Fear and Trembling

“God said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” (Genesis 22:2)

Greetings, Fighter.

So begins the story of Abraham’s journey to sacrifice of his son, Isaac. It is perhaps the most disturbing story in the entire Torah. The great Dane, Soren Kierkegaard, wrote a book about it.

“It was early morning. Abraham rose in good time, kissed Sarah the young mother, and Sarah kissed Isaac, her delight, her joy for ever. And Abraham rode thoughtfully on. He thought of Hagar and of the son whom he had driven out into the desert. He climbed the mountain in Moriah, he drew the knife.”

Kierkegaard gives five consecutive reflections on Abraham’s journey to the mountain in his 1843 book, “Fear and Trembling”. In each he offers different scenarios as to what might have been going through Abraham’s mind. How did he make sense of what he felt God was telling him to do? God had promised him that Isaac would be his heir. How could that happen if Isaac was dead? How could God, whom Abraham had learnt to trust, ask him to do something that was so cruel and immoral? Moreover, how could Abraham be sure that it was God who was talking to him?

For Kierkegaard, these were not just theoretical questions. These are the issues faced by all of us who would be people of faith. How do we trust God when society, common sense, and even our own moral intuitions sometimes contradict that what God seems to be saying to us?

By 1843, Kierkegaard had completed his theological studies and was ready to be ordained as a priest in the Lutheran church of Denmark. He was also engaged to Regina Olsen – a woman whom he clearly loved – and ordination offered him a path to a quiet life in a country parish with Regina at his side. And yet … Kierkegaard felt that God was calling him to become a polemical writer and a prophet who would speak out against the excesses of the church. He knew though that if he chose this life it would not be fair to take Regina with him. It seemed illogical, and even immoral, to break off his engagement and take this path, and yet …

You’ve likely heard me mention my dear friend, Mordechai Vanunu – the ‘nuclear whistle-blower’. When I first met Morde in 1984 he was a tourist, visiting Sydney from Israel. He came to our church in Sydney’s (then notorious) King’s Cross, where we talked late into the night about our common love of philosophy and of Kierkegaard, and of the difficulty of doing what you feel God is calling you to do when it seems morally ambiguous and doesn’t make much sense.

What I didn’t know at the time was that these were not theoretical issues for Morde either. He’d left Israel with rolls of undeveloped film in his backpack – photographs he’d taken from inside the secret nuclear weapons manufacturing facility in Dimona, hidden under the Negev desert. Morde had been working there as a technician. He had secretly taken the photos because he felt the world needed to know what was going on and that Israel was one of the world’s leading nuclear powers. At the same time though, he knew that sharing those photos would mean an end to his quiet life, if not an end to his life. He knew his family would disown him and that the Mossad would come after him. It made little sense to share the photos, and yet …

How do we work these things through? When we feel drawn to a particular course of action that all our friends think is stupid, shouldn’t we just listen to them? How can we be sure that the powerful intuitions that we’re feeling are from God and not the result of something we ate? So many things Jesus tells us to do are irreconcilable with the dominant narratives of our culture. How do we work out what God wants us to do without sacrificing our common sense and our morality? To work through these questions is what is means to be a person of faith. How do we grow in faith? Kierkegaard says we do it in Fear and Trembling.

“It was early morning. Abraham rose in good time, kissed Sarah the young mother, and Sarah kissed Isaac, her delight, her joy for ever. And Abraham rode thoughtfully on. He thought of Hagar and of the son whom he had driven out into the desert. He climbed the mountain in Moriah, he drew the knife.”

… And so Abraham became the father of faith.

Our Sunday Eucharist

We had a full team at our Sunday Eucharist last Sunday with the two Andrews – Madry and Logan – joining Doug and myself on the panel. We also had an excellent and engaging reflection from Father Elias. You can enjoy the fireworks via the recording below. I’ve also posted Father Elias’ reflection to the member site – both video and transcript. You can see that here.

This week we’re privileged to have our Muslim brother, Tom, back with us, along with David Baldwin and the inimitable Rev. Dr. Stephen Sizer who will share a homily on Psalm 95. Tune in from 11.45 am on Sunday via thesundayeucharist.com or via Facebook , YouTubeTwitter or LinkedIn.

Let me work your corner

Thank you once again to all of you who support Fighting Fathers Ministries through your prayers and through monthly financial contributions. If you’re not contributing financially and you can afford to, it would be greatly appreciated if you could go to Patreon.com and sign up to either:

Middleweight – $10/month (community mentoring)
  • Enrol in the Fighting Fit training program
  • Access member-only training videos
  • Engage in the members-only forum (see below)
Super-Middleweight $50/month (remote mentoring)
  • All of the above +
  • One-on-one mentoring via email, phone, or Skype
Heavyweight – $100/month (in-person mentoring)
  • All of the above +
  • Unlimited training at Father Dave’s Old School Boxing Academy
Superheavyweight – $200/month (intensive in-person mentoring)

Every dollar helps keep the wheels turning – the websites, the newsletters, the broadcasts, the boxing club and the bush camp. Sign up at Patreon.com.

What’s On?

  • Thursday, June 29th to Saturday, July 1stBinacrombi planning meeting.
  • Sunday, July 2nd – Our Eucharist from midday via thesundayeucharist.com or via Facebook , YouTubeTwitter or LinkedIn.
  • Tuesday, July 4th – Boxing from 6.30 pm @Fight Lab
  • Thursday, July 6th – Boxing from 6.30 pm @Fight Lab
  • Saturday, July 8th – Boxing from 6.30 pm @Fight Lab
  • Friday, July 28th – Father Dave vs. Jason Naylor @Conca D’oror, Riverwood

Yes, you’ll notice that my fight on the last Friday in July is now back on! I’ve been rematched, and I’m; told it’s going to be a title fight. At the moment I know nothing about my new opponent apart from his name. Hopefully, I’ll be able to give a fuller report by next week. Hopefully, by God’s grace, this fight will go ahead.

Forgive me I’m a bit brief today. I’m at Binacrombi for the big meeting, deciding our future. We had a good discussion over dinner last night with some key members of the team (whom you’ll see pictured). More arrive today. Keep us in your prayers.

May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.

Your brother in the Good Fight,

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow by Email
Scroll to Top