Bone asks some very good questions
about the chilling story of Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his
son (found in Genesis chap. 22).
<<"If I or you, dear
reader, hear voices in the night telling us to kill our child should we act on
them? How could I be certain that the voice is Yahweh’s and not
Beelzebub’s. Is Abraham’s act an act of insanity? Isn’t
Yahweh’s request immoral? Would Abraham have been justified in responding,
“My god is a loving and merciful god and wouldn’t ask me to do
These are good questions, and defenders
of the Christian faith have had considerable difficulty in responding to them
(note especially that there is no uniformity in their answers to such
questions). How would a believer like Abraham, when hearing a voice command
him to do anything (much less than calling for him to sacrifice his son),
distinguish this voice from his own emotions, desires or halucinations? In
other words, by what means does the believer determine that it is God's
voice, and not the voice of some competitor (as Bone suggests), or one's own
derranged impulses? The Bible does not tell us what God's voice sounds
like or how to make such distinctions, but according to the Genesis story,
Abraham clearly recognized it to be God's voice somehow (or
Some believers, recognizing that such
questions are surely valid if they expect non-believers to take their
religious defenses seriously, will cite instructions from the New Testament,
such as I John 4:1, which states: "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but
try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone
out into the world." Other believers caution that employing this verse on
what God is saying to them is paramount to tempting God, which is
prohibited in Matt. 4:7 where Jesus repeats Deut. 6:16.
So, the believer who hears a voice but
is uncertain whose voice it is, is in a real quandary: If he acts on the voice
without knowing whose voice it is, he may be following the orders of "the
enemy." On the other hand, if he follows I John 4:1's advise and attempts
to "try the spirit" vocalizing to him, he may find himself in peril
because it could be God's voice after all, and now he'd be guilty of tempting
the Lord, according to many believers. So, he's really stuck here.
But I think even more important than
all these matters (since many believers will tell you, "You just
know" when God talks to you; was that true for Jim Jones and David
Koresh?), is what I consider to be the real lesson of the Abraham/Isaac
And that lesson is: The God of the
Bible is not a God with whom the believer can reason.
If we read the story, we find God's
instruction to Abraham in Gen. 22:2. In Gen. 22:3, we have Abraham dutifully
getting up early in the morning (apparently he's enthusiastic to carry out
this deed?) and taking two of his henchmen along with his son as God
At no point do we see Abraham
attempting to reason with God. Abraham doesn't stop and say, "Now Lord,
did I hear you right? Do you really want me to do this? Isaac is my
son, and I love Isaac [see. Gen. 22:2 where God acknowledges this], and surely
there must be some other means to achieve your goal here."
We don't find a heroic Abraham who protests
to God, "Lord, Isaac my son is a human being, and he has the right to his
existence. I am a man of integrity and I will not do what you ask, I
shall let him live. You will have to deal with me instead if you
want blood!" for indeed, the Bible authors seem much more concerned
with drawing blood than securing individual rights!
Instead, Abraham's actions model unquestioning
obedience, and no attempt to reason with God to strike a compromise
or change in plan.
Christians tell me that their
relationship with God is a personal relationship. But I already know
that I cannot personally relate to those with whom reasoning is impossible. So
quickly do believers lose site of the enormous context of the huge
package-deal their belief system compels them to accept.