So the other day while thinking about what books I consider “essential” reads for Christians, I was inspired to write a blog post on Paul Copan’s book, Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God. While singing its praises, I used a quote from Richard Dawkin’s book The God Delusion which explains what many of the new atheists feel about God:
“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.”
I have seen this quote one too many times. Honestly, in some circles of atheists, it is a type of battle cry atheists like to use in debates and in memes. I once watched Dawkins himself read this quote on C-SPAN and listened to the accompanying cheers while shaking my head. I have read plenty about God and the things that took place in the Old Testament. I find that when I provide a proper example and context to correct them, most people don’t desire to know the truth.
I got to thinking that there is a lot to this quote, and if I were ever presented with this argument in the days before I began studying apologetics, I can honestly say I would give the typical deer in the headlight's look that I see countless times when Christians are questioned about their faith. So I decided to do a series of blog posts answering the challenges presented in this quote by dismantling it bit by bit. By breaking it up into pieces, it is much easier to answer the objections presented. There are some objections I could write a novel on, but for the sake of time and your attention span, I will just do the shorter ones.
The first part of this quote I want to tackle is the statement of God being jealous. One of the first ever challenges I ever received about Christianity was, “If jealousy is one of the seven deadly sins, this means that God is a sinner.” Oddly, this came from a professor in an English education class, but I do remember not being able to come up with a note-worth response. Today I know better. The answer I will provide is based on Dr. Frank Turek's answer and one I feel is a great response to this challenge.
So first of all, is jealousy a sin? It depends on what is done through this emotion. Let’s think about this scenario. I am married to a wonderful, beautiful woman who is my best friend. If she begins to talk to another man and begins hanging out with him, do I, as her husband, have a right to be jealous? I believe so. I have committed no sin by feeling this way. If my feelings of jealousy cause me to do something evil like beat up this guy as well as my wife, is this a sin? Most definitely.
When it comes to God, he knows how we were intended to be in a fellowship with him. Because of our sin, that fellowship is broken between us and God. When we humans look into other religions, worship other gods, or even make our own idols in life, God becomes jealous of the lack of relationship with him as it was meant to be. If we were meant to be connected in fellowship, does not God have the right to be jealous? His jealousy is righteous jealousy, and his feelings are by no means a bad thing. It is actually wonderful because despite our sin, he still loves us and wants to be a part of our lives.
So hopefully this helps someone see that jealousy is not always a bad thing, nor is it always a sin. This quote has plenty more to tackle so feel free to check back for more content soon!
It’s important to know what happened, where did it happen, and when it happened concerning the events in the Old Testament. This article will focus on where it happened. Knowing where the events of the Old Testament happened is good for getting an important background for the New Testament. Where the Old Testament events happened will show the land in which God’s revelation occurred.
The Old Testament occurred in ancient Israel which is a small part of the Ancient Near East. This is of course in reference to what we call the Middle East today. Israel was geographically smaller than most of its neighbors, but yet it’s location was strategically important throughout ancient history. Israel connects the three continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe. This is one of the reasons why Israel was taken over many times ranging from the Babylonians to the Romans. Two things would result of Israel’s location. First, many nations desired to take control of this land for the very strategic point mentioned before. Second, it resulted in many foreign cultural influences on Israel, which is why we see idol worshiping many times in the Old Testament.
The Middle East contains three geological sub regions all joined together by the Fertile Crescent. Many of these lands contain mountain regions where a lot of the battles from the Old Testament took place. Many of these lands contained deserts, flat lands, and rivers which played into transportation. The three sub regions are Mesopotamia, Syria-Palestine, and Egypt. Israel also had four sub regions that play into many of the events that have occurred there. First, is the coastal plains that are western coastline slants which are narrow in the north and become broader toward the south. Second, the central mountains that are a ridge of hills located between the coastal plains and the Jordan Rift. These hills are divided into four main regions, which are Galilee, Ephraim, Judean Hill Country and Eastern Negeb. Third, the Jordan Rift that is a series of depressions that run from the Jordan River to the foot of Mount Hermon. This area contains the lowest place on earth, which is the Dead Sea located 1,371 feet below sea level. Finally, The Trans-Jordanian Highlands that is located east of the Jordan Rift and sharply rises into a plateau. This area gives way to the Arabian Desert.
Mesopotamia contains the area in between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, which the Greek implies land between the rivers. The region extends from the mouth of the Persian Gulf to the foot of the Zagros Mountains. Mesopotamia was not a good landscape for defending against enemies mainly due to the lack of natural defenses such as mountain ranges. However, for those who were able to live were able to grow crops and had transportation because of the two rivers. This is where civilization began and writing like cuneiform developed which was wedged shaped writings on wet clay tablets. Many nations sought to take this land because of the weak defense and the benefits of its landscape.
Egypt is a land located by and in the Nile River that is the dominate geographic feature of Egypt. Egyptian culture developed a unique language of hieroglyphs that is “sacred caving.” This was influenced by the cuneiform developed by Mesopotamia cultures, possibly by the Sumerians. Egypt also had great soil due to its locational relationship to the Nile River, which gave Egypt the name of “black land.” Egypt had commercial trading with Asian and European areas due to their seaports. Unlike Mesopotamia, Egypt was very seclusive to outside nations because of the desert borders and its location to the Mediterranean Sea. Due to this, invasion and cultural change did not occur often. At one time, the nation of Israel was located in Egypt.
Syria-Palestine is the area from the northern bend of the Euphrates and southward to the Sinai desert. Israel is located at the southernmost section of Syria-Palestine. This area contains smaller rivers like the Jordan, unlike the Tigris or Euphrates river. Syria-Palestine was not a location to advance societies or national empires in its early history. This was a point of control for many river cultures for both military and political reasons. The most important geographic feature of this area is its formation of a land bridge along the Fertile Crescent. This is also the area that contains the four sub regions of Israel.
The Middle East also contains two important highways that are Via Maris (the way of the Sea) and The King’s Highway. The Via Maris designates all the network of roadways from Egypt through Syria-Palestine into Mesopotamia. The King’s Highway is the second important route, which gets its name from Num. 20:17 & 21:22. It extends from the Gulf of Aqabah at Elath through the Trans-Jordanian Highlands to Damascus. It’s important to know where the events happened to understand what happened. The geology helps show details that are important for many of the events in both Old and New Testament. It also tells us why God choose to reveal himself to the Israelite's in this area and will play into when God did this as well.
Sources: Arnold, Bill T. and Bryan E. Beyer. Encountering The Old Testament: Third Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015. Text Book.
When it comes to learning about apologetics, there are certain books that I consider “essential”: books that thoroughly explain topics that normally come up in conversations where Christianity is being defended. I normally get several questions or objections about the God of the Old Testament. Richard Dawkins, one of the so-called leaders of the New Atheist Movement, put it very bluntly in his book 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.” So if you were told this by an atheist, how would you respond? Is there a difference between God in the Old Testament versus the New Testament? Are there reasonable responses to such harsh challenges? Not only do I think so, I know so. Why? Because I read a book that I know consider one of my essentials. Paul Copan is an author, speaker and apologist, and a professor of philosophy and ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University. His book, Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God is a great resource when providing an apologetic response.
Recently, I participated in a friendly debate with someone who felt God allowed men in the Bible to treat women unfairly. If it were not for this book, I don’t think I could have provided a good response to her challenge, but I was able to give a well-researched answer. In biblical times, there was a certain hierarchy which included men at the head of the household, but for practical purposes, were equally influential in their marriages and beyond (pg. 103). The challenge in question was that women were nothing but property, and the young woman provided the verse in Exodus 20:17 which lists the wife as an item not to covet among other items like a servant, ox, donkey, etc. I used Copan’s answers provided in the book and explained five verses prior to that were required to honor our father and our mother. This verse definitely points to the importance of women in relation to God’s commandments. I was glad to have learned this from Copan, and I must say it caused a noticeable reaction in the young woman I was speaking with at the time!
Copan’s book takes several instances in the Old Testament and provides a cultural background for each verse or section that is normally challenged. He covers the sacrifices made to God, the covenants and God’s righteous anger, the treatment of children, women, foreigners, and other races. He also takes a few chapters and goes into detail about the strange laws of the Old Testament (i.e. Why is it wrong to eat shellfish?) as well as the issue of slavery and the killing of the Canaanites (both which are hot topics brought up in debates with atheists). All of these are important topics that will eventually come up in conversation with a non-believer.
This is one of those books that should be included in the foundation of your apologetic knowledge. The book is easy to understand and provides great insight into what it was like in biblical times. By reading this book, you will become more equipped to answer these questions when they arise, and they will definitely be asked. It is best to have read this one and demonstrate that God is a loving God just like he has always been and not the monster Dawkins and other atheists make him out to be. Faith Fortified: https://faithfortified.com/ Is God a Moral Monster? https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004EPYPY4/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
5.Science and religion contradict 4.Who created God 3.You were raised that way 2.Religion is the source of the world’s problems 1.Jesus never existed
The number of those who claim to non-religious or atheist is ever increasing. We live in a time where anti-religious objections (specifically toward Christianity) have been frequently proposed. Naturally, not all objections have been sound ones. In this article, I will be going through some of these objections that I label the top 5 arguments atheists should stop using.
Number 5: "science and religion contradict" This is a very common misconception I often hear made by skeptics and atheists when it comes scientific evidence. This is the issue that religion cannot be reconciled or be consistent with science. However, the contrary is true. Starting from my position as a Christian, this is not the case. Apologists such as John Lennox give a very well rounded and concise position concerning this falsehood. For example, the existence of a jet engine is explained by what? The parts that make it and the laws of internal combustion, or the engineer? It would be bizarre to suggest that both these explanations conflict with one another. Rather, they complement each other and give a coherent picture as to “why the jet engine.” Those who subscribe to a faith and believe in God, view him as the causal agent behind what makes up our physical world. Just as a programmer is the cause behind the code in a computer program. I also hear people say, "I don't believe in god, I believe in science", so are they suggesting because I'm a Christian I reject the theory of gravity? Or the laws of thermodynamics, and so on? This simply is not the case with religious belief.
Number 4: "Who created God?" God's existence has always been in debate among theists and atheists, but this tends to be a common objection. This question is usually posed as a type of conversation stopper, rather than with sincerity. This just shows a lack in philosophical understanding of who God is. God, according to his properties, is not a created being, this question would assume that we are proposing created a God. God can be defined by the following: immaterial, timeless, spaceless, changeless, infinitely powerful, eternal, personal, unconditioned, and endowed with freedom of the will, or ontologically speaking, the highest conceivable being. With God outlined correctly, we no longer have any reason to assume God needs to be created, unless we want to be guilty of making a category error. Since God is a metaphysical being, God can also be viewed as an abstract concept just like abstract objects in philosophy. Mathematics, numbers, shapes, etc. exist entirely on their own with no external explanation but become very axiomatic like the laws of logic. Often, this is a response towards cosmological arguments. This fails due do to not properly understanding what the premises convey. Only things that begin to exist require causes, this follows logically that God would not need a cause due to his divine property of being eternal and timeless.
Number 3: "You were raised that way" When skeptics try to undermine the validity of a person's testimony, this is usually the objection that is raised. While yes, many theists were born into environments where religion is practiced, this does not logically follow that anyone's sole belief in God is only grounded in the fact that they were introduced to it where they were born. This would make the objector guilty of the genetic fallacy. The logical form: The origin of the claim is presented. Therefore, the claim is true/false. Even if the sole reason for a belief in God was due to the brain washing of a specific person, this does not in any way disprove their belief. If God truly exists, then the brainwashed individual has arrived at the correct conclusion. Using myself as an example, I was raised into a religious home, but affirmed my faith through facts and evidence, even though I was born and raised to already believe it. Santa clause, the tooth fairy, and many other myths are usually abandoned at adolescence, but a belief in God holds true for millions at any age, giving us good reason to assume that theistic belief is much more than one’s origin.
Number 2: “Religion is the source of the world’s problems” This position is usually taken by those who are anti-theists and see religious belief as hazardous. A claim that is typically stated is that all major wars were religiously motivated ones and the gruesome atrocities committed in humanity can be ascribed to religion. While yes, certain inhumane actions were rationalized by religious belief, it does not logically follow that inhumane actions can be traced to just that. I can easily look to the history of the 20th century and demonstrate the data. We have enough non-religious ideologies being pushed at the time leading to the death of millions. We have: Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Adolf Hitler, Chiang Kai-Shek, Vladimir Lenin, Hideki Tojo, Pol Pot, and on I can go. All together coming to a grand total of 122,064,000 lives lost. That’s almost 130 million lives lost by the hands of non-religious peoples. Professor R.J Rummel writes in his book "Death by Government" that, "Almost 170 million men, women and children have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed or worked to death; buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed or killed in any other of a myriad of ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens and foreigners." In the light of this evidence, we can correctly conclude that religion cannot be the only responsible source for humanities atrocities and problems.
Number 1: “Jesus never existed” The reason this is deemed as the worst argument on this list is because of its historically dishonest and scholarly inaccurate position. To claim Jesus of Nazareth never existed would be to deny historical consensus on the subject. It’s a scholarly debate whether Jesus rose from the dead, but to deny his existence is not scholarly. Josephus and Tacitus are often invoked on the matter writing about Jesus of Nazareth in their text. They were two ancient historians and scholars who affirmed the life of Jesus in their written accounts. Here is a link to the full discourse of listing sources: https://beliefmap.org/jesus-existed Even non-believing New-Testament scholars such as Bart Ehrman attack this radical view that Jesus of Nazareth didn't exist. The bottom line is that only minority groups hold to this view of Jesus not existing and are seen by professional and academic circles as being dishonest in their work.
Tim runs Invoking Theism: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcXdCHoaSy0kNSv-KwjiSqQ