Abraham - more like Abroham - was a fucking badass. God commanded him to sacrifice his only son, after promising him descendants more numerous than the stars, and he obeyed faithfully. He didn't just obey, he fucking obeyed - he didn't try to go 'above and beyond' the will of God, or interpret it based on what he thought God should want or probably wanted; he didn't obey resentfully or hesitantly. Bro just fucking packed up his son, built a goddamn altar, and got ready to sacrifice him, because God said so. That is fucking incredible.
Does that seem paradoxical or contradictory to you? Good. It should, and if it doesn't then you're not paying attention. Was that shit unethical? Of course it was, but that's why Abraham is ten times the bro any of us is.
Ethics tell us how we should always act, it provides universal guidance. That's why faith is so fucking hard; it's not universal, and it's not just some allegory, a stepping stone to understanding something greater - it's personal, it's internal, and it's fucking demanding. Abraham had to be scared as shit - he was a good dad, he loved his son, and he expected fucktons of grandkids. But he also knew that God Almighty, creator of the Heavens and the Earth, commanded him to do something, and as smart as Abraham was, he was pretty sure he wasn't smarter than God. God is fucking smart.
Seriously, Abraham was going to murder his son. We can split hairs over what technically constitutes 'murder', but I think we can all agree that tying your perfectly obedient son up and fucking stabbing him is just about murdery as it gets. There's no way to reconcile that to any sort of universal, ethical code. Does that make Abraham a bad dude? Fuck no. He did it because God commanded it - not in some vague sense like, "I think this one reading says I should" or "Dude, I kinda have this feeling, you know?" - but God came to Abraham in all His resplendent glory and commanded it. God switched it the fuck up, and now the ethical was the temptation - Abraham was tempted to do the 'right' thing, the thing everyone else would have thought was right, and he didn't. I'll say it again - that shit is incredible, and there's really no way to express how incredible it is. Abraham transcended the universal, and we can only discuss the act in universals; any justification of his action to each other must be in universal terms, and there is no such justification. That is the paradox of faith.
Don't forget that even having Isaac was a fucking miracle. Abraham was basically a million years old when he had Isaac, and so was his wife - they had almost given up hope, but God can do anything he damn well pleases, so he gave Abraham a son. The Lord giveth, and the Lord fucking taketh away, and who are we to question Him? Is He not bound by the same universals that bound us? Is God above the ethical? You bet your sweet ass He is. Fucking paradoxes, how do they work? None of us has any higher duty than our duty to God - not because duty to God is the highest on a range of duties, or the 'most ethical' obligation we have; our duty to God is complete and absolute, and Abraham got that. We act ethically because God commands it, not the other way around. God fucking invented ethics, just like he invented everything other particular, and when He calls us above it, we would do well to listen.
Chances are, a lot of this makes you uncomfortable, which is precisely why Abraham didn't tell anyone what he was doing with Isaac. How could he? They would have acted with repulsion, just as everyone today does at the thought of evil in the world. They would have condemned God, and thought themselves greater than He because any being who would violate the ethical can't be all-powerful. But Abraham knew faith wasn't about making God look good, or apologizing for the Creator of the Universe. God can handle His own business, thank you very much, and he doesn't need Abraham's approval or anyone else's. So Abraham followed God's command, and he was richly rewarded for it.
The fact is, I don't fully understand how Abraham did what he did, and I'm a little weirded out by it. Still, God delivered on every single promise He made to Abraham; He richly rewarded him, and Abraham is the father of faith - he's a big fucking deal, and who the fuck am I? Therefore, I am content to follow in his footsteps and serve the Lord Almighty - his willingness to do what God commanded, and not worry about anything else, is what makes Abraham such a bro king.
Want to read more?
Fear and Trembling on Amazon.com