"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Is God a Moral Monster? -- The Inefficient God, Exaggerated Language, Our Ideal God

Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God by Paul Copan

I finished this book yesterday and wanted to do one last post with a few thoughts I noted from the book. I'd love to hear your feedback on any of this!



"The Scriptures reveal a sufficient God, not necessarily an efficient one."  (pg. 166)

I actually had to stop and think about this since our society values efficiency so much.  I had to consider the fact that inefficiency isn't always a bad trait.  Your thoughts?



Ever notice the Old Testament talk about utterly destroying all the people and animals including women and children and cringing at how God could command such a thing?  This author makes a case for this being exaggerated language frequently used in ancient history. He gives examples from other sources such as Egypt's Tuthmosis III, the Hittite king Mursilli II, Ramses II, Moab's king Mesha and a couple of others.  As the author states and maybe you've noticed in your own Bible reading, "groups of Canaanite peoples who apparently were 'totally destroyed' were still around when all was said and done (e.g. Judges 1)."  He writes: "The archaeological evidence nicely supports the biblical text; both of these point to minimal observable material destruction in Canaan as well as Israel's gradual infiltration, assimilation, and eventual dominance there." (pg. 185)

What do you think?



In a later chapter the author suggests:

"Maybe the ideal 'God' in the Westerner's mind is just too nice. We've lost sight of good and just while focusing on nice, tame, and manageable.  We've ignored sternness and severity (which makes us squirm), latching onto our own ideals of comfort and convenience. We've gotten rid of the God who presents a cosmic authority problem and substituted controllable gods of our own devising. We've focused on divine love at the expense of God's anger at what ultimately destroys us or undermines our fundamental well-being. ... Today's version of spirituality is tame and makes no demands on us.  A mere impersonal force behind it all doesn't call us on the carpet for our actions. ...  If we take God seriously, he will most certainly mess up our lives, make us uncomfortable, and even disorient us.  After all, we can easily get accustomed to our own self-serving agendas and idols.   The atheist has it almost right: humans regularly do make gods in their image.  Yet the biblical God isn't the kind we make up. He refuses to be manipulated by human schemes.  He makes us all -- including his true devotees -- uncomfortable, which in the end is what we truly need to overcome our self-centeredness."  (pg. 193)

Do you tend to agree? Disagree?  Share away!

9 comments:

Amber said...

My first reaction was, 'whadda you mean, not efficient?!' *lol* But that's me and the culture I was raised in. Of course, then my brain kicked in and reminded me that there are different definitions of efficient. What one social group considers efficient another may consider slow, or brusque and rude, depending. Efficiency in and of itself is not always a good thing either. There's always the possibility of sacrificing something good for the sake of efficiency, losing the 'human touch', personal interaction. So...yeah. And my last thought was, maybe He only seems 'not necessarily efficient' from our limited perspectives.

What? What? Hyperbole in the Bible? Not 100% factually accurate? Say it isn't so! *makes weeping sounds to cover the giggles* It's like a little kid claiming that they're king of the playground and the other kids can only play with his permission. It sounds good to him, and maybe his little friends, but everyone else knows he doesn't really control the playground. Propaganda...

I have nothing to say to the last paragraph but a big 'Yup'. :)

Susanne said...

Your comment (middle part) made me laugh! Goofball! :D

Good thoughts on the efficient quote! I always enjoy your thoughts! Thanks for informing and amusing me so very very often! :D

Suroor said...

Christianity survived more than two thousand years based on the concept of a *tame* God. That is efficiency! :)

Lat said...

Very interesting post!

"groups of Canaanite peoples who apparently were 'totally destroyed' were still around when all was said and done (e.g. Judges 1)."

So according to the author,it's just "exaggerated language" for Isreal to dominate? I wouldn't be surprised if it is.

I like the last para about humans making an 'ideal God'.It's food for thought.Thanks for sharing this.

Sarah said...

Interesting about the exaggerated language. :)

Things like justice and mercy just do come into conflict when you idealise them, so I don't think there's an ideal. Sometimes you need lenience and mercy, sometimes you need strictness. It just depends.

Becky said...

"The atheist has it almost right: humans regularly do make gods in their image. Yet the biblical God isn't the kind we make up. He refuses to be manipulated by human schemes. He makes us all -- including his true devotees -- uncomfortable, which in the end is what we truly need to overcome our self-centeredness."

I actually disagree that the Biblical God isn't one we make up, but I guess I might be influenced by Armstrong right now ;)I believe the Biblical God is very much influenced by personal experiences, opinions and circumstances.

Susanne said...

Suroor, :)


Lat, yes, he is saying it was typical reporting for that day to make exaggerated claims and gave proof from other texts outside of the Bible. He also likened it to how we will read sports headlines that say: "The Eagles crushed (or battered/bruised/destroyed) the Tigers during the state playoffs." Hyperbole at its finest. :)

Susanne said...

Sarah, I was reading a long article on a blog the other day about justice and how it was making things right. It actually went along fairly nicely with some things I was reading in this book.

By the way, I didn't report on everything I read, but he covers slavery in the OT and many other issues that are troubling. Some may think he goes overboard in trying to explain, but I think overall he tried to present things in context of the other verses in the Torah as well as the context of that time in world history.

If you ever decide to read it, I'd be eager to read your critique of his thoughts since I know we read from two varying points.

Thanks for your reply!

Susanne said...

Becky, I think what he means is that we like to portray our ideas onto God. Kind of what Armstrong argues in her book, I think. The author means to convey that God cannot be defined by us in our cut-and-paste way. He is what He is in spite of how we want Him to be or think He should be.

At least that is how I understood his words there. :)