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?