The Old Testament causes more unbelief in God than we admit. God often commends killing all the men, women, and children during wartimes. God orders killing all the boys and non-virgin women and seemingly approves of sex slavery: “save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man” (Num. 31:18). OT laws encouraged capital punishment for adulterers and rebellion children. Can you imagine some parents believing God approves of this? I may be dead?
I have rationalized in the past violent passages: “…do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely, destroy them… (Deut. 20:17). I argued God first ordered driving the same nations out of their land (Deut. 7:1), thus destruction was only carried out if the people refused to leave. If one is able and refuses to leave lands inhabited by terrorists coordinating to destroy other nations, it is a moral option for soldiers to destroy whoever before being destroyed. There is a danger in such an interpretation, and passages such as Numbers above are even more difficult to justify.
There is better option to rationalizing God as truly violent according to the Bible.
There are two basis viewpoints about God’s role in Scriptures. God either controlled the writers’ thoughts and writings to perfectly represent God, or God did not control writers reporting their views of God at that time even if false portrayals. The amount of evil in the world, though God opposes, is surely a sign of God’s uncontrolling nature thus supporting God didn’t perform a lobotomy on OT writers.
Misinterpretations of the Bible or Koran has led to justifying immoral actions.
Literature is interpretation, thus no one can claim their view with certainty. The Bible or any book written in the past cannot be definitive ultimately of what is good. If you believe evil exist you believe morality exist. Universal moral intuitions could be the result of a moral Creator communicating to human beings. We determine what God is really like and good from evil from such intuitions, then claiming our interpretation is God’s. Only extremists don’t recognize that true religion doesn’t seek to be served but serve, that genuine beliefs are freely chosen not demanded.
We can interpret confusing OT passages through the views of Jesus.
Those who value the Bible would agree that Jesus’ views of God were perfect. Bible believers do not suggest OT prophet views have the same authority as Jesus’. Whenever we are confused or sense a contradiction between the OT and NT, Jesus’ view can be accepted as the final word. Trusting an interpretation of a Book rather than our moral intuitions or perceived views of Jesus leads to justifying violence in the name of God.
Only extremists don’t sense that God loves peace over war, but few would argue a wife cannot protect herself against a husband’s violence or nations cannot defend themselves against other nations who are a threat to their existence. We must never justify violence according to an interpretation of a Book. It simply is impossible that a good God, who denounces evil, would ever be involved in genocide or women used as sex options for spoils in a war.
The Bible is valuable for reflection and not meant to be a rules’ book to gain God’s favor.
Jesus clearly chose non-violence as a way of life whenever possible. If we every sense the OT justifies God being immoral, we can assume something else is going on. A uncontrolling God can give writers the freedom to misunderstand and grow in their understandings of God, without denying the Bible is useful for teaching through the lens of Jesus. Comparisons encourage seeking what God is really like. Guidance from God that doesn’t lead to loving your neighbor more are likely to be a false representation of a God who claims to be perfectly good.