Jul. 18, 2021
“Faith and Other Possibilities” -- Genesis 22: 1-19; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-12
Introduction - Christian Faith and Paradox
We can respond to God in faith, and act by faith, or we can choose other ways of responding and acting.
When asked about what Christian faith is, what would you say?
Many compare Christian faith to a blind leap in the dark.
Others reject this “blind leap” view of Christian faith and think of it as an intellectual strategy game.
Example of jumping off a high dive: Nothing prepares you for what it feels like to have to take that final step off the plank and jump.
Christian faith requires jumping off a precipice with facts in hand, but sometimes it requires jumping even in spite of what one sees as the facts.
The story of Abraham in Genesis 22 is such a moment where the facts seem to contradict one another but having faith requires action.
Abraham knew God’s promise.
God’s command in Genesis 22 to sacrifice Isaac seems to directly contradict God’s earlier promise. Learning more facts will not help Abraham when he is commanded to sacrifice Isaac.
Christian faith is neither entirely intellectual or all blind leaps; it is both and at times paradoxical.
Three Orienting Questions for Genesis 22:
What has God promised?
What has God commanded?
What should we do?
Our focus will be on two aspects:
Abraham’s obedience to God through action.
Abraham’s unfailing trust that God would fulfill the earlier promise made
We can sum this up in two ways (consistent with one another):
Faith is an action and an attitude.
And faith is a process not a result.
Some Observations from the Text of Genesis 22:
Abraham’s response to God’s command takes place over time through many actions.
As Abraham does all of these things, he is holding onto the paradox in his mind:
God promised I would have many descendants through Isaac
God has commanded me to sacrifice Isaac.
The angel of the Lord gives a hint about what was going on inside Abraham while he was doing all of these things: “...Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son...”
Faith and Other Possibilities
In Fear and Trembling (1843), Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard imagined four different versions of the story of the binding of Isaac -- in each Abraham “passes the test” from God but does not do so by faith.
In the imagined accounts and the Genesis account, Abraham obeyed God and went to the mountain to sacrifice Isaac.
In all of these accounts, Abraham did not simply choose to obey or disobey God. Abraham chose how to obey.
Hebrews 11:19: “Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”
Faith is a process of trust and confidence over time.
Back to the Three Orienting Questions
What has God promised? To us: Deuteronomy 31:6 and repeated in Hebrew 13:6.
What has God commanded? To us: John 13:34 and Matthew 5: 38-48
What should we do? To us: Do not merely obey God’s commands. Choose how you will obey them -- by faith.