If you haven’t noticed from my posts, there are many issues which I haven’t thought about in great detail or depth, but that I like to pontificate about anyway. One such issue is the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac in the book of Genesis.
I’m no scriptorian or scholar of any kind of the Old Testament. So my hope is that some will be able to shed a positive light on what strikes me as an appalling story – at least the way it is used in the Church. Given that much is made of Abraham’s tremendous love of Isaac, I assume the story is one of the importance of submitting to God’s will and being obedient. The obvious allusion to the sacrifice of Christ is also present. Yet this particular story carries some very unpleasant baggage with it about the nature of God and what he might ask us to do.
For my part, I picture the story in today’s time and world, and any attempt to make it personal leaves me sick. If any parent attempted to sacrifice their child by claiming God told them to do it, would any of us have any doubt that they were nuts? Would any of us hesitate to contact the proper authorities if a relative, friend, or neighbor mentioned they needed to sacrifice their child? Can any of us imagine raising a knife to our own children, ready to cut their throats or stab their hearts? Such an image is fairly graphic, but I think if we embrace a literal interpretation of these scriptures, we should be aware of precisely what such a sacrifice entails.
Certainly there are better ways to teach us about the importance of obedience, submission to God’s will, and the importance of the Savior’s atonement. I can’t fathom feeling too kindly towards anyone or anything that demanded I kill my own child. How would one worship God in confidence after such an event? If God is our parent, shouldn’t he of all people understand? Can you imagine telling your own child to get ready to kill a beloved pet or possession, only to say “Just kidding! – I just wanted to test you” at the last minute?
I have yet to find much that is positive in the story. I love the words of Clifton Jolley at the Sunstone symposium in Dallas: “There’s only one answer a parent should ever give when asked to kill a child – N0! You respond to the request by saying, ‘You’re God; give him cancer, and his mother and I will take care of him before he dies.'”