- February 3rd, 2012
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“Abram put his faith in the LORD, who reckoned it to him as righteousness, and said , ‘I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldees to give you this land as your possession.” Genesis 15:6-7
This is the moment, according to the Bible, where everything begins. This is the moment when Yahweh makes contact with a human being on a human level. What follows is Yahweh’s promise to give Abram the promised land and descendants too numerous to count.
The amazing moment is the bit about his faith being “reckoned to him as righteousness”.
Abram was not a spotless person. He was not without sin. But in virtue of his “faith” he is treated as if he was without sin. There doesn’t seem to be anything about him that makes him special. There must have been thousands of wandering refugees of that time that had been displaced from the cities that had sprang up in Mesopotamia. The crops were failing. The good times were over between the Tigris and Euphrates. Time to find better pastures.
Even if Abram/Abraham is mythological, the context seems to have a ring of truth.
This passage is critical to Christian theology. This is the first expression of grace, after the fall. A substitution is taking place. Abram’s faith in this God is more important than his fidelity to law (this is before Moses, of course). Faith is the most important feature of the relationship between man and the deity. Faith in the power (which is not so hard), and faith in his goodness (which is more difficult).
From my atheist perspective, I see man seeking, desperately, for benevolence in the cosmos. We are mere humans. There is some greater power that oversees us. This is a moment where the real test is changed from one of absolute obedience to one of faith. The man is willing to risk everything, to be a fool, to suffer for the ultimate purpose that this other, greater, absolute power has in store.
I find this part of Genesis utterly believable. I can imagine this actually happening to an ancient Abram–even the strange part in verse 17. The Garden of Eden and Noah’s arc are obviously myths, but this is where the Bible gets serious and strikes me as compelling.