Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lecture 5: Isaac

Lecture 5: Isaac
What moral judgment should be made concerning Abraham?  Concerning God?

On the surface, the story seems to call for us to judge Abraham as good, for his obedience.  C.S. Lewis says, in his book Mere Christianity, that we all have an internal capacity to judge right from wrong – he sees it as evidence of our creation by God.  We know that child sacrifice – child murder – even as commanded by a god, is wrong.  We cringe at this story, because we judge God as wrong for his demand of the sacrifice and Abraham as wrong in his obedience.  We hesitate to say it, because God is God, and we are not, and yet our moral compass comes from God, and this passage makes that compass spin.  How do we come to terms with the Akedah?

Sacrifice was as common in antiquity as television is today.  Why did it become less common, and is it something that has replaced or should be revived?

I have no desire to go back to sacrifice as outlined in the Old Testament, and I don’t think God has called us to do that.  Jesus was the ultimate, never-needs-to-be-repeated sacrifice.  Our idea of offering as worship could be strengthened, and we would benefit from it.

Why might Judaism have chosen this passage as the New Year (Rosh ha-Shanah) reading?

The main themes of the Prayer Service for Rosh ha-Shanah are repentance by man and judgment by God.  Sacrifice, in the Old Testament, was often about repentance – could this story be a repentance / sacrifice story?  Does God “staying the hand of Abraham” translate into an image of mercy?

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