Abraham: Father of Faith

Posted: July 27, 2012 in Old Testament, Theology and Faith, World Religions
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Abraham holds a place of great importance for Jews, Muslims, and Christians.  These various world religions trace their heritage back to Abraham.  Jews and Muslims trace their genetic lineage back to Abraham.  Abraham is literally the progenitor of these groups.  But, more than that, Jews, Muslims and Christians find Abraham as the root of their theological heritage.  In this sense, Abraham is the father of faith for these religious traditions.

Arnold states, “[Abraham] is the father of all who believe.”  To a large degree this is inherently true.  As noted previously, several religious traditions name Abraham as the father of their particular faith.  But, that is the rub.  None of these faiths are the same, even though they might share some common denominators (i.e., Abraham).  The question then becomes: “Can Abraham really be the father of faith, even for traditions that are beyond or counter to the faith that is demonstrated by Abraham?”  In other words, if there is only one God (which all three faiths claim), yet each religious tradition’s viewpoint of God is divergent, can each faith legitimately claim Abraham as their father?

There are two potential pitfalls in Arnold’s statement.  First, not all Jews, Muslims, or Christians can actually trace their genetic heritage directly back to Abraham.  Each of these world religions has transcended, to some degree, the cultural/ethnic heritage in which it was conceived.  This drastically limits the way that Abraham can be conceived as the father of faith.  Thus, there is a more important criterion that is being used among the religious traditions: faith!  Jesus describes this criteria, “And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham” (Matt. 3:9).  Claiming Abraham as our father goes beyond genetic lineage!

Arnold’s statement is too nebulous to be fully affirmed.  Granted, we have concluded that there is a connection between Abraham and each of these faith traditions.  However, that does not then mean that “believers” are affirming the same things or that all are true.  We still must ascertain the common belief that unites people to father Abraham.  Will any belief do or is there something specific?  If it is “belief” in God, we should naturally inquire as to which God Abraham truly believed.  If we are connected to Abraham through faith, then it matters which faith.

Although all three of these “faiths” can be traced back in some way to Abraham that does not necessarily mean that Abraham would claim them as theological descendents.  If there is only one, true God whom Abraham served, then it is a likewise narrow field of “faith” that Abraham can be proclaimed as father.  Obviously, we cannot speak on behalf of Abraham.  We cannot make an air-tight argument against the claim of other faiths that produce counter-claims to Abraham as father.  The claim of Abraham as the true father of our faith is yet another matter of faith based upon our perception of who is truly God!

Abraham is not simply the father of “any who believes.”  That can too quickly denigrate into a universalism, which Judaism, Islam, or Christianity will not allow.  Abraham as the father of faith goes much deeper into the reality of the God that Abraham served.  Abraham is the father of “any who believes” in the One, true God.  And, although all three faiths may claim to be Abraham’s descendents, they do not all serve the same God.  There may be a genetic heritage that links all three, but matters of faith go beyond genetic lineages.


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