Archive | Paul Copan

Ethics and Truth-telling

Taken from “Is It Okay To Lie to Nazis?” in a forthcoming book with Baker Books

Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, criticizes biblical ethics for its alleged preoccupation with “absolutes”—and not allowing for any ethical tensions or exceptions. I’ve met people who have concluded that since ethical tensions exist (telling the truth to Nazis vs. protecting innocent Jewish lives), this means moral standards don’t really exist.

Such perceptions aren’t accurate, however. In fact, the very tension that exists between truth-telling and preserving innocent life assumes that we take seriously two or more important moral obligations. Furthermore, these tensions may not be of equal value and may call for properly ordering/prioritizing them according to God’s kingdom purposes. Biblical ethics is more subtle and nuanced than many imagine. Yes, certain acts are always wrong (rape, adultery, torturing babies for fun), but we also should consider the context of actions (while murder is always killing, not all killing is murder), the character doing the act, and the motive behind the act. Continue Reading →

God’s Hiddenness

To Friedrich Nietzsche’s mind, God isn’t a very clear communicator: How could an all-knowing and all-powerful God be good if he doesn’t make clear his intentions to his creatures but leaves them tormented by doubts and questions? Another atheist, N.R. Hanson, has claimed he could be convinced to believe in God if suddenly the world’s inhabitants were knocked to their knees by a “shattering thunderclap,” followed by swirling snow, blowing leaves, heaving earth, toppling buildings, and a Zeus-like figure declaring convincingly with a thundering voice, “I most certainly do exist.” Then there’s Bertrand Russell’s complaint of God, “You didn’t give us enough evidence Continue Reading →

Doing Philosophy Under the Cross

Martin Luther talked of a “theology of the cross” (theologia cruces), The God who suffers with and for human beings reveals himself in humility—most clearly in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  Luther disapproved of “theologians of glory” who confidently presented abstract “proofs.”  Why?  Such theologians may be in danger of obscuring both the cross, which casts “God’s shadow,” and of diminishing the fact that God veils himself for particular reasons.  It is true that salvation comes through our self-abandonment and humbling ourselves in response to God’s grace.  Even if we may disagree with Luther to some extent, we shouldn’t forget that human reasoning—even constructing arguments for God’s nature and existence— without the aid of the cross and the Spirit of God will miss the mark. Luther is right to point us in a cruciform or crucicentric direction; indeed, the world-defying wisdom of God is found in the cross (1 Cor. 1:18). Continue Reading →