Sacrifice or Murder

These emotional qualifications are requisite because what Abraham was about to do, considered from an ethical standpoint, was to commit murder. Thus Kant, for example, explicitly condemned Abraham's intended action on ethical grounds, saying: 'if something is represented as commanded by God in a direct manifestation of him yet is directly in conflict with morality, it cannot be a divine miracle despite every appearance of being one (e.g. if a father were ordered to kill his son who, so far as he knows, is totally innocent)'.5 Unless the killing of Isaac can be justified on religious grounds

4 See Lippitt (2003) for a handy guide to this work and various ways of interpreting it. See also Evans (2004: 61-84); Mooney (1991); Perkins (1993; 1981).

5 Kant (1998: 100, cf. 180; and 1996: 124, 204, 282-3).

as a sacrifice, then, Abraham would have been guilty of a monstrous crime if he had gone through with it and should have been tried as a murderer rather than lauded as the father of faith. The contradiction contained in this dilemma, Johannes observes, is enough to make a person reflecting on it sleepless with anxiety, yet rarely is there anyone in his age (or ours) who is made sleepless by it or who is willing to do what Abraham was prepared to do in obedience to God's command. Should anyone wish to emulate Abraham after hearing him praised in the local parson's sermon, that person undoubtedly would be immediately condemned and chastised by the very parson who had praised Abraham. This contradiction further underscores for Johannes what a prodigious paradox faith is and how difficult it is to arrive at faith, let alone 'go further' by comprehending it.

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