You Have a Choice
Posted by BrianJ on May 30, 2010
(This is an epilogue to two previous posts: When Abraham Knew and What if Abraham Failed the Test?)
It’s possible to conceive of a different version of the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, one where Abraham makes a different decision (and we learn a different lesson):
Instead of obeying, Abraham refuses on the grounds that killing the innocent is unjust. God persists, even threatens Abraham—to revoke the covenant, even to smite Abraham—yet, Abraham ultimately responds with something like, “Please forsake this command—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” (Compare, Exodus 32:32) God sees what is in Abraham’s heart and relents, praising Abraham for his willingness to sacrifice himself to protect another.
How would we view the story then? Is there still a type of Christ to be found?
But that’s not how Abraham responded. We know the story. However, as discussed in the previous post, we don’t have a lot of detail about what God or Abraham were thinking. So let’s imagine that the text let’s us in a bit more on God’s plan. Suppose that the text tells us that God was actually hoping all along that Abraham would refuse (as imagined above). With that information, we might imagine that when Abraham went ahead with the sacrifice, God was horrified. Nevertheless, we know that God didn’t dismiss Abraham for his “wrong” decision—anymore than he rejected, say, Adam and Eve for theirs—but rather God provided a way out for Abraham, as well as a powerful lesson that, unlike other gods, Jehovah doesn’t want human sacrifice. Abraham returns from the mount a bit scolded, very relieved, and thoroughly pleased with his “new” God.
What I’ve learned from this exercise is that I’m more interested in thinking through someone else’s thinking than I am in making judgments or extracting morals from their stories. I don’t really care whether Abraham made the right or wrong choice—that’s his business, not mine. Abraham was placed in a tough spot, but he still had a choice. Adam and Eve had a choice. Achan had a choice. Joseph Smith had a choice. And when placed in any similar situations, I know that I too have a choice.