Friday, February 18, 2011

Is God a Moral Monster?: #3

Lake Michigan
I'm continuing to read through theistic philosopher Paul Copan's Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God. I've made a couple of posts here and here.

This week I read chapters 4-6. Here are some of the main points I am interested in.
  • Some accuse the OT God of being angry and jealous. OK. But anger and jealousy in themselves are not evil, or bad. We ought to feel the emotion of anger when injustice happens. Copan says, "Jealousy can be a bad thing or a good thing. It's bad to protect the petty; it's good to fiercely guard against the precious." (34) So "God's jealousy is other-centered." (40)
  • On Anger: "anger isn't necessarily wrong (Eph. 4:26) - indeed, at times it is virtuous. The never-angered person is morally deficient. The slow-to-anger person is the virtuous one." (38)
  • In Ch. 5 Copan interprets the story of Abraham and Isaac. Anyone wondering about the ethics of this story will do well to read Copan's explanation. Note first that: it is contextual. One cannot meaningfully interpret simpliciter it from the 21st century. Therefore: examine the surrounding biblical texts. Understand the cultural context, especially the moral (and lack thereof) context. Look closely at the words in the text.
  • Copan has a nice section where he adds philosophical reflections on the A & I story. Could taking an innocent life ever be permitted? 
  • I like how Copan reasons re. the Bible in his Ch. 6. He draws, explicitly and implicitly, on N.T. Wright's idea of the Bible as understood as a "5-Act Play." E.g., "by the Old Testament's own admission, the Mosdaic law was inferior and forward-looking." (59) The ways God addressed the patriarchal structures, primogeniture (rights of the firstborn), polygamy, warfare, servitude/slavery, and a number of other fallen social arrangements "were not [considered as] ideal and universal." I find Copan and Wright as hermeneutically correct on such issues. Again: "The Mosaic law was temporary [by its own admission] and, as a whole, isn't universal and binding upon all humans or all cultures." (61) If you're interested read this chapter for yourself!