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AndrewR

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Abraham and Isaac
« on: March 05, 2018, 06:08:01 am »
I know that the prevailing view here appears to be the Old Testament stories are just that, stories. Made up allegories for use in helping future generations.

I am a bit more of a literalist. I can accept many of the things in the Old Testament. The one I have a problem with the most is the one least difficult to believe, perhaps.

I find it hard to believe that God would ask Abraham to kill Isaac. I find it hard to believe that Abraham would believe God wanted him to do this.

What think ye?
Don't ask me, I only live here.
Nauvoodle since March 2005 #1412
 

Palmon

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Re: Abraham and Isaac
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2018, 10:03:44 am »
There are probably scriptural and spiritual answers. I'm stuck at the emotional level and it's so heart wrenching. Maybe that's the point.
This is an interesting article with lots of references to check out. [url]https://ldsmag.com/how-abrahams-sacrifice-of-isaac-illuminates-the-atonement//url].  One paragraph had a perspective I had never thought of:

Quote
Both Isaac and Christ offered themselves voluntarily. If Isaac was strong enough to carry the wood for a burnt offering on his back, he was likely strong enough to overpower his aged father if he had not wanted to be sacrificed.[12] In the same way, Christ also allowed Himself to be crucified rather than offering any resistance (see Matthew 26:53–54).[13]/quote]


« Last Edit: March 05, 2018, 10:06:36 am by Palmon »
 
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Taalcon

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Re: Abraham and Isaac
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2018, 05:01:44 pm »
Jesus was willing to be killed, rather than stop his work, but the killing of him was still repugnant, and horrific, and murderous.

For me, the killing of Jesus exposed the myth that God is violent, and compels Man to Kill. In the case of Jesus, it was man who compelled violence on an innocent and peaceful God.

I think us being repelled by the idea of Abraham willingly going off to actively kill his son is part of the lesson we SHOULD get from it as we read it today, just as we're repelled by the cries of 'CRUCIFY HIM!'.

God didn't order the Romans to Murder Jesus. He didn't order the Jewish politicos to put pressure on the Romans. What God asked Jesus to do was to Minister. And it was because of his unwillingness to stop ministering and teaching, he was murdered. Jesus knew that, but he kept doing what he was doing because he had faith in the ultimate endgame.

The death, the murder,  wasn't great or beautiful. What is is WHY he was willing to be killed, and what he was doing that caused people to want to kill him. Because his message and mission was understood as key to revealing the true nature of God, and his love for his Children. And then He was Resurrected to show a) God approved of his message, and b) Death is not the end of the message , relating to c) There is Hope for the future, amidst all defeats you might see right now.

It have a hard time seeing how that is compatible with the Abraham/Isaac story, and really dislike the 'It's cool, because it foreshadows the Atonement' take. If anything, my reaction solidifies a conviction that God does NOT order the murder of individuals, especially not as part of a Worthiness Test. (Nephi even tells us he felt repugnant at the notion of killing a passed out Laban, after the thought first came into his mind of Killing him as a simple solution. He tells us of his logical reason why it would be justified, attributed to God, and keeps telling us he did it even though it was repugnant to him. I think there's a LOT going on there, but that's likely a whole other discussion.)

The Abraham story makes me angry. It repels me. It makes me ask questions about who God really is. And that, for me, is where I see its value, and why we're asked to read, ponder, and pray, and, at times,  "ask... if these things are not true".

I really believe that if God will let me know that key things in the scriptures ARE true, he'll be just as willing to tell me, when I ask, if something isn't.
 
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Roper

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Re: Abraham and Isaac
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2018, 09:00:35 pm »
I, too, have often struggled with the story of Abraham.  Abraham knew of, rejected, and condemned the horrific practices of human sacrifice in worship.  And here was Abraham's God, commanding him to do that very thing.  To his own son.  Who had been given to him by God as his hope for posterity. Why that trial?

Here is what Joseph Smith taught: “You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God. . . . God will feel after you, and he will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God."

D&C 101:4-5: "Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son. For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified."

Truman Madsen, quoting Hugh B. Brown about this very question, said, “Abraham needed to learn something about Abraham.”

So the answer is really a personal question:  What will I want to keep back from the Lord when he calls for consecration?

Maybe Elder Maxwell answered that:  "...the submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!"




 
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Roper

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Re: Abraham and Isaac
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2018, 08:06:47 pm »
What God asked Jesus to do was to Minister. And it was because of his unwillingness to stop ministering and teaching, he was murdered. Jesus knew that, but he kept doing what he was doing because he had faith in the ultimate endgame.

Thank you for that, Taalcon.  This helps me with a current struggle I'm having as a teacher. Without disclosing inappropriate details,  I'll just say that I am experiencing growing opposition to the way I differentiate instruction and advocate for kids who are being marginalized. I've received "concerns," directives, and even threats. But I can't just shut my mouth and keep my head down and be part of a broken system that fails children year after year. That's not who I am.
 
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Jason

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Re: Abraham and Isaac
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2018, 09:17:16 pm »
For me, one point of the story is that Abraham had just fled a place where the people practiced human sacrifice. Abraham must have really developed the ability to know when God was speaking to him verses his own inner voice. If this was me, I would further need to be sure that it was not schizophrenia. Since I know that I currently have not experienced that level of clarity of communication with God, I can be sure that any such thoughts like that are not of God.
 
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Panama Jones

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Re: Abraham and Isaac
« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2018, 08:41:54 pm »
I also struggle with this story, but for different reasons--and please note that the story is what it is and the interpretation says much more about the interpreter than it does about the story.

I am uncomfortable with the idea that God would try and trick Abraham. This suggests to me that I can't really trust God to be truthful with me and that I can't really know His objectives. It makes Him into a manipulative God, which I don't accept. I believe that God is honest and I can rely on Him completely, and not because He will provide a ram in a thicket at the last second.

I am also uncomfortable with the idea that God sets us up for loyalty tests. It strikes me a bit like the Jonestown Massacre, where Jim Jones told his followers to drink kool-aid mixed with cyanide. I don't believe God sets up tests that we can "pass" or "fail" based on fear and personality. I believe in a loving God who, rather than giving me tests, is with me as I experience the natural tests of mortality.

I also feel that the story can be taken to promote grandiosity, like I need to prove my love and devotion to God by doing something dramatic, rather than the more mundane forms of devotion like prayer, scripture study and home teaching. I don't believe it's the big things but all the little things (that sometimes end up being big things) that show where are hearts are.

None of these, of course, are the "true" interpretation of the story. I do relate strongly to Roper's comment about God requiring all of us. What do I keep back from the Lord? Would I give Him my only son? Well, that's really my son's decision, not mine, but the principle is the same--am I willing to give away anything and everything to know Him? And that answer is yes. Not half my kingdom, but all of it.
 
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pnr

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Re: Abraham and Isaac
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2018, 10:39:07 pm »
How is God asking more of Abraham, than He asked of Himself?

But maybe the point of the story is that each of us has to not necessarily GIVE our all, but be prepared fully TO give our all.  To fully trust Him.  To become like Him/Her.
Nauvoo 1270, Feb 2005
 
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Taalcon

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Re: Abraham and Isaac
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2018, 12:13:07 pm »
How is God asking more of Abraham, than He asked of Himself?

For one? God didn't ask himself to personally plunger a dagger into his son's heart with his own hands, and then burn the corpse to prove devotion to a higher power, believing he'd never see that son again, and that a replacement would suffice as part of the Divine Promise.

See, as I approach this, We are all God's sons and daughters. That paradigm, as we understand it today changes EVERYTHING about how we should understand the scriptures of the past where that concept wasn't understood by those writing the texts.

Our understanding today is that he sent us, members of his family, his children (adopted or otherwise) all to school, and we agreed to be subject to the conditions of the world in which we would live. That involves mutations that cause sickness. That includes individuals who, because of circumstances/choices, becomes cruel, and do horrible things. It includes terrible accidents that happen by chance.  It wasn't a case of "We'll go to earth, and we'll learn by allowing God to torture us." It was "We'll go to earth, and agree to learn by being subject to the terms of what naturally follows from being part of a body that is part of this world."

Important, for the relevance of this conversation? The long-standing original audience (and characters) of the Genesis story (and I don't mean the doctrinally modern Book of Abraham) didn't have the view of a premortal world and a Resurrection in the way we do now. Death, for them, lead to a descent into Sheol/the Grave. This wasn't temporary, this was The End. Giving something to God was not believing they would get it back. Abraham would have trusted that the promises would be fulfilled in spite of Isaac being gone, not that Isaac would be brought back. Isaac would be gone, and replaced by a new Heir. (The same mindset of, yes, in the story, all of Job's kids were killed, but in the end, he had more kids, so it all turned out fine. They were replaced!). One's hope wasn't living forever, it was having one's POSTERITY perpetuate (through replacement) with status.

Put bluntly, for me, it's helpful to understand that the God characterized in the original Abraham story acts in a way consistent with an earlier understanding/paradigm of what God represented. That God was the epitome of an ancient King, who was loyal to his subjects as they were loyal to them, and was dedicated to preserving and building up the Kingdom within his walls, and expanding those walls. Disloyal members were tossed out to the burning garbage dump, and were Not Protected. God, the King, was a preserver and a conqueror. The King could do the impossible - including building a Promised Dynasty even the only living heir were to be killed. The God of this story wanted Abraham to understand and to fully trust his Sovereignty. The moral of the story is, God Needs His Covenant Kingdom To Trust That Their King Will Fulfill His Promises, Even In The Most Impossible of Circumstances.

I don't think taking the story as-is helps us to understand something about God, if we start by assuming that God in the story acts in a way that God, as we understand him today,would act today .

When we view God from the paradigm of the Father of All, with all beginning as part of the Kingdom, forgetting, and then needing to choose to be a part of the Family again as they rediscover it ... the Father of the Parable of the Prodigal Son ... so many characterizations of God from the old paradigm ... don't fit. The stories need to be culturally "translated" to make sense. If they aren't, you get a jumbled doctrinal mess. The story, removed from its context in beliefs and audience, can easily not resonate with truth.

Old wine into new wineskins, you might say.

Learning about the evolution of Man's understanding of God and Man's relationship TO God through the stories they told others about Him can be powerful. You can see revelation happening through the questions and conundrums and crises the believers of that God came upon that forced a break with the old understanding.

While a greater understanding of what the original message conveyed by the story will be helped by knowing details of context, you don't need to know that stuff if you're willing to pay attention to promptings, your feelings, and to ask searching questions of God about what you read. (Ideally, I think one should do that regardless if you have a cultural understanding or not!). Joseph got a TON of new doctrinal understanding and knowledge by misunderstanding a story, but still asking the honest questions his mis-readings prompted.

That doesn't mean the reading that prompted the question is being confirmed as the correct one - it just means God can teach us powerful truths in SPITE of our understanding, as long as we're open to them.

"Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit. Remember, it was the questions young Joseph asked that opened the door for the restoration of all things. We can block the growth and knowledge our Heavenly Father intends for us. How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?" -   - Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I really dislike the Abraham story. I don't think, as-is, that it portrays an accurate picture of God. But I absolutely see its scriptural and relevatory value, and absolutely get why it (and a host of many other horrifying stories) remain in our scriptural canon.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2018, 12:17:26 pm by Taalcon »
 
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cook

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Re: Abraham and Isaac
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2018, 02:58:44 pm »

So...

we don't know which parts are just a story making a point and which are actual facts.
If it's just a story pointing out certain principles and lessons, we can learn them. No allegory, story is ever perfect, there are always things that don't quite fit.

If it truly was factual, that God commanded Abraham to offer up Isaac, He must have had His reasons. Even if I don't understand them, or find them hard to accept, He is God so I better accept it and trust that one day my understanding will be broadened and I will understand it fully.

Which ever it was,  just a story or a fact I don't need to know that now. I just need to try to put into action what I learn from it. Like always doing what God tells. Like trusting God. Like being humble enough. Like wanting more what is of God than that what is just my own liking. That's plenty for me to work on.
 
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Jason

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Re: Abraham and Isaac
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2018, 02:14:10 pm »
What I find most unbelievable from the Abraham story is that Sarah had a son at the age written about her. But I have difficulty with the ages and life spans as presented in the old testament.
 
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Enochscion

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Re: Abraham and Isaac
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2018, 07:08:04 pm »
I'll agree with not really liking the idea. But then again, I can't disregard the D&C quote. I also tend to err on the side of trusting later prophetic interpretations (such as those of the New Testament apostles that reference this) unless I have a really good reason to doubt them.

Since I agree with most of you that something that feels wrong probably isn't right, this tells me there is something I don't understand about the story.

I will posit, however, that I don't think the ancients were necessarily as messed up backwards as we think. Yes, it is true that there have been advancements over time in people's recognition of the evils of violence and such things. But I take it at face value that those such as the people of Enoch who formed their Zion of righteousness, or Mormon, Moroni, and other Book of Mormon prophets whose commentary expressed views much more acceptable to modern audiences (and even looked with disgust upon the violence of our age) than certain biblical accounts, were actual people who lived at these time periods, and Heavenly Father actually was able to and did get a true spirit of charity into the hearts of even these ancient barbarians. ;D
 
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