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Did God Really Command Genocide? A new book by Copan and Flannagan

September 27th, 2014 by Madeleine

Did God Really Command Genocide?Coming to a bookstore near you in November 2014: Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God by: Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan

From Baker Publishing Group’s page:

“Reconciling a violent Old Testament God with a loving Jesus
Would a good, kind, and loving deity ever command the wholesale slaughter of nations? We often avoid reading difficult Old Testament passages that make us squeamish and quickly jump to the enemy-loving, forgiving Jesus of the New Testament. And yet, the question remains.

In the tradition of his popular Is God a Moral Monster?, Paul Copan teams up with Matthew Flannagan to tackle some of the most confusing and uncomfortable passages of Scripture. Together they help the Christian and nonbeliever alike understand the biblical, theological, philosophical, and ethical implications of Old Testament warfare passages.”

Some of the endorsements are below, you can read more here:

“The Old Testament describes God as a warrior who directs his people to fight the Canaanites. Divine violence in the Bible is a theme that has aroused the ire of atheists and the discomfort and confusion of many Christians. Copan and Flannagan address the arguments of the atheists who use these texts to undermine belief and confidence in God. Not only are they adept at biblical interpretation and philosophy as they effectively counter this challenge, but they also write in a deeply compelling way that will appeal to both students and laypeople.”

Tremper Longman III, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California

“In their wide-ranging book, Copan and Flannagan go beyond standard treatments of Old Testament warfare; they incorporate biblical, theological, philosophical, ethical, legal, and historical perspectives on a much-debated but often misunderstood topic. This volume makes important strides forward in laying out a case for the coherence of divine command theory in connection with these Yahweh-war texts.”

William Lane Craig, research professor of philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, La Mirada, California

“As a full-scale follow-up to the excellent popular treatment of the topic in Is God a Moral Monster?,this book provides the most thorough and comprehensive treatment of the problem of violence in the Old Testament that I have encountered. The authors tackle the aggressive charges of the new atheists, as well as other equally sceptical but less strident critics of ‘the God of the Old Testament.’ And they do so with a blend of careful biblical exegesis and incisive moral argumentation. The book reaches deep, but remains readable, and the summaries at the end of every chapter are a great help in following the case as it is steadily built up. All of us who, in teaching or preaching the Old Testament, are constantly bombarded with ‘But what about the Canaanites?’ will be very grateful for these rich resources for a well-informed, gracious, and biblically faithful reply.”

Christopher J. H. Wright, International Ministries Director, Langham Partnership, author of Old Testament Ethics for the People of God and  The God I Don’t Understand

Chapter 1 is available here.

Pre-order your copy now on Amazon, Book Depository or Mighty Ape (or wherever you normally get your books).

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13 responses so far ↓

  • No Kindle version 🙁

  • Give it time to come out.

  • I’m looking forward to reading the book. In the meantime, you both might profit from this discussion we hosted on our blog:

    http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2014/08/on_paul_copans_attempted_solut.html

    The comment section was lively, to say the least!

    I do think that for Catholics, and others who have a natural law understanding of goodness and ethics, it is impossible to understand those passages as God “commanding the Israelites to kill babies” — full stop.

    Looking forward to what you have to say!

  • Jeffery I have read that article and thread, much of it is irrelevant because it addresses an article Paul wrote several years ago. It doesn’t address the more recent stuff and stuff in our book which actually differs in important respects from Paul’s earlier writings. Moreover many of the things people raise are actually anticipated addressed and discussed in our book.
    As to Natural law, actually much the natural law tradition while holding an absolute line on intentionally killing the innocent, actually accepted that God could grant dispensations to this law. This seems to have been probably the predominate view in natural law theorists. Moreover, contrary to what many seem to think, the natural law tradition typically has a telelogical justification for the rules in it. Moral rules are justified because they enable human beings promote the common good for example. This is stressed by Aquinas. Moreover, the natural law theories of say Berkeley or Scotus this is even more evident. They justify absolutes, but do so because a world where people follow absolute rules is one where the common good or common happiness of mankind is promoted.

  • does this book include an answer to thom stark’s rebuttal?

  • If you’re asking if we directly address Stark’s points, referencing his review and offering a line by-line response to it, the answer is no. Stark’s online review was directed at Paul Copan’s argument in “Is God a Moral Monster”, which Copan wrote back in 2010.

    This new book is co-written by Paul and myself. The argument we utilise is different in many important respects from the one Paul raised in “Is God a Moral Monster”. There would be no point is devoting a substantive part of this book responding to rebuttals of arguments we do not make in this book, which address tangential issues.

    That said, in his review, Stark does raise some important objections that do apply to the line of argument staked out in our book, and many of these objections have also been made by others such as Bradley, Morriston, Rauser, and so on. In the book we do respond to these objections where they are relevant to our thesis and argument.

  • judging from the excerpts at Chapter 1 here

    you seem to be saying that the authors of the bible either committed errors when writing or hyperbolizing being inspired by the spirit

    the authors have their own agenda and sometimes it clashes with God’s intention.. Is that what is argued here?

  • if this is what is affirmed that the redactors of the scriptures
    put in words in God’s mouth or put their own spin to the
    original intentions of God

    doesn’t it put to question scripture’s credibility? it will open up a ton
    of post-modern critical scholarship the likes of Thom Stark for justifying that the Bible is not Truth, but propaganda writing by polemical divisions of interpreted theology

    example: the abrogation of ezekiel individualized judgement vs. joshua’s collective punishments Achan or Pro and Anti-Solomonic passages, Josiah vs. Syncretists it goes on and on…

  • judging from the excerpts at Chapter 1 here
    you seem to be saying that the authors of the bible either committed errors when writing or hyperbolizing being inspired by the spirit
    the authors have their own agenda and sometimes it clashes with God’s intention.. Is that what is argued here?

    I think you are reading to much into a small section, when you have not read the entirety of the book.

    The point of the first chapter is to get clear on what the problem is , its an attempt to formulate the skeptics argument as clearly and as plausibly as possible.

    The first thing we esthablish is that when the skeptic argues that God commands something abhorrent because the bible contains something abhorrent. He can’t be offering premises he believes to be true because he doesn’t believe in God or that the bible is Gods word. What he must be doing is assuming the Biblical theist’s position for the sake of argument, in otherwords he is assuming God exists and assuming the bible is the word of God for the sake of argument and then trying to argue that, if you assume that then moral absurdities follow. The question therefore is what follows if you assume the bible is the word of God.

    The second thing we establish, is that if you assume the bible is the word of God and approach the bible from the perspective of someone who believes that, then you have to interpret scripture in light of those assumptions.

    What we argue is when you do his, an assumption of the process is that various texts in scripture have a both human and divine author. Our point is that, on any plausible charitable interpretation utilizing these assumptions, what the speech act the human author performed with the text is not always identical with what the divine author performs with the text. We gave an example, David in Psalm 51 is confessing his sins and asking for forgiveness. But God is not confessing his sins and asking for forgiveness with this text, that would be absurd, rather God upholds David’s prayer as a model or example of a prayer of repentance. Similarly the Psalm’s contain human authors addressing God expressing doubt, fear, anguish, frustration, anger, and asking God for help. But God isn’t expressing doubt, anguish, frustration to himself and asking himself for help. God uses the human author’s prayers as models of how to pray in those situations.

    This means that when the skeptic, argues that God commands X and X is immoral, its not enough for him to pull a text out, read verbatim something terrible and then say God affirms something terrible, he has to show that, when this text is read in its context as the word of God, then God is using the text to command that terrible thing.

    This sets the agenda for the argument for the book, the skeptic first has to show that if you assume the bible is the word of God, a plausible way of interpreting the texts is that God is using these texts to command humans to perform some action, then he has to show that this action is morally wrong and so the believer has compelling reasons for not attributing it to God. The book then examines both these steps.

  • […] In a post entitled “Books Like This Should be a Warning Signal to Inerrantists“, published on 26 September 2014, The Secular Outpost’s Jeffery Jay Lowder refers to Paul Copan and this blog’s Matthew Flannagan’s, then forthcoming, book Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God. […]

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  • […] In a publish entitled “Books Like This Should be a Warning Signal to Inerrantists“, revealed on 26 September 2014, The Secular Outpost’s Jeffery Jay Lowder refers to Paul Copan and this weblog’s Matthew Flannagan’s, then forthcoming, ebook Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God. […]