“I will completely destroy the Amalekites from the earth” (Ex 17:16, NCV)

“Then Moses built an altar and named it The LORD is my banner. Moses said, “I lifted my hands toward the LORD’s throne. The LORD will fight the Amalekites forever. (Ex 17,16 NCV)

What would you think of a God who had ethnic cleansing as a project?

What is the difference between these statements and modern versions of ethnic cleansing? That they are divinely authorised? What would that say of such a divinity?

This is part of a beautiful story of how Joshua wins a battle while Moses stands on a mountain, lifting his hands in prayer. As long as Moses lifts his hands, the Israelites win.

The theology and reality of the story is, weakly put, problematic. It might say something beautiful and important about prayer, but what it says about solving conflicts, war and God’s attitude toward people is deeply troubling.

There are those who look at the Bible as a theological unity. I find great diversity. The parts of the Old Testament that portrays the Isralites’ struggle for power and survival as God’s own struggle, and portrays killing people because of their faith or ethnic identity as a sometimes necessary thing, is a theology I find it necessary to fight rather than promote or explain away.

The unity of the Bible must be sacrificed if theology is to be ethically acceptable. To me, that is a deeper and more important claim than staying with the tradition of having a strong view of every part of the Bible’s authority.