“Abraham Rose Early in the Morning”

This is the story of a tattoo.

There was a book published in 2004 by Norman Geisler titled “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.” In that title alone, Geisler captured the spirit of an entire generation of Christians: Christianity is the logical conclusion of any rational person. A posture that, in my opinion and in my experience, has easily led to stale arrogance.

In 1843 Soren Kierkegaard (SK) published a book as well. It was called Fear & Trembling and it looked at the story of The Binding of Isaac from Genesis 22. My faith has been shaped in so many ways by that book and the people who have read it with me.

In it, SK notes that faith is not reasonable. In fact, once we make faith reasonable it comes undone, because no faith is needed to believe in the reasonable. In the Christian faith, we do not follow a reasonable set of doctrine and dogma, but an unreasonable and passionate Person. SK embarrassingly reminds us that the God we follow asked Abraham to slaughter his only son, the son that God himself promised to Abraham. As SK says in yet another book, “Christianity has become a worldview. Thus, before I get involved I must first justify it. Good night to Christianity! Now doubt has surely conquered. And this doubt can never be halted by reasons…No, doubt can only be halted by imitation.”

But the story of myself and so many people I meet is this: They leave the comforts of their conservative enclaves and are convinced (some would say “deceived”) of the reality of evolution, the historical limitations of the Scriptures, the humanity of the homosexual, the ubiquitous reality of death, famine, war, and disease, and that, horror of horrors, truth is not always absolute.*

We are crushed when we find out that the world is not as “reasonable” as once told.

And yet, the world we had created for ourselves needed a God who is reasonable. And so, we cannot live in these two worlds at the same time. One has to go. Either we stop believing in God or we stop believing in the world (that is, we pretend the world is otherwise and make sure we once again surround ourselves with people who think like we do lest we get “deceived” again).

In Fear & Trembling, Kierkegaard gave me a third option. I can admit that I have put God in a box, shackled by my fear of uncertainty, my worship of certainty, and my need to control God by reducing him to a set of beliefs and behaviors. I can then follow a dangerous God. A God, I admit, I do not always like and rarely understand.

This is what Abraham does when he does not hit the snooze button the morning he is to sacrifice his son to God, as I would have done. No, he not only obeys, he obeys with fervor. After he is told what he must do, “Abraham Rose Early in the Morning” (Gen. 22:3).

*n.b.: I have no problems with anyone who holds to any position on these issues. It is not the position we hold to that disappoints me, it is the iron fist with which we hold them, willing to label any as heretics if they dare touch my sacred cow(s)(herd).

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14 responses to ““Abraham Rose Early in the Morning”

  1. The author of Hebrews states that “Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead.” I would argue that, in that sense, faith is indeed “reasonable.”

    In his song “Everybody’s Hurting,” Jakob Dylan writes (quotes?) “faith is believing what you see ain’t so.” I like the song, but I would say that that view (faith is denying reality) misses the substance of it. Faith is believing that, in spite of what you see, there is always more to the story – the story is not finished, and there is an improbable, humanly impossible ending to this broken, painful chapter.

    I read somewhere that, while reason alone will not lead you to faith, faith once arrived at is reasonable. However, I tend to agree that such a conclusion is only legitimately arrived at via the “third way.”

    Thank you for sharing about your journey. May you continue to rise early, “captured by a love [you] don’t deserve or understand” (Randy Stonehill, “Prisoner of Hope”)

    • I think your view and Dylan’s are quite similar – “what you see ain’t so” seems to be the same as saying “Surely this can’t be it. This can’t be everything, the end of the story.” How do you see them differently?

      Thanks for your thoughts Mark!

      • To me, Dylan is communicating that faith is a leap against logic, a calculated decision to deny the evidence of one’s eyes in favor of a hope for something better.

        I would argue that faith anticipates more facets than are presently seen, rather than closing one’s eyes and covering one’s ears. Dylan faith is an attempt to “un-see,” while my definition of faith hinges on what is unseen.

    • Fortunately, it is the general theme of a whole strand of Christian thought. And this strand is gaining steam in the evangelical world…finally. I think Walter Brueggemann has articulated it best in many of his books.

  2. I love my colin cow(herds)!

    – “the reality of evolution” & “it is the iron fist with which we hold them”
    (sounds a little dogmatic)

    • Hey Stu – of course, my point is not that we cannot stand for things. It is that we allow grace to supercede our need to be right. We are all dogmatic about things and I would hope so. I never said we shouldn’t be dogmatic, we just should not let the foundation of our faith be dogma.

  3. I agree with Jason. Jared hit me square where I am, in my understandings, with so many of those thoughts. I think I(we) have gotten here because of our continuation of seeking God (asking questions) – ie) Matt 7, particularly verse 7. I have gotten to this place by not being satisfied that all answers the American Church has come up with are to be accepted without question or doubt (or you are not a believer).

    Test everything. Hold on to the good. 1Thessalonians 5:21

    One position I hold with an iron fist and is the groundwork that has been explained to me in Mark 12:28-…

    There are a few other “iron fists” I hold. But many more open hands (mind), from not until my dying day. Glory be to God.

  4. Friend, this is not SK’s point, here. The leap of faith is never presented as something irrational and Abe is not acting unreasonably. SK is trying to get us away from reducing Christianity to pure reason and ethics to the categorical.

    In the Christian faith we believe in a Person–which is to say reasonable and apparently passionate: two things which are not mutually exclusive and indeed constitutive of personhood. And to preserve knowledge of this Person and his Holy Scriptures, which can–you are right–only be revealed historically (which means changing knowledge and maybe changing truth!), we have doctrine and dogma. Otherwise we who lust for the temporal will forget the truth of this Eternal Person. Indeed, without holding tight to our doctrine, we might even become rationalistic about our faith! To which, however, we respond with love: which is reasonable and active and passionate.

    To trust in the word of the Lord is not unreasonable, it is faithful. Let us not conflate words that are not synonymous.

  5. Pingback: It Takes More Faith to be an Atheist | Jared Byas

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