Monday, February 17, 2014

The True Face of Death

Death is loss, loss of life. Life is good. Loss of good is an evil. Therefore death is an evil. Loss of a great good is a great evil. Life is a great good. Therefore death is a great evil. Not to see this is a great blindness. Blindness is a great evil. Therefore not to see death as a great evil is a great evil. –Peter Kreeft, Love is Stronger Than Death

Our culture does everything in its power to cover the true face of death. “Life’s Good. Death’s Good. It’s All Good.” We hide our instinctual horror at death’s face behind beautiful chapels playing soft elevator music in the background, and with manicured cemetery lawns. We use euphemisms such as, “sleeping,” “eternal rest,” and “passed away,” so as to shield us from the terror of the finality of death. But whatever veneer or fa├žade we use, as it was written of Jesus, so it will be true for us: he suffered, died, and was buried. Dead.

The New Testament never speaks of the human soul as being immortal or eternal. This is why we do read of “resurrection.” God alone is eternal. Throughout Scripture, we humans are seen as dependent upon God for every breath we take. To say that our souls are immortal is to say that we are not dependent on the God of Life, but have life within ourselves, regardless of and independent from God.

Throughout scriptures God is revealed as the source and giver of life. Nowhere is He seen as the author or creator of death. Death was not His doing but ours. Death is revealed as being contrary to God: The Enemy of God. For death to be “natural” would mean that God intended it from the beginning of creation. He did not.

The story of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis shows us that death is the outcome of our choice to no longer be dependent on the life of God. We took God’s gift of the freedom to choose between Life and Death and we chose to subjugate ourselves to death.

Death is a poison we freely drank: a poison that inevitably and irreversibly leads to disintegration and death.

I believe that this is another reason – The Reason, in fact – why we seek to avoid thinking about the meaning of death, seek to cover its horror with beautiful chapels and beautiful words. When we witness death we sense that something is wrong with the world: that this (death) is not right, not how it should be. And then the horror of all horrors: What if it’s not a case where there is something wrong with the world? What if there is something wrong with me?

The bad news is that there is something wrong with us. We broke faith with God. We ripped ourselves away from a relationship with the God of Life, so as to go our own way. We divorced God. This is why we don’t want to speak about death, why we avoid, at any cost, seeking out its meaning, why we work so hard to cover death’s face. At the core of our souls, we know we are guilty and that the cause of disease, suffering, and death, lies within us.

Here is the good news. In our guilt and blame we find hope. As Peter Kreeft points out in his book, Love is Stronger Than Death, there is nothing wrong with the Cosmos. There is nothing wrong with God. Death is not natural. Life is not insane or guilty: I am. And if there is something wrong with me, maybe there is hope that my wrongness may be righted.

We may seek to put a different face on reality so that it appears other than what it is, but we do not, thereby, change reality. Our only hope is in facing reality, facing the fact that Death is pointing his guilty finger in our faces. And this is the beginning of hope. I say, “beginning,” because it is only the first and necessary step in discovering the meaning of death, and the possibility of changing or transforming our relationship to it.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2014

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