Orthodox theologian John Romanides describes in The Ancestral Sin(162-3) how the fear of death leads to evil practices and habits: “Through the power of death and the devil, sin that reigns in men gives rise to fear and anxiety and to the general instinct of self-preservation or survival. Thus, Satan manipulates man’s fear and his desire for self-satisfaction, raising up sin in him. . . . Because of death, man must first attend to the necessities of life in order to stay alive. In this struggle, self-interests are unavoidable. Thus, man is unable to live in accordance with his original destiny of unselfish love. This state of subjection under the reign of death is the root of man’s weakness in which he becomes entangled in sin at the urging of the demons and by his own consent. Resting in the hands of the devil, the power of the fear of death is the root from which self-aggrandizement, egotism, hatred, envy, and other similar passions spring up. In addition to the fact that man ‘subjects himself to anything in order to avoid dying,’ he constantly fears that his life is without meaning. Thus, he strives to demonstrate to himself and to others that it has worth. . . . Fear and anxiety render man an individual.”

This helps us think through the counter-thought-experiment: What would our lives look like if we thoroughly and fully believed that death had been conquered, if we were completely freed from fear of death, if we live in undoubting hope of resurrection? A lot like the life of Jesus.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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