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?
What Jesus says…
Jesus’ mission was to bring people back to God. So naturally He would have the answer, and most importantly be the answer on how to be forgiven and be returned to a right relationship with God.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” – John 5:24
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” - John 3:16-18
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” - John 11:25-26
“Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come. This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’? But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” – John 8:21-24
“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” – John 7:37-38
“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” – John 6:38-40
What the Disciples echoed…
After Jesus, the apostles took the commands and teachings of Jesus and obeyed His command to spread the good news. They echo the same things Jesus spoke of in receiving Him and forgiveness from God.
“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:13
“They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” – Acts 16:31
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” – Hebrews 11:6
“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” - John 20:31
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” – Romans 10:9-11
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” – Ephesians 2:8
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” - 1 John 5:13
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” – John 1:12
What are works for then?
Some confusion has then entered on whether we still must do good deeds/works for salvation or to keep it, or whether it is unnecessary now since salvation. Scripture gives a resounding neither. First, let’s look at what Scripture says about salvation by works:
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." - Ephesians 2:8-9
""I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."" - Galatians 2:21
"So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy." - Romans 9:16
"But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace." - Romans 11:6
"What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS."" - Romans 4:1-7
"Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified." - Galatians 2:16
Scripture is clear here, that a man cannot be saved by his own merits and works. For if he could, then why would Jesus have to come to die in the first place? Man should just work harder. Scripture is adamant that man’s works are worth nothing to God in light of man’s sin:
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." - Isaiah 64:6
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” – Hebrews 11:6
“Because they were ignorant of God’s righteousness and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” – Romans 10:3
“Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” – Romans 4:4-5
“Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.” – Acts 13:39
Scripture therefore closes any route to salvation by the Law or works. So therefore, we do not do works to keep our salvation because it couldn’t even attain it; and to suggest doing works to keep our salvation attempts to claim that we can lose it. Scripture says:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” –
2 Corinthians 15:7
Here Scripture calls those who are saved entirely new. Our old self is gone and a new creation in Christ is now here. It therefore seems impossible being entirely new and in Christ to return to our old self which is no more.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 5:1
Here we are formally declared justified once saved. This justification is to be completely righteous through Christ. It says we have peace with God. For God to revoke salvation is for God to go back on His Word and rescind what He formerly declared righteous.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” – John 3:16
The most recognizable verse in the Bible also shares with us the eternity of one’s salvation. God tells us that whoever believes in Christ will have eternal life; and to claim God would take that promise away is to make God a liar.
“You also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” – Ephesians 1:13-14
When a person becomes saved, he is marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee and a promise of their inheritance of salvation and life with God; once again, to claim God would revoke such a promise is to claim God lies and breaks His promises.
“for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.” – Romans 11:29
Here it is made clearer. Promises, gifts, and even life given by God cannot and will not be taken back.
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39
Once we are saved, nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God.
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” – John 10:28
“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” - John 6:39
Those whom God has will not be taken from His very grasp, for they are His.
So now that Scripture has established that no one will come to God through his own works, and that one who is saved cannot lose their salvation, what does Scripture say works are done for in terms of the Christian?
“Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” – Romans 7:4
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” - 1 Peter 2:24
“For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:19-20
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”, and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” – James 2:14-26
Even here James says Abraham believed God, had faith in Him, and he was given righteousness only through faith. Here James is asking people who say they have faith but nothing to show for it: “how can you prove your faith with nothing?” The works, as James says, proves our faith that already save us. This is why James says I will show you my faith by my deeds, not I will show you my work for my salvation from my deeds. The faith saves, the works stem from an already saving faith.
Jesus said you will know them by their fruits: "15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits." - Matthew 7:15-20
Here Jesus explains this concept further for us. An already evil tree, unsaved, will obviously bear evil fruit. A healthy tree, one who is already saved, will obviously bear good fruit and show that they are good trees already. Jesus then says you will be able to recognize true believers by their fruits/works. You can recognize if they are really saved from genuine faith. This is what James draws on here. He stems from Jesus's statements and explains that those who are saved will have works to couple their faith and prove it. The faith is already there or not, the works prove it.
In the end, our faith is what saves and justifies us and our works stem from that faith and prove it. They are entwined and inseparable, which is probably why some people mistakenly interchange works for faith in salvation. Jesus did the works and lived a righteous life. He gives His righteousness to us and declares us righteous. We are then set free from the bondage of sin through our faith and become servants to God, loving His Word and hating sin. This love for Him will cause a natural gravitation towards obeying His commands, though not perfect still in the body of corruption, but being continually sanctified. That natural desire to obey Him is where our works flow from our already saving faith.
“I believe in Christianity like I believe that the sun has risen not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” - C.S. Lewis
“It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers will bring us to Him. We must not use the Bible as a sort of encyclopedia out of which texts can be taken for use as weapons.” – C.S. Lewis
In the second quotation above, C.S. Lewis highlights the value of examining the person of Christ to come to a stronger understanding of Christianity. Accordingly, the intention of this article is to consider the person of Jesus Christ through messages he shared with us in the Bible.
Prince of Peace
Isaiah (9:6) predicted Jesus’ arrival when he said, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
The Good Shepherd
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the father – and I lay down my life for my sheep…The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again.” (John 10:14-18).
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27)
“When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals, one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’” (Luke 23:32-34).
Jesus healed many, including a man with leprosy (John 5:12-16), a paralyzed man (John 5:17-26), a blind man (John 9:1-12), a dead man Lazarus (John 11:38-44), a demon possessed boy (Luke 9:37-43), a dead girl and a sick woman (Luke 8:40-56), a crippled woman (Luke 13:10-17).
The Obedient Son
“He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed. ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me, yet not my will but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:42-44).
The Politically Incorrect Who Stood Up For What He Believed
“Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.” (Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11; Matthew 21:12-14).
The Wise Strategist
“Jesus entered the temple courts, and while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. ‘By what authority are you doing these things?’ they asked. ‘And who gave you this authority?’ Jesus replied, ‘I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these this. John’s baptism – where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?’
They discussed it among themselves and said, ‘If we say ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say ‘Of human origin’- we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’
So they answered Jesus, ‘We don’t know.’ Then he said, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’” (Matthew 21:23-27).
The Friend in Low Places
“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:13-14).
The Friend of the Children
“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” (Matthew 19:14).
The Son of Man
“But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed died in your sins…When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” (John 8:23-29).
“’But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.’” (Matthew 26:64).
Jesus exemplified the perfect teacher and servant leader, so by following his example, we can take up our own crosses and become more like him. He is the Prince of Peace, the Son of Man, and the Savior of the World.
Thank you for your time.
This question is often posed by many as a “Gotcha!” question to try to trip up Christians as they explain God. It often becomes troublesome to many Christians and almost impossible to answer at first. First, let’s see what this question’s implications are, and then we will see its presumptions.
It implies that if God cannot create this rock then He is not all-powerful; and if He can create this rock and hence cannot lift it, then He again is not all-powerful.
It lies almost wholly on the presumption that God is all-powerful, and that definition is that God can do everything and anything. That is an incorrect assessment of all-powerful.
The definition of power ranges from strength, to force, to ability. It all centers around the energy or force of something acting upon another. Obviously, God as infinite power, force, and strength to use as God. The incorrect definition then lies with equating all-powerful, to being able to do anything.
There are several places in the Bible where God is described as not able to do something because of who God is:
“So that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.” – Hebrews 6:18
“Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.” – 1 Samuel 15:29
“if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” – 2 Timothy 2:13
“The LORD is slow to anger but great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet” – Nahum 1:3
“When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” – James 1:13
So, the Bible clearly says God will not lie, will not change His mind, will not leave the guilty unpunished, and will not be tempted or tempt anyone with evil. These are so because God is just, unchanging, and of logic.
To return to all-powerful, this would simply imply having all force and strength that is possible (logical) available to that something. The suggestion that God can do absolutely anything is illogical and contradictory since that implies God can do good and evil or allow sin to be passed over without justice done, of which He cannot. God is of order and logic and cannot create something illogical such as a two-sided triangle or a married bachelor since such are illogical and lies.
Now let’s look at what the question is asking for. A rock that is also all-powerful since God is all powerful. A rock is a material object, and material objects cannot be material and be infinite in any way, that’s contradictory. We know God cannot lie and is logical, and a contradiction is illogical and a falsehood. So, the question is demolished.
A second way to approach this question is to grant that somehow God can create this illogicality for sake of argument. You can then point out that since the rock and God has infinite power, that the rock can never be more powerful than something that already has infinite power even if it also has infinite power. Thus, their outrageous ask for a rock more powerful than infinite power is ridiculously illogical and does not bring us to the conclusion that God is not all-powerful, but that the question is flawed and misunderstands the definition of “all-powerful”.
The soul is the immaterial substance that uses the body through consciousness, intentionality, free will, reasoning which our all faculties of the soul. Each person has their own unique soul that has the capacity of for each person’s unique body. The body would be the physical aspect of our humanity which help makes up our complete being. One analogy to represent the relationship between the soul and body would be that the soul is like the musician that plays his instrument which would be the function of the body. Our soul is essentially our mind, will, and emotions which our things that cannot be physically demonstrated to exist as their own things. If these things were physical, then they would not actually exist but rather be illusory. Free will is impossible on physicalism because all our physical acts would be determined by prior physical acts independent from us. Emotions would be activated not by mental states, but rather states of our physical brain which could occur independent of experience. Our mental states (which is part of our mind) would be activated by brain states, so would not be their own thing or substance.
The law of identity states that something is what it is not. This means that something is its own thing and not something else. Something will have its own substance and properties which are only identical to itself. An apple is a fruit that is red and has its own type of flavor. Obviously, a lemon is not the same thing as an apple because it is yellow and has a high acidic level which makes it more sour. Based on this law, the body would be a different thing and the soul would be its own thing. The soul by definition would be immaterial and would be conscious and the body by definition is physical and not conscious. The soul has its own properties and its own substance. The body has its own properties and its own substance. The soul is distinct from the body and the body is distinct from the soul (Lorenz:1; Moreland:35-38).
There are two types of soul/body dualism's and the one you choose to believe will affect your worldview. The first is property dualism which holds the proposition that a human being is one material substance that has both physical and mental properties, with the mental properties arising from the brain (Moreland 37). This is a type of dualism that tries to explain mental states by prior physical brain states, but it fails to account for mental states being their own thing. This type of dualism starts to beg the question when it tries to explain mental states by physical properties. It’s an inconsistent view that in all reality implicitly states that our mental states are really illusory because they are just physical states that our brain is in.
The type of dualism that I hold to and is the type of dualism that I am proposing that the Bible holds to, is substance dualism. Substance Dualism is the proposition that a human person has both a brain that is a physical thing with physical properties and a mind or soul that is a mental substance and has mental properties (Moreland 37). This holds to a more consistent definition of dualism holding to that the body and soul are distinct entities that come up together to make the complete nature of human beings. This is the view that will hopefully be shown to be the most biblical interpretation concerning the soul/body dilemma (Lorenz:1; Moreland:35-38).
Like I stated earlier, the view of the soul will determine many theological views and implications concerning scripture. First, it effects theology concerning life after death and the second coming. If we have a soul, then some hold to the view that that part of our being goes to be with God in an intermediate state before the second coming of Christ. If we our essentially just our body, then we are dead until the second coming (which contradicts Scripture). The Bible affirms that we our in some sort of intermediate state before the second coming. In Luke 23: 39-43, one of the men being crucified with him says to remember him when he goes to his kingdom (implying that Jesus would go to Heaven), then Jesus replies “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” This is just one quick verse to give justification that there is some sort of state before the second coming. Jesus was implying that the man believed in him and would join him in Heaven when he died on his cross (Lorenz:1; Moreland:12-18).
Another theological implication of the soul, affects the being of man and the being of God. If we are just physical, then what is the breath of life from God? The dust in which God made man was specifically used to make man’s being. If we are just physical, then God could have just transform the dust in a person. We have to remember that God is an immaterial consciousness, just like our soul. If we do not have a soul, then what does that mean for God? Would this mean that God is a physical being? I think not, the Bible clearly indicates that God is an immaterial being (John 4:24). If God is an immaterial being, then surely he could create human beings that have an immaterial part to their being. If the Bible actually affirms that we are just physical being, then I will state that it makes a contradiction. At least, that those who hold to this view have an inconsistent point in their views. Of course, the case will be made that the Bible holds that we do have an immaterial soul and God made us this way (Lorenz:1; Moreland:12-18).
Lorenz, Hendrik. "Ancient Theories of Soul." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2009): 1. Article.
Moreland, James P. The Soul: How we know it's real and why it matters . Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014. Book.