Tag Archive: Matthew Henry

Abraham and Isaac: God Has a Right to Command You to Kill Your Child 

abraham sacrificing isaac

Recently, Petrus Klopper, a writer for the Isaiah 53:5 Project and Solid Rock Apologetics, attempted to answer the question, How Could God Command Abraham to Kill His Son? I say “attempted,” because Klopper miserably failed at his task, just as every other Christian apologist has failed when attempting to do the same. According to Klopper, God had every right to ask Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Notice that I used the word “sacrifice,” not “kill,” as Klopper did in his title. God, in no uncertain terms, asked Abraham to put his only son Isaac on an altar and sacrifice him. Someone is sure to ask, “don’t the words sacrifice and kill mean the same thing?” Yes and no, and I will demonstrate in a moment Klopper’s sleight of hand by using the word sacrifice.

For those not schooled in the mystical stories of the Christian Bible, here’s the text, Genesis 22:1-13, that tells the story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac:

And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

According to seventeenth century Baptist theologian John Gill, God commanded Abraham to:

… offer him (Isaac)  there for a burnt offering; this was dreadful work he was called to, and must be exceeding trying to him as a man, and much more as a parent, and a professor of the true religion, to commit such an action; for by this order he was to cut the throat of his son, then to rip him up, and cut up his quarters, and then to lay every piece in order upon the wood, and then burn all to ashes; and this he was to do as a religious action, with deliberation, seriousness, and devotion… (John Gill Commentary, E-Sword)

According to eighteenth century Anglican John Wesley, God wanted Abraham to not only kill his son, but also offer him as a burnt sacrifice. Wesley wrote:

…offer him (Isaac) for a burnt offering – He must not only kill his son, but kill him as a sacrifice, with all that sedateness and composedness of mind, with which he used to offer his burnt – offering. (John Wesley Commentary, E-Sword)

Eighteenth century theologian Matthew Henry, chiming in agreement with Gill and Wesley wrote:

 …offer him (Isaac) for a burnt-offering. He must not only kill his son, but kill him as a sacrifice, kill him devoutly, kill him by rule, kill him with all that pomp and ceremony, with all that sedateness and composure of mind, with which he used to offer his burnt-offerings. (Matthew Henry Commentary, E-Sword)

Nineteenth century Presbyterian theologian Albert Barnes called Abraham’s potential sacrifice of Isaac  a “human sacrifice.” Recognizing the moral issue raised by human sacrifice, Barnes writes:

The only solution of this, is what the ease itself actually presents; namely, the divine command. It is evident that the absolute Creator has by right entire control over his creatures. He is no doubt bound by his eternal rectitude to do no wrong to his moral creatures. But the creature in the present case has forfeited the life that was given, by sin. And, moreover, we cannot deny that the Almighty may, for a fit moral purpose, direct the sacrifice of a holy being, who should eventually receive a due recompense for such a degree of voluntary obedience. (Albert Barnes Commentary, E-Sword)

Based on the aforementioned references, we can conclude that God, as a test, commanded Abraham to take his only son Isaac to Mount Moriah, and kill him so he could be offered as a human burnt sacrifice to God.

Klopper makes clear in his post that there are three things God is NOT doing in this story:

  • God was not tempting Abraham
  • God was not instituting or condoning child sacrifice
  • God was not telling Abraham to do wrong

Christian apologists like Klopper will go to great lengths to justify God’s command to sacrifice Isaac. Klopper used the word kill in the post title because he doesn’t want readers to confuse what God is asking Abraham to do with human sacrifice. However, it is clear from the text that a human sacrifice of Isaac is EXACTLY what God is asking Abraham to do.

Is Isaac human? Yes. Does Abraham build an altar to be used for sacrifices? Yes? Did Abraham place Isaac on the altar, preparing to offering him as a human sacrifice to God? Yes. Does Abraham implicitly obey God’s command to sacrifice his son? Yes. Then, pray tell, how is what God commands Abraham to do NOT child sacrifice? Any fair and honest reading of the text shows that God clearly intended for Abraham to kill (murder) his son as a flesh and blood sacrifice.

Similar stories can be found in other tribal cultures, and Evangelicals are quick to label these stories as murderous and barbaric. Evidently, according to Evangelicals, there is some sort of difference between stories of human/child sacrifices to false Gods, and the God/Abraham/Isaac story. Try as I might, I can’t find the difference.

Klopper, perhaps realizing that his, this is not child sacrifice argument is intellectually vacuous and lame, goes on to say that God is not commanding Abraham to do wrong. Really? In what universe is child/human sacrifice not wrong? Every civilized society in the world condemns child/human sacrifice. Even atheists consider such murderous actions wrong. Yet, somehow, according to Klopper, God asking Abraham to slice, dice, and sauté his son is not, in any way, wrong.

Klopper makes one final argument which, according to his Fundamentalist-infused mind, should silence every critic. It is the one argument, next to faith, that Christians will turn to when no other argument will work: God is God and he has a right to do/command whatever he wants to. Klopper states his argument this way:

God has the right to take human life and could therefore authorize Abraham to do so in a particular case. Note that had Abraham decided of his own accord to sacrifice Isaac, he would have been wrong and his act would have been condemned by God (as were other human-initiated sacrifices).

According to Exodus 20, murder is a sin. Thou shalt not kill, right? But, according to Klopper, if God authorizes (commands) someone to commit a murder (human sacrifice) then it is okay. Hmm, so then, Christians who have, in the past, said that God commanded them to kill their children or spouse, these murderous behaviors are okay, right? I’m sure that Klopper will object to my line of inquiry, but is this not exactly what he is saying? Or is he making a distinction between murderous stories in the Bible and those found on page one of the newspaper? Evidently, if a God-sanctioned murder is recorded by an unknown author in a so-called divine religious text, that makes the slaying moral. However, if a devout twenty-first century Christian — a person we can see and talk to — says and does the same, it is not a God-approved murder. This makes “perfect” sense to me.

human sacrifice

Comic by Scott Maynard

Surely we can all agree that a God, ANY God, commanding someone to commit murder is wrong. It matters not whether it is Abraham or Victoria Soliz, a woman who tried to drown her 3-year-old son in a puddle because Jesus told her to do so.  While Evangelicals will attempt to make a distinction between God speaking to Abraham and God speaking to someone like Soliz, there is no difference between the two. Both are hearing voices in their heads that are telling them to murder their children. And hearing voices in one’s head commanding immoral, unethical, or dangerous acts is always a sure sign of mental distress or illness. Despite knowing this, Klopper is determined to present Abraham as a great man of faith who was willing to do whatever God commanded him to do.

It is too bad that Klopper is boxed in by his belief that the Bible is an inspired, inerrant text. Such a belief requires Klopper to accept the Abraham/Isaac/human-sacrifice story as factual history. While Klopper does make numerous spiritual applications from the Genesis 22 text in his post, he is hamstrung by the requirement to accept the text as history. Jews, on the other hand, treat this text as an allegory or a metaphor. They understand, along with everyone else except Evangelicals, that no one in his or her right mind should accept Abraham sacrificing Isaac as literal truth.

And here’s the thing, IF Abraham had actually murdered Isaac, twenty-first century Evangelical preachers would be preaching sermons about Abraham’s great faith and his willingness to explicitly obey God, even if it meant murdering his own son. Praise Jesus!! (And how is this any different from the Muslim who believes God is commanding him to kill in Allah’s name?)

Notes

Any God who demands his followers to murder as a test of obedience is not a deity worthy of our worship.

Christian Swear Words

foxtrot cussing

At one time, Christians seemed to all agree that saying swear words was a sin, especially uttering blasphemous phrases like God dammit or go to hell. These days, in many corners of the Christian ghetto, swearing is now accepted. Even preachers are known to show their coolness and hipster cred by using choice words, not only in their conversations with others, but also in their sermons.

I came of age in the late 1960s and 1970s. In the Baptist churches I attended, saying swear words was definitely considered a sin against the thrice-holy Christian God. Most of the preachers of my youth would quote Exodus 20:7: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, as justification for their prohibitions against cursing. These preachers never did explain how saying “shit” was “taking God’s name in vain.” I later came to see that this commandment had little to do with saying certain words. According to 17th Century Presbyterian theologian and pastor Matthew Henry, taking God’s name in vain meant:

We take God’s name in vain, [1.] By hypocrisy, making a profession of God’s name, but not living up to that profession. Those that name the name of Christ, but do not depart from iniquity, as that name binds them to do, name it in vain; their worship is vain (Mat_15:7-9), their oblations are vain (Isa_1:11, Isa_1:13), their religion is vain, Jam_1:26. [2.] By covenant-breaking; if we make promises to God, binding our souls with those bonds to that which is good, and yet perform not to the Lord our vows, we take his name in vain (Mat_5:33), it is folly, and God has no pleasure in fools (Ecc_5:4), nor will he be mocked, Gal_6:7. [3.] By rash swearing, mentioning the name of God, or any of his attributes, in the form of an oath, without any just occasion for it, or due application of mind to it, but as a by-word, to no purpose at all, or to no good purpose. [4.] By false swearing, which, some think, is chiefly intended in the letter of the commandment; so it was expounded by those of old time. Thou shalt not forswear thyself, Mat_5:33. One part of the religious regard the Jews were taught to pay to their God was to swear by his name, Deu_10:20. But they affronted him, instead of doing him honour, if they called him to be witness to a lie. [5.] By using the name of God lightly and carelessly, and without any regard to its awful significancy. The profanation of the forms of devotion is forbidden, as well as the profanation of the forms of swearing; as also the profanation of any of those things whereby God makes himself known, his word, or any of his institutions; when they are either turned into charms and spells, or into jest and sport, the name of God is taken in vain.

Sure, in point number five Henry mentions swearing, but what about points one through four: being a hypocrite, breaking a vow, rashly making an oath, and lying?  On Sunday, each of the churches I pastored gave parishioners and visitors an opportunity to come forward during the public invitation and get right with God, either by getting saved or confessing sin. I witnessed plenty of weeping and gnashing of teeth as people covered the altar rail with their tears (and snot). Oh God, I’m so sorry I lusted after Sister Susie this week, please forgive me. Dear Jesus, please forgive me for looking at porn. I promise to never, never look at a naked woman who is not my wife. Dear God, I know you that YOU know that I really didn’t stop smoking like I told the preacher I did. I’m so sorry for lying. I plead the blood of Jesus over my life and I promise to never, ever smoke another Marlboro. And, in a matter of hours, days, or weeks, the penitent church members would return to their “sin,”  thus requiring a new round of  weeping and wailing. Their vow to not sin was, according to Matthew Henry, taking God’s name in vain.

Many of us who use curse words use them when we are angry or upset. Sometimes, we use swear words to ameliorate a serious pain that we are having. I’ve learned after hitting my finger with a hammer that saying “God dammit!” really loud tends to lessen the pain. According to research presented to the British Psychological Society, swearing is an emotional language, and using it can make a person feel better. Perhaps the use of 506 expletives in 179 minutes as actors did in the movie Wolf of Wall Street is a tad bit excessive, but I know firsthand that cursing can, and does, have a cathartic effect on a person. While certainly those who swear must be aware of proper social conventions, swearing at the referee on TV who just hosed your favorite football team can be emotionally satisfying, and I highly recommend it.

A dear friend of mine from back in the days when we both were part of the Trinity Baptist Church youth group, laughs every time she hears me utter a swear word. She often replies, “I never thought I’d see the day when Bruce Gerencser said a swear word.” From the time I was saved at the age of 15 until I left the ministry, I never uttered one swear word, outwardly anyhow. I thought plenty of swear words but never verbalized them. To do so would have branded me as a sinner and as a man who didn’t have his emotions under control.

Evangelicals are every bit as emotional and angry as their counterparts in the real world. Knowing that telling someone to “fuck off” would bring them rebuke and shame, Evangelicals have developed what I call Christian swear words. Christian swear words are expressions like:

  • Shucks
  • Shoot
  • Darn
  • Dangit
  • Freaking
  • Crap
  • Gosh darn it
  • Son of a gun
  • Frigging
  • Shucky darn

As you can easily see, these words are meant to be replacements for the real swear words. This way, angry or emotionally upset Evangelicals can express themselves without running afoul of God’s FCC.

Years ago, a preacher who considered himself totally sanctified (without sin), was known for using the phrase, taking it to the hilt. He and I were quite good friends, and one day when he repeated his favorite phrase, I told him, you know that taking it to the hilt can be used as a sexual reference for sticking the penis all the way in to its base (hilt). He was indignant that I would dare to suggest such a thing. He later learned I was right and apologized (Do you suppose it ever dawned on him that he had  sinned by using this phrase after he said he no longer was a sinner?)

Swear words are just that: words. Social conventions dictate their use. I am a card-carrying member of the Swear-ers Club. I make liberal use of curse words, especially when speaking to officials from afar on a televised sporting event. Even Polly, sweet, sweet Polly, my wife, has devolved to my level. While I am careful when using swear words in public or around those who are easily offended, I refuse to be bullied into submission by the word police. I rarely use swear words in my writing,but I do so on occasion. It’s up to the individual readers to decide if a well-placed malediction is offensive enough to stop them from reading.

Sometimes, when responding to the emails persnickety Evangelicals love to send me, I deliberately use swear words that I know will euphemistically cause urine to flow from their genitals. They will respond with outrage as did fundamentalist Baptist preacher Jeff Setzer during a “discussion” on the post, The Legacy of Jack Hyles. When Jeff first commented on the Jack Hyles post months ago, he was polite and respectful. However, during his last round of comments he decided to get more aggressive, a common ploy used by Evangelical zealots. When I determined that Setzer hadn’t taken the time to actually to read my story, I responded to him by writing, “I encourage you to take the time to read my writing. The answers you seek can be found there.” And here’s the dialog that followed:

Setzer, in response to Brian, a former IFB pastor’s son:You can be wrong too, right along with all of the molesters. And like the victims of physical abuse, you are a victim of spiritual and intellectual abuse…that which is many times more difficult to overcome than mere physical abuse. Since the physical realm regularly confirms the Bible to be true, as well as other realms of evidence, I KNOW the Bible is truth. There is NO doubt whatsoever.

Bruce: Ah, now there’s the Christian asshole that every fundamentalist eventually morphs into. This is your last comment.

Setzer: Do you know what profanity is? How about what kindness means? Or intolerance? “Last comment”? Can you not reason and share where your supposed point of rejection was, or perhaps you have built a wall, making a skin of a reason based upon woefully fallible men who set up themselves as authoritative? I’ll look up the posts to which you refer, but I haven’t seen any logic on here yet but rather emotion. You’ve come to a conclusion out of emotion and not logic. I’d be glad to communicate further with you if you’re open to logic and evidence and not being outright dismissive. Thanks for being willing to dialogue.

Bruce: After your first comment you were taken to a page that had the comment rules. You have violated the commenting rules and this is why I will not approve any further comments by you. My asshole comment is in response to your last approved comment. If you don’t like being called an asshole, don’t act like one.

You can read the rest of the sphincter-muscle stimulating comments here.

I am of the opinion that if a person doesn’t want to be called an asshole then he shouldn’t act like one. Setzer, ever the clueless fundamentalist, was more concerned over me using profanity than he was how his words were being perceived by myself  and others. Instead of becoming outraged over a word, perhaps God’s anointed ones should pay attention to how their own words and behaviors reflects on the good news they purportedly want everyone to believe.

As Setzer surely would have known had he bothered to spend time reading my writing, I rarely use curse words, and in the comment section I reserve their use for when fundamentalists, and it is ALWAYS fundamentalists, are showing how little fruit is growing on their tree. You know, the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Sometimes, preachers I mention by name in one of my articles writes asking me to remove their name from my post. They don’t like being called out by name. My thinking on this goes something like: if you didn’t want to be cast in a poor light you should have treated me better. After all, the Bible does say, you reap what you sow, right? One offended preacher was upset that I mentioned that he impregnated and married his first wife when she was age 13. Here’s a man who travels the countryside telling others how to live, yet he had, and may still have, a thing for young girls (and pastors who are still having him come to their church to preach need to know this).

Well, I think I’ve run out of words to type on the computer screen. It’s time to go watch another crappy, poopy, human-wasted filled, oh dang it, SHITTY Thursday night NFL football game. Go Packers!!