Fr Dominic
Parish Priest

The story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac is a strange story. In truth, it is a shocking story. What is most disturbing is the image of God that comes across. We must try to understand what the story is meant to convey. It has something very import ant to tach us. As a story it is a very clever one. It sets out in the opposite direction to that in which it hope to leave the listener. It starts out by seeming to say that God approves of human sacrifice and even, on occasion, demands it. But its object is to show the exact opposite. It tries to show us that human sacrifice is, in fact, abhorrent to God. What God appears to ask of Abraham is so cruel, and unjust it makes us want to cry out ‘Stop,! This is wrong. This is terrible!’ we are revolted by the idea of the elderly Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. Our sense of revulsion is heightened by the special burden of hope that rested on Isaac’s youthful shoulders – the fulfilment of the promise that Abraham would have numerous descendants.
The aim of the story is to evoke horror at the idea of God demanding the sacrifice of human beings. Abraham lived among the Canaanites who practiced human sacrifice. He must have somehow got the idea that God was demanding this deed from him. But showed him otherwise. This was meant to put an end to human sacrifices to God. Why did God test Abraham? So that the world would know that if anyone tells us, ‘I am committing murder in the name of God,’ we’ll know that he is a liar. That is the unanimous opinion of the Orthodox Jewish Tradition. Sadly, killing in the name of God has been widely practised down the ages. In our own day there are people who kill for religious beliefs and who think that by doing so they are honouring God. Sadly there are right-wing racists, Muslim terrorists, regimes who decide that particular groups are expendable and who think that God is with them in their desire to murder another human being who has been created by God in his image . Countries who put God into their manifestos and then have Capital punishment and don’t see the irony are so misguided and wrong headed.
We must examine our consciences and see if we have any sympathy with those who murder supposedly in the name of God!