Abrahamic Faith Term Paper

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Abrahamic Faith

True Power: An Examination of Abrahamic Faith

There are several aspects of Abrahamic faith that are admirable and are worthy of commendation. Author Soren Kierkegaard details many of these notions in his manuscript Fear and Trembling, which is a fairly exhaustive analysis of Abraham's actions, hypothetical possibilities of courses of actions he could have taken, and interpretations of both. In fact, one of the principle characteristics of Abrahamic faith that render it so virtuous to the point of almost being ineffable is the incomprehensible nature of it -- particularly when compared to the zeitgeist in which Kierkegaard originally composed this text, as well as when it is compared to the thoughts and sentiments of the contemporary age we currently exist in now. However, when one considers that one of the defining traits of faith is the fact that it primarily is illogical, unreasonable, and in many cases inexplicable, it becomes apparent that although the extent of Abrahamic faith is largely incomprehensible to those of us in modern times, this degree of faith is certainly worthy of pursuit and an ideal that believers in a higher power should strive to achieve. Kierkegaard definitely demonstrates this fact throughout the course of Fear and Trembling by sufficiently proving that Abraham's actions are worthy of considerable esteem.

The basic premise with which Kierkegaard's book revolves about and which is central to understanding the reason for the lofty regard of Abrahamic faith is that a fidelity as profound as that which Abraham displayed for God is well beyond the understanding of posterity. Abraham was willing to journey to the mountains to sacrifice his first born son Isaac -- simply because God told him to do so. Abraham did not question God's will or even understand it himself, he simply acquiesced to it for the simple fact that he had consecrated his existence in accord with God and was willing to do anything to live a life of assent in an expression of the power and benign intentions of this higher power. Had Abraham had any more details about the completion of this particular task -- such as what God's intentions for it were, or why Abraham was charged with this particular "assignment" -- the undertaking of it would have been rooted more in logic and less in faith itself. Yet one of the defining attributes of faith is that it is illogical and somewhat the antithesis of reason. Faith requires people to place as much belief as they can in something (or someone) they have never seen, never heard, and have no demonstrable proof of, and to adhere to it in the best of times and in the worst. God's command for Abraham to commit murder against his first born must have seemed like one of the worst of times for Abraham to exercise his faith by adhering to this directive. Yet his faith did not falter once as he set about upholding it and fulfilling this command of God's.

In fact, the very circumstances in which Abraham had sired Isaac, and the role that both of them were to play for posterity, is largely responsible for the incomprehensible nature of the faith that Abraham actuated in virtually ignoring both of those roles as he faithfully followed God's command. The following quotation indicates that it was these particular circumstances of both Abraham and Isaac that made his sacrifice well beyond the norm (if a father's slaying of his child can be considered normal) and renders it unthinkable.

"He said nothing to Sarah, nothing to Eleazar. Indeed who could understand him? Had not the temptation by its very nature exacted of him an oath of silence? My hearer, there was many a father who believed that with his son he lost everything that was dearest to him in the world, that he was deprived of every hope for the future, but yet there was none that was the child of promise in the sense that Isaac was for Abraham (Kierkegaard).

This quotation directly alludes to the incomprehensible nature of Abraham's faith in his willingness to sacrifice his son, which is underscored by the fact that he told no one about God's bidding in this matter. Subsequently, there was no one who was able to "understand" Abraham's actions in attempting to fulfill this command. Yet what makes this demand truly incomprehensible is the fact that Abraham was promised by God to be the father of a great nation on earth. Furthermore, God told him that Isaac would play an influential part in building this great nation, and both father and son would be revered by posterity for what they would produce. Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac would seemingly terminate all of these hopes, which essentially represented everything that Abraham had lived his life for up until this time. These future expectations were the burden that was encompassed by God's command of Abraham, and is the "promise" that Isaac represented and that Abraham's sacrificing of his son would destroy. These unusual circumstances, and Abraham's faithful adherence to God's order to forsake them by killing his child, are what makes Abraham's willingness to do so an extreme expression of the most admirable quality of faith in the divinity.

In demonstrating Abraham's worth of an ineffable admiration due to the faith he displayed in his trial of sacrificing his son, Kierkeegard also references a fairly powerful notion known as a movement of infinite resignation. Those who are able to summon and partake of such movements are considered knights of infinite resignation, and include most common tragic heroes as they occur in works of drama or even in works of actual life. However, it is significant to understand that the author details this type of knight and person who is willing to concede everything -- to effectively resign himself to an unhappy fate and renounce or give up everything -- only to emphasize the fact that what Abraham was and did with his carrying out of the instructions to sacrifice Isaac was considerably more, and well beyond comparison than the mindset of those who would have carried out these instructions solely by being resigned to the fact to do so. The following quotation, in which Kierkegaard uses himself as an example of a knight of resignation, demonstrates the limited nature of the resolve of the movement of resignation, and indicates that such a resolve is easily summoned and not akin to faith.

The very instant I mounted the horse I would have said to myself, "Now all is lost. God requires Isaac, I sacrifice him, and with him my joy" Perhaps onewill be foolish enough tobelievemy prodigious resignation was far more ideal and poetic than Abraham's narrow-mindedness. And yet this is the greatest falsehood, for my prodigious resignation was the surrogate for faithIn that case I would not have loved Isaac as Abraham loved (Kierkegaard).

What this quotation demonstrates is that those who partake in movements of infinite resignation are able to perform the same deeds as those who are moved by faith (such as Abraham), yet the act has immensely less significance. One renounces everything when moved by infinite resignation ("all is lost"), even one's faith. To that end, Kierkegaard describes such resignation as a mere "surrogate" or substitute for faith, which means that such a person would not have actually "loved" Isaac to the degree that Abraham had. Such a person as that described by Kierkegaard in this passage would have effectively renounced his or her love for his or her child along with everything else that was renounced. So although such a person would have been able to go through with the act of sacrificing Isaac much as Abraham was prepared to go through with this sacrifice, the meaning -- which is a testament to a supreme faith -- would have been lost in such an act.

Kierkegaard goes on to explain that there is a final incomprehensible process in the movement of those who are referred to as knights of faith and who are able to act via faith alone the way that Abraham was. This final process is a belief in the "absurd" (Kierkegaard), and takes place when all other human perceptions and expectations have failed. Abraham did not resign himself to a fate of having to renounce all that he believed in and had while preparing himself to kill his son. It was because of his supreme faith in God, one which extended well beyond the bounds of logic and reason, that he was willing to cling to some fairly ridiculous notion that no matter what took place, God would not steer him in an improper manner or to an undeserving result, which the subsequent quotation explains.

He believed by virtue of the absurd; for there could be no question of human calculation, and it was indeed the absurd that God who required it of him should the next instant recall the requirement. He climbed the mountain, even at the instant when the knife…[continue]

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