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That's Just Your Interpretation: Responding to Skeptics Who Challenge Your Faith [Kindle Edition]

Paul Copan
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

"Beneath the clichés of our culture lie some unsettling questions about God. Paul Copan, with genius and simplicity, uncovers the struggle and constructs his answers on a firm foundation." Ravi Zacharias, author and speaker

"It's all relative."
"Everything is one with the divine."
"Why would a good God send people to hell?"
"The Gospels contradict each other."

In our relativistic society, Christians more than ever before are bombarded by skeptical comments such as these. You hear them on college campuses, in the workplace, and from your neighbors and friends.

That's Just Your Interpretation
provides incisive answers to challenges related to truth and reality, worldviews, and Christian doctrine. Similar to his well-received "True for You, but Not for Me," this book by Paul Copan will help you defend your faith, even when you're confronted with the toughest questions. You'll be able to respond with intelligent, powerful answers that direct people toward a personal relationship with God.

"The book is accessible to non-specialists, yet Copan clearly brings to each subject careful research and scholarly reflection."
J. P. Moreland, Talbot School of Theology

"Paul Copan manifests the conceptual skills of a fine philosopher and theologian as well as the heart of a sincere Christian. This combination is potent indeed, illuminating a wide range of pressing issues about the Christian faith."
Paul Moser, Loyola University of Chicago

"Paul Copan writes with clarity, force, and insight about the credibility of Christianity."
Charles Taliaferro, St. Olaf College

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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 584 KB
  • Print Length: 244 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0801063833
  • Publisher: Baker Books (1 Nov. 2001)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00B85AHHC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #425,477 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good for equipping yourself 17 Oct. 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I started on ropey ground with this book. It's basically a follow up to Paul Copan's "True for You but Not for Me", which dealt with the most common objections to Christianity. This carries on in the same vein, but being a follow up, the objections it retaliates against are probably not ones you hear so often, and are certainly more 'specialised'.
It starts off talking about the issue of truth and reality, in particular the monist idea of all things being one with all other things, or the idea of each person forming their own personal reality. Quite a lot of the book is dedicated to these ideas. One feels that Copan addresses this largely because he has spent a lot of time in India, exposed to Hindu and Buddhist-type cultures, whereas many of his readers may never come across this worldview.
Later in the book he deals with issues regarding the accuracy of the Bible, in particular the interpretation of fulfillment of prophecy. This is where he really impressed me, as his knowledge of theology and his own understanding of the Bible interpretation is clearly excellent. His reasoning is pretty watertight, although where there are weaknesses and gaps, he acknowledges these and shows them to be parallel to similar weaknesses in the skeptics arguments. Though, to paraphrase his own words, he does not encourage "using a false argument to counter a false argument".
Probably the last few parts of the book are the most useful to the everyday western Christian, but if you read the book from cover to cover, as I did, you do feel that you've equipped yourself with a number of good arguments against the various slings and arrows the skeptic might throw at you. Even if you may never come across some of the objections ever in your life.
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61 of 75 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Horrible answers, horrible theology 11 Jun. 2006
By Jesse Rouse - Published on
I hate to say this about a Christian apologist like Paul Copan, who has put out some very good apologetic material, but this book was horrendous. I mean it was absolutely terrible. I can't even begin to describe how many poor conclusions were reached and how many poor answers were given to problems raised with Christianity. He had EXTREMELY simplistic and EXAGGERATED explanations of what other faiths held (especially Eastern Pantheism, which he completely misrepresented).

On pages 98-99 Copan discusses the problem of natural disasters. Copan’s explanations in the previous parts of this chapter seem to deal only with moral evils which result from human choices, so here he attempts to address the issue of evil which seems not to stem from human choices. He argues that natural disasters are actually necessary to keep life on this planet alive (98). For example, earthquakes are needed to recycle essential nutrients back into the continents (98). I personally do not find his argument very convincing. I think that any Christian would need to tie natural evils into the Fall as Schaffer does in Genesis in Space and Time, where he presents natural evils as stemming from a rift which developed between man and nature as a result of sin. If we do not do this, it does not make much sense for God to curse the ground as a result of Adam’s sin, for it would already have been cursed if nothing in nature changed as a result of the Fall. Further, as a philosophical objection, surely God could have created a world where natural disasters were not necessary to sustain the earth. Copan responds to this by saying that we cannot know that a world with this condition is possible (98-99), but does he really believe that there will be natural disasters on the new earth? I sincerely hope that he has better expectations than that.

Copan also claims that all three members of the Trinity got together before Jesus became incarnate and decided what Jesus self-limitations should be (135). He makes it sound like God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit had this little business meeting and voted on what Jesus should have to give up in becoming human. I cannot imagine what Copan could possibly use to support this view, as we hardly have access to the logs from the Trinity’s meetings, nor do I see why this was a necessary point to be thrown in with the rest.

Copan had some absolutely horrible theological implications spread all over the book. For example, he had a chapter discussing how it could be that Jesus was tempted, since the Bible says that God cannot be tempted. Copan’s idea that Jesus mistakenly thought that he could sin when he in reality could not is not a view that seems particularly attractive to me. Copan seems to be stretching things a bit too far when he claims that Jesus simply thought that he could sin, therefore the temptation was real to him (141). Copan decided beforehand that Jesus could not sin because God cannot sin (though he fails to address the problem which he opens the chapter with in saying “if God cannot sin, then it seems he is not really free or all-powerful” [138]), and is forced to reduce himself to pulling some strange stunts to make his ends meet. Unfortunately for Copan, I do not think that concluding that Jesus must have been mistaken in his beliefs is an adequate way of making his ends meet. If Jesus was mistaken about his ability to sin, why should he not be mistaken about other things as well? Copan’s solution seems to simply open up an even larger can of worms than the one he is attempting to close with his answer.

Some of his answers to problems raised with Christianity are simply rediculous. For example, in the chapter discussing the Cananite genoicide, Copan says that the Israelite soldiers did not go around raping and brutalizing the Canaanites, as the Crusaders did to the Muslims (165-166). They were not fighting (in theory) out of love for bloodshed, but in obedience to God, and they fought under God’s morality even in battle (165-166). While this is helpful information, I am not sure that it really alleviates the problem addressed in this chapter: “how could a loving God command genocide?” I am not sure that a skeptic interested in the Christian faith would be comforted if we told him “well, God may have commanded genocide and killed every man, woman, and child of Canaanite blood, but He had the Israelites do it kindly and they weren’t even cruel to the Canaanites when they killed them.” It just seems to me the objection raised is that God commanded genocide, not that God had them killed cruelly. The killing of the Canaanites is the main issue, not how they died.

I could go on and on. It was simply a poor book, and if one accepted all the answers and explanations that he gave, one would end up as a open theist who believes in contradictory ideas and is ill prepared to actually give an answer for his faith when challenged by a skeptic. I cannot imagine many skeptics stupid enough to accept most of the answers that Copan gives in this book. There are good answers to the questions he addresses, he just does not give them.

Overall grade: D-
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seriously flawed? It's Not Perfect But I Wouldn't Go That Far 30 Sept. 2005
By James Eddy - Published on
Having bought and/or read a number of books in this vein, Copan's work seems to be accessible and understandable by the lay person, yet at the same time offers enough depth for the person interested in deeper treatments of various subjects. The chapters are brief enough to keep the average person interested. I would recommend it as a primer for the non-academic who wants an introductory treatment of critical worldview issues.

I do have an issue with "Ben J"'s review of the book and its mischaracterisation of Copan. After browsing his other reviews, it seems he doesn't like ANY of the Christian books he's reviewed and seems to include the same hyper-critical elements in most of his reviews - as if he's working from the same template for all of them (including the non-orthodox position that the Bible teaches that everyone, Christian and non-Christian, will be saved, which runs absolutely contrary to the orthodox Christian position that has been held for 2000 years. How Ben pulls that out of Scripture is beyond me. The fact that Copan disagrees with that view makes Ben attacks his work. But I digress.....). But specifically here, his accusation that Copan's attitude in this book is to preach some message of "win the argument over the 'poor pitiful non-Christians' at all costs" is so offbase that it seems to me he threw that in there to mischaracterise Copan and throw the on-the-fence person off from considering it as a reading possibility.

On the contrary, Copan takes great pains, starting even in the first couple chapters and repeating it throughout the rest of the book, to talk about how Christians must conduct any discussions of critical issues in love and respect for other's viewpoint and always seek to build positive bridges between themselves and those they are trying to reach. "Ben J" read the book (at least I think he did), yet he can't see that. So it seems to me that Ben's problem is that he just doesn't want to see it at any cost, so he'll mischaracterise the book and the author with wild straw-man statements in the hopes that the unsuspecting reader will be convinced that Ben knows what he's talking about.

Get a copy of the book for yourself and then draw your own conclusion as to whether I am right on this or Ben is right. I'm confident as to which conclusion you will reach.
21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible and clear presentation 23 Jan. 2003
By scarletNgray - Published on
Paul Copan does an admirable job of presenting arguments that will prove useful especially to the general reader. He strikes a nice balance between real substance and accessibility. It's true that here and there the author might have strengthened his premises and thus his conclusions. However, by doing this he would also have moved the treatment of relativism beyond the grasp of some general readers--those who would profit most from the book. In response to the Mormon reviewer below, I have to respectfully disagree with his criticism of Copan's treatment of the Trinity. There is no possible way that Copan can be construed as veering into polytheism--or, a plurality of gods. In line with historical Christian orthodoxy, he understands that there is no contradiction in the classical doctrine of the Trinity. And, emphatically to the contrary, St. Thomas Aquinas presented one of the most lucid and logical expositions Trinitarian doctrine. To say that there are three persons in one divine substance is no contradiction. The categories of "person" and "essence" (or "substance") are distinct. The doctrine of the Trinty does not say that there is one God who is three gods, nor that there are three persons who are one person. It accepts from biblical revelation that there is One God (one divine substance), and three persons or centers of consciousness. Logically, this is to say that there is one "A" and three "B"s--logically distinct, and thus coherent categories. What WOULD be irrational would be to claim that the "godhead" is comprised of three finite beings, with a mere unity of will but not of Being. Copan is not guilty of such a silly blunder, and it misrepresents his thought to suggest it. In short, the book will prove useful, because accessible, to a wide range of readers.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could Be Better 17 April 2011
By S. F. Bell - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In this book Paul Copan offers apologetic responses to twenty-one different criticisms of Christianity. Written in a clear, informal style, each chapter includes a summary of its major points and a short list of further reading. Copan writes from an evangelical perspective but generally avoids taking a hard line on issues like inerrancy (he accepts Big Bang cosmology and doesn't believe in a literal six-day creation) and the theory of evolution (which isn't really discussed). He adopts the "worldview" perspective that's been popular in Christian apologetics in recent years, in which most people are seen as falling into a number of broad belief system frameworks. However, Copan is not as rigid in his portrayal of these worldviews as some other apologetics writers. For instance, many evangelical writers crate an elaborate portrayal of a "naturalistic" worldview, claiming that its proponents are essentially extreme nihilists, and making little more than a straw man argument with a limited connection to what anyone really believes. Copan, however, takes a softer approach, and although he criticizes "relativism," he avoids creating rigid categories.

The content and quality of Copan's arguments is something of a mixed bag. His treatment of the subject of hell once again shows his soft approach: he denies the existence of literal physical torture in hell, suggesting instead that the eternal torment will instead be merely some sort of emotional anguish over being cut off from the presence of God. Copan also avoids explicitly claiming that all non-Christians will go to hell, though it's unclear whether that's simply an omission or if he really allows for the possibility that the Christian God will show mercy on good people who choose the wrong deity to worship.

The chapter of Biblical slavery is weakly researched; Copan essentially argues that the slavery allowed by the Bible wasn't all that harsh and had protections for the slaves that were lacking in, say, the American Old South. However, an inspection of Copan's footnotes reveals that he depended for his facts on a very small number of secondary sources, mostly from evangelical Christian publishers. No doubt there is primary source material and a considerable amount of original research about Biblical slavery, and any complete assessment of the issue would need to dig into that literature to produce a balanced portrait. But Copan doesn't seem to have done the level of research that's required, opting instead to depend on a few sources that give the most favorable support to his viewpoint.

On the whole, Copan's book makes interesting and easy reading if one is interested in finding learning about a softer-hearted viewpoint in Christian apologetics (though even Copan feels compelled to defend the morality of the Old Testament slaughter of the Canaanites). He does not offer a whole lot that is new or original, though, and a committed skeptic is unlikely to find any hard challenges to his beliefs.
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Extremely Good Concise Book of Answers for Skeptics Like Me 27 Nov. 2006
By John W. Loftus - Published on
Paul is a friend of mine. We both graduated from TEDS under William Lane Craig, and we both attended Marquette University, but we did so at different times. We didn't meet until this year. I am one of the skeptics he argues against.

I have honestly learned a few things in this book, and yet, I am still unconvinced by his arguments. Nonetheless, I have to say that his book offers in a concise way the results of evangelical scholarship on the questions he addresses. When I am arguing with Christians about a topic he speaks of, I take another look at what he says to see what the best interpretation of that topic is from a evangelical Christian perspective, and that's saying a lot, coming from a skeptic like me.

Paul's arguments that there was animal pain and death before the Fall and that God created human beings as meat-eaters (on pages 150-152), plays into my argument against the existence of God from the horrible suffering caused by the law of predation in our world, so I refer readers of my book to his on that point.

In any case, even though I disagree with him, this is a great Christian apologetics book on the issues he speaks about. And as odd as this sounds, I want to read more of what he writes so I can see what is the best that can be said for evangelical Christianity, since he represents it so well.


I'm the author of "Why I Became an Atheist," and the edited book, "The Christian Delusion."
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