This is an open-comment theology blog where I will post various theological musings, mostly in sermon or essay form, for others to read and comment on. If what I say here interests you, you may want to check out some of my books. Feel free to criticize, to critique, to comment, but keep comments to the point and respectful. Many of these posts have been published elsewhere, but I wanted them collected and made available to a wider audience.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Life Versus, Not Alongside, Death
I saw this picture on a friend's Facebook page recently:
It would be hard to disagree more with something. I do not think death and life are some beautiful harmony. Death may be normal, but it is not normative. The surest sign that death and life do not live in love is simply the fact that life is instantiated in living THINGS, and living things naturally try to avoid death. Evolution takes place as life battles against death, non-being, and nothingness.
I agree with Peter Berger that death as we experience it now is an offense to the mind and the soul. Almost all of the mundane religious experience I have spoken of before include in their phenomenology a resistance to death. Humor and joy (play), are, as Nietzsche said, a willing of 'eternity, deep, deep eternity'. Death comes to us as an assaulting force against which we must struggle. Now, there may be a way Death could be ARRANGED such that it does not so offend our hearts and minds. If we all died after fulfilling all our life projects, and only in old age, perhaps Death would not come to us as such a rabid beast. But Death DOES NOT exist that way for us. It's randomness, and especially the death of children, is what may really offend.
I argued that in my book CONVERSATIONAL THEOLOGY, but I'm no longer sure even that is right. In each moment I experience beauty, or good, or love, I experience a call, a message that this moment lasts forever. It's APPARENT passing into nothingness is something I feel we naturally say 'no' to. We experience life in love, and beauty and virtue, and so life itself must be associated with a willing to eternity, to eternal life. To choose faith is to choose to trust the experience of these moments as they come to us, over against the apparent, sensory experience of a passing to nothingness.
For all the variety in scripture, for all the ways the various writers 'converse' over important issues, one single thread remains consistent. There may be only one message or idea that truly holds throughout scripture, and that is death is bad, and life is good. Moreover, scripture universally associates God with life itself. God IS Life. The Bible presents an ongoing struggle between life and death, between being and non-being, or more accurately between form and formlessness. God, who is eternal, is identified with life and being over against death and non-being.
I therefore, at the core of my being, reject the friendly message of this particular meme.