22nd August 2011

Divine Child Abuse? 

“Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
Genesis 22:12 (NIV) 

Atheist Richard Dawkins accuses God of, “divine child abuse”, for asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and also for the willingness to sacrifice His Son on the cross. 

What we must keep in mind is that our moral understanding is partly shaped by certain facts about the world.  One fact that Dawkins does not believe, is God’s ability to resurrect the dead to life.  Dawkins views this world from a perspective where there is no supernatural being who is able to bring people back from the dead.  This shapes his understanding and interpretation of God’s motivation. Given Abraham knew that Isaac, being the child of promise and instrument of blessing to all nations, would have to live to adulthood, he believed that God would be faithful to His covenant promise and, if necessary, bring Isaac back from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19).  Abraham, despite circumstances which seemed to contradict what he knew of God’s faithfulness, trusted in and obeyed God. 

This understanding of the reality of God’s faithfulness shaped Abraham’s moral stance and made his decision an acceptable one.  Certainly, without that assurance, it would have indeed been murder.  However, God never intended for Abraham to kill Isaac. 

Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac anticipated God’s self-sacrifice in Christ.  Abraham demonstrated his faithfulness to God, and God’s sacrifice demonstrated His faithfulness to us.  The kind of demand God made of Abraham was one the Triune God was willing to carry out Himself.  Paul uses this story to remind believers of God’s supreme dedication and absolute commitment to us: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32. 

Father, thank you for your faithfulness to your promises.  Help us to trust in you that no matter how difficult the circumstances, you will fulfil all that you have promised in Christ.

Study by Ian Smillie

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