Tag Archives: Apologetics

Nabeel Qureshi Placed in Palliative Care

Unfortunately, Christian apologist Nabeel Qureshi appears to have lost his battle with Stage IV Stomach Cancer. According to his latest vlog, Qureshi has been placed in palliative care, which is a form of medicine designed to reduce the pain of the terminally ill. Physicians have given up on treating him for cancer. Qureshi, aged 34, reports that doctors believe his body is in the “final stages of life”. This news comes roughly one year after Qureshi posted his first vlog, in which he informed viewers of his initial diagnosis. In that vlog, Qureshi, himself a graduate of medical school, informed viewers that his prognosis of living more than five years was 4%. Qureshi stated simply, “I need a miracle”. He has not received one.

It was not for lack of effort. In November, Qureshi sought “healing prayer” at Bill Johnson’s Bethel Redding Church in California. Bill Johnson is one of the most prominent figures of the New Apostolic Reformation movement. Bethel Redding advertises its “healing rooms” on its website. Christian polemicist Gabe Hughes has labeled Bill Johnson a “lying, manipulative, charlatan” who leads an organization that manufactures fake glory clouds and other “divine” manifestations with fog machines, angel feathers, and gold dust. Hughes rightly classifies Bill Johnson as a false teacher with whom Christians should have nothing to do. Thus it was surprising that one of Christendom’s most notable apologists would seek healing at his church. Nabeel Qureshi is not only a graduate of medical school but holds graduate degrees in Apologetics and Religion from BIOLA and Duke Universities, respectively. Some Christians were left scratching their heads when they heard that such an educated theologian and respected apologist was putting his hope for a miracle in the prayers of Bethel Church Redding. When asked about his plans to visit Bethel Redding, Qureshi, who has been vocal about his own ecumenism, stated that he could find no heretical doctrine in his research of Johnson and Bethel Redding. Qureshi’s trip to Redding clearly didn’t improve his health. In fact, his health progressively got worse.

The tragic story of Nabeel Qureshi should shine a spot light on Bill Johnson, Bethel Redding, and the greater apostolic-pentecostal movement. Whether they are demon-possessed, charlatans, or both Johnson and his ilk take advantage of vulnerable people, often when they are at their most vulnerable. Christians would do well to take Gabe Hughes’ advice to have nothing to do with them and follow his lead in exposing them for what they are. As for Qureshi, hopefully he will be remembered for what may be his final vlog prayer.

“Father we come before you, trusting you even now for a miracle…God is more than able…Lord we know you are able, please heal, please come through….but if it should be your sovereign will at the end of the day (not to heal), then I trust you, and I love you anyway.

God deserves to be loved for who He is. This prayer, from a death bed, demonstrates knowledge of the fact. Qureshi, who in his last days has faced both the disastrous Houston flood and the failing of his cancer-stricken body, prays dutifully to God. In his prayer, Qureshi recognizes that God has the power to raise the dead. The Christian dead raised by God will not have bodies susceptible to the debilitating effects of cancer or any other earthly illness. On the day of judgment, God will remember believers for their faith and charlatans like Johnson for their wicked works and false teaching.

Quite frankly, Qureshi’s arduous battle with cancer has been hard to watch. Over a series of 42 vlogs (the last of which is heart-wrenching), I have watched Qureshi deteriorate from a vibrant, healthy man in his prime to a patient barely clinging to life in a hospital bed at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Watching Qureshi is not merely an academic exercise in discernment, it is a witness of the hardships of this fallen world. Qureshi is a son, brother, husband, and father. Even after his battle with cancer is over, many prayers will still be needed for the loved ones he leaves behind.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church of which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.


40 Harmful Effects of Christianity – #22

“So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Thus the land had rest from war.” Joshua 11:23

This post is the twenty-second in a series that addresses a list of “40 harmful effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #22: Holy wars – followers of different faiths (or even the same faith) killing each other in the name of their (benevolent, loving and merciful) gods.

Harmful Effect #22 is further evidence that the author(s) of this list didn’t give particular attention to Christianity but rather opined upon what they saw as the harmful of effects of religion in general.  If, for example, followers of Islam and polytheistic paganism warred against one another, this would not be a harmful effect of Christianity; nor would it be a harmful effect of Christianity if followers of Sunni and Shia Islam warred against one another.  Yet, both of these hypothetical situations (which have also been real situations in history) qualify as “harmful effects of Christianity” according to this list.

From a Christian point of view, God is (as this harmful effect points out) “benevolent, loving, and merciful.”  Therefore, any war sanctioned by God would be just given that it would flow from His perfect nature.  An example of such warfare would be the expulsion of the Canaanites by the Hebrews from the Promised Land after the iniquity of the Canaanites had become full.  Any warfare carried out in the name of God but not sanctioned by God, by Christian standards, is sinful.  The very problem with such religious warfare is that it is a rejection of the wishes of God.  To be specific, religious wars are not inherently harmful; unjust religious wars are.

Of course to declare the net effect of a war, religious or otherwise, as “harmful” is to engage in subjective judgment.  Those who win a given war might not deem its prosecution harmful, on the net, at all.  To declare a war objectively unjust requires an objective standard of morality, which atheism can’t provide.  I contrast, Christian theism can provide such a standard.  The Christian theist can, for example, deem the Crusades unjust.  These wars were religious in nature but prosecuted in an unjust way which defied the wishes of God.

Religious wars, it should be considered, are the minority of recorded history’s warfare. Philip and Axelrod’s three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars, chronicles some 1,763 wars that have been waged over the course of human history. Of those wars, the authors categorize 123 as being religious in nature, which is an astonishingly low 6.98% of all wars. However, when one subtracts out those waged in the name of Islam (66), the percentage is cut by more than half to 3.23%.  War exists in plentiful supply without religious motivation.  Even wars which are overtly motivated by religion, such as the Crusades, are arguably motivated by other factors such as nationalism, greed, or a lust for power (the same factors which underlie “non-religious” wars).  The counterfactual, “Religious wars would have been prosecuted for reasons other than religion if religion didn’t exist” can’t be proven, but it’s arguably plausible.  History shows that people have a tendency towards violence and religious motivations are hardly needed to beget war.

Harmful Effect #22 falls flat along with an atheist worldview.  The Christian worldview provides, at the very least, an explanation for why wars exist and which ones are just.  Furthermore, where there is death, war, and carnage, Christians can take comfort in the blessed hope of eternal life promised to them by the Lord Jesus and recorded in the Holy Bible.

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #23: The destruction of great works of art considered to be pornographic/blasphemous, and the persecution of the artists. 

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

40 Harmful Effects of Christianity – #20

“For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.  Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.  But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10-13

This post is the twentieth in a series that addresses a list of “40 harmful effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #20: Long-term environmental issues ignored because of beliefs that the rapture/apocalypse or something will happen soon, so they don’t matter.

Harmful Effect #20 essentially restates Harmful Effect #19, substituting “long term-environmental issues” for “education”.  Thus, my previous criticism of that “harmful effect” is applicable to #20 without much further commentary.   However, since Harmful Effect #20 mentions the rapture and the apocalypse, I shall briefly address those subjects.

The first thing that should be noted about “the rapture,” a term which is not in The Bible, is that not every Christian believes in it or views it in the same way.  (The statement of faith of my own denomination doesn’t even mention it, though I and many of my fellow Southern Baptists believe that it is imminent.)  The Bible is clear that the end of the present world is coming but is it does not clearly state the exact time at which the end will come.  Article X of The Baptist Faith and Message addresses the coming end of the world in an appropriate and generally agreeable way:

God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.

In the first century, certain people in the Thessalonian church were acting inappropriately due to eschatological confusion.  Some had ceased to even work in anticipation of the immediate end of the world.  The Apostle Paul disabused them of their errant practices and admonished the church to not grow weary of doing good.  Those who, in modern times, adopt the posture of those confused Thessalonians do so in opposition to the clear teachings of the biblical authors.

Being a responsible steward of the environment is certainly a good thing for Christians to do.  Like Harmful Effect #19 before it, Harmful Effect #20 is fallacious.   Like Harmful Effect #19 before it, Harmful Effect #20 it ignores the hopeless nihilism inherent in the atheistic worldview. Christians, at least, enjoy the comfort of having a blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of their great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for them to redeem them from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #21: Wives told they will be tortured forever if they leave their abusive husbands (and vice versa).

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

5 Verses That Prove the Bible Supports Abortion Rights?

Recently a friend sent me an article entitled 5 Verses that Prove the Bible Supports Abortion Rights.   My friend, who was taken aback that the article had been written at all and then shared on Facebook (where he saw it) stated, “The whole world is going absolutely insane.  I thought the whole ‘choose your gender’ trend was asinine, but now they are actually trying to argue that the Bible supports abortion… The evil in this world is growing by the day.”  I agree with my friend.  I also understand that what he was really saying to me was, “Seth, since it’s you thing, write a blog article refuting this garbage.”   I’m happy to oblige.  The idea that the Bible supports abortion rights is absolute nonsense.

The author of the article, Curtis Fiers, appears to completely lack an understanding of how to properly understand and apply Scripture.  Ironically, Fiers wrote that pro-life individuals, when arguing from the Bible that abortion is murder are, “simply taking verses and twisting them to imply that abortion equals killing a human.”  The misapplication of scriptures in which Fiers engaged demonstrates not only what twisting scripture actually looks like but also a general ignorance of biblical history and culture.

Exodus 21 and the Unborn

The first passage that Fiers cited to make his case is Exodus 21:22-25.  According to Fiers this verse “lays out the penalty for causing a woman to miscarry and it’s just a fine.”  Fiers quoted the scripture as follows:


There is a conspicuous absence of the specific English translation of the Bible which Fiers cited.  I googled the phrases “when men have a fight and hurt a pregnant woman” and “so that she suffers a miscarriage” and I could not find the exact wording that Fiers provided.  The closest match I could find to Fiers’ wording was that of the NABRE translation.  This translation uses the English term miscarry to translate the Hebrew term yatsa. More popular translations such as the ESV, NASB, KJV, HCSB, and NKJV do not translate the Hebrew term thusly.  This Hebrew term, according to Strong’s Concordance, means “to go or come out.”  It does not necessarily denote what modern English people would understand as a miscarriage.  As John Piper noted in his own analysis of this verse, there is a Hebrew verb, shakal, that is properly understood to mean miscarry.  This very term is used in the twenty-third chapter of Exodus to communicate the concept of miscarriage.  It is not used in the verse cited above, without translation reference, by Fiers.  A more in-depth treatment of the proper translation of Exodus 21 can be found at Chrisitan Apologist Greg Koukl’s website.

Students of bible translations and church demographics know that most evangelical Christians, the type of people most likely to deny that abortion rights exist, do not use Bible translations that translate the Hebrew term yasta as miscarry.  Some of those who Fiers accuses of “twisting scripture” likely unaware of translations that use the English term miscarry to translate yatsa.  Such translations are in the minority of the body of biblical translations.  One such translation is the NRSV.  This translation is popular among mainline Christians, who are more likely than their evangelical counterparts to take a pro-choice position on legalized abortion.  Mainliners are also more likely to deny the inerrancy of scripture.  Those who accept the inerrancy of scripture (i.e. who actually believe the Bible is true) use translations such as the ESV, NASB, and NIV.

Evangelical Christians are much more likely to be familiar with Exodus 21 wording such as this (from the latest edition of the NASB):

“If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life,  eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,  burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”

This wording indicates that a woman’s stress can cause her to go into premature labor but not cause injury to her or her child.  If such is this case, the offender may be fined by her husband for the hardship caused.  The baby, in this situation survives.  If there is injury, either to child or mother, the offender’s life is forfeit.  This verse is often cited by Christians to give biblical support that preborn life is valued by God.  It’s easy see why.

Even if one grants that Fiers’ minority translation of miscarry is the correct one, Exodus 21 does not “prove” that the Bible supports abortion rights.  Quite the opposite is the case.  The situation in question is not an elective abortion but an accidental miscarriage caused by a fight.  The father, not the mother, has the right to demand a fine from the offender.  In the modern American context, pro-choice people support a woman’s right to choose.  In the biblical context, as Fiers cites it, a mother doesn’t even have the right to demand a fine for the accidental loss of her unborn baby.  Her husband does.  Furthermore, there is no right to abort the child.  The one who caused the miscarriage is fined.  If one has a right to do something, then the government has no right to fine him for it.  Even if yatsa is understood to mean “miscarry” it indicates that there is some value, though less than that of an adult, to unborn life.  Even in modern legal systems human life is valued differently.  The wrongful death of a thirty year old attorney will command a greater civil legal penalty than the wrongful death of a ninety year old retired janitor with advanced Alzheimer’s. The young lawyer’s family will be owed more compensation by the one who committed the tort because their loved one had a greater potential to provide income for his family than did the retired janitor.  Both wrongly killed people are human.  Both are alive.  Both had their property rights violated by an offender.  The penalty for doing so, however, is different.  So, too, would be the case in Exodus 21.  A husband would have invested heavily in supporting his adult wife.  He would have invested little in supporting his unborn child.  Thus, the civil penalty for killing each one is different.  Consider the nature of civil torts; negligence is factor in the severity of the penalty for a tort. Consider criminal infractions, involuntary manslaughter carries a tougher penalty than first degree murder.  Such factors come into play in the Old Testament law.

In using an inaccurate translation to argue that Exodus 21 supports abortion rights, Fiers errs.  It’s one thing to use a wrong translation and arrive at a wrong conclusion.  It’s another to fail to exercise proper logic and legal reasoning altogether.  Fiers does both.  Exodus 21 does not support abortion rights under any circumstances.

Ecclesiastes 6 and Life not Worth Living

The second passage Fiers cite to make his case in Ecclesiastes 6.  However, in the case of this verse Fiers cites the KJV.


It’s worth noting that the KJV renders Exodus 21:22 as follows:

“If men fight and hit a pregnant woman and her child is born prematurely, but there is no serious injury, he will surely be punished in accordance with what the woman’s husband demands of him, and he will pay what the court decides.”

The KJV does not support the rendering of the Hebrew term yasta as miscarry.  It indicates premature birth.  It appears that Fiers used whatever Bible translation best suited his purposes.  The NABRE, which Fiers previously cited uses renders the Ecclesiastes text born dead rather than untimely birth.  In any case, this passage is not talking about an elective abortion but deeply tragic occurrence, a still birth.  In reference to this verse, Fiers makes two claims, “the Bible literally says it’s better to die in the womb than live an unhappy life. This flies directly into the face of all anti-choice believers.”

The first claim is true.  The bible does literally say that.  However, it does not literally mean that.  The translation Fiers chose to present this verse is ultimately irrelevant because he failed to first understand the genre of the biblical book itself.  Ecclesiastes, like Job, Psalms, and Proverbs, is ancient Near Eastern literature.  It’s of a poetic genre.  It’s not always mean to be taken literally.  For example, Psalm 50:10 says that’s God owns “the cattle on a thousand hills.”  Psalm 50:10 verse does not literally mean that are exactly one thousands hills upon which are cows owned by God.  It means that God owns lots and lots of cows, all of them in the whole world in fact.  In its entirety, Psalm 50:10 (NASB) says:

“For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills.”

Ancient Near Eastern poetry will often compare or contrast two things.  This verse compares wild animals with domestic animals. It does not indicate that God owns all the wild animals but only one thousand domestic cows.  It means, that God owns all of the animals in the entire world (Psalm 24 says the same thing in a more direct way).

Ecclesiastes 6 poetically makes use of hyperbole.  In the ancient Israelite world the birth of a child was an occasion for great joy.  The still birth of a child was an occasion for great sorrow.  (For those in the modern world who don’t murder their babies in the womb, this still holds true.)  In the ancient world, one who had many children was understood to be protected in his old age.  In the days before social security and 401(k)s one depended upon one one’s children for support when he got old and infirm.  Fathering “a hundred children” would be seen a great blessing.  It should also be seen as great hyperbole.  Almost no one who has ever read this piece of poetry has literally fathered one hundred children.  This piece of poetry compares a superlatively happy thing (having lots of children and living many years) with a superlatively sad thing (dying at birth).  It uses hyperbole to make its primary point; that a life lived without a satisfied soul is a tragic one.  Material blessing pales in comparison to spiritual blessing; this is the over arching message of Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes does not fly directly in the face of pro-life people.  It does quite the opposite.  It supports the worldview that new life is precious and is to be celebrated.  This is the worldview presupposed by writers of the biblical text.  Furthermore, even if Fiers was correct and this text literally meant that it was better to die at birth than live an unhappy life, it would still not support elective abortion rights.  No one aborting a 12-week-old unborn baby knows with any certainly that the child will live a good or a bad life.  History provides examples of poor children who went on to lead productive and happy lives.  It also provides examples of rich children who went on to lead morose lives.  Only God knows how any given life will turn out.  Furthermore, people subjectively define happiness.  Some people are fine with being poor and having little.  Some people are more materialistic.  No one can predict the value system of a 12-week-old unborn child.  No one, then, can electively abort a child for her own good.  It’s impossible to ask a dead child if he would have liked to live.  There is only one God and the abortionist is not Him.

Numbers 3 and the Beginning of Life

The third verse cited by Fiers to make his case is from Numbers 3. Fiers didn’t so much disregard genre in his application of this verse.  He disregarded context, theology, and culture.


According to Fiers, since the Lord did not order Moses to count males who were under one month old, those children might not “hold a human value”.  This would contradict the pro-life position that human life begins at conception.  However, there could be other reasons that Moses was not required to count Levites boys less than a month old.

The Jews went by a lunar calendar and a lunar month is 29.5 days.  In ancient Israelite culture, a woman was ceremonially unclean for forty days after giving birth to a male child.  She was unclean even longer if she bore a female child.  It wouldn’t be proper for a census taker to approach an unclean woman to count her infant and check the baby’s gender.  Furthermore, infant mortality rates were much higher in the ancient Middle Eastern wilderness than they are today.  Today, babies born in hospitals who have trouble latching to their mother’s breast can be fed with synthetic formula and given modern medical care.  Such babies died three thousand years ago.  It may not have been reasonable to count babies for a census until after the odds of their continued viability increased.  This doesn’t’ mean that babies under one month old didn’t hold a human value.  Fiers apparently didn’t take these conditions into consideration.  Nor, did he take into consideration the reason for the census.  This is not the only census in the Bible nor is it the only one in the book of Numbers.  In Numbers 26 a census of all males over twenty years old (fighting age) is ordered.  Would Fiers argue that those under twenty years old don’t hold human value?  Taking this census out of context, as he does the census of Numbers 3, he could.  Additionally, would Fiers take this passage to mean that females don’t hold human value?  Females aren’t counted at all.

Genesis 2 and Breath

Fiers ultimately did not buy his own argument from Numbers 3.  However, he rejects it only because of a misapplication of Genesis 2.


Referencing this verse, Fiers asked, “If Adam, the first human to ever exist, had to take a breath before being considered a living soul, why is the same not true for unborn fetuses?”  Fiers misses the point of this passage entirely.  In the greater context of Genesis, many living things are created (animals, birds, fish, etc…).  In contrast to all other living things, mankind is presented as a special creation of God.  Mankind is made in God’s own image.  This text is translated “And the Lord formed man” and not “And the Lord formed Adam” for a reason.  The Hebrew term for man is adam.  When the text is translated Adam, it is because it refers specifically to first individual man God created.  When the text is translated man, it is because it refers to mankind in general.  So, not only does Genesis 2:7 refer to the creation of the specific man, Adam, it also refers to the creation of mankind as a whole.  Unlike other animals, man became a living soul because God breathed life into him.  The concept of special creation holds significance in this verse.  This verse does not refer to any kind of formula that requires one to take a breath of oxygen through his lungs in order to be considered a human soul.  Genesis is not a medical textbook; it is a theological account of history.  It should be read and understood thusly.

Adam was inanimate dust.  He was made human by the breath of God.  He then fathered children with his wife.  These children were not formed from the dust of the ground but from the coming together of Adam and Eve.  They, like all humans who are born of their parents, are human because they come from humans.  Dogs make dogs.  Cats make cats.  Humans make humans.

 Numbers 5 and the Test of Fidelity

The last passage Fiers cited to make a pro-abortion case from scripture is Numbers 5:27. Fiers cites this passage as his Coup de grâce against pro-life Christians.  This passage describes what is known as “the trial of jealousy”.


Analyzing this scripture, Fiers writes, “If the woman has cheated and is carrying another man’s child…the mystical dirt water…will cause her to immediately miscarry…So even if pro-lifers can dodge all these other verses, they can’t deny that this one essentially says, ‘Abortion is okay as long as it’s forced upon a woman, against her will, for cheating on her husband.’

I can and I do.

Again, Fiers is off base.  Even in a hypothetical world where his case is true, this verse doesn’t indicate that women have the right to have an elective abortion.  This verse would indicate that if a husband thinks he has been cheated on and if his wife truly has conceived a child by doing so, then he can choose to bring her before a priest to drink a certain concoction prepared by the priest.  If and only if the wife has been unfaithful will she miscarry.  The child dies, not by the election of a man, but by the supernatural action of God.  There is no abortion clinic, back alley or in a hospital, on earth with a Jewish priest who is empowered by God to concoct the drink required for the trial of jealously and then perform that right.  If Fiers thinks this is way to obtain a moral abortion, I encourage him to have at it.  Of course, neither he nor anyone else will be able to under the New Covenant.

Still, Fiers’ case is wrong.  He once again played the translation switching game.  This time, Fiers has chosen to cite the NIV.  This in itself is interesting in that he previously cited literal translations where as the NIV translation committee strove to render textual meaning without a word-for-word translation.  It is not a popular version for scholarly study in any denomination, liberal or protestant. It is likely that Fiers cited the NIV because it is one of the rare translations that uses the English term miscarry into this passage.  Most translations do not.  For example, the NASB renders this passage:

“When he has made her drink the water, then it shall come about, if she has defiled herself and has been unfaithful to her husband, that the water which brings a curse will go into her and cause bitterness, and her abdomen will swell and her thigh will waste away, and the woman will become a curse among her people.”

This language does not indicate a miscarriage but bareness.  (Again, the Hebrew term for miscarriage, shakal, is not used.)  Because children we so valued, bareness was seen as a curse among the ancients.  This passage does not indicate the miscarriage of a baby but the destruction of a woman’s ability to reproduce at all.  It also demonstrates the lengths that the Old Testament law went to protect women.  Regarding the trail of jealously, Old Testament scholar Paul Copan wrote:

“Let’s summarize the theme of this text. If a man suspected his wife of adultery, he could bring her before the priest to accuse her. In this case, two or three witnesses weren’t available (Deut. 17:6–7); the only “witness” was the husband’s suspicion that his wife had been cheating on him. Critics charge that this would have been a terrifying ordeal: a cheating wife’s abdomen would swell and her thigh would shrivel after drinking “the water of bitterness.” Critics raise the question, “Why couldn’t a woman bring her husband before the priest if she suspected that he was guilty of adultery?” As it turns out, critics have chosen a poor text to illustrate oppression of women. For one thing, consider the context, which gives us every reason to think that this law applied to men as well. Before and after this passage, the legislation concerns both men and women: “Israelites” (Num. 5:2 NIV), “a man or woman” (Num. 5:6), “a man or a woman” (Num. 6:2). It wasn’t just the husband’s prerogative to call for this special trial; the wife could as well. Second, this priestly court was actually arranged for the protection and defense of women, not to humiliate them before proud husbands or prejudiced mobs. This law protected women from a husband’s violent rage or arbitrary threat of divorce to get rid of his wife cheaply.4 And if the woman happened to be guilty, then she’d rightly be terrified by a supernatural sign affecting her body. In fact, as with the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira in the early church (Acts 5), the Israelites would have a sobering warning regarding God’s attitude toward adultery.”  (Copan, Paul (2011-01-01). Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God (pp. 104-105). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

I have my doubts that Fiers consulted the writings of Old Testament Scholars like Copan in making his “undeniable” case for abortion rights.

Taking the Butchers Word

There is an aphorism that says one can get a good look at a steak by sticking his head up a cow’s behind but it is better to take the butcher’s word for it.  I’ve written this piece to give you the butcher’s word for it.  Fiers is wrong, very wrong.  As one who has formally studied scriptures, I was able to identify the fallacies and misapplication in Fiers’ arguments before I drove 5 miles in my car (I read the story on my phone as I was leaving work).  Fiers’ article is truly one of the worse treatments of the biblical text that I’ve ever read.  I’d call it bush league, but that would insult the bush league.  It seems to me that Fiers’ article is either the result of remarkable ignorance or purposeful deception.  Given the political controversy of the abortion issue and Fiers’ selective use of scripture translations, deception seems to be the most likely conclusion.

One doesn’t have to be a Bible scholar to use basic Google skills to look up the context of these verses.  The John Piper and Greg Koulke articles I cited can be found with minimal effort (and they are better Bible scholars than am I).  If Fiers did any research to understand the other side of his argument, he almost certainly didn’t expect his readership to do so.  In this time of internet sound bytes and intellectual laziness, Fiers seems to have taken the opportunity to push his agenda on those who are too lazy to question it.  I think most Christians will reject his writing outright (as some have done in the comment section of his article).  I write this as one who truly believes that the Bible is true.  I want to accurately present what it teaches not matter what the outcome.  I don’t think that is Fiers’ motive.  I don’t think he believes the Bible to be true at all, at least not all of it.

I do and I urge you to study it and understand it.  In it are the words of life.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

40 Harmful Effects of Christianity – #19

“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” Jesus

This post is the nineteenth in a series that addresses a list of “40 harmful effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #19: People who believe the world is about to end neglect their education, are not financially responsible, and in extreme cases take part in mass suicides.

No Christian has any biblical reason to neglect his finances or education because he expects an imminent end of the world.  According to Jesus, as recorded in the gospel of Matthew, no one knows the hour when Lord is coming back.  Jesus clearly stated that when He returned people would be carrying out the activities of everyday life such as working and eating.  There is absolutely nothing in bible that encourages Christians to essentially give up on life in expectation of the Lord’s coming.  In fact, the opposite is true.  In his second epistle the Thessalonian church, Paul admonished the people of that church to work instead of idly waiting for the Lord’s return.

The clear biblical instruction for Christians to live a productive life has unfortunately been ignored, along with other clear biblical doctrines, by pseudo-Christian cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  This particular cult has falsely predicted the time of Christ’s return and discouraged higher education among its members.  However, their predictions have proven false.  So, too, have those of radio evangelist Harold Camping.  Camping falsely predicted the coming of Christ to occur in 2011.  At least one of Camping’s followers spent his life savings advertising Camping’s false prophecy.  After his prediction failed, Camping admitted that he sinned and erred in making an end of world prediction that clearly contradicted scripture.  Neglecting one’s education and finances are not harmful effects of Christianity but rather harmful effects of ignoring its clear teachings.

Similarly, mass suicides ignore the Bible’s clear teaching to cherish life.  Groups which have engaged in mass suicide are at best, as is the case with Jehovah’s Witnesses, pseudo-Christian.  Notable examples of such groups are the David Koresh’s Branch Davidians, Marshall Applewhite’s Heaven’s Gate, and the Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple.  Each of these groups was involved in some form of sexual deviancy, mysticism, messianic claims, or communism.  All of these things are antithetical to a biblical worldview.  Jesus Himself correctly predicted that, “…many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.”  Believers in false messiah’s who commit mass suicide do so outside of the body of Christ.

Not only does harmful effect #19 make a false claim about Christianity, it ignores the hopeless nihilism inherent in the atheistic worldview.  On naturalistic evolutionary models, human actions are determined and therefore morally meaningless.  There is no hope of life after death and no ultimate purpose in life.  Furthermore, the end of all human life can be anticipated in the Big Crunch, the eventual supernova of the Sun, or the universe’s inevitable heat death.  Such catastrophes, though millions of years from coming to pass, are essentially unavoidable.  In the short-term, calamities such as pandemic plague and global war threaten an immediate end to humanity and other forms of life.  On a multi-verse model of cosmology life is meaningless as well.  On such a model, every action a man takes, an alternate version of himself takes the opposite action.  This, too, robs a man of ultimate meaning.

On a Christian Worldview, actions are meaningful and hope abounds.  Mankind has been given dominion over the earth to work and learn.

When the Christian gets his reward, as song writer Jason Isbell puts it, he will sit “back in his chair beside the Father and the Son.”  Until that time, the Christian should heed the words of the Apostle Paul:

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #20: Long-term environmental issues ignored because of beliefs that the rapture/apocalypse or something will happen soon, so they don’t matter.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

UnPhiltered Moral Philosophy: Phil Robertson Speaks Out Again

About 15 months ago, Duck Dynasty star, Christian media mogul, entrepreneur, and popular preaching circuit speaker Phil Robertson took some flack in the press for his candid and biblical description of homosexual behavior as recorded in an interview with GQ.  In the midst of a controversy over his comments, Robertson was suspended from his own A&E Network Reality show.  The outcry over his comments, as well as his suspension, was short.   In little time, Phil’s legions of supportive, evangelical Christian fans demanded that he be returned to A&E’s airwaves.  He was.  Consumers demanded and the market supplied.  This week, Robertson has once again come under fire for candid and graphic comments.  In a recent speaking engagement at the Vero Beach Prayer Breakfast Robertson said:

I’ll make a bet with you. Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him. And then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot them and they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him. And then they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now is it dude?’

Then you take a sharp knife and take his manhood and hold it in front of him and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be something if this [sic] was something wrong with this? But you’re the one who says there is no God, there’s no right, there’s no wrong, so we’re just having fun. We’re sick in the head, have a nice day.’

If it happened to them, they probably would say ‘something about this just ain’t right.’”

There is no shortage of outrage over Robertson’s latest candid comments.  Even in the Christian community, some have complained that Robertson’s comments were too graphic.  Others have complained that Roberston’s comments did not fairly represent the atheistic worldview.  Dustin Chalker of the Mobile (Alabama) Atheist Community reacted to Robertson’s comments by saying, “Robertson has made a mistake so old and so worn out that it can only be a deliberate lie or a result of sheer ignorance.  Atheism is not, and never has been, a synonym for moral nihilism… Rather than obedience to a mystical authority that probably doesn’t exist, atheist morality is based on things that we can prove: other humans exist and behavioral self-regulation is necessary for peaceful coexistence.”  Is Chalker correct?[1]

Notice that Robertson did not argue that atheists can’t act morally.  It’s a misunderstanding of his argument (a common one) to state otherwise.  Rather Robertson’s argument was that atheists have no objective justification to declare actions moral or immoral.  As Chalker noted, Robertson’s argument is an “old” one, but it’s hardly “worn out”.  As Christian Philosopher William Lane Craig has noted, z moral argument like the one used by Robertson is perhaps the most powerful argument against the atheistic worldview.  It’s not hard to image that Robertson, who has a master’s degree in education, knows that Fyodor Dostoevsky’s wrote through his character Ivan Karamazov that “everything is permitted” in a world without God.  There is hardly any outrage to be had over the classic writing of Dostoevsky.  Yet, Robertson is roundly condemned. Robertson, in his straightforward manner, has put forth a classic argument that Christian theists commonly level against atheism.

  1. If God does not exist, Objective moral values and duties do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

Atheists and theists alike generally agree on premise 1.  Where they differ is on premise #2.  Robertson’s comments were clearly meant to engender an emotional and intellectual reaction that would cause his hearers to affirm premise #2.  Using rape an example of an objective moral evil is a common tactic, not just of for frank country boys like Robertson, but for intellectuals and academics.   The following story was republished in Jeremy Evans’ The Problem of Evil: The Challenge to Essential Christian Beliefs in order to demonstrate the moral evil of rape:

“[Consider] a little girl in Flint, Michigan who was severely beaten, raped, and then strangled by her mother’s boyfriend on New Year’s Day of 1986. The girl’s mother was living with her boyfriend, another man who was unemployed, her two children, and her nine-month old infant fathered by the boyfriend. On New Year’s Eve all three adults were drinking at a bar near the woman’s home. The boyfriend had been taking drugs and drinking heavily. He was asked to leave the bar at 8: 00 p.m. After several reappearances he finally stayed away for good about 9: 30 p.m. The woman and the unemployed man remained at the bar until 2: 00 a.m. at which time the woman went home and the man to a party at a neighbor’s home. Perhaps out of jealousy, the boyfriend attacked the woman when she walked in the house. Her brother was there and broke up the fight by hitting the boyfriend who was passed out and slumped over a table when the brother left. Later the boyfriend attacked the woman again, and this time she knocked him unconscious. After checking the children, she went to bed. Later the woman’s five-year-old girl went downstairs to go to the bathroom. The unemployed man returned from the party at 3: 45 a.m. and found the five-year-old girl dead. She had been raped, severely beaten over most of her body, and strangled to death by the boyfriend.”[2]

The graphic story above is about the brutal rape of a little girl and it was printed in a philosophy book published by an academic press.  No one is criticizing Professor Jeremy Evans in the Huffington Post. Robertson’s words are hardly shocking to Christians apologists regularly engaged in defense of a Christian worldview.  The question, “Is it always wrong to murder a child for fun?” is the stock question asked by Christian apologists to atheists to support premise 2 of the moral argument.

Despite to the rhetoric of Dustin Chalker, atheists cannot prove that is objectively wrong to rape and murder children…even though they know it is.  Phil Robertson is right.  Evangelical Christians should support these statements rather than decry them.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

[1] Atheist Philosopher Fredrick Nietzsche would almost certainly disagree with Chalker.

[2] Evans, Jeremy A. (2013-03-01). The Problem of Evil: The Challenge to Essential Christian Beliefs (NONE) (p. 24). B&H Academic. Kindle Edition.

Situational Hitting: A Personal Perspective on Apologetic Method

If I didn’t believe that the gospel was true, I would have no incentive whatsoever to make a defense of it.  Since I do believe that the gospel is true, I do have an incentive, upon which I act, to defend it.  Thus, whenever I engage in apologetic activity, I do so presupposing that the gospel is true. I would not say, however, that this makes me a presuppositional apologist.  In fact, I would not say that my apologetic activity is grounded in any specifically identified apologetic method; it is grounded in scripture. Specifically, it is grounded in the prescription Peter gave to the church: “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”[1]  In his prescription, Peter does not designate a specific method by which to make such a defense.  Classifications of apologetic methods as designated by contemporary Christian theologians, such as classical apologetics, evidentialism, presuppositionalism, reformed epistemology, and cumulative case apologetics[2], were unknown to Peter and the other biblical writers.  While there is a clear scriptural prescription to engage in apologetics, there is no scriptural prescription given to us by the biblical writers to use a specific apologetic method.  There are certainly examples of apologetic activity in scripture that the Christian can look to for guidance.  However, these examples are only descriptive.  This being so, the Christian is free to employ whatever apologetic method he deems appropriate for any given situation.  The only requirement is that he be ever-ready to do so with “gentleness and reverence.”  My personal preference is to engage in presuppositional apologetics because this method allows me to stick closely to scripture as I contend for the faith. However, my Christian duty is to utilize that method of apologetics which is most appropriate for a specific situation.  Thus, it is often the case that I engage in a variety of apologetic methods to provide a situationally appropriate defense for my hope in Christ.

I liken my personal apologetic method to my behavior at the plate when playing for my church-league softball team.  In any given at bat, my personal preference is to cut loose, swing-away, and see just how far I can hit the ball (hopefully over the fence).  This is a low-percentage proposition as compared to trying to hit the ball the other way, using speed and bat control to get on base, or simply working the count, not swinging at all, in order to try and earn a walk (thereby frustrating the psyche of the pitcher).  The game situation dictates my plate approach.  No matter my approach preference for any given at-bat, it is subordinate to my preference to win the game.  I cannot, in good faith, justify a swing-away plate approach to my coach and teammates when the game situation does not call for such an approach.  In the same way, I cannot justify using my preferred presuppositional apologetic approach to the church and to God when the given situation calls for a different apologetic method.  Therefore, the key to being justified in my choice of apologetic method lies in identifying the situationally appropriate apologetic method and utilizing it.

A clear biblical example of a presuppositional apologetic would be the speech of Stephen in Acts 6-7 (though, I wouldn’t wish for myself the results that Stephen got).  Stephen’s apologetic was appropriate to his audience because both he and his audience agreed that scripture was true and authoritative.  Such an apologetic method would be appropriate for me to use with a Mormon, a Jehovah’s Witness, a Roman Catholic, a member of the Church of Christ, or even a Muslim.  Such an apologetic would also be appropriate to use with anyone, even someone with no religious belief, who challenged the Christian hope based upon a misunderstanding of (not a historical objection to) scripture.  Given that Paul wrote to Timothy that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness,”[3] it’s hard to imagine a time when a presuppositional approach is ever inappropriate. However, it should be remembered that Paul was writing Timothy in a pastoral context and not necessarily an apologetic one.  Quoting scripture to an unregenerate person, especially one who already suppress God’s general revelation in unrighteousness[4] may prove ineffective with and even aggravating to that person.  This has often been my personal experience, even when showing an unbeliever where her stated beliefs align with scripture.

When someone challenging the Christian faith is hostile to an apologetic that presupposes scripture, it is prudent to use a different method.  When the apologetic discussion concerns the nature and historicity of Jesus, as it so often does, an evidentialist approach is wise.  The evidential approach, especially Gary Habermas’ minimal facts approach, is helpful in such a situation given that there is extra-biblical evidence about the life of Jesus with which to interact.  Building upon this evidence, one can develop a “poached-egg”[5] argument for the deity of Christ.  Furthermore, once the historicity of Jesus can be established, the gospel texts (scripture) can be employed as non-presuppositional apologetic tools. Since the gospel texts are historical accounts, the theological truths about Christ which they contain can be snuck in the back door of the historical discussion, as it were.  Establishing Jesus as the risen Jewish Messiah also serves to establish the Old Testament as reliable, given its Christological prophecies and Jesus’ references to it as authoritative.  (Jesus himself used a method quite like this on the Emmaus road in Luke 24.)  An advantage to this evidential approach is that there is popular and accessible literature that utilizes it.  The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace are two books to which skeptics can be referred.  Both Strobel and Wallace are former nonbelievers who were won to Christ in the midst of their investigations into the person of Jesus and provide widely known testimonies about Christian conversions.

Some skeptics are both hostile to scripture and to the possibility of supernatural occurrences.  Such individuals are likely to be unswayed by an evidential argument that points to the bodily resurrection of Jesus.  Their anti-supernatural bias will not accommodate such an explanation.  Thus, their anti-supernatural bias itself must be challenged before specific evidence for the Christian faith can be presented.  In such a case, the situation calls for classical apologetics.  The arguments of classical apologetics provide strong challenges to atheism and deism.  Ontological, teleological, moral, and cosmological arguments can all demonstrate that non-deistic theism is a more rational than alternative beliefs. In Romans 1, Paul, while not employing the names of the specific arguments listed above, makes it clear that the propositions and conclusions of such arguments are reasonable.  Not only do these arguments tie in with scripture (special revelation), they can be supported by scientific findings (general revelation).  The fine-tuning of the universe indicates that it was designed.  The standard cosmological model indicates that the universe began to exist.  These arguments also demonstrate the limits of scientific knowledge, which is often solely relied upon by skeptics.  Science cannot determine what actions and values are moral.  Nor can it prove or disprove the existence of immaterial persons (i.e. God and Angels).  Logic favors the Christian.  Once non-deistic theism is adopted as a rational belief system, anti-supernaturalism can be abandoned.  Once anti-supernaturalism is abandoned, arguments about God’s actions in the world can be accepted.  Once arguments about God’s actions in the world are accepted, scripture can be seriously considered.

Unfortunately, there are still those skeptics would will refuse to acquiesce to the classical arguments of theism.  These same individuals, however, may still be sympathetic to the views of those who are swayed by them.  They may also be sympathetic an apologetic from reformed epistemology.  The apologetic prescription given by Peter is to “make a defense.”  There is always a great-commission obligation to make disciples and teach what the Lord Jesus commanded, however, the apologetic obligation is to simply make a defense.  Therefore, a biblically faithful apologetic doesn’t necessitate that the skeptic or persecutor ends up believing exactly like the Christian apologist.  The skeptic may only end up believing that the Christian is reasonable in holding to the hope that is within him.  For a situation in which the skeptic may be completely reprobate and is hostile to all other apologetic methods, reformed epistemology is situationally appropriate.  Using reformed epistemology, the believer can demonstrate that his belief is properly basic.  While the apologist may not be able to show the skeptic that Christianity is true, he can reasonably justify that he knows Christianity to be true in his own heart.  The skeptic, having been shown that the Christian is rational to hold to hope in gospel of Christ, has shakier intellectual ground from which to attack the belief of the Christian.

No matter what apologetic method is called for, I think it is important to remember that human beings are created for relationships.  We are firstly created to have a loving relationship with God and secondly created to have a loving relationship with other humans.  This is where my softball analogy breaks down.  Sport is all about winning the game.  Apologetics, however, is not about winning the argument.  People do not need to be beaten over the head with argumentation but rather pricked by the Holy Spirit.  Christian apologetics is about winning the person.  To do so, a relationship must be developed.  When I develop relationships with non-believers, I know that, over time, I will be able to present every apologetic method to them.  In doing so, my life, can become a kind of a cumulative case apologetic.  Through living in the power of the Holy Spirit, I can demonstrate by my Christian walk that the Christian way of life is fruitful, livable, and consistent.  Through interacting with people on a regular basis, I can remember to pray for them, by name, that they might be saved.  To be a successful apologist once must present himself as a living sacrifice.  A living sacrifice sanctifies Christ in his heart and is always ready to gracefully make a defense for the hope that is within him.  Being a living sacrifice is situationally appropriate at all times for the Christian life.  Being a living sacrifice will make one ready to use situationally appropriate apologetic methods.   This grounds my preferred apologetic method.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

[1] 1 Peter 3:15

[2] I took these specific names from the book, Five Views on Apologetics.

[3] 2 Timothy 3:16

[4] Romans 1:18

[5] Liar, Lunatic, Legend, or Lord


Who is Paul Copan?

Paul Copan is a familiar name to those formally engaged in the defense of the Christian worldview.  He has authored ten books on topics related to Christian apologetics and edited eleven others.  Copan was formerly on staff at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries where he served as a lecturer, writer, and researcher, and at First Presbyterian Church of Schenectady, NY where he served as a member of its pastoral staff.  He has held professorships at several institutions; Copan is currently a “professor of philosophy and ethics…at Palm Beach Atlantic University”[1] where he occupies the Pledger Family Chair.  Copan holds an MDiv from Trinity International University and a PhD in Philosophy of Religion from Marquette University.

Copan’s Assumptions and the Book’s Purpose

Is God a Moral Monster? is essentially a book about Christian ethics, specifically Old Testament Ethics, with an apologetic flavor.  Copan wrote the book because he saw a “vital need in the Christian community, which is often perplexed and sometimes immobilized by…difficult Old Testament texts.”[2]  Old Testament ethics, a subject which Copan sees as a hot topic, has been pushed to the forefront of theological and apologetic discussion by the New Atheism movement.[3]  According to Copan, tackling the this hot topic is a challenge because there is a much territory to cover in the biblical text and extensive background discussion is required to make sense of an ancient Near Eastern culture that can seem “strange and…otherworldly.”[4]  In Is God a Moral Monster?, Copan attempts to present, in an accessible manner, “sober-minded explanations and angles that present helpful resolutions and responses to perplexing Old Testament ethics questions”[5] so that the challenges of Old Testament ethics can be addressed.

Copan wrote Is God a Moral Monster? in four parts. In these four parts, he progressively builds his case for the moral virtues of God as presented in the Old Testament. Part 1 explores Neo-Atheism[6] and addresses the focus that members of the New Atheism movement place on “the God of the Old Testament”.[7] Part 2 contrasts the negative claims about the nature of God as presented in the Old Testament made by Neo-Atheists with the positive understanding that Christian theologians have about the nature of God as presented in the same scripture.  Part 3 presents the cultural practices portrayed in the biblical text in the context of ancient Near Eastern culture as a whole.  Part 4 explores the philosophical implications of accepting or denying God as the Giver of moral law.

As is the case when reading any work of biblical scholarship, the reader should approach the text with an understanding of the author’s assumptions and methods.  Copan is not only a Christian theologian but also a Christian philosopher. As a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society[8], Copan affirms that, “the Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and therefore inerrant in the original manuscripts. God is a Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory.”[9]  Copan’s ethical assessment and apologetic must, therefore, stay within the frameworks of biblical inerrancy (which presumes continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament).  To state the matter simplistically, Copan can fairly be considered a “conservative” biblical scholar and writes from such a perspective.  That is not to say, however, that Copan’s hermeneutic strictly adheres to that of other conservative Christians (as illustrated by his treatment of the genre of Joshua).  Furthermore, Copan’s outlook cannot rightly be described as one of scholarly disinterest given that he “hopes and prays” for the success of the book in helping Christians address Old Testament difficulties.[10]

 A Summary

As he opens Part 1 of Is God a Moral Monster?, Copan recounts his personal experience of interacting with, Daniel Dennett, who, along with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens (now deceased), is considered one of the “four horseman of the Neo-atheistic apocalypse.”[11]  A notable difference between “New Atheists” such as “the four horsemen” and the atheists of days gone by is the evangelistic zeal with which the New Atheists seek to spread their views and the sometimes winsome way in which they make their case.[12]  Whereas atheists of the past were happy to quietly disbelieve in God and sit out religious life, New Atheists seem hell-bent on eradicating religious life altogether[13] and in a very opportunistic manner.  “…the New Atheists have capitalized on evil done ‘in the name of religion’ to tar all things religious with the same brush… capitalizing on the West’s increasingly ‘post-Christian’ status…Neo-atheists are the new public, popular face of atheism—a topic no longer seemingly limited to ivory tower academics.”[14]  Despite their zeal, the intellectual value of new atheist arguments pales in comparison to those of well-known-atheists-past such as William Rowe.[15]  Copan observes three major weaknesses about the New Atheist mindset: (1) they do not express themselves in an angry and defensive manner, (2) their arguments against God’s existence are “flimsy”[16] and exhibit a low degree of “intellectual rigor,”15 and (3) they don’t hold atrocities done in the name of atheism to the same degree of scrutiny to those done in the name of religion.  Copan asserts that strong intellectual responses from the believing community have exposed each of these three weaknesses.  However, Christians must still contend with the arguments New Atheists have made about the wrongs done in the name of religion, specifically those wrongs that New Atheists perceive to be evident in the Old Testament. “New Atheists commonly raise questions about strange and harsh Old Testament laws, a God of jealousy and anger, slavery, and the killing of the Canaanites…”[17]

In Part 2, Copan responds to the distorted picture of God that Neo-Atheists paint using an Old Testament brush.  New Atheists view “the God of the Old Testament” as arrogant, petulantly jealous, full of rage, abusive, and bullying.  In order to paint this distorted picture, New Atheists must first lower God to a human level.  After doing so, they use His own words (as recorded in the Old Testament) to make Him sound like a ruler, neighbor, or family member that no one would like to have.  Copan addresses God’s self-presentation in the Old Testament from the perspective that God is the greatest possible being. God is not arrogant or proud, argues Copan, He just “has a realistic view of Himself.”[18]  God can demand worship because He, and He alone, is worthy of it.  Furthermore, God demonstrates humility and self-giving by  interacting with humans, going as far to become incarnate in Jesus and experience a humiliating death upon a Roman cross.  Just as God is not arrogant but possesses a reasonable self-understanding, God is not petulantly jealous but jealous in a righteous manner. “Jealousy can be a bad thing or a good thing. It’s bad to protect the petty; it’s good to fiercely guard the precious.”[19] God fiercely guards the precious.  This is demonstrated by the marriage analogy which permeates scripture. “(God) is an engaging, relational God who attaches himself to humans. He desires to be their loving Father and the wise ruler of their lives. In Israel’s case, God’s love is that of a passionate husband.”[20]  Any anger or jealously demonstrated by God is of loving and protective nature.  Just as God’s anger is just so, too, are His commands.  Of all God’s commands in the Old Testament, the one that perhaps receives the most criticism is His command to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah; Richard Dawkins forthrightly calls the command “child abuse and bullying”.[21]  In addressing criticisms of this command, Copan invites readers to consider both the broader and narrower contexts of Abraham’s call as it relates to faith as well as the New Testament crucifixion of Jesus which was foreshadowed by the events on Mount Moriah.  Ultimately, Abraham was not forced to sacrifice his son and God’s loving character was magnified by the self sacrifice He provided in Christ, His own son.

Copan digs deeper into contextual exploration in Part 3 of the book, by examining the ancient Near Eastern backdrop against which the Old Testament was written.  Neo-Atheistic objections to God’s goodness based on Old Testament law are grounded in what they perceive as God-ordained barbarism and sexism.  Furthermore, not only do Neo-Atheists find the practices of Old Testament Israel barbaric, they find them downright strange.  They are as outraged about slavery and war as they are perplexed about the Levitical holiness code.  Copan, echoing C.S. Lewis accuses Neo-Atheists of engaging in chronological snobbery, which is the “uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that count discredited.”[22]  Neo-Atheists simply attempt to overlay contemporary ways of thinking about societal operations onto an ancient one.  Furthermore, Neo-Atheist critics make little effort to contrast ancient Jewish laws with the laws of other Ancient Near Eastern cultures, against which the Jewish laws come out looking favorable.  Additionally, Copan points out that Neo-Atheist critics fail to understand what he calls the “redemptive movement of scripture,”[23] asserting that “Israel’s Old Testament covenant wasn’t a universal ideal and was never intended to be so”[24] and that “the Mosaic covenant anticipated a better covenant.” 22  Arguments about divine covenants aren’t apt to go over as well with atheists (who presuppose that there is no God to give such covenants) and that is likely why Copan must spill more ink defending against accusations of barbarism and weirdness.  Copan makes sense of the Jewish holiness code by illustrating the depraved practices of Israel’s ancient Near Eastern neighbors; the holiness code was meant to keep Israel separate (literally a people “set apart” for God) from the vile cultures around them.  Copan then uses the practices and laws of the wicked cultures that surrounded Israel to put Israel’s own laws into perspective.  Upon close inspection in historical context, Israel’s laws were much more just to women, foreigners, the weak, the poor, and those found guilty of torts.  To deal with one of the most daunting objections of Neo-Atheism, the slaughter of the Canaanites, Copan argues that the genre of Israel’s war narratives implies a military victory but not a complete annihilation and slaughter.  Whereas Neo-Atheists present the taking of the Holy Land as ethnic cleansing, Copan presents it as just war.

In Part 4, Copan explores the philosophical implications of making moral judgments without divine grounding and the role of Jesus as the Fulfiller of the Old Testament.  Copan agrees with New Atheists who claim that they can do good things without God.  However, he points out that, without God, there is no way to define what good is.  Copan sums up his philosophical argument very nicely: “Intrinsically valuable, thinking persons don’t come from impersonal, nonconscious, unguided, valueless processes over time. A personal, self-aware, purposeful, good God provides the much-needed context that a God-less universe just can’t…. atheists who believe in real right and wrong make a massive intellectual leap of faith.”[25] Having stripped the atheist off all philosophical authority to proclaim God a “moral monster,” Copan presents the (New Testament) Gospel of Jesus as the culmination of the story of redemption and faithfulness that the Old Testament only begins to tell.  Stopping at the Old Testament, writes Copan, impoverishes the biblical reader. “If we stop with the Old Testament”, he states, “we won’t see the entire story line as it’s brought to completion in Jesus…if Jesus truly brought a new covenant for the true Israel and has begun to renew the creation as the second Adam, then we ought to concern ourselves with how his incarnation, ministry, atoning death, and resurrection shed light backward on the Old Testament, with all its messiness.”[26]  So ends Copan’s treatment of Old Testament ethics and apologetic for “The God of the Old Testament.”

Analysis and Evaluation

Copan’s philosophical argument that God’s existence is a necessary condition for a state of affairs in which morality can be objectively grounded is a strong one.  In itself, it is a simple refutation of the Neo-Atheistic claim that God is a “moral monster”.  Such an argument can be made by the Christian apologist even if he doesn’t not possess a thorough understanding of the of the deep, contextual Old Testament ethics that Copan presents in his book.  However, such an argument falls short if one seeks to address Old Testament ethics specifically.  A group such as non-Christian theists, for example, may ground morality in God but reject Christianity due to the “moral monster” God of the Old Testament.  Thus, Copan’s extensive treatment of Old Testament ethics is not only extremely helpful to building a strong biblical ethic but also useful for building a useful apologetic.  Unfortunately, some of Copan’s ethical arguments are quite tenuous.  His argument that Old Testament law, in its entirety, accommodates the hardened hearts of ancient Jews relies heavily upon William J. Web’s redemptive-movement hermeneutic.[27] If one does not agree with this hermeneutic one may find it difficult to agree with Copan on some points.  More troublesome, though, is Copan’s position that Joshua’s reports of the battles of with the Canaanites exhibit “ancient near eastern war rhetoric.”[28]  According to Copan, the biblical author was merely using hyperbole, fish stores as it were, when he wrote of utterly destroying the Canaanites. “Utterly destroy” didn’t really mean “utterly destroy,” it meant defeated soundly.  Copan has admitted that his reading of the text as an ancient war narrative genre “is not well attested in church history amongst biblical commentators.”[29]  Furthermore, even if the Canaanites were not complete slaughtered by the Jews, they were still disposed from their homes on God’s orders.  Even if the Canaanites were exceedingly vile, in the mind of the Neo-Athiest, such a divine land grab as the one present in the Joshua narrative may still be objectionable.

Essentially, Copan’s treatment of the slaughter of the Canaanites as presented in the Old Testament seems more like a contrived apologetic response to Neo-Atheism than a soundly exegeted biblical position.  It mars an otherwise masterful and well-written work of Christian scholarship.  Despite the flaws inherent in a couple of Copan’s arguments, this book belongs in the library of any serious student of Old Testament ethics and apologetics.  It’s worth reading and will encourage readers to become better students of the biblical text.


Institute for Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Speakers. http://nobtsapologetics.com/defendthefaith/speakers.html (accessed January 5, 2015).

Copan, Paul. Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011.

Evangelical Philosophical Society. Membership – Evangelical Philosophical Society. 2015. http://www.epsociety.org/about/membership.asp (accessed January 5, 2015).

Palm Beach Atlantic University. Copan, Paul. http://www.pba.edu/index.cfm?fuseaction=faculty.detail&contactID=795 (accessed February 2, 2014).

[1] Palm Beach Atlantic University. Copan, Paul. http://www.pba.edu/index.cfm?fuseaction=faculty.detail&contactID=795 (accessed February 2, 2014).

[2] Copan, Paul. Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011. p. 12

[3] For more on The New Atheism movement see the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article about the subject at http://www.iep.utm.edu/n-atheis/

[4] ibid p. 11

[5] ibid p. 11

[6] This appears to be Copan’s preferred term for the “New Atheist” movement.  I use the terms interchangeably in this review.

[7] In a slight against biblical continuity, New Atheists often use this term to imply that the Old Testament and the New Testament present different gods.

[8] Institute for Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Speakers. n.d. http://nobtsapologetics.com/defendthefaith/speakers.html (accessed January 5, 2015).

[9] Evangelical Philosophical Society. Membership – Evangelical Philosophical Society. 2015. http://www.epsociety.org/about/membership.asp (accessed January 5, 2015).

[10] Copan, Paul. Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God. p. 12

[11] Copan, Paul. Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God. p. 15

[12] Dawkins notwithstanding

[13] Christopher Hitchens, himself, made a powerful statement about Richard Dawkins’ dedication to eradicating religion which can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ma8X-mU4yMA

[14] Copan, Paul. Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God. p. 16

[15] Rowe is notable for his argument against God’s existence from what he calls “Gratuitous evil.”  This argument demonstrates more philosophical rigor than those made by New Atheists.  For more on Rowe’s argument see http://faculty.wwu.edu/howardd/istheismcompatible.pdf

[16] Ibid p. 17

[17] Ibid p. 19

[18] Ibid p. 28

[19] Ibid p. 34

[20] Ibid p. 35

[21] Ibid p. 52

[22] Ibid p. 58

[23] Ibid p. 59

[24]  Ibid p. 64

[25] Ibid p. 210-211

[26] Ibid p. 221

[27] For more on this particular type of Hermeneutic see Webb’s website at http://redemptivechristianity.com/?page_id=11

[28] Copan, Paul. Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God. p. 170

[29] Copan admitted as such, at the very least by omission, in response to a question asked by Dr. Tawa Anderson at the 2015 Defend the Faith Conference at the New Orleans Baptist Seminary.  I was a witness to this exchange.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

40 harmful effects of Christianity – #17

“What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?” 1 Corinthians 10:19-22

This post is the seventeenth in a series that addresses a list of “40 harmful effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #17: The demonization of other religions, e.g. Christianity demonizing Pagans (“They’re devil-worshipers!”)

This “harmful effect” of Christianity effectively laments demonizing demons.  It is peculiar, bemusing even, that the atheist authors of this list could not find a better term than “demonization” (since they don’t believe in demons) to describe the Christian tendency to condemn pagan religions.  According to Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians, the idolatry of pagan religions either is or is akin to the worship demons.  Since the atheist authors of this list neither believe in God nor the devil, the inclusion of this “harmful effect” on their list is perplexing.  Would the authors of this list consider it harmful if people who believed in Santa Claus demonized people who believed in the Tooth Fairy?  According to the logic set before the reader of this list, they just might.

Furthermore, the authors of this list do not at all address at the harmful effects of pagan worship itself, which include child sacrifice, emperor worship, and temple prostitution.  Even on a secular worldview such actions can be (and often are) condemned as harmful.  Harmful Effect #17 effectively states, “It is harmful for Christians to condemn child sacrifice, worship of the head of state, and religious harlotry.”   What an absurd claim.  This ridiculous claim is demonstrative of the insight provided by Paul in Romans Chapter 1, in which the Apostle asserts that deniers of God are dark-hearted men who speculate in futility.

God alone, and not any created being, is worthy of worship.  Worship of any entity other than God, as revealed in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and proclaimed by the Holy Spirit, is a sinful affront to the Almighty.  To God alone belongs the glory.  Christians rightly decry the false worship of other religions as demonic.

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #18: Children spending the period of their lives when the brain is most receptive to learning new information reading, rereading, and even memorizing religious texts.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

40 harmful effects of Christianity – #15

“You shall not murder.” Exodus 20:13

This post is the fifteenth in a series that addresses a list of “40 harmful effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #15: Women having septic abortions—or being forced to have unwanted children they resent—because religious organizations have gotten laws passed making abortion illegal or inaccessible.

I’m certainly not going to argue that this “harmful effect”, like others on this list, is completely inaccurate.  To a degree, it is accurate.  Religious groups do support pro-life laws.  However, such religious groups are not necessarily Christian.  Muslims and Mormons, for example, are anti-abortion religions.  This list purports to be a listing of harmful effects of “Christianity” and yet the very wording of Harmful Effect #15 refers to “religious organizations”.

Not only is Harmful Effect #15 overly broad where Christianity is concerned, it’s implicitly condemnatory of democracy.  Notice Harmful Effect #15 does not state that theocratic governments have created anti-abortion laws but that “religious organizations have gotten laws passed”.  This could be and has been done in the setting of a representative democracy through the exercise of free speech and the democratic process.  One is left to wonder if the American Atheists aren’t, therefore, pointing out what they perceive to be a harmful effect of representative democracy and free speech.  Given the history officially atheistic nations (such as the USSR, Khmer Rouge Cambodia, Communist North Korea, and Communist China), it’s clear that many atheists do not support systems of government where laws of any kind are made democratically and where speech is made freely.

This “harmful effect” seems to be predicated, at least in part, on the insidious argument made famous by Bill Clinton that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.”  It surely is that case that, where abortion is legal, women who want to murder their children are less incentivized to purposefully initiate septic abortions.  Such women can murder their babies in ways that preserve their own personal safety, while still completely disregarding the safety of the child they choose to murder.  As for the argument that some women “resent” their unwanted children, it may be true.  However, some women may resent their abortions and regret them for the rest of their lives.  Which type of resentment, on an atheistic worldview, is worse? It’s unknown.  Of course, the feelings of mothers speak nothing to the feelings of unwanted children themselves.  Their own desire to live is evidenced by their continued attempts at living.  There are many such children walking around, living their lives.  The phrase “unwanted children who wish they were aborted” is conspicuously absent from Harmful Effect #15.

If you are a woman reading this who is considering an abortion, please don’t do it.  Your unborn child is a human being made in the image of God.  It is a sin to murder him or her.  If you are a woman reading this who has had an abortion, you have committed the act of murder.  It is very possible that the weight of this sin against God and your own child is bearing down on your conscious.  Consider that if you repent of this sin and place your faith in Jesus Christ, you will be forgiven.   In accepting your abortion as permissible, you will only find wrath and judgment.  If you turn from your sin, you will find the eternal love and forgiveness in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Won’t you consider turning to Him now?

For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Romans 10:11-13

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #16: Censorship (often destructive) of speech, art, books, music, films, poetry, songs and, if possible, thought.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.