Abraham Sacrifices Isaac: Not how modern Christian think

Here, let me tell you two stories, and see which one you think has the better moral.

A poor man has been looking a long time for a job, and finally gets one. After a time the boss tells him he’s thinking of promoting him to a supervisory position with a big pay increase. But the poor man will have to look the other way while the boss does some cooking of the books. The poor man really needs this raise. And, he’s afraid that if he says no, the boss will find some excuse to fire him, leaving him with no job to feed his family. But after praying and thinking it over, the poor man says, “I’m sorry, but I can’t lie for you, because it’s wrong.” The boss then gives him the bigger job, because it was a test to see if he was honest. The boss didn’t want to hire a person who would lie to get ahead.

Second story: exactly the same as the first. The poor man is offered a bigger job if he’ll just lie about this one little thing. The poor man thinks it over and replies, “I trust you, boss, and I know you wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t have good reason. So I’ll lie for you if you want.” The boss gives him the job, because he wanted to make sure his worker would do what was required.

So…in which situation did the worker do the right thing?

Which situation had the better boss? Christians would say the person in the first story did the right thing; in fact this story is one of the subplots in Courageous, the movie made by the Sherwood Baptist Church, who also made that football movie about God. Christians believe it’s important to do what’s right, and right and wrong are absolute.

tempBut this is the opposite lesson as what’s taught in Genesis chapter 22. There, God tells Abraham to kill his son Isaac and burn the body in a sacrifice to God. Abraham dutifully sets out and does it. Isaac is tied up on an alter and Abraham is about to slit his throat when God finally calls out and stops him. It was all a test to see if Abraham would truly follow God. Because Abraham was willing to do it, God commends Abraham and promises his family line will be forever blessed.

What kind of god would demand his followers do something morally reprehensible just to see if they’d obey? What kind of god would award that kind of blind obedience? And what does it say about the moral integrity of a person who is willing to obey this kind of immoral command?

If this story was written by modern Christians, it might be that Abraham refused to sacrifice his son, saying he knew it wasn’t right. He’d say a truly good God would never ask him to do such a thing. And God would reward him for that, because God puts right and wrong in everyone’s heart and expects them to do what’s right.

Christians often preach on how to hear God’s voice. How do you know you’re hearing from God and not just imagining it or hearing lies from the Devil? One way is to study the scripture. If what you’re hearing goes against the Bible, you’re not hearing from God. So hearing from God requires your own intelligence and judgment, according to that interpretation. But this seems to go against Genesis 22.

Would a Christian kill an atheist if God told them to? Would he blow up schoolchildren, or go on a murderous rampage just because he was told to by God? Most Christians would say God would never tell them to do that. They know God personally, by studying the Bible and praying to him, so they know he wouldn’t demand they do what is wrong. But according to the story of Abraham’s sacrifice, they should be willing to do something even if it’s wrong if they’re asked by God.

So…reasonable Christians, if you were told by God to go murder an atheist, would you get a gun and get all set up to do it, to prove to God that you are obedient? Would you just assume God will stop you somewhere before you actually do the deed, like he did to Abraham?

If you answer no—if you don’t think that is what God requires from you—what do you think is the meaning of that story? Why is it in the Bible?

And a final note: in my two scenarios above, which boss do you trust more? You know the second boss is a liar. He’s cheating on his accounting. BUT, the first boss is a liar too! He said he wouldn’t hire you unless you helped him cheat, but what he really meant was he won’t hire you unless you won’t help him cheat. He claimed a ‘yes’ answer would get you hired and ‘no’ would get you fired, when the exact opposite was true. Can you trust this man? When he asks you to do something, can you be sure he means it? Or would you always second-guess, question what he was telling you to see if it was a trick?

This story can be quite painful for true believers. I’ll talk about that in my next post.


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