Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Five Views of Death

Okay, so I know this is not an uplifting topic. But a good worldview will have an explanation for what happens at death. Here are some views- this was adapted from Richard Longenecker's Life After Death: The Resurrection Message in the New Testament. Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans, 1988.

Death: Five Views

1. Death is an illusion: this views stems from Eastern philosophy: (1) physical death is denied; (2) the training of the mind to enounce reality of everything material is emphasized; (3) the human “spirit” or “soul” is viewed as “death,” returning as returning to the world of the spiritual (whether that world is understood to be personal or impersonal terms) and/or as reincarnated into another seemingly corporal existence, with that further reincarnation being only another step toward a final, eternal, noncorporeal, nonpersonal existence.

2. Death is a perfectly natural phenomomenon:
This view stems mostly from a naturalistic or atheistic heritage: In this view (1) resignation in the face of the natural and inevitable is stressed; (2) training the mind to accept death as part of the world process of change and decay- and so, not to think in personal terms; (3) making the most of our human lives, both personally and on the behalf of others.

3. Death is the Release of One’s Immortal Soul:
This attitude is from a Greek or Platonic philosophy though it may carry with it some nuances drawn from Hinduism, Buddhism, or some forms of Confucianism. In this view, responses to death usually include (1) sorrowful resignation with regard to the “departure” of a person at death; (2) a welcoming of death as the liberator of the person; (3) comfort in thinking of the deceased person as now living a “soulish” existence in some spiritual realm apart from the physical world- with often, though not always, (4) an expectation that at some future time, whether at death or some distant period of time, those departed souls will be reincarnated into new bodies.

4. Death Ends Human Existence, Yet There Is Hope in God:
In this case, death brings to an end the existence of the whole person, both physically and spiritually; yet that death is ordained by God and under his providence, and so there is hope both corporately and individually for God’s people. This hope is expressed in some form of resurrection language. This is an attitude that stems from Judaism, with its roots in Scripture with developments taking place during the periods of Second Temple Judaism and Talmudic Judaism. With such a stance, the result is the following: (1) A mixture of grief, sadness, even anger; (2) Though also acceptance over the termination of human life at death, there is a corporate preservation and prosperity, with a belief that the deceased personal ideals will have a part in influencing for good that corporate life; (3) Hope in God for the restoration of God’s faithful ones somehow in the future, with that restoration at times visualized in some form of personal resurrection.

5. Death is the Last Enemy, But The Resurrection of the Messiah Provides Life: This viewis held by Messianic Judaism (and Christianity) and shares much of the Jewish vision regarding death, life, and the afterlife but goes beyond what is contained in the Hebrew Bible.

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