On Abraham and Sacrifice June 27, 2011Posted by Matt in religion.
Tags: Abraham, faith, hyperbole, infinite resignation, Isaac, Kierkegaard, myth, sacrifice
Yesterday’s reading in church was a story that has long been a conundrum for thinking Christians and others who study the Bible. It has been debated and discussed, dissected and digested over and over again, yet still the tale remains a sticking point for many with no end in sight.
The passage in question is Genesis 22:1-18, the testing of Abraham, when God told him to sacrifice his son, Isaac.
It’s an interesting passage in that it opens up varied avenues of discussion. There are those who say that the story, in its most literal sense, is truly God testing Abraham. Then there are those who argue that this interpretation makes God seem petty and manipulative, a far cry from the idea of God as the personification of love. I’ve heard it said that perhaps Abraham was sacrificing his son to pagan gods, like those worshipped by the surrounding people, and that he had a sort of “Damascus moment,” and this story was then interpreted by writers centuries later. I have another friend, a former minister, who says that we shouldn’t discount the idea that Abraham was insane.
In class, I brought up for discussion the concept of “infinite resignation” as stated by Soren Kierkegaard in Fear and Trembling. In his harrowing retelling of this story, Kierkegaard describes the final mindset of Abraham as one of infinite resignation, “the last stage before faith, so anyone who has not made this movement does not have faith, for only in infinite resignation does an individual become conscious of his eternal validity, and only then can one speak of grasping existence by virtue of faith.”
In my own view I see this story, when taken literally, as one contrary to the character of God that we see in much of the Bible, but that does not mean that the story itself is without merit. I see where it has value as a hyperbolic myth, one that takes the idea of faith and its value and blows it up to unfathomable proportions to make a point.
What do you think?