Book Plunge: Christian Delusion Chapter 8

Is YHWH a moral monster? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Chapter eight brings us the first chapter by Hector Avalos. Much of the material I think is adequately covered in my review of his book on slavery here. I see no reason to reinvent the wheel.

The chapter might as well be a diatribe against Paul Copan and everything he says. I do think Copan is working on another book along these lines so we will see if there is any reply to Avalos there. I intend to really just hit on some highlights.

For one thing, Avalos looks at how Jesus interprets the Old Testament Law and says that Copan assumes Jesus’s stance is correct. In this case, Copan is entirely accurate to do so. It could be Jesus’s stance is incorrect, but Copan is seeing if Christianity is internally coherent within itself. He doesn’t have to prove everything he believes about Christianity in such a case. If he did, then his book¬†Is God A Moral Monster would need to include arguments for God’s existence, the reliability of Scripture, the process of canonization, the existence of God, the case for the deity and resurrection of Jesus, etc. Such is not needed when Copan is really trying to address one question. We might as well say in a chapter by Avalos that he assumes that evolution is true without giving an argument. He has no need to do so when arguing from the perspective of atheism.

He does the same again when Copan argues that YHWH has the prerogative when it comes to life. Avalos says this assumes God exists. If it’s Allah, doesn’t He have the same? Indeed, He would! Yet once again, this is about internal coherence. We don’t need another chapter on why Islam is false.

Yet despite Avalos’s ranting throughout this chapter on how evil YHWH is, the humor and true gold of this essay comes at the end.

As an atheist, I don’t deny that I am a moral relativist. Rather, my aim is to expose the fact that Christians are also moral relativists. Indeed, when it comes to ethics, there are only two types of people in the world.

  1. Those who admit they are moral relativists.

  2.  Those who do not admit they are moral relativists.

It’s just really so amusing. We have a whole chapter arguing that YHWH is a moral monster and then, in the end, we are told there are no moral monsters because relativism is true. What has Avalos been complaining about this whole time? He doesn’t like killing Canaanites. YHWH does. So what?

While the book Copan wrote with Matthew Flannagan does advocate Divine Command Theory, there are other explanations. Avalos doesn’t even bother with any of them. He ignores that some of us of the more Thomistic variety have another way of determining morality and that’s by determining goodness. For all his talk about assuming, Avalos, in this case, does assume that there can be only one way to establish moral principles.

Avalos goes on to say that atheism offers a much better way to construct morals. Really? How could you tell? Do you produce better morals? That can’t be because of relativism. Better results? Same problem.

In the end, Avalos says that we still find God to be a moral monster who endorses slavery, genocide, and infanticide, as only a moral monster could. Upon what grounds? He has told us all of this is relative and then returns quickly to being an absolutist. He tells us that what is frightening is that Copan can say that killing women and children is sometimes good. That frightening ethos, Avalos says, makes the New Atheism more attractive all the time.

Except how could it? Copan supposedly says it’s good. Avalos disagrees. So what? Those are just relative differences. They don’t really matter. Again, Avalos is just confusing. He says that morality is relative and then complains about moral wrongs.

That kind of inconsistency is making Christianity more attractive all the time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: When God Goes To Starbucks

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