Abraham, the faithless moral superhero

Philosophy and Literature 31 (2):344-361 (2007)
Why do we admire Abraham1 so much? The standard answer is that Abraham’s faith in God is very great. Now in the context of Genesis, “faith in God” does not mean “belief in God’s existence.” Polytheism, not atheism, is the adversary in Genesis. Nor does “faith in God” mean “believing in order that we may come to understand God”2 or “believing because we cannot fully understand God”3 or “believing despite what we understand about God.”4 To minimize anachronism and controversy I shall work with a minimalist reading of “faith in God,” a meaning shared by all interpretations. On every plausible conception of faith, if Abraham has faith in God, then he trusts God’s word. In Genesis “faith in God” means at least, “trusting that God will keep His promises.”5 But Abraham does not display this sort of faith. I shall argue that Abraham actually displays a lack of trust in God throughout his whole life. To show this I shall review the events of Abraham’s life, assessing his level of faith in God at each point
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