sort of a war that is going on as it pertains to morality, and how we should come to know what morality is. And that is a very succinct clarity for us today. So in your opinion, you will agree that we do need God to be moral, right? What's moral?
Yeah, yeah, we need God. We need God to be moral beings. But it doesn't mean that everybody has to believe in God in order to know moral truths. That's, you know, people are made in the image of God, and so they can understand morality. But that doesn't mean that you but I'd say in order to be a moral being, to be had to have dignity and worth to have duties and so forth, we need to have God as the one who is our Creator, that he he is the supremely valuable movie and creates us with dignity and worth and value and personal responsibility and so forth.
We have a God who says that he is goodness, and yet he's also the foundation for morality. However, there are others So someone to actually fix. I did good on that. How do we balance that argument?
Yeah. Well, I think it's helpful to understand whether these things that God has commanded. And again, I wouldn't use that term ethnic cleansing. But because God is not an ethnic cleanser, God judges based on you know, morality God judges based on evil, not on the basis of one what tribe one comes from. So so but this God who is engaging these things is doing so in a highly exceptional way. This is not the norm. This is the exception. So God, we need to keep in mind too, that God is a God of justice and God is concerned about the the harm that comes through people who are abusing others, that the corruption that comes to others, God is very much concerned for, for for justice to be done. I think so often in our concern to affirm others we forget that there is a God who is who takes justice seriously. Who yes desire to bring blessing to the world. But also God is prepared to remove obstacles that prevent or thwart that blessing from coming to other people. And we see Jesus doing the same sort of thing. The New Testament, Jesus says he's gonna strike dead, the followers of decibel. Jesus is the one who cleanses the temple and so forth. These are the sorts of things that that Jesus is engaged in is very much in alignment with what the God of the Old Testament is doing.
Thank you so much. Now, we have to return back to chapter three of your book, when it is a problem of worship, in conceptions of reality. Um, this might be more useful for us in the church who leads the church who teaches the Scripture. So do you think that there is a connection between doxology and epistemology here is their connection to our attitude to worship? This is our our in connection to our view of knowledge and what we count are what counts for us as reality. What can you tell us about that?
It's a great question. The question of doxology or worship and knowledge and epistemology, we see that there is indeed a connection here in First Corinthians chapter two, the natural man who doesn't receive the things of the Spirit of God, he can't understand them. Why? Because he hasn't humbled himself before God to see that in Jesus Christ. There is redemption, redemption through shame, redemption, through humiliation, redemption through crucifixion and barbarism, that God uses these things, these these things that seem to be an embarrassment, to shame, the lies to shame, the proud and so forth. So that if we are not willing to bend the knee to Jesus, if we're not willing to bend to a God whose ways are higher than our ways, then we will miss out on how God on the knowledge of God in the first place. Worship requires humility, worship requires acknowledging God's proper place that he has gone and that we are not and once we understand what the fear of the Lord is, That is the beginning of wisdom. God is the one who is central to wisdom. And if we remove God from the picture, then we will have we will be disoriented and how we are to live our lives, how we are to engage in our daily tasks, because we have not found our proper bearing in this world without condemning anyone would you say that this is one factor? That is narrowing the problem of the new atheists conceptions of the Old Testament? I think this is indeed, you know, again, part of part of the issue here, I think, and it's reflected in the fact that often the new atheists are not really engaged in proper serious understanding, kind of a willingness to listen and and if you will humble themselves before the facts and understanding, you know, really allowing the theologians to to tell them what biblical faith is, rather than kind of making up their own ideas of say, what what faith is kind of like what Mark Twain said faith is believing what you know, ain't so. And I think you get the idea that this Is their understanding of faith in their super imposing this on the Christian on the scriptures. And again, that's not a fair way to engage in dialogue and understanding. It's really not it's not professional, either. You know, I think there's a proper call for humility here to to for mutual understanding, mutual exchange, rather than using these sorts of characters and, and kind of phony arguments that are often paired about. Thank you so much. Now, do you have any other things to
add to this conversation that we might have to carry on from here?
Well, I think that the the issues here are certainly very challenging. It's not as though we're saying it's all easy to to figure these things out. It does require homework I think a lot of patience is required on the part of Christian and non Christian to patiently hear each other out and allow for explanations to to be brought forward. And also patients within the Christian community as we come to understand and grapple with these texts on all of us. See them the same way. So it's important for us to, to listen to one another, to be faithful in our scholarship, not to take kind of cheap, cheap shots at each other, but to actually honor one another within the body of Christ and to work together toward a better understanding of what is going on within these troubling biblical texts.
Thank you very much enough talk about one question we like to ask every participant in the on this platform is pertaining to the unity of the church that Jesus prayed for in john, Chapter 17. From your point of view, how would in humble posture, to these questions in light of the Christian view of Scripture, promote or contribute to the unity of the church that Jesus prayed for in john chapter 17?
Well, I think that's even some of the things that I just mentioned about listening to one another, about about taking the scholarship of others who are writing about these difficult Old Testament issues. Seriously You know, I've had conversations with with Greg Boyd, with whom I strongly disagree, and, and others as well, I think that there is a place for us to be seriously discussing without, without caricature without, without writing off the sincerity of the other person. I mean, I think we can have strong disagreements and to articulate those and in fairness to those who are, to our who, with whom we're speaking to you, but and there may be Miss, you know, I think going too far things can be carried too far. And we need to also be willing to talk about those, those sorts of things as well. But again, the goal is to seek to understand and also when when needed to correct one another to, to seek to bring all of ourselves in line with, with God's revealed word for us and to seek as humbly as we can to to faithfully follow Jesus Christ as we work through these murky issues.
Thank you very much. That was our conversation today with the Paul copan, the author of ease God and more remonster making sense of the Old Testament that opened, it was great to have you on our platform today. Thank you very much for
your time. Thank you very good to be with you. I appreciate it very much.