Let’s go back to robots (as all theological discussions ultimately must). In Dan Simmon’s SciFi masterpiece, Hyperion, one of the main characters Sol has a reoccurring dream in which he hands over his daughter (who has been aging backwards due to Merlin’s disease) to a spatial and temporal shifting mechanical creature called the Shrike.
In the dream, Sol resists with the following dialog:
“Sol! Take your daughter, your only daughter, Rachel, whom you love, and go to the world called Hyperion and offer her there as a burnt offering at one of the places of which I shall tell you.”
Sol’s arms were shaking with rage and grief. He pulled at his hair and shouted into the darkness, repeating what he at told that voice before:
“There will be no more offerings, neither child nor parent. There will be no more sacrifices. The time of obedience and atonement is past. Either help us as a friend, or go away.”
The Shrike, covered with spikes and blades, is terrifying because it attacks without reason or rationality (Why my fascination with bladed automatons you may wonder?). It stalks trough time and space, and is apparently invincible. In the end, as a desperate act of faith, Sol places his daughter on an alter (as his daughter was about to age to her pre-birth condition and wink out of existance) and she is taken away by the Shrike.
The book continues:
It had been hours since had handed his only child to the Shrike. It had been days since he had eaten or slept.
. . .
For most of his life and for all his career, Sol Weintraub the historian-cum-classicst-cum-philosopher had dealt with the ethics of human religious behavior. Religion and ethics were not always or frequently-mutually compatible. The demands of religious absolution or fundamentalism or rampaging relativism often reflected the worst aspects of contemporary culture or prejudices rather than a system which both man and God could live under with a sense of real justice. Sol’s most famous book, finally titled Abraham’s Dilemma when it was brought out in mass-market edition in numbers he had never dreamed of while producing volumes for academic presses, had been written when Rachel was dying of Merlin’s sickness and dealt, obviously, enough, with Abraham’s hard choice of obeying or disobeying God’s direct command for him to sacrifice his Son.
He reflects on Abraham sacrifice in light of what he has just done in offering his daughter to the Shrike
With a sudden clarity which went beyond the immediacy of his pain or sorrow, Sol Wientraub suddenly understood perfectly why Abraham had agreed to sacrifice Isaac, his son, when the Lord commanded him to do so.
It was not obedience.
It was not even to put the love of God above the love of his son.
Abraham was testing God.
By denying the sacrifice at the last moment, by stopping the knife, God had earned the right—in Abraham’s eyes and the hearts of his offspring—to become the God of Abraham.
Sol shuddered as he thought of how no posturing on Abraham’s part no shamming of his willingness to sacrifice the boy, could have served to forge that bond between grater power and humankind. Abraham had to know in his own heart that he would kill his son. The Deity, whatever form it then took had to know Abraham’s determination, had to feel that sorrow and commitment to destroy what was to Abraham the most precious thing in the universe.
Abraham came not to sacrifice, but to know once and for all wither this God was a god to be trusted and obeyed. No other test would do.
The idea of testing God is not something we talk about but there are lots of scriptural precedents.
Gideon and the fleece test.
scriptures like, “Prove me herewith . . .”
In any case, this interpretation of Abraham was something that I had never considered before. Kierkegaard reenvisions the Abraham / Isaac story in many ways. So does Jung. But I have never thought of it as a story of Abraham testing God before to find out if He were really worthy of worship. Interesting idea. Is there room for that interpretation in our LDS view? Can we test God? And if we can in what sense? In classic theology one of the things that makes God God (unpack that if you want) is that He is worthy to be worshiped. Can we test that assumption in furnace of experience like Sol above speculated that Abraham did? What would that mean (Say, beyond the Moroni 10:4-type test)?