Paul Copan possesses that rare set of attributes that enables him both to flourish within professional academia1 as well as to maintain a vital rapport with struggling students. As a thoroughly trained philosopher of religion and committed orthodox follower of Jesus Christ, his work in defense of the historic biblical Christian faith stands above the vast majority of published apologetics material. Like his earlier popular level books,2 his latest release, When God Goes to Starbucks, provides lucid, cogent, and concise responses to several of the most difficult objections to the faith that often slam believers in the form of slogans, such as, “Do what you want—as long as you don’t hurt anyone,” “The God of the Bible is just an arrogant egotist,” and “People from all religions experience God.”
In the first of three major sections within the book, Copan definitively deals with slogans that pertain to anyone’s philosophy of life—slogans related to fundamental truth and reality, such as, “Truth and reality are in the eye of the beholder,” and “Why not just look out for yourself?” Each of the three major divisions offers several self-contained chapters, and each chapter concludes with a very helpful summary of his argumentation and a list of resources for further study on the topic.
In the second major section, Copan adroitly addresses a set of slogans pertaining to particular worldviews. Here he shows how we can know which worldview is actually true, concluding that “the existence of a good personal God who created the world and made humans with value and dignity (‘theism’) does a better job of explaining the features of this universe and of human experience than alternative nontheistic worldviews—whether the view is naturalism (‘nature is all there is’) or nontheistic religions like Buddhism, Shintoism, Confucianism, and the like” (p. 10). It is within this section that Copan provides a particularly compelling defense of the God of the Bible against the accusation that He is arrogant and egotistical. As part of his argument, Copan establishes that humans derive the most fulfillment through worshiping their loving Creator and that God’s greatest act is His astonishing self-humiliation in Christ’s incarnation and death on the cross for the sins of the world.
In the third section, Copan analyzes slogans that ultimately compare and contrast the various theistic alternatives of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, such as “Aren’t the Bible’s ‘Holy Wars’ just like Islamic Jihad?” He concludes that only God’s revelation in Christ provides the intellectual satisfaction the honest seeker is looking for. Here Copan demonstrates the stark qualitative differences between “Yahweh war” in Israel’s early conquest of Canaan and Islamic Jihad. Copan carefully examines as well the so-called imprecatory psalms—those psalms proclaiming judgments against Israel’s enemies with such harsh words as, “Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” (Ps. 137:9, ESV). Copan shows that when we read these kinds of words in light of the original Near Eastern context and practice, we see that such expressions of moral outrage were often spoken in the midst of the psalmists’ own suffering at the hands of the unjust and do not necessarily reflect the author’s concrete desire, but in fact were often accompanied by words of deep personal concern for their enemies, ultimately allowing for repentance and the turning away of God’s wrath. If none of the other elements of this book catch your attention, I encourage you to obtain it for at least this insightful discussion.
This powerful book covers several other topics as well, including homosexuality and also Christ’s alleged false prophecies that He would return bodily within the lifetime of His disciples. Copan’s treatment of these prophecies is largely consonant with Hank Hanegraaff’s views expressed in The Apocalypse Code (Thomas Nelson, 2007), and readers of the latter will delight in Copan’s work as well.
Stephen Ross is Research Assistant to the President of Christian Research Institute.
1 Dr. Copan holds the Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University and is the current president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society.
2 E.g., “That’s Just Your Interpretation”: Responding
to Skeptics Who Challenge Your Faith (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001); and “How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong?” Responding to Objections that Leave Christians Speechless (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005).