Quite a bit has transpired since part 1 of this article series was written. That first article was written months ago in response to an article by my friend the Atlanta Atheism Examiner. There won’t be such a long delay before the third in the series is ready.
The biggest thing that has happened is this writer learned he’d much rather be friends with a professed atheist than some people who claim to be Christian.
“Pastor” Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church fame immediately comes to mind, for example.
After this lengthy delay, the series finally continues, inspired by a comment my faithful reader/critic Blackout made after my recent article “The enigma of Abraham and Isaac.”
He wrote, “Just for the sake of argument, let us suppose that the story is completely true. What does it say, then, about a “god” who would risk the murder of a child as a means to test the loyalty of one of “his” followers? The term “blood-thirsty” comes to mind, as does the phrase “gross irresponsibility.” In fact, I can’t really think of any positive descriptor that can be rationally applied to this story.”
He asks a decent question worthy of consideration. The story of Abraham and son Isaac is difficult to understand for two basic reasons.
- The story makes God appear to be capricious in nature. No obvious reason is provided for the “testing” of Abraham.
- God appears to be bloodthirsty and cruel, apparently willing to allow “the murder of a child” as the comment suggested.
In that article on Abraham and Isaac, I only addressed issue #1. It explained how Genesis Chapter 21 seems to offer possible insight to answer the question why Abraham may have deserved to be tested.
My friend obsessed with power failure based his argument on a very narrow and literal interpretation of the story focused on issue #2.
Fair enough. This is understandable to a degree.
But why are the rational and scientific-minded so willing to speculate and assume that an impression formed in rock of an ancient, extinct creature is a cross of two modern species as undisputed fact yet so unwilling to “read between the lines” in the Bible in a sincere effort to get the point of it?
While the Bible doesn’t expressly say that Abraham dealt dishonestly about the well with Abimelech (“The enigma of Abraham and Isaac” discussed this), that story found in Genesis 21 bothers this writer as much as the story of Isaac’s near sacrifice in the next chapter. Why is that story there? The Bible could safely be described as terse at times. So why include this story that seems nothing more than a superfluous, inconsequential detail about the life of Abraham? Unless…it has more significance.
But that’s harping on issue #1. Let’s examine issue #2 above — the story suggests that Yahweh can be bloodthirsty and cruel. There are three assumptions being made that here this writer believes to be premature to assume.
- The comment implies this life is “as good as it gets.” Heaven/paradise cannot be better than this life.
- Our creator has no power over our destruction. Once this body dies, that’s final.
- There are only two possible interpretations of the Biblical account of Abraham and Isaac. It is either completely true (and omits nothing) or it is completely false and never happened.
Ir is the contention of this writer that all three presumptions above are incorrect for the following reasons.
- A large percentage of NDE accounts describe pleasant experiences. The majority of available anecdotal stories like the NDE experience of Bob Davidson describe a place of unearthly beauty the “dead” claim to briefly visit before returning to their physical bodies. Studies have shown that many have demonstrably changed in a positive way after their NDE. We have seen enough that approximates evidence (the Pam Reynolds NDE) to consider the possibility that the mind and brain are separable, implying that life after death is possible, perhaps in another dimension religious people like to call heaven.
- Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and was himself raised from the dead. If God created universe by speaking, seriously–how hard could it be to raise a (even mutilated and tortured) body back from the dead? It stands to reason that an “invisible” supernatural God has supernatural abilities. Which begs the question: if God can do anything, why did he let Jesus be crucified? The obvious reason is the fulfillment of OT prophesies. But could Yahweh have also wanted to demonstrate once and for all that creation and destruction are equally under His power and the destruction of our physical bodies doesn’t damage our soul?
- There is at least one other interpretation — that the Bible story is true, but it doesn’t necessarily tell us the whole story. After all, who wrote the Bible? Many scholars believe it was Moses (a descendent of Abraham) who wrote Genesis. Moses is often credited with writing the entire Pentateuch even though his death is recorded in the last chapter of Deuteronomy. And who looks the best in the story? Arguably, Abraham. In the story God is ultimately merciful and rewards Abraham for his faithfulness. But by modern standards, God is also unpredictable and somewhat frightening, the “God of fire and brimstone.”
One has to be willing not simply to read the Bible but to study it and ponder the signficance of what is both there and missing. Most often what is missing is any explanation or justification of the story’s inclusion. There are extended periods of Israelite history where virtually nothing of significance occurs that merits inclusion in the Bible, but then we have this story of Abraham, Abimilech and the well at Beersheba.
Why God chose to test Abraham, we can only speculate. The Bible simply doesn’t say one way or another. But suggesting the story is false just because it is nearly impossible to fathom why it happened or why it was included in the Bible. One can skim the story and make a wild guess about what it means or meditate on the story and make an educated guess. It will still be a guess.
Any human that pretends to know the mind of God is exceedingly foolish.
Don’t be afraid to use the wonderful brain God gave you to think. Don’t believe something just because of something written on a page in a book or here on the Internet. If you want to seek God for yourself, you can find Him without help. You might find a roadmap to meet God in the Bible reading verses like Romans 10:9, Matthew 7:7 or Revelations 3:20, or you might find God hiking at beautiful Amicalola Falls to see the beauty of the leaves changing color.
But you won’t find God without looking for Him.