Andrew Greenwell on Abraham: A Theologico-Political Meditation
Not only is Abraham a model for the law of Moses, but he is a model for the law of Christ which is a law built upon grace
If a renewed faith is to be re-injected into our civil, political, economic, familial, and personal lives, who better to turn to as an example than Abraham, "our father in faith"? Like Abraham, we are called by faith to leave the secular "iron cage" or "cultural amusement park"--the Ur of the Chaldees--and travel to the freedom we have been promised in the land of Canaan. (Gen. 12:1; 15:7; Acts 7:3) "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." (Gal. 5:1)
Not only is Abraham a model for the law of Moses, but he is a model for the law of Christ which is a law built upon grace. According to St. Paul, we are to imitate the faith of Abraham, for he is "our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into being what does not exist." (Rom. 4:16).
Abraham believed in the God who was the Creator of all things visible and invisible, the same God who was the Redeemer of the world. Like Abraham, we are called to believe the God who has created the world, and who has promised to "re-create" us when we rise again from the dead at the end of time. We are to fashion our lives around this act of faith, a faith which is not absurd, but reasonable and yet beyond reason. This way our lives, like Abraham's, become a "living rational law."
Abraham is regarded in the New Testament as having built his life around acts of faith. The Epistle to the Hebrews sounds like a litany in praise of Abraham's faith: "By faith, Abraham obeyed . . . ." "By faith, he sojourned . . . ." "By faith, he received power to generate . . . ." "By faith, Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac . . . ." (Heb. 11:8-11, 17)
In prior articles, we have discussed how under our liberal secularist mentality faith is banned from the public square. We live in what Max Weber called the "iron cage" of secularity and what Thomas Pangle in his book Political Philosophy and the God of Abraham, stressing the hedonism and shallowness of our time, called a "cultural amusement park." It is a world where our lives are designed as if God did not exist, as if we had no faith.
For the followers of Abraham--and this means Christians above all (though it includes the Jews, "that people to which the covenants and promises were made, and from which Christ was born according to the flesh," and Muslims, who "profess to hold the faith of Abraham" and who "acknowledge the Creator")--this is intolerable. This is the opposite of how we should be living.
If faith is to be re-injected into our civil, political, economic, familial, and personal lives, who better to turn to as an example than Abraham, "our father in faith"? Like Abraham, we are called by faith to leave the secular "iron cage" or "cultural amusement park"--the Ur of the Chaldees--and travel to the freedom we have been promised in the land of Canaan. (Gen. 12:1; 15:7; Acts 7:3) "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." (Gal. 5:1)
The epitome of Abraham's faith--one might call it the central faith crisis of his life--was his response to God's request that he sacrifice Isaac, the very enfleshment of God's promise that he would be the father of many nations (Gen. 17:4; Rom. 4:17-18). In this crisis, he was called to sacrifice the good for the Absolute Good.
"God put Abraham to the test," the Scripture says. "He called to him, 'Abraham!' 'Ready!' he replied. Then God said: 'Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you." (Gen. 22:1-2)
This command and Abraham's ready response is a central theme of the New Testament. It of course sees it through the eyes of the one to whom Isaac point: the Lord Jesus and His Sacrifice.
"By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son, of whom it was said, 'Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.' He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol." (Heb. 11:17-19)
To stress the significance of this sacrifice is the burden of Romans Chapter 4, where Abraham's act of faith in agreeing to sacrifice Isaac is directly equated with the faith we are to have in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph, "who raised Jesus from the dead, who was handed over for our transgressions and was raised for our justification." (Rom. 4:24-25)
But what does this have to do with politics? The answer: everything.
St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that the natural moral law--the law that ought to govern the affairs of men since it defines what is right and what is good--participates in the Eternal Law, which is God Himself. The natural moral law, however, is a created law; whereas the Eternal Law is uncreated Law; indeed, the Eternal ...
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