I have just finished reading Barack Obama's book Dreams from my Father - a marvellous book. Much of it is concerned with identity, background and memory. After recounting his first visit to Kenya to meet his extended family and see his ancestral home, with all the conflicting emotions that brought up, he tells how he went on to become a law student. He remarks that law too is memory: it "records a long-running conversation. a nation arguing with its conscience".
This is only one of many great turns of phrase in the book, but it occurred to me that it suggests something very important about the Bible. The Bible too is a long-running conversation, a nation arguing with its experience of God. This is the meaning of the "contradictions" found in the Bible, both in the stories and in the "legal" bits. It sets the model for the conversation that still goes on in the Jewish and Christian communities. God has not laid down a law. God's activity in the world sparks off a conversation.