Recently, at the 2015 Defending Your Faith Apologetics Conference, this columnist had the opportunity to sit down and interview apologist and author Paul Copan
Dr. Copan has had a fairly long and distinguished career in Christian ministry. He began his career on the pastoral staff of a large church in Schenectady, NY. After transitioning from preaching to apologetics, Copan joined the staff of the much-lauded Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. From there, his career took an academic turn, and Copan served as a Professor in the fields of Theology, Philosophy and Ethics. With all of this work in ministry, apologetics and academics, Copan has done a great deal of writing and speaking in defense of the belief in God and of the Christian Worldview. However, in 2010, Copan put pen to paper on his book Is God a Moral Monster?, and a great shift occurred in his public positioning.
The book was written in response to a mounting assault leveled against Christians: the accusation that the God of the Bible acted contrary to all of the best moral teachings. This sentiment is possibly best summed up in the now-famous words of Richard Dawkins:
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
In his book, Copan dissected the more controversial Old Testament passages to see how they fair under the light of inspection to show that they are, in fact, consistent with the character of a just and moral God.
The book proved to be not just timely, but overwhelmingly popular, and Copan’s name quickly became associated with defending and clarifying ancient passages which are often confusing to modern eyes.
This proved to be a defining work in Copan’s career. Says Copan, “[Since the publication of the book] It seems like I’m the go-to guy for these types of questions which are pressing upon people’s minds: how could God command genocide? Does the Bible promote slavery?
“So it seems like whether I go to Denmark, or Sweden, or somewhere here in the United States, that seems to be the topic. Either I’m speaking on it the entire conference, or it is a significant portion of that conference, it seems.”
Copan sees this as evidence of a pressing need in the Evangelical community that too few are addressing head-on.
Partly due to this intense interest, Copan recently authored another book on the subject, zeroing in on the supposed genocide in the Old Testament. Co-authored by Matt Flannagan, Did God Really Command Genocide? looks at instances in the Old Testament when the battles roil intensely and the blood begins to flow to see how the sometimes excessively violent prose of the Bible square with the God that Christians worship.
In this interview, Copan pointed out that his co-author to this latest book has begun to step up to speak on the subject of Old Testament atrocities, as well – helping to fill the apparent need.
While Copan’s first book, Moral Monster, did deal with the subject of genocide in the Old Testament, Copan felt the need to go into greater depth with the second book, since this one topic is a complex and controversial one. Copan says that the resulting book has received accolades from the likes of noted Old Testament scholar Christopher Wright, who praised it as being the most comprehensive treatment to violence in the Old Testament that he’s seen.
However, there is more to Copan than Old Testament atrocities. In the next year or two, expect to see his latest book, A Little Book for New Philosophers. Copan is also co-editing several books, including the Zondervan Dictionary of Christianity and Science, the second edition of Apologetics Study Bible, an anthology on the Kalam Cosmological Argument – co-edited along with William Lane Craig, and a book with Charles Tolliver on how theistic belief is the natural and most consistent belief system versus the inconsistent and sometimes self-contradictory stance of naturalism.