I'm redating my post on difficult passages in the Old Testament. I would just add that the what is being referred to as the chaos argument is one that I would be inclined to resist, but has to be taken seriously.
Wagner said: Victor, it seems that you believe in some form of inerrancy.But how do you reconcile inerrancy and a "evolving moral consciousness"? Could you please recommend some essential reads about this problem?
With respect to inerrancy, I start by saying I don't especially like the term, and am not sure quite what is supposed to count as an error. I've covered the Amalekite massacres before here, and my view is that they strike me as morally unacceptable per se from a moral standpoint, suggesting that either there is something I don't understand about the situation, or the actions are wrong, and Scripture reflects what we now know to be an inadequate moral awareness.
It could turn out that, given where the Hebrews were on the moral learning curve, and given their proneness to be influenced by the more agriculturally sophisticated Canaanites, the best thing for God to tell them was to kill everybody in those tribes, even though someone with a better developed moral sense could not be told to do such a thing. It was an essential part of God's plan to sustain a nation of people dedicated to monotheism, and perhaps, under the circumstances, that's what God had to do. It is hard for me to imagine that someone who absorbed the message of the Good Samaritan, which teaches us essentially that there are no national boundaries on neighborness and hence no national limits in the requirement to love our neighbors, could engage in that type of conduct. What is worrisome to us about this is partly the fact that, even if the Amalekites and Canaanites were immoral people, God orders children to be killed, who could not possibly be responsibe for the evils of the tribes. But even the notion of individual moral responsibility doesn't come out of the chute immediately for the ancient Hebrews. It gets clearly articulated in Ezekiel 18, but I am not sure where before that.
The link didn't work about my holding to some version of inerrancy, so I'm not sure what I said. I think there is a lot of vagueness attached to the term. Interpreted broadly enough, I'm sure it's true, but I know those who use it have a more precise meaning in mind, and some, in the name of inerrancy, impose hermeneutical constraints that proscribe interpretations that I would accept. I know that there are passages in the Bible that sound as if they teach the righteous are rewarded and the wicked punished on earth, but then Job and Ecclesiastes come along and deal with the fact that, so far as we can see, that ain't happening.
The creation hymn in Genesis seems appropriate to an early stage on the scientific learning curve, and I see it's message as metaphysical (the monotheism of the hymn vs. the polytheism of the Enuma Elish), rather than scientific. I don't think its literal words need to be defended vis-a-vis modern science.
In saying all this I am sure I am profoundly disappointing both the inerrancy police (putting your moral intutitions ahead of the Bible, tsk tsk), and the skeptics among you.
Of course, it is surely open for the skeptic to say that God could, and should, have given the Hebrews a faster learning curve, both morally and scientifically. That's, I suppose a version of the argument from evil. Why didn't God dispel scientific and moral ignorance more quickly than he did. I don't subscribe to a theodicy sufficiently fine-grained to give an answer to that question.