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Friday, June 24, 2005

Is Death a Natural Part of Life?

No. It's not. Not if by natural one means that death is the design of the Creator or that it's what is "supposed" to happen to us and thus OK. Every mourner knows that death is not OK. When God created Adam and Eve in the Garden, it was not His purpose for them to die. Death is a result of our sinfulness (sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned - Romans 5). And that's why we hate it. Because it is un-natural. And I'd suggest that God hates death even more than we do.

Russell Moore over at Mere Comments made me think of this with his post today entitled "Death is Not a Happy Ending." He alerts us to some insightful writing in the latest issue of Presbyterians Pro-Life. He quotes Terry Schlossberg's article about the death of Terri Schiavo. Schlossberg states that the Christian faith

"does not welcome death as a friend or as an escape from the burdens of this life. Scripture speaks of death as the 'last enemy,' that which is overcome by the Savior."

That is certainly true. And though I'm unaware of his personal beliefs, I have always found something appealing in the words of Dylan Thomas as he begged his dying father to fight death rather than accept it: "Do not go gentle into that good night.... Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

The Culture of Death is trying to redefine death, to domesticate it. The Culture of Death believes that death is nature's way of making room for life. The Culture of Death believes that a person's value is determined by his productivity so that when a person becomes a burden or a drain, then he should die. It's a "survival of the fittest" thing.

Of course, one must accept the reality that death is inevitable for all of us (except those alive at the parousia). And there are times when a dying person must be allowed to die - though not because it is his/her "right" but because it has become the lesser evil.

At the same as I say all of that, I confess that by His own dying and rising, our Lord Jesus has transformed death so that for those who are baptized into Christ, death has lost its sting. We are set free from the fear of death and, as the Apostle writes, we do not grieve as the world does.

Even Christians may occasionally contribute to this domestication of death when we emphasize that so-and-so has gone to a better place. That's true. And it is comforting. Jesus told the penitent thief, "Today you shall be with me in Paradise." And St. Paul does write that to be absent from the body is to be with the Lord. But we too often fail to recall the promised resurrection on the Last Day, though we confess it in the creed. Russell Moore is right to point out that "The final hope is to share in Christ's resurrection, and so to overturn the curse of sin and the reign of death."

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5 comments:

Preachrboy said...

I like your phrase, "Domesticated Death".

You are right on here, Scott. Death is also the bottom line reason Christians can't believe in Darwinism. God's not about survival of the fittest.

Another thought. The way Christians grieve - sad, but not without hope - and the whole tension of "even though he dies yet shall he live" - add a couple more paradoxes to our Lutheran list. Gotta love that tension.

Gone Away said...

Amen.

Preachrboy said...

Check out my recent post on Preachrblog along with a link to this one. Some interesting video on the same topic.

Webcritter said...

What do you do with:

Phil 1:20-23
20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
(KJV)

Bob Waters said...

Death is a conquered enemy, a slave, used by its Conqueror for His own purposes. But it's still unnatural, and not part of the original plan.

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