Book review: Did God Really Command Genocide?

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Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan, Did God Command Genocide?: Coming to Terms with the Justice of God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2014), 353 pages. (Electronic copy reviewed here)

I’ve been curious to see this one ever since my good friend Matt Flannagan told me that he and Paul were going to be writing it.

Knowing Matt as I do, I feel pretty safe in saying that the move to write this book started from arguments about God as the basis of morality. Moral truths point to a moral law-giver, and a divine command theory (in which moral obligation is tied closely to God’s commands) is the best account of moral duty. But what then, some – like Raymond Bradley – ask, do we make of the biblical accounts of conquest and slaughter in the Old Testament? Can you really believe that this God is the perfectly good, loving personal basis of all moral duty? Strictly speaking we can just bat the question away, because the moral argument for theism and a divine command theory of ethics do not commit us to saying anything about what we find in the Bible. But it is an elephant in the room. If we are Christians, then that is the God we believe in, so when we talk about an argument for God’s existence or about God’s commands, this is the God we mean. At some point then we’ll need (or at least we would certainly like) a way of addressing the concern that what we find in the Old Testament accounts of Israel’s conquest of the land of Canaan and the killing of its inhabitants is incompatible with the goodness of God. Continue reading “Book review: Did God Really Command Genocide?”

Where did Elijah go?

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Did Elijah ride up to heaven in a flaming chariot, ending his life on earth?

Don’t you hate it when you’ve got a favourite Bible story and then someone who takes the Bible just as seriously as you comes along and ruins it for you? The story of Elijah and the flaming chariot is well-known. It comes from the book of 2 Kings, chapter 2. Here’s the passage, from verse 9 to verse 12:

Continue reading “Where did Elijah go?”

Letting the Bible Interpret Itself?

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What does it mean to say that we should use Scripture to understand Scripture?

A discussion that I was having today reminded me of an issue that you hear about often when discussing biblical interpretation with Evangelicals (among whom I count myself). That issue was the practice of using Scripture to interpret Scripture. It took me back to great textbooks that I was reading in my undergrad years and prior (books like Klein, Blomberg and Hubbard’s Introduction to Biblical Interpretation) and to classes with Bill Osborne and Chris Marshall (“Interpretative Method”). It’s a fairly significant issue if only because of the way that it shapes the way so many people understand the Bible, and the discussion I was part of today has prompted me to write down some of my thoughts on the use – and abuse – of the practice of using Scripture to interpret Scripture. Continue reading “Letting the Bible Interpret Itself?”