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Sunday Study: Abraham and Isaac – Did God Command the Killing of an Innocent?

July 26th, 2009 by Matt

Perhaps the most infamous passage in the Hebrew scriptures occurs in Genesis 22:2,

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

Of course, as anyone who has read the story knows, God intervened before Abraham carried out the command and prevented him from killing Isaac. It is also true that in the Mosaic laws that follow this passage, the Prophets, the Psalms and the historical books, human sacrifice is condemned. Nevertheless, God still, in this instance, commanded Abraham to kill Isaac. For this reason this story looms large in the criticisms of theological morality. The problem can be expounded succinctly; it seems plausible that Christians are committed to an inconsistent triad;

[1] If God commands an action A then A is morally required;
[2] It is wrong to kill innocent human beings;
[3] God commanded Abraham to attempt to kill an innocent human being.

It is worth noting here that the problem in [3] arises only if one takes the patriarchal narrative in Genesis as literally true, if one assumes that these narratives accurately and reliably convey the actual historical events. Some commentators evade the dilemma by denying this; according to one line of interpretation, the story of Gen 22 is a sort of parable instructing Israel, in an age where infant sacrifice was common, that God did not require such sacrifices and instead required that such piety be expressed through the sacrifice of goats.

If this interpretation is correct the problem evaporates. However, I will not pursue this line here because, while I think there are some interesting questions around whether the proto-history of Gen 1-11 should be understood as literal history, I am not convinced that this applies to the patriarchal narratives. Kenneth Kitchen makes a reasonable case that these narratives are historically reliable. Moreover, even if he is mistaken, it seems clear that anyone who raises this objection must assume this (at least for the sake of argument). If not then there would be no basis for asserting [3] and the dilemma would again evaporate. So, in this post I will assume it as a given that the patriarchal narratives are literally true, that what they describe actually occurred.

As I understand the objection, the objector is offering a reductio ad absurdum. He or she starts by assuming, that the patriarchal narratives are literally true and then derives a contradiction from this assumption. The question then is whether, granting this assumption, such a contradiction actually does arise.

Proceeding on this basis, the obvious problem is that [1], [2] and [3] cannot all be true. Kant and Robert Adams have contended Christians should abandon [3] in favour of [2]. While others such as Quinn and Evans have offered defences of the claim that it in certain situations a person (or at least a person in Abraham’s epistemic situation) could rationally deny [2]. While the philosophical questions here are interesting, in this post I will endeavour to solve the dilemma exegetically. I will argue that while [1] is true, a careful examination of the text shows that the events occur in a certain context. I will then argue that when the context is taken into account, [2] is not correct. In essence, while it is true under normal circumstances that killing the innocent is wrong, in certain unusual circumstances it is not wrong. A contextual interpretation of The Torah suggests it affirms that in the case of Abraham unusual circumstances were in play.

The Command in its Context
In Gen 12:1-2 God reveals;

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

Here Abram is told by a God that he will be the father of an entire nation, one that will have its own country. An obvious implication of this is that Abram will have descendants; he will have a son who will live at least as long enough to have children of his own. The text then implicitly teaches that Abram knew on the basis of a reliable source that his son would live to adulthood.

This point is reiterated in several other encounters between God and Abram. In Gen 15 “the word of the LORD” comes to Abram “in a vision.” Abram’s response is, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” God’s answer was emphatic, “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” Abram is told, and hence knows, that his heir will be a son from his own body, a biological descendant.” The text continues; “He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’”

In the New Testament Paul utilises this incident as a paradigm example of salvation by faith. Paul notes that Abram, at this stage a Gentile, is considered righteous because of his response in faith to God’s revelation. What’s important in this context is that again Abram knows that he will, both, have a biological son and that this son will live at least long enough to have children. Obviously, if his son dies early in life, before he is able to have children, then Abram will not have biological descendants yet it is clear that Abram knew that he would. Moreover, the passage continues with God promising, as part of a covenant, that these things will be so; again Abram knows that his son will live into adulthood.

After this incident, Abram makes the mistake of sleeping with Hagar, which results in her giving birth to Ishmael. This leads to various domestic problems including rivalry between Hagar, Ishmael and Abram’s wife Sarah. However, Abram has another encounter with God; in Gen 17:2-14 we read,

I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

God promises that Abram’s descendants will be numerous, again implying, very clearly, that Abram’s son will live to adulthood. This promise was signified by a covenant marked by circumcision; it was reiterated by God changing his name from Abram (exalted father) to Abraham (father of many).

The text goes on however to provide us more specifics in verses 15-19,

God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.”

Here it is made crystal clear; the promise will come through the line of a child called Isaac who will be born through his wife. This seems impossible to Abram due to the fact that his wife is barren. God, however, is emphatic, changing his wife’s name from Sarai (my princess) to Sarah (mother of nations). Abram is again reassured that Isaac will be born and will live at least long enough to have children of his own and will enter into a covenant with God himself. This promise is promised to be confirmed by a seemingly impossible event, a barren woman will bear a child.

In chapter 18 the promise is again reiterated. Abraham is visited by three men who appear to represent God himself. The text records in verse 10, “Then the LORD said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.’” Again the point is made in a crystal clear fashion; Sarah will have a child. Again the strong impression from the surrounding text is that this child will live on to adulthood to have children of his own. Abraham is again reassured that Isaac will survive to adulthood.

If the point has not yet been belaboured enough by the narrative, in Gen 21, when Isaac is born, God again makes it clear to Abraham on the day Isaac is weaned. Abraham is told in verse 12, “Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Again Abraham is reassured that Isaac will live for at least long enough to have children of his own.

This then, is the backdrop to the events described in Gen 22. It is worth remembering that this is all one narrative, the division into chapters and verses that occurs in our modern English version were added centuries later. In the original narrative and in the canonically authoritative forms, the division does not occur. Hence by the time we get to Gen 22 both Abraham and the astute reader know that Isaac is not going to die; both the reader and Abraham know that Isaac will live beyond this day to rear children of his own. This is actually pointed out in the text; just before Abraham goes up the mountain to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham states to his servants in verse 5, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham expected Isaac to return alive.

Just to clinch this point, let me note a final line of evidence; the New Testament teaches that this is the correct way to understand the passage. In Hebrews 11:17-19 it states,

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.

Earlier in the same chapter, verses 11-12, the reader is reminded of the promise that Isaac would live to have many descendants. This is significant because Christians do not accept any and all interpretations of the Old Testament, Christians accept as authoritative, the Old Testament as interpreted by the New Testament. One can think whatever they like about Christianity, but this is how Christians are supposed to accept and interpret the story. If one attacks a different interpretation of the passage, one is attacking an interpretation Christians (should) reject, and hence, are not attacking anything Christians (should) believe or are committed to believing. In light of this, I think we can establish the following point, that premise [3] is true provided that a certain context or qualification is understood to apply; namely, God commanded Abraham to attempt to kill his son in a context where Abraham knew that his son would not die but live on after the incident.

At this stage, no doubt, some will scoff; they will contend that they do not believe these stories could be literally true. They do not think God appeared to Abraham and told him any of this or that he did know these things. However, this complaint is beside the point, whether a person believes the story or not, this is what the story says. If a person is to argue that the text, taken literally, is immoral or portrays God a certain way then he or she needs to accurately portray what the text says. Not believing what a text says is one thing, however, misrepresenting what it says and using that distortion as the basis of an argument to a conclusion is another.

In the context of this discussion we are asking, if one takes the text to be literally true then what does it teach? Does it teach that God commanded Abraham to kill his son? The answer here, is that God commanded Abraham to kill his son, in a context where Abraham knew his son would not die but live on after the incident. Commanding killing, in this context needs to be shown as immoral for the objection to gain traction.

Is This Immoral?
I have argued that [3] is true only if a certain context is assumed. I will now ask if [2] is correct, the claim that “It is wrong to kill innocent human beings.” Here again, I think the answer is yes provided a certain context is assumed. Many people will find this answer a little shocking; I think some reflection, however, will show that it is not.

Many of the ethical prohibitions that hold in the actual world do so because of certain facts about the world. Hitting someone in the head, for example, is wrong because, in the world we actually live in, doing so causes pain and harms people. However, if the physical structure of the world was different, if hitting someone in the head actually advanced their health and improved their quality of life, then it would be permissible and possibly even commendable, to hit someone in the head. Of course, none of this shows us that in the actual world hitting people in this way is not wrong, this is because in the actual world hitting people in the head usually cause harm. However, it does show that the prohibition relies on certain background assumptions about the effects of hitting. If these assumptions were not true then the prohibition would not hold.

In a critique of deductivist natural law theory, John Hare develops this point showing that slight alterations in the way God set the world up could lead to quite different moral rules applying than in fact do. One example Hare notes, is particularly interesting, “Perhaps (to get more bizarre) God could have willed that we kill each other at the age of 18, at which point God would bring us immediately back to life.” Hare asks us to imagine a world, in which, when people of a certain age are killed they immediately come back to life. He opines, quite plausibly, that if this were to be the case then killing people at this age would not be wrong or at least, not seriously wrong. One of the reasons that killing people is wrong in the world we live in is because people stay dead. If they were only unconscious for a split second and came back to life in full health then arguably killing a person would not be the serious wrong we believe it is.

Once this is realised, I think it is evident that [1], [2] and [3] are consistent. If one assumes, for the sake of argument, that the Patriarchal Narratives are literally true then it follows that [3] is true only if a certain context is assumed. God commanded Abraham to kill his son in the highly unusual context where Abraham knew that his son would not stay dead but would come down the mountain afterwards and live on to adulthood to father children of his own. Proposition [2] is defensible only in a context where people do not know these sorts of things; the rule to not kill the innocent applies to a world where people do not come back to life after they have been killed. Hence, the story of Abraham and Isaac, if taken literally, does not entail that God commanded something immoral or contradictory.

1. See for example, Louise Anthony “Atheism as Perfect Piety” in Is Goodness without God Good Enough: A Debate on Faith, Secularism and Ethics Eds Robert K Garcia and Nathan L King (Lanham: Rowan & Littlefield Publishers, 2008), 77-79.
2. Kenneth Kitchen On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003) 313-372.
3. Immanuel Kant The Conflict of the Faculties (Ak. VI1, 63) 115; similar statements can be found in Kant’s
Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason (Ak, VI,87, 186f).
4. Robert Adams Finite and Infinite Goods (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999) Chapter 12.
5. Philip Quinn Divine Commands and Moral Requirements (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978); also “Obligation, Divine Commands and Abraham’s Dilemma” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 64(2) 459-466.
6. C Stephen Evans Kierkegaard’s Ethic of Love: Divine Commands and Moral Obligations (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).
7. Ibid.
8. John E Hare God’s Call: Moral Realism, God’s Commands and Human Autonomy (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2001) 68-69.

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17 responses so far ↓

  • I think your defense here is successful. Your argument is dependant on Abraham knowing Isaac wouldn't stay dead which, as per Hebrews, is true.

    There is a further consideration. I think the argument could be modified as such:

    [1] If God commands an action A then A is morally required;
    [2] It is wrong for people to kill innocent human beings;
    [3] God commanded Abraham to attempt to kill an innocent human being.

    Put this way the argument is more obvious, yet also deficient.

    It can reasonably be argued that it is not wrong for God to kill people. Or remove his sustaining of their life at his volition. God creates, gives and sustains life. So God can stop doing this at any stage as per his will.

    Thus the argument is deficient because [2] lacks the qualifier that people shouldn't kill innocents of their own volition. With this qualifier [3] does not contradict the other statements. It would be wrong for Abraham to offer Isaac of Abraham's own volition, but not at God's behest.

    The objection to this is that people constantly claim God tells them to do certain things, including killing. And it is highly likely that God has said no such thing, especially when claims from different people are contradictory. However this does not make the argument invalid, it just means that people will lie. The existence of people who make false claims does not disprove the validity of true claims.

  • You mentioned:
    "It is also true that in the Mosaic laws that follow this passage, the Prophets, the Psalms and the historical books, human sacrifice is condemned."

    I agree, the Bible makes it very clear that God condemns the worship of or sacrifice to any god other than himself.

    However Ex. 22:20-30 appears to command the offering to God of first born sons.  Verse 29 states "- the firstborn of they sons shalt thou give unto me." Verse 30 begins "likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen and with thy sheep".  The use of the word likewise in verse 30 indicates to me that the first born sons are to be treated in the same way as oxen and sheep, that is offered to God as a burnt offering.

    Do these verses say what they seem to say, that God commanded the sacrifice of first born sons to Him, or is there another interpretation?

  • Mark V, In the book of Samuel, it tells the story of Hannah who is barren. In her distress she prays for God to look on her humiliation and give her a child. In return for this she promises to "give him to Yahweh for the whole of his life". After God granted her prayer, and after she had weaned the child, she gave him to the priest in the temple as a servant.

    This I think is the proper interpretation- that the verse is asking that the first-born is given over to serve in the temple, not as a human sacrifice. This is a cultural trend that has actually persisted within Christianity & within NZ Christian families until perhaps the last 20 years. Often these Christian families in NZ had a large number of children, and have groomed their first born sons to become priests or pastors. My family is no exception.

    In Judges Chapter 10-11 Jephthah promises to burn the first thing he sees after God grants him victory for Israel in battle. That first thing he sees is actually his own daughter, who he reluctantly but duly offers as a burnt sacrifice. The concordance I read sheds some light on this. Often the books in the Old Testament recount stories that show a limited level of moral development, that emphasise some aspects of the law over others. In that case the writer is emphasising that those who make vows to God must hold firm and carry these out, regardless of the cost. The fact that the consequence of the vow means that a human is sacrificed to God is actually ancilliary to the story and is not meant to be a rebuke to the commandment "Thou shalt not kill".

    Hope this helps 🙂

  • Johnnieboy, commanding that first born sons be given over to service in the temple would be the logical interpretation of the text, were it not for verse 30 which states "likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen and with thy sheep" (King James version).  That statement makes it clear that first born sons are to be treated the same as oxen and sheep.  It seems improbable that the priests were to receive eight day old calves and lambs, what would thay do with them?  They would still need to be hand reared.  They would be sacrrificed as burnt offerings, but then what about the first born sons who were to be treated likewise.

  • Hi Mark V, The verse is merely stating that both must be given to the priest, & isn't recommending any other course of action. Logically the priest then is free to treat each separate item in a different way at his discretion.

    If I asked you to give me a calculator and to do likewise with a pencil, it doesn't imply that I am bound to treat the calculator or the pencil in the same way, or infer any any way how I am supposed to use these items- I can do what I like.

    The context of the verse before & after the contentious verse is helpful in deciding the intent of the author, though these statements appear to be linked to other commandments,

    Exodus 22:28, "Do not be slow about making offerings from your abundance & your surplus". This most likely is with regard to agricultural surplus but the gist is to sacrifice out of love and of fear of the Lord.

    Exodus 22:30, "You must be a people consecrated to me". Providing a son to serve in the temple fulfills this requirement in triplicate, by sanctifying the family who provides the son to serve. That family is tied to the temple by blood, and the Lord repays the family that does this, as shown in the story of Hannah above, when she is given more children by the Lord to make up for the loss of her son.

    Hope that helps 🙂

  • Oops, "it doesn't imply that I am bound to treat the calculator or the pencil in the same way, or infer any any way how I am supposed to use these items-" after they have both been given to me 🙂

  • Mark, all first born males were God's, human or otherwise. Animals were killed. Because human sacrifice is disallowed the boys had to be bought back for a fixed price.

    Only Levites were allowed to serve in the temple.

  • Mark V. In addition to condemning idolatry the old testament explicitly condemns infant sacrifice in several places: Lev 18: Lev. 18:21, is condemned in the prophets  Jer. 7:31-32; 19:5-6; Ezek. 16:20-21; 20:31 Kings who engage in it are criticised in the historical books 2 Kings 23:10 and Psalm 106:38 condemns it as murder (also Ezek 16:21).

    As to the passage you refer to, the idea that the first born of every animal including the first born human were God’s and to be set apart, given to him in fact occurs in several places in the torah. In several other places ( Ex 13:13 and Ex 34:19-20 ) its specified that with humans the practise is done with a ransom, whereby the life of the first born son is ransomed ( or substituted) with the sacrifice of an animal in fact several other places in the torah which state the same thing show it did not require human sacrifice

  • "God commanded Abraham to kill his son in the highly unusual context where Abraham knew that his son would not stay dead but would come down the mountain afterwards and live on to adulthood to father children of his own."

    Way to side step the issue!  Here the ancient writer has constructed a real dilemna.  Abraham has been commanded to do something which is horrific and unforgivable – all the more so because it will put an end to his hopes of a future family.  To just say "oh he knew it would not really happen" takes away all of the complexity of the story.

    This is a story to struggle with – not a story to brush aside with logic.

    Can one be so willing to obey God that everything else is relitivized completely – one's morality, one's family, one's own hopes and goals?

    THERE you have a tough question.  And this is the question Abraham and the readers of this story were, and are, forced to try and answer within themselves.  There is no simple logical answer to this question – it is an emotional struggle which demands growth, self searching, and torment.  If (as you suggest) Abraham knew all along that nothing bad would happen to his son and it would all be OK – none of this would take place and the story would lose all of its power.

    Hence – I could not disagree more with your attempt to explaim (away) this troubling story.

  • Johnnieboy: your explaination is plausible.
    Bethyada: I am not aware of any text in the Bible that requires parents to pay money to the priesthood in exchange of their first born sons.

    Now to get back to the topic:
    One aspect of the story puzzles me, why didn't Abraham express any doubt or disgreement when God commanded him to sacrifice Isaac?   He did so when God informed him that he and Sarah were to have a son, and again when he tried to talk God out of destroying Sodom and Gommorah so he had a mind of his own and was able to express himself.  Yet when commanded by God to sacrifice Isaac, child sacrifice being something that God had presumably prohibited, he acted as though it were an ordinary everyday event. 

    The explaination that God would make it alright by resurecting Isaac is not sufficient, God commanded Abraham to do something that was prohibited, child sacrifice and Abraham did not question this.

  • One aspect of the story puzzles me, why didn't Abraham express any doubt or disgreement when God commanded him to sacrifice Isaac?   He did so when God informed him that he and Sarah were to have a son, and again when he tried to talk God out of destroying Sodom and Gommorah so he had a mind of his own and was able to express himself.  Yet when commanded by God to sacrifice Isaac, child sacrifice being something that God had presumably prohibited, he acted as though it were an ordinary everyday event.

    Mark, one possible answer is that in Abrahams day human sacrifice was an everyday event. Thats not to say that God commanded it, but rather that it was widely accepted in his time that gods required such sacrifice, this is one reason the Prophets had to repeatedly denounce it and Isreals kings were constantly falling into the temptation to do it.

    This is why some commentators think that whats significant in the story is that God stopped Abraham doing it, and the torah latter commands a ransom with a sheep (much like occurs in the story) instead of sacrifice.

  • Mark V, I think the scripture quoted really does say it all.

    "By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death".

    God tested Abraham. God has some qualities that you may already be aware of. He is omnipotent, having all power, so no action is impossible to Him. He is also possessing of all wisdom, and so always acts justly. He also exists outside time (which is His own creation), and sees all time before Him, whether past, present, or future. He didn't ask Abraham to kill his son without knowing the outcome, despite Abraham having free will to accept or reject God's request (which is paradoxical, but true).

    It is from this deep understanding of God's nature that Paul was able to say that God was testing Abraham. God simply has the goods to pull this "experiment" off, and furthermore, the right to, which is of course difficult to swallow for human beings who have no such capability, or grasp of how a God who is Omniscient might think.

    I do agree that on the face of it that God did not justify Himself in the story for asking Abraham to sacrifice his son. However, I contest the need to ask God to justify Himself, based on who He is, and seeing the outcomes from this episode- that Abraham passed God's test, and that Isaac remained alive.

    Furthermore, the reason that Abraham trusted implicitly and obeyed God without question are held in the chapters of Hebrews that the above scripture is from. Abraham in the years before this episode had such great faith in God that he picked up his entire family and lived as nomads, not knowing where he was going, but relying on a promise that God had made to him of a better future than what he would have chosen. He lived his whole life making God his number one priority above every other consideration.

    God trained him as a “Father trains His son”, and at a certain point of that training, God submitted him to a test (which I'm sure that He already knew Abraham would pass) before allowing him to receive the promise that he would be the father of many nations. This is why Abraham was both ready and able to trust God's request- his faith was made strong through God's training.

  • […] propositions contradict each other. Copan utilises and adapts my own response to this dilemma in Abraham and Isaac – Did God Command the Killing of an Innocent? This can be summarised as follows: a careful reading of the text in its narrative context shows [3] […]

  • Isn’t it strange, that God who is Purely Good, would order Abraham to Kill his innocent son, Isaac?
    Would our loving Father, God, play a “Trick” like this on His loyal servant?
    Could it be that God NEVER told Abraham to Sacrifice Isaac?

    All of these questions are answered in this Teaching:
    http://bibleofgod.org/did-god-tell-abraham-to-kill-isaac/

    • The Common Understanding of this record
    • Why is this “Test” Questionable?
    • Did God Tempt Abraham?
    • Burnt Offering vs. Sacrifice
    • Satan’s Deception
    • Not the first time Abraham Miscomprehended
    • How old was Isaac?
    • Other Important things to Note

    -Andrew Davis

  • Matthew,

    What would you say to this:

    Is it wrong to slit your son’s throat if you know that he’ll recover?

    Seems like your response takes the charge from murder to complete acquittal without recognizing the possible sins in between. Killing a child with a knife in the nicest possible way doesn’t strike me as morally neutral.

  • Ben, that’s an interesting response.
    Turning to your question:
    “Is it wrong to slit your son’s throat if you know that he’ll recover?”
    Let’s assume slitting the throat is painless and the recovery is immediate so that no harm or damage is done. Under
    those circumstances it’s not clear to me that this would be wrong.

    Of course, in the world as it is with the kind of natural laws that exist, slitting a person’s throat does do harm and recovery is not immediate or likely to occur. So this is compatible with claiming that in pretty much all situations in which we find, absent something like a miracle, then such actions are morally abhorent.

    “Seems like your response takes the charge from murder to complete acquittal without recognizing the possible sins in between.”

    That’s appealing analogue of human laws, the problem is human laws are based on how things operate in the world as it is, where people who are killed don’t immediately come back to life and where cutting a persons throat harms them, and where people know this is the case.
    The question is whether we would still have laws like this in the world if these things weren’t the case, if slitting peoples throat didn’t harm them or result in loss of life for more than say a short instant, I think we would have very different laws around throat cutting.

    “ Killing a child with a knife in the nicest possible way doesn’t strike me as morally neutral.”

    I agree, but note I am not saying it’s morally neutral to kill with a knife, in the nicest possible way.

    What I am suggesting is that in a world, where killing and knifing didn’t have the harmful effects it has in the actual world. It would not be wrong. That’s compatible with saying that, in this world where throat slitting almost always does have these effect’s its wrong even if done nicely.

  • You all have missed the key to a true beginning of understanding Gen 22.

    It is a key which is as strongly and plainly implied in the Hebrews passage as anything can be implied. But until you actually use that key, you cannot begin to know the deep reality that went into that test.

    You all agree that the Hebrews passage (11:17-19) clearly says that Abe used a resource that is far outside of the mere verbatim of the test. But you are failing to use the like full resource in deciding how best to understand the test.

    Abe’s resource was his entire relation with God. So, contrary to the verbatim of the test, Abe did not, in fact, ‘obey God’s voice’. Abe obeyed God’s promises. This is what the Hebrews very clearly says.

    Now, for you guys, what do you think is the proper full resource for finding the best understanding of the test?

    You are running a twelve-cylinder engine on one and a half cylinders. So, obviously, you are going to struggle to come up any answer that seems plausible to all of you even at a distance.

    Matt, your logic is that for a distance that utterly fails even the most basic close up detail: getting killed is not something good to the organism, no matter that the resultantly dead organism is brought back to life.

    So, Matt, the deep question for you is, how long until you are brought back to life? What you actually mean by your logic does not even begin to address the issue. Because, if it did, then the reality of the final resurrection would entail that killing each other already is not wrong.

    The first mistake you all make is reading the text of the test as if its spells out even one thing that we need to know about God’s side of the test. So, you presuppose that not only that God was pleased to so test Abe, and not only also that God came up with the test Himself, but also that God was acting in character and not, instead, how He was put to act by a bind such as that put on Him concerning Job.

    Abe was no ‘Cultural Christian, as I am sure you are aware. But neither is God an **Aloof Deity Who Does not Need to have Any Dynamic Relation to Any of His Creatures.**

    God rightly and freely praises His saints to the court of holy angels, and that heavenly court is not expecting God to back down from such a thing when God’s Truthfulness thereto is put in a bind concerning fallen humans.

    Mark that word: **fallen** humans. God praises His saints who are fallen humans. Even Job knew this. But Job had long been merely blessed for his righteousness. So Job had, in certain respects, forgotten that God is no Santa Claus Blow-Up Doll who lives in a carefree North Pole Wonderland and otherwise devises every one of His actions entirely on His own.

    God is Creator, so He does not have to invent every instance of prophetic pre-type in order to obtain every such instance. He already knows the entire field of battle, and every manner of attack before it is committed. And it still merely is in His Good character that He praises His saints.