Fear and Trembling Revisited[1]
(A Parable of Lost Faith)

Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and he called aloud to him in the street and said, “Abraham!”

And Abraham feared greatly, and trembled, but answered with the wisdom of his mature age. And he said, “Is it really you, O God of my fathers, to whom I have so diligently devoted my deepest intellectual energies and personal affections? But if so, how is it that after so many years of longing, I now at last hear your voice so distinctly?”

And God said, “How strange that you should doubt! You have always delighted in my loving voice before, however faint, and you have never succumbed to such skepticism, assuming that without faith it would be impossible to please me. But now it is this very thing—your most cherished belief in my genuine reality and love for you—that has taught you to listen more carefully. Because of the depth of your trust, you no longer feel so urgently the need to rely on the imaginations and presumptions of blind resignation, but are now more open to the virtue of truly rational thinking, which I have indeed given you. So yes, I am the God whom you have always sought. Mine is the noble voice of honest reason, which I have been and still am teaching you to recognize.”

Abraham said nothing, realizing it would take time to fully process all this. So God continued, “Take now this sharp knife which I have indeed given you, as I said before, and plunge it deeply into my heart. Is it not I who command you? Test me and see, and when you see, you must kill me, the very God whose existence you have always treasured so deeply in your heart.”

Abraham recoiled, utterly aghast. “By no means, Lord!” he protested. “I am no untimely philosopher’s madman! I will not do this impossible thing. You know perfectly well that I could not even live without you.”

“And could you live with me, knowing your cowardly disobedience to my will in this matter?” pressed the Almighty.

“I know no such thing!” insisted Abraham, with new conviction that this now unwelcome voice must surely be a mere figment of his imagination after all.

“If I am only a figment of your imagination,” God answered his unspoken muse, “then why are you afraid to kill me?”

“Ha!” exclaimed Abraham triumphantly, though his fear was more real now than ever. “You are not God but the Devil. I am not afraid to kill you!” And he took the knife in his hand, steeling himself for the brave, unthinkable deed. But when he felt the cold incisiveness of the uncaring blade, he hesitated, waiting, listening carefully, intently for God to rise and tell him it was just a test. And God was silent. Dreadfully, darkly, deathly silent.


Abraham gradually awoke to a stabbing pain and the awareness that his heart was bleeding profusely. Terrified, he looked in his hand, but saw no accusatory weapon. In its place was an intricately crafted, melodiously ticking pocket watch. Then the bleeding slowed, though it did not stop. His pain began to give way to a sublime peace he had never known before. For he realized that although he had not been truly willing to fully sacrifice it himself, the surgical slaying of his most cherished psychological need had been mercifully provided for him. And Abraham, the unbeliever, was called the friend of God, who spoke no more.


[1] Fear and Trembling is the title of a short treatise by Søren Kierkegaard on the developmental stages leading to faith, based on some imaginative reformulations of the Biblical story of Abraham and Isaac from Genesis 22.

This page copyright © 2017 Edward A. Morris.  Created December 9 2017.  Last updated December 19, 2017.

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