Posts Tagged ‘Paul Copan’

Defend The Faith Day Four

January 9, 2015

What’s been going on at the Defend The Faith Conference? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Well readers, I have some egg on my face. There had been some misunderstanding on our itinerary on my part and our flight back to Knoxville isn’t until tomorrow. Oh well. That meant we missed a talk so I can’t comment on that, but we did really appreciate what all else that we did get to hear.

So the first talk we heard today was from Gary Habermas dealing with doubt, this time being intellectual doubt. Of course, there was still some overlap with the emotional doubt and it mainly covered ways of thinking. He also encouraged us that when we talk we make sure that we focus on the essentials. Believe it or not, a lot of times Christians can get incredibly side-tracked by non-essential doctrines and start thinking that those belong in the center along with the resurrection.

After a lunch, we next went to hear a Tim McGrew session, naturally, where he talked about treasures new and old. This time, he was talking to us about the value of reading old books. There are many works of apologetics written in the past that are still relevant to us today. These include writers other than G.K. Chesterton, one of my favorites, as well.

After that, we went to part two of a mock debate as it were on the resurrection between Tawa Anderson who was playing the role of Bart Ehrman and Gary Habermas. I had been telling Tawa that he did a great job in his discussion on worldviews, but that I had no doubt that he was going to get his tail kicked in a debate with Gary Habermas. I was right. What makes Habermas such a formidable opponent is he also knew Ehrman’s material backwards and forwards.

We went out to a nice lunch after that with Tim McGrew, Tom Gilson, and some others at a local burger and fries joint which naturally became a time of great discussion. Tim also started teaching Allie how to do Sudokus seeing as she’s wanting to learn how to improve her thinking and showing them that they have nothing whatsoever to do with adding. It’s just logic.

The evening ended with a lecture by Paul Copan, co-author of Did God Really Command Genocide who was speaking on just that topic. This was a great talk to hear and it was interesting how many questions had to do with the interpretation of Scripture. It makes me think that this is an area that we’re going to have to work on because it seems too often that many evangelicals are letting their conclusions, such as inerrancy, sometimes drive interpretation, without realizing that if Scripture is inerrant, sound interpretation will not be a problem.

Now tomorrow is definitely the day that we are flying back, but we have had a great time at the conference and we’re so thankful to have been invited. I plan on making one final post on the importance of a conference like this tomorrow.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Did God Really Command Genocide?

December 15, 2014

What do I think of Copan and Flannagan’s newest book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

godcommandgenocide

First off, I wish to thank Dr. Copan for sending me a copy of this Baker book for review purposes. I will state up front that I see Flannagan and Copan both as good friends, but I earnestly desire to avoid allowing any bias to cover my review. It will be up to the reader of this review to determine if I have done so.

The book starts with a question of what atheist Raymond Bradley calls the Crucial Moral Principle. This principle goes as follows:

It is morally wrong to deliberately and mercilessly slaughter men, women, and children who are innocent of any serious wrongdoing.

Most of us would in principle have no problem with that statement. In fact, in principle, neither would Copan and Flannagan. Yet that is the statement that must be dealt with as it looks like the text does have commands from God to do just that. Now of course it could be that some might say those events are just a made-up history, but in the book, Copan and Flannagan do take the task of assuming for the sake of argument that this is a real historical narrative. In fact, so do the atheists they interact with in the book. It is a way of saying “Let’s assume that there was a conquest of the Promised Land as the Bible declares. How do we reconcile that with the idea that God is a God of love?”

Some people reading the start will be wondering about the beginning. Why are we having a discussion on inerrancy? Why a discussion on what it means for the Bible to be the Word of God? All of this is important, because it is about how we are to process the information in a text and too many people have an idea that if the Bible is the “Word of God” then somehow the ordinary rules of language don’t apply and everything must be applied in a “literalistic” reading.

From there, we get into the conquest itself. Is the text using hyperbolic language? Copan and Flannagan argue that it is simply because if you take in a literalistic sense, the accounts immediately contradict. For the sake of argument, one could say there are contradictions in the text, but let us not say the writers were fools who would notice a blatant contradiction right in their midst. Many of the commands also involve not destroying, but rather driving out. The commands were also limited to war within the holy land itself.

Naturally, the authors argue against those who want to use the Bible to argue against the hyperbolic interpretation. They conclude this section by looking at legal and theological questions concerning genocide and show that by legal definitions used of genocide today, the events that took place in the Conquest really don’t work.

The third part of the book starts with Divine Command Theory. I will state that while I believe everything God commands is necessarily good and we are obligated to do it, I do not hold to DCT. I think this section does deal with several bad arguments against it and that makes it worthwhile in itself. It’s also important that you can be someone who does not hold to DCT and it will not detract from the overall position of the book.

For instance, let’s suppose you take my position and yet think that if God commands something, it is good. Then the rest of the part will still work for you. It asks if God could command events like the deaths of innocent human beings. The authors use some excellent examples about how in even our time we could picture a president commanding such an order and not condemn them. For instance, suppose on 9/11 three of the planes have hit and we know the fourth is on its way to the target. This plane no doubt commands innocent human beings, but would we understand a command from the president to have it shot down knowing innocents will die? Note that is not saying it is necessarily the right decision, but that it is an understandable decision.

The authors also deal with what if someone claimed this today. For the authors, the principle known earlier as the crucial moral principle holds if all things are equal, but if you think God is telling you otherwise, you’d better have some excellent evidence. Most Christians today would say you do not because even if you hold to God guiding people personally today and even personal communication today, most would not hold to prophecy on the level of Scripture being given today and if God commanded you to kill someone, that is not a position to hold to.

So what makes Moses and the conquest different? One is the preponderance of what are called G2 miracles. These are miracles that you could not just explain away as sleight of hand if true. For instance, when the water of the Nile turns to blood, the magicians can repeat that so yeah, no big deal. When the Red Sea parts and the whole of the Israelites pass through on dry land and the waters drown the following Egyptians, yeah. That’s not so easily explainable. The same for manna falling from the sky every day for forty years and the wonders that took place around Mount Sinai. The average Joe Israelite soldier had good reason to think Moses had some divine communication going on.

I personally found the last section to be the most fascinating and this is about violence in history and its link to Christianity. The authors cover the Crusades particularly and show some contrasts between Islam and Christianity and also point out that the Crusades have not been hanging over our heads for centuries. If anything, the usage of them is a more recent argument.

They also deal with the idea of religious violence and show that much of the violence we have seen is in fact political though often hidden under a religious veneer. Included also in this section is a piece on the question of pacifism and if there can be such a thing as a just war.

Copan and Flannagan have provided an excellent gift to the church in this book. Anyone interested in studying the conquest of the holy land and wanting to deal with the question of religious violence in general will be greatly benefited by reading this book and keeping it in their library.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 10/18/2014: Matthew Flannagan

October 16, 2014

What’s coming up on this week’s podcast? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

War. It’s a sad reality in our world and we look forward to a day when it is no more. We often take it as a sign of evil, so what a shock it can be to so many when we find God in the OT sending the Israelites into war to destroy the enemy. Aren’t we supposed to be serving a God of love? How can a God of love order the massacre of the Canaanites? Not only that, how can he allow institutions like slavery to exist? These are questions we need to have answered.

And for these questions, we need someone with a keen mind able to handle the historical and philosophical issues.

So why not Dr. Matthew Flannagan?

In his own words:

“Dr Matthew Flannagan is a theologian with proficiency in contemporary analytic philosophy. He holds a PhD in Theology from the University of Otago, a Masters (with First Class Honours) and a Bachelors in Philosophy from the University of Waikato; he also holds a post-graduate diploma in secondary teaching from Bethlehem Tertiary Institute. PhD, University of Otago) he currently works as an independent researcher and as teaching pastor at Takanini Community Church in Auckland, New Zealand.”

In fact, Dr. Flannagan along with Paul Copan has a new book coming out on this topic called Did God Really Command Genocide? This book is due to be out next month from Baker and will cover many of the topics that we will be discussing on our show. So what kind of topics are open for discussion on this episode?

What about the conquest of the Midianites in Numbers 31? This is one of the favorite ones to use, especially since there’s this strange idea in there that the people can keep the virgin girls for themselves. Isn’t this just a great big rape fest that is going on? Would a God of love have really ordered such an attack where the men got to keep the young women for themselves who were virgins?

What about the conquest of the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15? Note also that Saul is told here, as God orders in other places, to completely destroy everything. Not even the animals were to be spared in this conquest. Samuel wasn’t even pleased with the idea of sparing the animals as an act of sacrifice to YHWH. Why would God order such a massacre to take place and on top of all of that, not even spare the animals in it? What did they do?

Fortunately, Dr. Flannagan is highly equipped to answer these questions and indeed they will be answered. I hope that you will be joining us this Saturday to listen. If you want to listen the show will normally air from 6-8 PM EST on the Universal Pentecostal Network with the recording taking place from 3-5 PM EST. Of course, you can also be checking your ITunes feed. I look forward to it and I hope you do too!

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 7/19/2014: Is God A Moral Monster?

July 17, 2014

What’s coming up on this Saturday’s episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

One of the most common charges today leveled against Christianity is the God of the Old Testament. One of the most memorable lines against Him comes from Richard Dawkins in “The God Delusion.”

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Is this really the case?

In order to investigate this question, I’ve decided to invite on the show a Biblical scholar who has written a response directly to such a claim and shown how the battles in the OT do not show that God is in fact a moral monster. He should know since he wrote the book “Is God A Moral Monster?” I of course mean none other than Dr. Paul Copan.

PaulCopan

According to his bio:

“Paul Copan (Ph.D. Philosophy, Marquette University) is Professor and Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University, and he has served as president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. He is author and editor of thirty books including The Rationality of Theism, The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Religion: Classic and Contemporary Issues, The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas, An Introduction to Biblical Ethics, Is God a Moral Monster? and “True for You, But Not for Me.” He has contributed essays to over thirty books, both scholarly and popular. Paul and his wife, Jacqueline, have six children, and they reside in West Palm Beach, Florida. His website is http://www.paulcopan.com.”

Paul Copan has been writing several excellent books aimed at a general audience to deal with popular objections, a much-needed niche if there ever was one. This started largely with his book “True For You But Not For Me” and has progressed all the way to his book “When God Goes To Starbucks.” I have never been disappointed by a Copan book and “Is God A Moral Monster?” is no exception.

So we’ll be spending our time talking about the charges that God does in fact inflict genocide in the Old Testament as well as getting into other issues that seem to paint the God of the Old Testament in a highly negative light. We could also be discussing the critiques that Thom Stark has brought towards Copan based on the book and see what he thinks about them.

Also, this will include a lesson on how we are to read the Old Testament. Is it really a straight forward narrative every time or does it use terminology that would have been recognizable to an ancient reader but is not so recognizable to us today?

And of course, is it really justified for God to take life in this way? Surely there could have been something else to be done besides using the Israelites as a force of war. Right?

I really look forward to having Dr. Copan come on to discuss this important topic and I hope you’ll be listening. Remember, we’ll have the link up on ITunes as soon as possible for you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: When God Goes To Starbucks

January 24, 2014

What do I think of Paul Copan’s book on everyday apologetics? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

 

starbucks

 

A friend of mine told me about getting this book as a Christmas gift and asked if I’d like to read it and see what I think. Now I do know Paul Copan and see him as a friend and I’ve liked all of his other books that I read and so I jumped at the chance. As expected, I was not disappointed.

Copan’s great strength is in so many of his books that he writes that are conversational and deal with issues that will pop up at a location such as Starbucks. In this volume, you’ll find issues such as the question of egoism, lying to the Nazis, the redefining of marriage, the Canaanite conquest in comparison to Islamic Jihad, if Jesus was wrong about His second coming, and the problem of so many denominations.

Copan lays out the case each time and then concludes with a summary of the issues. When that’s done, he’ll point to other works that are worth reading, many of them the works of scholars in the field which is something that I greatly appreciate. Copan’s writings are meant to be a starting point for further study with enough to show you where to go next.

I was pleased also to see him talking about the importance in the book of the honor and shame dynamic in the Middle Eastern culture and how we misread the Bible because of this. This is the kind of idea I wish would catch on like wildfire among evangelicals, but alas, as evangelicals too often are ignoring scholarship and sticking to a Western worldview, we are disappointed. It is one of the reasons that we have so much fundamentalism in the world today, including the way atheists respond to the Bible in assuming a Western context.

Also refreshing was to realize that Copan takes a Preterist viewpoint in answer to the question of the second coming of Christ. This is also a view I hope to see grow in the evangelical movement. Copan’s chapters on the question of the return of Jesus will no doubt cause great shock and concern among many Christians, as such an idea did for me when I was first looking into the problems of a dispensational viewpoint, but in coming to a Preterist view, I found a view that I hold has a more comprehensive explanation of Scriptural passages and speaks in the language of Scripture far more.

The only chapter I really thought could have used some more was the last one on the denominations in the church. There was no mention of the claim that there are x thousand denominations in the world today, with a number that seems to keep rising. Most people don’t realize this is an entirely bogus statistic and I would have liked to have seen more on that front.

Still, in a book like this, that that is my main concern should speak plenty about how excellent the rest of the volume is. This is a book I would gladly put in the hands of the layman today who is dealing with some of the issues that are being talked about. I consider Copan to be an excellent apologist and worker in the field and hope to see more books like this increasingly from him.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Is God A Moral Monster?

December 18, 2011

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Tonight, I’d like to begin a new look at books that are being read here at Deeper Waters and start a new section that will be referred to as a “Book Plunge.” In a book plunge, I will spend one blog reviewing a book that I plan on just giving a brief overview on, rather than one I plan on writing a detailed response to.

First on the list will be one I recently read from our the library by Paul Copan. At this date, it’s his latest one called “Is God A Moral Monster?” with the idea of making sense of the Old Testament God.

This book is highly endorsed on the back and for good reason. Paul Copan has been making a name for himself as a popular apologist. By that, I mean most of his works have not been geared towards a scholarly crowd, but have been written with the layman in mind. Copan is bringing the scholar to the man on the pew and he does an admirable job of it.

Works like this also show how the techniques of the New Atheists are backfiring. The New Atheists wanted to bring atheism to the popular level. Unfortunately for them, their material was weak and only brought forward a surface level objection. It is easy to understand the objections Copan is addressing in this book, but he does dismantle them quite well. If he does as well as I believe he has, then that does render a problem for the atheists as one of their favorite arguments suddenly becomes easier to deal with.

That does not mean it’s entirely answered. It is like the problem of evil as this argument is difficult due to the intense emotion that can often be connected. We can think of the idea of people dying under the order of God and frankly, we don’t really like that, but there’s also the reality that if God is the judge, then we have to deal with that aspect.

I personally find this to make it an interesting point. “If God is not the way I want Him to be, I will not worship Him.” It is not about the question of if God exists or if Jesus rose from the dead, it is about if we like Christianity. Frankly, there are times when all of us who are Christians don’t like Christianity because we’re sinners and when we want to sin, Christianity can get in the way of that. What we like does not change what is true. If God is the judge and does have the authority and power to take life, saying you won’t like it won’t change that. (In fact, you’d think if one thought God was really like that, they’d want to avoid His bad side.)

Fortunately, Copan does show us that while God is a judge, there is a good reason He is judging. God is indeed NOT a moral monster. God is instead patient with us all and those many passages that we don’t understand can make better sense. While I have done a good portion of reading on this topic, I did walk away with some new insights thanks to this book.

In reading it, I regularly thought that Copan has interacted with the atheists that are out there and not just in the scholarly forum, but the kinds that you’d meet on an online forum like TheologyWeb or on debates on a Facebook page. Copan knows not just the objections as Dawkins presents them or a more scholarly atheist like Mackie, but he knows the arguments as the troll you meet on the net.

Questions along those lines are questions like “If Heaven is really better and killed children go straight to Heaven, then would it not be better to allow the killing of children today so that they could go to Heaven?” Copan argues that doing such makes us not the cause of salvation as we are still doing an evil act but God grants eternal life in spite of our evil. It becomes a case of “Let us do evil that good may result.” The killer is neither the cause of the event or responsible for it. It is God acting in spite of that.

Copan also answers the questions of if God is an egomaniac. Most notably in mind throughout in such responses are the “arguments” of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Many of us know of Dawkins’s short little rant against the God of the Old Testament in his *cough* book. *cough* We also recall how Plantinga said we can hope for Dawkins’s sake that God doesn’t return the compliment.

The reader of this book can expect to find questions on slavery answered, as well as questions on the role of women in Old Testament times. He can expect to find information on laws we consider strange, and chapters on the topic of genocide. Copan also closes with a philosophical look at if God is really needed as a basis for morality.

The reader of this book then will walk away with a good defense of God in the Old Testament. Fortunately, at the end of each chapter Copan also includes works that are highly scholarly that can be accessed as well and at the end of the book, for a group that’s studying this book together (Wouldn’t it be great if some were rather than something like “Your Best Life Now” or anything by Joyce Meyer?) there are study questions.

Some criticisms however are first off, that this book contains that great scourge of evil that is one of the greatest examples I know of of the problem of evil called “Endnotes.” If you don’t like endnotes, that will be a problem for you. We can forgive Copan for that of course in light of the great work he’s done.

Also, I would have liked to have seen more information on the social system of life in biblical times. What is the distinction between an agonistic society that is group-oriented rather than ours that is oriented towards an individual basis? I think something like this can help explain much of what is in the Old Testament.

Finally, Copan does refer often to other law codes outside of the Bible, but as I was reading, I was thinking it would have been nice if possible to have seen even more direct quotes of those law codes instead of just being told that that of Israel was better. Every now and then some penalties were given, but it would have been nice to see more of the codes themselves. Of course, we can be told where to read them, but since many will not do so, I think that would have been more helpful.

However, as far as I am concerned, these criticisms while valid are minor compared to the major good that has come overall as a result of this work. In looking at Paul Copan’s book, I think that if anyone is wanting to explain to an atheist God in the Old Testament, that this book is an important read. I highly recommend it.