Sunday, February 03, 2008

Abraham's Faith Was Reckoned As Righteousness

Over here, Hapa Theology and I get in to an extended discussion on the nature of Abraham's faith, and the question of the demand on God's part for human beings to sacrifice their lives, or worse, the lives of others.

In the comment section, I offer the view, a view that came to me as I was writing, that early Christian interpreters of the idea of faith - I am thinking specifically of Paul's discussion of Abraham's faith - missed the real exhibition of the patriarch's faith, the willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac, at the call of the LORD. Paul sees the demonstration of Abraham's trust in God evinced in his willingness to leave behind his ancestral land for a place to be his own, and that for his progeny.

This, however, is only the first half of the call of the LORD to Abraham. After the drama and resolution of the issue of who will be Abraham's child (made more difficult not less so by the birth of Hagar's son, Ishmael), comes the final test of Abraham's willingness to follow this God who called him away from everything he knew and loved. While the text parenthetically notes that this is a test, no such softening of the demand for human sacrifice is offered to Abraham. Indeed, Abraham's willingness to commit this act of human sacrifice potentially creates a conflict between the promise of this God - that Abraham's descendants will number as the grains of sand - and the demands of God - for sacrifice.

Now, human sacrifice was not unknown in the Levant at the time, so one could posit that this is an overcoming of that particular religious rite by going through it. Yet, that is a kind of historical interpretation that, while satisfying our moral and ethical sense, is not supported either the text itself or extra-textual evidence. In a sense, we are stuck with this scene, and forced to ask ourselves a question - would we have faith enough to kill our only child at the behest of a god who has already ripped us from our home, our family, our land - everything that shapes our lives and gives them meaning. Now, after promising to bless our descendants, we are called to end any hope of progeny.

Abraham gets up the next day and takes Isaac to the place of sacrifice and builds an altar.

Is this a test of faith you would want to face? Is it one you could pass?

Virtual Tin Cup

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More