Foundations of Our Theology
A Lesson From Abraham
A Lesson From Abraham
It is no small secret that much of the Old Testament and much
of the New Testament looks back at Abraham as a sort of architype
of our faith and relationship with God. Passages like Romans
4 and Hebrews 11 are a few prominent examples.
Romans 4:3 and Galations 3:6 tell us that God considered Abraham
righteous because of his faith. Now the New Testament recounts
several instances in the life of Abraham where he exercised
faith in God.
The account in Romans 4 tells us Abraham was justified by
faith when he believed God's promise to give him a son despite
his old age.
James 2:21-23 also tells us that Abraham was justified by
works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar, noting
that his faith was made perfect in that work. James 2:23 concludes
that it is because of this act that scripture says, "Abraham
believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness
and he was called the Friend of God."
If you have already read our section entitled "Our Approach:
Parallelism" you will notice that we are using Parallelism
in this study of the faith of Abraham.
Hebrews 11 goes into further detail on the instance spoken
of in James 2.
Hebrews 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was
tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the
promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was
said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting
that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from
whence also he received him in a figure
To truly appreciate the situation Abraham was in we should
also take a look at the initial account of these two events
Genesis 17:19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall
bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name
Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him
for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.
Genesis 22:1 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. 2 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
Here is the situation Abraham is in. Notice how familiar it
may seem to those of us struggling to understand the Word
of God in all its size and comlexity today.
Abraham has received two words from God. 1. That God
would bless him and make him a great nation through Isaac.
And 2. that he was to sacrifice Isaac on an altar as
a burnt offering. Now at that time, Isaac had not yet had
any children. So, Abraham is in quite a dilemma.
Abraham is staring down the barrel of two seemingly contradictory
statements from God. One Word from God says Isaac will produce
a great nation of descendents for Abraham. The other Word
from God says to kill Isaac before he has had any children.
Quite a contradiction. It would seem that for Abraham to believe
the second Word would prevent the first Word from coming true.
And yet, if Abraham disobeys the second Word, he would simultaneously
negate the authenticity of the first Word since he believed
that both Words came from the same source, namely God.
So, what does Abraham do? How does he deal with this apparent
contradiction? Does he ignore the contradiction? Does he just
obey without thinking? Is that what the faith of Abraham was?
Is that what our faith should be? Is that what kind of faith
God accredits with righteousness?
No. The Bible tells us that Abraham did not act in blind faith.
Nor did he ignore the contradiction. Instead it says he took
an accounting. Let's look at the Greek word "accounting" in
Hebrews 11:19. Here is the definition in its entirety.
3049 logizomai log-idí-zom-ahee
middle voice from 3056; TDNT-4:284,536; v
AV-think 9, impute 8, reckon 6, count 5, account 4, suppose
2, reason 1, number 1, misc 5; 41
1) to reckon, count, compute, calculate, count over
1a) to take into account, to make an account of
1a1) metaph. to pass to oneís account, to impute
1a2) a thing is reckoned as or to be something, i.e. as availing
for or equivalent to something, as having the like force and
1b) to number among, reckon with
1c) to reckon or account
2) to reckon inward, count up or weigh the reasons, to deliberate
3) by reckoning up all the reasons, to gather or infer
3a) to consider, take into account, weigh, meditate on
3b) to suppose, deem, judge
3c) to determine, purpose, decide
The first thing of note here is the spelling of this Greek
word. The root word is logos, the same word used in John 1
to describe the preincarnate Jesus Christ.
In this word we also might recognize a similarity to our English
word "logic." Our English word "logic" is likewise derived
from the Greek "logos" referring to the aspect of "logos,"
which refers to reason. When we look at the many variations
in this definition we see that this is precisely what Abraham
is doing. Abraham is using his reason to reconcile the two
seemingly contractory statements from the Word of God.
And does this use of reason interfere with his faith? No.
Quite the opposite. According to Hebrews 11:17 and James 2:21-23,
this process resulted in faith. It also resulted in Abraham's
belief in the supernatural, that God could raise the dead.
From this simple study we have exposed and refuted the modern
Christian myth that reason and critical thinking are obstacles
to faith and the supernatural. Our ability to use reason comes
from God and, like Abraham, he not only expects us to use
it, but he commends us for doing so.
Jude:10 and Isaiah 1:3,18 further emphasize that God desires
us to use our reason to consider his ways that we might be
persuaded and follow him.
Isaiah 1:3 The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his
masterís crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not
Isaiah 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together,
saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall
be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they
shall be as wool.
(Because of its prophetic significance regarding the Gospel,
the most interesting aspect of Isaiah1:18 may be that it implies
the entire necessity of Christ and our salvation can be deduced
by simple reasoning from what we already know.)
(NIV) Jude:10 Yet these men speak abusively against
whatever they do not understand; and what things they do undertand
by instinct, like unreasoning animals - these are the
very things that destroy them.
The fact is, God wants us to use our reason. He gave us that
capacity and it is one of the things that sets us apart from
the animals. It glorifies God for us to use it.
When we think about it, without logic, nothing is knowable.
The whole process of learning is one of applying logic to
things. In fact, no one can even reject the use of logic without
the application of logic. Whenever we say "because" or "why?"
we are applying logic and adding our testimony to its necessity.
The only difference is the extent to which we are all willing
to hold everything about us accountable to a logical standard.
Critical thinking is the process of applying logic to what
we can see and experience to arrive at a true understanding
of our world. The entire scientific process is comprised of
this simple approach. In that sense, even theology is science
so long as it follows this approach. The key is objectivity.
John 7:17 If any man will do his will, he shall know
of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak
I John 2:27 But the anointing which ye have received
of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach
you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things,
and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you,
ye shall abide in him.
So long as we empty ourselves of bias, and seek only to know
what the truth is, we will be able to see it. The Holy Spirit
will teach us.
We know God is a personal being and not just a force. But
it is impossible to separate God from perfect order, for He
is the perfect order that governs the universe. As such, He
is also perfect reason. Our reason is only an obstacle to
us when we use it improperly. Our accuracy is only limited
by the extent to which we are consistent, persistent, and
objective in applying it to our lives.
We end this section with an appropriate quote from Justin
Martyr, an early Christian writer and apologist who lived
from 110-165 AD and who died for his faith.
The First Apology of Justin
Chap. CXLI - Free-Will In Men And Angels.
"I said briefly by anticipation, that God, wishing men and
angels to follow His will, resolved to create them free to
do righteousness; possessing reason, that they may know by
whom they are created, and through whom they, not existing
formerly, do now exist; and with a law that they should be
judged by Him, if they do anything contrary to right reason:
and of ourselves we, men and angels, shall be convicted of
having acted sinfully, unless we repent beforehand."
- Justin Martyr (110-165 AD)
There is much more to say on this topic. For another short
study on the use of reason in the New Testament, please visit
the article titled "Reason and Learning
through Questions" in our In Depth Studies section.