Skip to main content

inconsistent or what

I have been having a discussion with some friends about the seeming contradictions of God as portrayed in the Bible. The particular story which was the focus of our talk was the one where God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. This could be construed as murder, which is strictly forbidden in the commandments which were cited earlier. I must confess, this story has always annoyed me a bit, as Abraham seems to be at the mercy of a God who demands something outrageous one moment, then changes his mind, all because he proved a point or Abraham passed the test or whatever the goal was. I guess we all hate the feeling of being a pawn in some larger game in which we have no control. I know I do. But I must also remember that from the start (that would be Genesis), God insisted that man have the freedom to choose. And choice is what takes us to where we are going.

Anyway, in my friend's living room, while we were talking and venting and in general just being honest about how this story made us feel, I suddenly had the overwhelming sense that God's presence was very near me. Then I heard him say (in the kindest voice, audible only to myself), "Mattie, Mattie, Mattie. You have let these things come between us. These things that you don't understand. You don't trust me in these places. Just let them go. You can trust me."

I was undone. I saw my unbelief and how I was withholding myself from God because I didn't care for his methods (polar opposite of Abraham's response, you might observe). And then I let the distrust go. I let go the misunderstanding I was carrying. I let my wary and cynical guard down and I chose to trust.

It is easy to confuse the two: a) a perception of inconsistency and b) unfaithfulness, but they are not equal. God's behaviour may seem erratic to us but that is because he dwells beyond the four dimensions that I am comfortable with. The stories and words in the Bible cannot encompass his character or adequately describe him, but they give us a glimpse of faithfulness that defies anything we have ever experienced on this earth. He will never leave me. He might do things I do not understand (in fact, I am certain he will because my understanding is less than God's by definition, especially in light of my limited view of time), but he will never be found unfaithful. He will stick by me when I am trusting and when I doubt. He will always respond to my call and my desire to come close. He will never put me in a position that cannot be turned into good. He will always do what he says. He will always be making things right. And in the end, he will always be trustworthy.

This is the snow on my deck today as seen through the vertical blinds.

Comments

shane magee said…
good post matte. god questions too. i have similar ones http://tinyurl.com/3ygsxt. questioning is not necessarily the same as disobeying or not trusting. we are not called to blind obedience ("i was only following orders") - rather we are called to a relationship, one which allows for questions, dissent, temper, accusation. job, jacob, jeremiah, abraham (all the time except this time!), moses and the psalmists knew this kind of relationship. i believe we have lost something in believing ourselves not intimate enough with god to question him at all.
Richard Harty said…
One is certainly free to interpret the Bible in a more mystical fashion. I think we can also look at the story of Abraham and Isaac as a particular apologetic.

One gets the sense from particular stories in the Bible that sacrificing one's first born was one of the highest regarded offerings. And the Israelites might have been criticized for only sacrificing animals and not being as dedicated to their god as the nations around them were to theirs. We know a number of them practiced human sacrifice.

So, a story about Abraham intending to sacrifice his own son and then being prevented from doing so by God or in the actual language Ba-el (Lord God) would tend to avert the critical attacks in regard to loyalty and willingness to sacrifice for one's own god.

This also might mark a point where Israel stopped practicing human sacrifice and this was the apologetic designed to move the sacrificial system to animals. There are strong indications that in certain rare cases human sacrifice was acceptable in Israel.
Shelley said…
About a month ago I had a very good cry over all the stuff I don't understand about God and how I had let it get between us. It creates little doubts, little walls, little points of contention and insecurity. Much like what you are saying here. And there are things I really want him to do...and what that might do to "us" if he doesn't. I let it all go, gave it all up. My relationship with Him is way more important to me than anything I want him to do, and more important than me understanding everything too.

Popular posts from this blog

what does the cross mean?

Words which we use a lot can sometimes become divested of their depth of meaning. In the Christian tradition, we talk about the cross a lot. We see visual representations of the cross in prominent places in our gathering spaces, we wear crosses around our necks, some get crosses tattooed on their bodies. The cross is a ubiquitous symbol in Christianity, so lately I have been asking myself, what exactly does the cross mean? For the most part, the cross as portrayed in contemporary Christianity is a beautiful thing, festooned with flowers and sunsets and radiant beams of light (just google cross or cross coloring page). But in the first century, the cross was a symbol of disgrace. To the Roman empire, this ignoble instrument of death was for those who were traitors and enemies of the state. We are many centuries removed from this view of the cross as the locus of torture and death and shame. The fact that Christianity has made the cross a symbol of hope and beauty is a good thing, but p…

stained and broken

Recently, I was asked to speak at another church, and the passage of Scripture which was assigned to me was John 1:6-8. "There came a man commissioned and sent from God, whose name was John. This man came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe [in Christ, the Light] through him. John was not the Light, but came to testify about the Light." (John 1:6-8, Amplified Bible)

The first question I usually ask when reading something in the Bible is this: What does this tell me about God? Two things are immediately obvious - God is a sending God and God wants to communicate - but there is a third which merits a bit more attention. Though God could communicate directly with humanity, sending truth and love to every individual via some divine mind-and-heart-meld, God chooses to send messengers. Not only that, instead of introducing Jesus directly to the world as the main event, an opening, warm-up act appears as a precursor. What is the point of incorporati…

the songs we sing

NOTE: I am going to make some pretty strong statements below, but understand that it is my way of taking an honest, hard look at my own worship experience and practice. My desire is not to be overly critical, but to open up dialogue by questioning things I have assumed were totally fine and appropriate. In other words, I am preaching to myself. Feel free to listen in.

---------------------

When I am in a church meeting during the singing time, I sometimes find myself silent, unable to get the words past my lips. At times I just need a moment of stillness, time to listen, but other times, the words make me pause because I don't know that I can sing them honestly or with integrity. This is a good thing. We should never mindlessly or heartlessly sing songs just because everyone else is. We should care deeply about what we say in our sung, communal worship.

At their best, songs sung by the gathered body of Christ call to life what is already in us: the hope, the truth, the longing, t…