Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

So here’s what one BRENDAN FOHT threaded in response to my most recent BIG THINK post on deeath. There’s a lot of wisdom packed into a few words:

What exactly do you mean by explaining the situation Dave? The New Testament is fairly clear about Jesus and eternal life, clear enough to guide generations of faithful Christians. I suppose it is unfortunate that none of the gospels contain a lab protocol for engineered negligible senescence or mind-uploading techniques, but I guess that’s just how faith goes.

Re: Ron – I think Christians know that biological death is bad because they recognize, with the atheist Mr. Stolyarov, that each human being is a whole universe of unique and irreplaceable value. As to the consequences of death, I think the gospels are a bit ambiguous on this point; on the one hand, dying to the world does seem like an important step in joining God in Heaven. On the other hand, death, as the annihilation of personal being is recognized as a horrible thing. It is precisely this annihilation of these beings beloved by God that Jesus was sent to the world to stop. In this respect, I think it is worth pointing out that eternal salvation is not something earned for having lived a righteous life in Christian theology,* God really loves people and wants them to live, but sin separates us from Him (i.e. death) and needs to be dealt with (i.e. Grace, Jesus.)

So the death part is no good for Christians; God so hates the death of the people he loves in the world that he sent his one and only son so that they may not perish but have everlasting life. I added a bit to that passage, which is probably kind of sacrilegious, but I think it corresponds to the point. The everlasting life (with God) is the part Christians like, and death (biological or otherwise) is not really the means to everlasting life; redemption of sin through the grace of God and Jesus Christ is the means to everlasting life.

Returning to Dave:

“Having had a chance to live long enough to consider the matter, it looks to me like death is the end of my personal life.Life isn’t about me. The fact that I feel a need to continue is simply my brain being prompted by the life force that keeps me going.”

No, no, no, no!

Well, actually, the first sentence may be right, unless the whole Jesus thing is true, which is not something that is very easy to argue about. But none of those other depressing claims follow at all! Life is definitely about personal beings like you and me. Your life, certainly, is about you, and that is a really big deal! Don’t sell yourself short!

And as for “life forces” doing things to your brain . . . weren’t you trying to be scientific earlier? The fact that you experience existence in the world, and that you know first-hand your own personal significance (even if you deny it through idle theorizing) is infinitely important regardless of any biochemical explanation science might proffer for it. And seeing the value of human life as something foisted on our brains by some undefinable “life force” is not even any kind of scientific explanation; it’s just cheap nihilism.

to sum up: People are pretty much the best things in the universe, and if you don’t believe me, ask Jesus.

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles