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Old 10-12-2001, 03:21 PM   #11
Grumpy
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Quote:
Originally posted by jupstin:
<STRONG>I think it's supposed to show that this God, as opposed to some other Gods, would never require a human to commit a clearly immoral act.</STRONG>
Some other gods might show how immoral acts are not required by never asking anyone to do them.

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[B]Abraham knew that God promised to make a great nation of his first born son. Since he was capable of reason, Abraham had to understand the potential contradiction in killing Isaac. That God did not let Abraham carry out this sacrifice is the triumph of a logically consistent God.[/QB]
As bizarre as this sounds, I think someone else has suggested it before. Is this what they're teaching in seminary these days? And when did this become the preferred interpretation? I think pug846 is summarizing a more common understanding, that the tale demonstrates Abraham's superlative obedience to God. I can see why the alternative view would be useful, because (as this thread points out), the "obedience" interpretation leads to troubling ethical questions.

However, apart from the "devil in disguise" dilemma (which I promised not to address), the interpretation advanced by jupstin fails to account for A) How Abraham knew that the almighty lacked the power to alter a bargain, and B) Why Abraham would spend so much effort at a task he sincerely believed he could never complete.
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Old 10-12-2001, 03:40 PM   #12
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Abraham knew that God promised to make a great nation of his first born son. Since he was capable of reason, Abraham had to understand the potential contradiction in killing Isaac. That God did not let Abraham carry out this sacrifice is the triumph of a logically consistent God.

As Friedman points out in Who Wrote the Bible?, many scholars believe that Abraham did indeed finish Isaac in the original version, but after it was edited and combined with other stories, the sacrifice was softened and it turned into a test.

Michael
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Old 10-12-2001, 03:44 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by pug846:
It doesn’t matter that God stopped the sacrifice – the point in question here is that at some level, God expected Abraham to be willing to do this completely irrational thing because he ordered it!
If I may emphasize the point: If Abraham expected God to intervene at the last moment to prevent the deed from being done, how could he expect that God would not stop the deed at an earlier stage, like, before anyone proposed any sacrifice at all? But now I'm getting back to the "devil in disguise" problem. Curse my mouth!

From a literary POV, if one is trying to get one's point across, it helps to actually state it. Which is precisely what we don't see in Genesis 22. We do see, however:

Quote:
22:12
And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
Strongly suggesting that God expected Abraham to believe that he would have to go all the way. If the test had been to show Abraham's faith in God's promise, then a plausible correct answer would be for Abraham to do nothing, having determined that Isaac must survive anyway.

Those who believe Abraham has somehow outsmarted God can point to this:

Quote:
22:7
And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
22:8
And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
"Obedience" interpreters view this as Abraham getting Isaac to calm down. The alternate interpretation has Abraham guessing exactly what God has in mind. Turns out he was close, but not exactly:

Quote:
22:13
And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.
I haven't seen any dramatizations of this scene. I wonder: do the actors portray Abraham as holding back tears during the 22:7-8 exchange? They might in the "obedience" interpetation. Otherwise, the line would be delivered as a matter-of-fact prediction of what God will do.
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Old 10-13-2001, 12:11 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy:
<STRONG>

However, apart from the "devil in disguise" dilemma (which I promised not to address), the interpretation advanced by jupstin fails to account for A) How Abraham knew that the almighty lacked the power to alter a bargain, and B) Why Abraham would spend so much effort at a task he sincerely believed he could never complete.</STRONG>
Regarding "A" Who ever said that Abraham knew beforehand that the almighty lacked the power to alter a bargain. Why must this be accounted for? Regarding "B" I'm a bit confused by your pronoun use: are you saying that Abraham thought Abraham was unable to complete the task or are saying Abraham thought God could never complete the task. I'm sure this confusion is in my head, but I need clarification.
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Old 10-13-2001, 11:58 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by jupstin:
<STRONG>Who ever said that Abraham knew beforehand that the almighty lacked the power to alter a bargain. Why must this be accounted for?</STRONG>
You've said that Abraham knew that Isaac must survive, and therefore God would intervene to prevent the sacrifice. I'm wondering how Abraham would be so sure that a god who has the power to promise great things for Isaac would *not* have the power to change His mind and revoke the promise. Suppose for a moment that God had decided to revoke the promise -- wouldn't inciting Abraham to kill Isaac be one way of accomplishing that? If I can think of this possibility, why wouldn't Abraham?

Quote:
...are you saying that Abraham thought Abraham was unable to complete the task or are saying Abraham thought God could never complete the task.
Sorry. By "he" I meant Abraham exclusively. That is, God assigns Abraham the task of sacrificing Isaac. As you see it, Abraham immediately knows that this is a test, and that God will not allow him to kill Isaac. At this point, Abraham could just as easily do nothing, secure in the knowledge that the final outcome will be the same. But he doesn't; he follows God's order, "playing along" for three full days. He even avoids telling Isaac (at least, there is no account of Abraham informing Isaac of what will he's been told to do). If all will end well, why not be open about it?

[ October 13, 2001: Message edited by: Grumpy ]
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Old 10-13-2001, 01:21 PM   #16
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Drawing from a few of the other replies...

"It also seems to drive a wedge between ‘reason’ and ‘faith’ – what could be more reasonable than killing your own son. God demands ultimate obedience and the only way you can do that is by a deeply irrational faith."

Consider if from Abraham's perspective we have a command that is from God (true by assumption from comment #6); a being that can do whatever it wills, and knows all that happens and has happened on the earth 'below' It.

If the above is taken to be the case, then the only "rational" and "logical" response on the part of Abraham is to obey the command. It is the only plausible option for him.

If we further assume that Abraham believed that God could not function contrary to what It had previously promised, then again, we know that Abraham accepts that God is currently commanding him, and that given this assumption in addition to the previous ones, it must be the case that God did not previously promise Abraham what it is that Abraham (falsely)recalls God to have promised.

However, I believe that the story serves quite well without this additional case.
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Old 10-13-2001, 03:08 PM   #17
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Who are we to say then that Andrea Yates, the woman who drowned her 5 children, wasn't told to do it by G-d? What if she thinks she was told to do it by G-d?

[ October 13, 2001: Message edited by: Teutonic ]
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Old 10-18-2001, 10:04 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally posted by pug846:
So, child sacrifice only became immoral after Genesis 22? Uh?
I never said that child sacrifice was moral before Genesis 22. My point is that not every society in the days of Abraham would have agreed with you that "by any account, it would be immoral to kill your own son." God asked Abraham to sacrifice what was most dear to him. The mind of the people of that area at that time was not the western mind. It is possible that being asked to do something like this was not considered immoral to Abraham. Now, I agree that actually killing your own innocent son is immoral in any case, but Abraham was not required to do so. To which you might say:

Quote:
But you seem to have missed the point. God asked Abraham to do it. At that point, Abraham had to go through the whole action – three whole days – thinking about having to kill his own son. What would have been the point of the story if Abraham knew all along that he wasn’t going to have to do it.
I never said that Abraham knew he wasn't going to have to kill his son. At this point, there's no reason to believe absolutely that Abraham realized the nature of the God he chose to serve, that is his non-contradictory nature. Who knows what he thought for those three days? I'm no expert, but it could have been anything from joy at the chance to serve his new God, or anger at the prospect of having to give up his son. It was probably all of the above and everything inbetween.

Quote:
Yes, Abraham hoped he wouldn’t have to do it, but that is absurd! Why would God have changed his mind?

This is a side issue, but I think it is pretty clear from other parts of the bible that God has no problem with murder.
Who says that God's mind changed? Is it impossible that God knew all along how this was going to turn out?

And yes, the murder thing is a side issue, but a worthy one.

Quote:
So, his reason led him to the point where either way there was a contradiction? Anyway, the point is Abraham would have gone through with it if he had to.
What can I say, you're right, my argument here sort of sucked. Thanks.
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Old 10-18-2001, 02:06 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally posted by jupstin:
<STRONG>What can I say, you're right, my argument here sort of sucked. Thanks.</STRONG>
Don't worry about it. As I mentioned above, you're not the first to explain the story in those terms.
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Old 10-18-2001, 03:03 PM   #20
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Quote:
Who says that God's mind changed? Is it impossible that God knew all along how this was going to turn out?
Well, then God is a liar. He told Abraham one thing knowing that it wasn’t true – or was it? The only way to get out of this is to accept that this was a test God put to Abraham’s faith. He needed Abraham to have total faith in God and even be willing to do this immoral act. Remember, it says many times that Abraham LOVED his son. Clearly, for Abraham, this was an immoral act. Again, where does this leave us in relation to faith?

I don’t think most Christian really think this whole thing through. You seem to be pretty open minded – how do you plan on resolving this?

I would still like to hear from Metacrock and Nomad.
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