Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Scare Me.

 "And it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham..." 
Genesis 22:1a

I tend to think of the story of Abraham and Isaac as a foretelling of Jesus.  My brain always concludes with, "Wow, that's swell... look how God gave us this epic foreshadowing of His only begotten Son through Abraham.  That's neat."

Then Bill Paxton and Soren Kierkegaard come stomping onto the scene to vomit all over my happy-go-lucky thoughts.  Sigh...
Kierkegaard's "Fear and Trembling" is dedicated to walking in Abraham's shoes in real time.  We have the encouraging details of knowing how this story ends, but Abraham surely could not know.  He walked onto the mountain expecting to kill his son -- to bludgeon the miraculous gift that was given.  In offering his son, would he not become like all the pagan cults that sacrificed virgins to their wooden idols?  How could God save face from this -- for His test was costing Abraham his whole world, not to mention Isaac's whole being!

"Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood." 
Genesis 22:9

I wonder, did Isaac combat his father when he began to tie him down?  Where did his thoughts lead him?  Did he think his father mad?  Was he ready to give his blood to the fire?

Bill Paxton's directorial debut modernizes this story.  A single Father receives a vision from an angel.  He is to take up a new profession: demon destroying.  He must also show his sons this way of servitude.  The younger boy accepts the indoctrination of his father (or has his own encounters with God), while the older doubts his father's sanity.  What the doubting Thomas does as he is forced to take part in the destruction of many demon-peoples becomes the tension of the whole of the film.  This plot is an ingredient for a basic serial killer thriller, much in the vain of "Seven" and "Arlington Road", yet it takes one prominent excursion from the formula of the other films.  The father is sane.  He is sent by God.  The people he kills are demons (at least demon-possessed).

So the question is begged: If God told you to do something absolutely repugnant, would you do it?  The Christian answer must be, "Yes", but with the caveat, "But God would never do that, it goes against His nature."  This is a fair place to land, but Kierkegaard is begging us to be Abraham on Mount Moriah.  Can we do it?  Bind your son! Raise that dagger!  Ready yourself to plunge the blade into his flesh.

Again we may take solace in that the physical act was never committed.  Isaac's blood was not spilled, and that spot was joyfully given the name,

"YHWH-jireh: The Lord Will Provide" 
Genesis 22:14. 

But I ask, does Jesus not tell us that we can sin by our very thoughts?  If covetedness towards our brothers and lust for our sisters is sin just by the thought alone, isn't also filicide?

This sparks the insistence of another strange bit of Scripture.  1 Kings 22:19-23... The prophet Micaiah gets a vision from God.  God desires to bring destruction to the evil King Ahab.  God, on His throne in Heaven, asks who will deal with Ahab that will lead Ahab to his end.  A spirit speaks up and says he's good for the job.  God asks, "How?" to which the spirit replies that he'll send a lying spirit into Ahab's prophets.  God responds in verse 22 by saying, "You are to entice Him and also prevail.  Go and do so."

So a literal interpretation of this 1 Kings passage has God deliberately sending out a spirit to lie.  I must tiptoe through my proceeding comments, for these are treacherous waters.  Can we too send people out to tell lies?  Wouldn't this implement us in the sin of distortion?  Is this not a kind of perjury?

The answer leads us to this prognosis: God can do whatever he wants.  Truth is as subjective as that. Thankfully, and life-savingly for us, God has a will to love us and to keep His commandments.  So these sorts of seeded scenarios are not likely to arise.  But can we rule them out?  If God wanted He could tell Bill Paxton to go kill demon-people, couldn't He?  Is He not Sovereign?

Another rescue from the Abraham paradox can be found in the idea that the story takes place before the law was given on Mount Sinai.  The sixth commandment of murder and the following Levitical laws outlawing human sacrifice were not yet uttered, so it's a good thing we don't have any later examples of righteous sacrifice.

Oh wait...
 Judges 11:35b, 
"...for I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot take it back."

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