Archive for September, 2010

There is this statue at  Princeton University that portrays the familiar story of Abraham and Isaac. More specifically the story of a father willing to slaughter his son out of complete obedience to God. This sick story is one that should disturb most people. In the passage itself, one is not given much detail about what the father or the son is feeling, the audience is left to fill in those parts.

Now I am not one to enjoy such sacrificial tales even to the extent of feeling queasy when hearing people talk about atonement, but the fact that such a story is located in the beginning of the Bible makes me struggle. Like I described to my Old Testament precept class, it is hard being a pacifist when there are so many stories in the Bible that literally make one ask, WTF? (I try and stay out of the book of Judges).

A poor interpretation of this story is to say that this interaction (if one can even describe it as such) between Abraham and Isaac foreshadows that which will happen to Christ. Not only does this view do injustice to the context and placement in the Hebrew tradition, but it also gives a very troubling view of God. God is the father who thrusts the knife down.

However, upon reading the book Getting Involved With God by Ellen Davis, I discovered an interesting insight about this story. In this story of Abraham and Isaac, one sees God being vulnerable. Now this may surprise you. Vulnerable is not often a word we use to describe God. Though, I think the more a person reflects on this particular adjective, verb, whatever…it may become clear that in fact this word might be better than some other qualitative words and even greater that the quantitative words that are used in relation to God (and yes I am aware of the rhetoric there).

What Davis makes clear is that up until this point God has gotten burned, several times. (Recognize that my language will get a little loose here as I talk narratively about God, rather than theologically, though I would argue the two are intertwined). On this man, Abraham, God is placing all his bets. God tried working through all humanity at once; fail. And so this innovative way of blessing others through a nation sounds like a fantastic idea. Yet, can Abraham be trusted. Thus this epic task of seeing if this father (who is quite old) would be willing to sacrifice his “one” and “only” son out of obedience to God. (I’m not sure why God would “pick” such a task, but I believe God works interculturally).

Davis writes, “I am convinced that this story appears only twenty-two chapters into the Bible because it tells us, not everything we need to know, but something fundamental about the God of Israel. And the sooner we learn this, then the more headway we are likely to make in comprehending and accepting Israel’s complex witness to that God” (61).

This story, describes to us “a God who is vulnerable” (62). Davis continues, “We are more comfortable using the “omni” words-omnipotent, omniscient- to describe God. Yet if we properly understand the dynamics of covenant relationship, then we are confronted with a God who is vulnerable. For, as both testaments maintain, the covenant with God is fundamentally an unbreakable bond of love” (62).

This vulnerability is thus even expressed up to the very horrific Friday when a completely innocent man was confronted with the monstrosity of violence and out of love…you fill in the blank. Thus Christ dies, not because the father thrusts the knife down, but out of complete vulnerability and love. Through the resurrection then, the monstrosity of violence is overcome.

Davis ends this chapter really well. “When reason fails, as it does at least one Friday each year, then we must listen to the stories with our hearts” (64).



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Castles Galore.So friends. I made it to Princeton. It is one beautiful place. Currently the dorm I’m staying in, Hodge Hall, is older than Bluffton University. That blew my mind. There is going to be a lot going on these next few days, but I wanted to post this to inform you all that I’m going to try and keep up with this blog more; reflecting on life, readings, teachings, and other experiences.

My mailing address is:

Jason Frey
Princeton Theological Seminary
SBN 106
P.O. Box 5204
Princeton, NJ 08543-5204

If your sending a package not through USPS:

Jason Frey
c/o Princeton Theological Seminary
64 Mercer St.
Princeton, NJ 08540

Keep in touch, Salaam!

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