Religion Prof: The Blog of James F. McGrath
The Blog of Dr. James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, Indianapolis
Can I say – dumb. No history – no story – no false hopes – no recognition of uniqueness – no exploration of child sacrifice in the religions around about – no understanding of circumcision – just a lame psychological stupid interpretation. The sacrifice, if it must be interpreted in that way, of Jesus was to put a stop to such dumb thinking.Mind you that’s the way that some religious are brought up – sacrificing psychological wholeness through legalistic confessions and almighty power structures. But do provide an alternative that gives equivalent power. Crossan never did like Anselm.
This is unfortunately, where many conservatives Christians are. Is is impossible to convince them that the “voice” is something else? Many have been exhorted to listen for and to these types of “voices”. That does not mean that we all have “self-refliective” thoughts, that are “self-talk”, which is good (sometimes). It is only when the “voice” is heard and then Scripture is used to “back up” the “voice”…that is what cult leaders do all the time!No, I would definately suggest that this person see a therapist.
I also liked this cartoon that was shared at The Rev’s Rumbles. I’m not sure why exactly…That’s okay. I’m not sure why I included it in the post. To paraphrase Spock’s daddy, “At the time, it seemed the illogical thing to do.”
Are you serious? It’s not the same story at all. Rest assured, if someone came to me saying “voice” and “it” I would not equate that God. And even if the person was a christian and said “God told me”, I would do my best to stop that person and put them in a facility. So James, I guess you don’t believe the Abraham story is true so I won’t argue that point. But IF it’s true, it’s still a totally different story.By the way, I’ve never met any christians like the ones your commenters describe. If _I_ told any of the christians I’ve ever known in my 34 years that God was telling me to murder, they’d tell me “You’re not Abraham and I don’t think that was God. I think you need help.” They’d probably also tell me “Well _I_ don’t hear God telling me you should do that.”I guess I should be glad to have been spared from these nutjob christians you guys must have known. And I guess I’m sorry you’ve all known them.I don’t want to argue these points with anyone, either. I just wanted to add my perspective.
Bill, are you saying, in essence, “God could say this to Abraham, but not to anyone today”? Or “In Abraham’s time if you heard a voice it was God, but today it is a sign of insanity”? I’m not sure what your point is, but hope it is not one of these “convenient cop-outs” I’ve suggested…
James, you are saying that our perspective and knowledge of God changes, but not that God doesn’t exist, right? As in the text speaks about a mystery beyond the scientific…am I reading you right?Possibly, it is both historical, as far as our understanding of the “things” AND the individuals involved, as far as faith development, intellectual development and moral development…
Angie, I’m certainly not saying that God doesn’t exist. What I am questioning is whether any of us could be sure we can tell the difference between having had God speak to us in a dream and having dreamt that God spoke to us.If that is so, then how could we justify setting aside our conviction that children are not for killing, and that no God worth worshipping wants us to kill our children, on the basis of having heard a voice?What can and probably should at times affect and change our values are reasoned arguments and the power of stories and shared experiences. People who have witnessed the hardship of slaves, or of poor workers in other countries even today, have found their perceptions of economic and racial justice challenged. And in the case of the Abraham story, I’m convinced the reason it was told was not to encourage child sacrifice, but by telling a story about God preventing Abraham from doing it, to challenge the prevailing custom.Those who criticize the story as immoral may have a point, in a sense, but what they fail to take into account is that they see the problems in the story because of directions in which human values have developed in light of the story. If we see that child sacrifice is wrong, and even thinking one might be called to do so is wrong, we do so only standing on the shoulders of the author of Genesis.
I agree with Bob McDonald’s take on this.Many Bible stories seem to have the effect of addressing specific contemporary “misbehaviours”, for lack of a better word. This story speaks very strongly against child sacrifice, as an example.Mind you, reading Fear and Trembling again also wouldn’t hurt.
Perhaps Abraham assumed (as might have been common back then) that Issac was his possesion. Therefore a call from God for him to sacrifice his Son was a call to surrender a possesion. From God’s perspective there would always be a “way-out” provided and thus his internal morals would be uncompromised, so the question is what did Abraham THINK the implications would be of what God was asking? If Abraham viewed the excercise as the surrender of a possession (evern perhaps his most valued possession) perhaps he had no moral qualm with the sacrifice? There does seem to be some historial evidence to suggest that children/wives were considered possessions in certain ANE cultures. Were a supreme authority to ask the same thing today, I suspect that one’s refusal to comply would be justified because we see a child as something we have no right to determine the death thereof. Perhaps nowadays a sacrifice might involve giving something else up? I’m just guessing here of course.
Pstyle, I think you may have hit the nail on the head as far as what is different between the ancient moral outlook taken for granted in the Abraham story, and our own. Thanks!
Abraham knew God. God had spoken to Abraham in the past. They’d had dealings before. The sacrifice of Isaac was a unique thing between the two of them, so I might at least suggest others refrain from judging too quickly. Context is never a cop out. 😉
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