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Defining religious faith, and the Abraham and Isaac story

 
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Old 23-Oct-2010, 04:01 PM (16:01)     1        41492
Gurdur
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Question Defining religious faith, and the Abraham and Isaac story

Looking at how to define faith, especially religious faith, and in connection to that, looking at the Abraham and Isaac story in Genesis, where God tells Abraham to go up the mountain and give Isaac the big chop, because I want to blog about this, and I'm currently in the middle of a multi-argument on another board about the story and its implications.

So, let's see (options 1 and 2 were options in effect proposed by other posters in that argument on that other board) :
  • Option 1: God made enough promises to Abraham so Abraham would know God did not really mean that Abraham would have to kill his own son.
    • Now that sounds ... bad. Just testing his faith, but, you know, it wasn't really going to happen?
    .
  • Option 2: Sacrificing his son is perfectly OK, becaause Abraham knows God will make it up to him (believes in God's promises).
    • Oooer. The bribery angle. What do you think the son -- Isaac -- is supposed to make of all that? Just how do you think Isaac feels about being sacrificed for the sake of someone else's benefit?
    .
  • Option 1: Blind faith. Sacrificing his son is OK, because God told him to do it. Period, full-stop.
    • This one has big problems, but it is also a catch-all category for a lot of different approaches on the subject of "blind faith", and I'll simply leave it as a vague option not yet further examined.


Ethical and practical judgment
  • Option 1: Option 1 renders the whole story utterly meaningless and trivial. God gave Abraham a test with a command, only Abraham somehow knew that God did not actually mean God's command, God was just pretending with the command. So Abraham just pretended to go along with it. Everyone's pretending, everyone's happy.

    Ugh. Just how trivial and meaningless can things get?
    .
  • Option 2: Sheer bribery. Isaac gets sacrificed for Abraham's future rewards from God. Reduces Isaac to being a "spear-carrier" in Abraham's story, which renders the story a story of Abraham's narcissism and egocentricity.

    BTW, the same ethical problems of reducing people to spear-carriers in someone else's narcissistic drama comes up in the Book of Job, but at least Job has a somewhat more acceptable conclusion ("Shit happens. It's random. Get over it").
    .
  • Option 3: God told Abraham to go up there and give a fellow human the chop, an innocent human, his son. For reasons not very disclosed. Abraham does it because God said so.



If option 1 renders it all meaningless, and option 2 is morally repugnant, since it reduces all religion to mere feudalist bribery (as well as having a host of other ethical and practical problems associated with it), then that leaves option 3 and all as yet undescribed other options. So there I was already giving grudging credit to option 3 as being more meaningful and ethically better than option 1 and 2 (options 1 and 2 were options given in effect by other posters on the original thread).

So, now over to all of you here for comments, critiques and further suggestions of other options. By the way, quoting myself from that other board:

Quote:
Rabbi J. H. Hertz thinks it was simply a story of child sacrifice, according to him prevalent at the time (I disagree with him; Roman agitprop against the Cartheginians has its parallels with the other Phoenician peoples as treated in agitprop by other folks). Hertz suggests the strange part is God forbidding the sacrifice, not commanding it. Rabbi Yosef Ibn Caspi of the 14th century goes for Abraham being momentarily a looney.
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Old 24-Oct-2010, 02:56 AM (02:56)     2        41498
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There is a 4th option that is clearly stated in Heb 11:17-19.
I think you will agree that Abraham figured it this way:
God promised that Isaac would be the one that the promise would come through.
Isaac would need to be alive to have children.
God is Life and can make a man from clay.
Resurrecting the dead is easier. (Well, I don't know if it is easier or not.)
Therefore, God would resurrect Isaac.
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Old 25-Oct-2010, 05:47 PM (17:47)     3        41526
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A BTW that comes to mind from a comment by Lifelinking.

If you are tempted to bring in Ibrahim and Ismai'il from the Quran into a Christian community, remember that Ishmael isn't even named in the Koran in the story 37:99113. Apparently Ishmael is a later accretion. At the best it will confuse many because they won't realize that Isaac has been switched to Ishmael. See Ishmael in Wikipedia.
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Old 11-Nov-2010, 05:37 PM (17:37)     4        41826
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For Jephthah and his daughter more clear cut, it was 2, then they felt they couldn't back out of it because of 3. I think for the Abraham story it was 3 too, silence personal feelings and innate morals, do what you're told no matter how repugnant, have faith that it will all work out if you follow orders. Never mind what was written in hindsight over 2000 years later, it was about faith not reason.
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Old 11-Nov-2010, 08:01 PM (20:01)     5        41830
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alicat View Post
.... Jephthah and his daughter .....
Ah, many thanks, I had forgotten that story. It's important, too.
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