OT War and Jihad!?

Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God Is God a Moral Monster?  Paul Copan’s apologetic discussion of some of the difficulties in the Old Testament is a good book to have if you’re interested in defending the Christian faith from an OT point of view.  Andrew and I have both mentioned it before on the blog.  One section worth pointing out is where Copan contrasts the holy wars in the OT (Copan calls this “Yahweh War”) and Islamic jihad.  I can’t reproduce the chart Copan used, but here is his explanation (slightly edited):

1) Geography: Yahweh war in the OT was geographically limited to the Promised Land.  In Islamic jihad, there are no geographical limitations.  The non-Muslim world is the ‘abode of war.’

2) Historical length/limit: Yahweh war was limited primarily to one generation (around the time of Joshua), though minor conflicts continued with persistent enemies of Israel.  Islamic has no historical/temporal limitations to jihad.

3) Objects of war: Yahweh war was to punish a hopelessly corrupted culture, not because there were non-Israelites or even because they didn’t worship Yahweh.  This punishment came after a period of over four hundred years when the Canaanites’ sin had ripened fully (Gen. 15:16).  Islamic jihad aggression/war is directed toward non-Muslims (including Christians and Jews – ‘people of the book’).

4) Objects of God’s love: Yahweh loves even his enemies/those who don’t love him (Gen. 12:3; Jonah).  His redemptive plan encompasses the traditional enemies of Israel and incorporates them into the people of God.  In Islamic jihad Allah/God loves only those who love and obey him.

5) Standard of morality: In the OT, God’s compassionate, [just,] and gracious nature is the source of God’s commands.  In Islam, the Qur’an stresses Allah/God as sheer will (as opposed to a morally good nature), who commands whatever he likes.

6) Fulfilling God’s plan: In the OT, the Messiah’s kingdom is to be characterized by peace (Is. 9:6; 11:1-10).  In the NT, Jesus’ task is to undermine the true enemy – Satan and his hosts – not Israel’s political enemies.  In Islam, Muhammad’s military aggression is viewed by many Muslims as normative.  As traditionally understood, the Qur’an’s tolerant verses are earlier and thus outweighed by the later more militant verses.

7) Normativity of war: In Yahweh war, fighting against the Canaanites was not intended to be normative and ongoing, but unique.  God has a new nonnationalistic covenant in mind for his people (Jer 31; Ezek 36).  In Islam, the military aggression of Muhammad, supported by the Qur’an’s militarism, Islam’s aggressive history, and present political realities in the Muslim countries suggest an intrinsic pattern.

There is a bit more to Copan’s discussion, but his summary here is helpful in contrasting Islamic jihad to Yahweh war in the OT.  See chapter 18 of Is God a Moral Monster for the full argument.

Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011).

shane lems

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