Abraham and Isaac – Why, God?

by Jonathan Sherwin

The Bible is perhaps the most-quoted book in circulation today. Verses crop up in government, on University mottos, and across many social events including baptisms, weddings, and funerals.

Aside from spurious quotations in Quentin Tarantino films (*) nearly all of what we snip out of this small library of books consists of nice, positive, heart-warming, soul-stirring platitudes.

But then we pick up a Bible and we read it and we realise there is more, much more, than may have appeared to us on first glance.

Take for example the story of Abraham and Isaac in the Old Testament. Now what on earth was going on there?! Abraham, chosen by God to be the father of a nation, takes his only son, Isaac, through which apparently that promise from God was to be fulfilled, and offers him to God as a sacrifice. Abraham was to kill his only son.

In The Bible through the eyes of an atheist Tom instinctively and correctly wants to know ‘why God would even think …’ about asking Abraham to kill his son, Isaac. In fact, much of the Bible elicits a ‘Why, God?’ response from its readers.

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Our cursory looks lead us to investigate the stories further and we are challenged to suspend judgement until we add context and place the challenging scriptures within the overall framework of the whole of Scripture. After all, the Bible is a unified document and needs to be taken as a complete work.

Backing up a bit, God speaks to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3, with a promise of blessing.

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”” (ESV)

God was going to bless the world, through the family of Abraham. We then skip to 22:2 and we read that God told Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, and, “offer him … as a burnt offering.

At this point Paul Copan in his book Is God A Moral Monster is very useful. He makes four points from the text…

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