Thursday, 26 June 2014

Is this controversial?


Like every good library, the Bible is full of variety.  There are books we'll love, some we'll like, others we might not read or even know are there, and, of course, the ones we don't like.  Sometimes it's not even a book, it's just a story.

The Sacrifice of Isaac  by Adi Holzer (1997).
I don't like the story of God testing Abraham by demanding that he sacrifice his son Isaac (a son, the story says, that God gifted to Abraham and Sarah in their very old age).  Abraham is actually willing to go through with it, but is stopped at the last moment by an angel.

He passed the test.

And that's why I don't like the story.  Not that he passed the test, but that it was a test.

There's other reasons to not like the story, I know.  It's abusive and seemingly heartless God, for one, the demand of the death of a child, for another.  There are many theologians, though, who dismiss that as a surface reading of the story and suggest that a deeper reading draws out the issues of faith, obedience and trust and the role of the story as prefiguring the story of Jesus' death.

There's much more, obviously, but I have trouble going there with this story because I don't get past how it starts: "After these things God tested Abraham" (Genesis 22:1).

Does God really test us?  I wonder about that.  I think we test ourselves and I think the world tests us.  And we naturally compete with each other and the world around us.  God is with us at all times - in all "tests" - but I have trouble believing that God tests those to whom he offers unconditional love and grace.

I think God wants us to succeed at living.  And dying, whenever it's time.  In fact, God wants us to have the fullest, most complete and whole life we can in the time that we have, whatever that time is.  That time that is so dramatically impacted by our relationship with the rest of living things.

But we have the free will to choose our path.  So I wonder if maybe there was a time when we needed to tell stories about God where we gave God human characteristics, like the need for proof and the power and control that comes with the obedience of others.  That way, we'd know that the right path was doing as we're told and following the word of the law.

But the Word became flesh, as John says, and we had a living example to follow, a life that showed us God's love and grace is offered to all, whatever their journey.  However life tests us, challenges us, breaks us or rewards us, God is with us.