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Sunday, March 29, 2009


Two posts ago I mentioned one of the major beliefs about our fate after death.
Reincarnation. We come back in some form, usually tied to how we've lived in this life.
Reincarnation is the belief that souls are re-embodied after death, based on how well one's lived one's life. This belief is a core belief of Hinduism, and I believe, Buddhism as well.

I presume that for the individual who is reincarnated there is no memory of one's previous life. Nor is there a re-unification with friends and loved ones from the previous life.

This is horrible! All the wisdom and knowledge that have been gathered in one life are gone and cannot be used in the next life. There is no reconnection with family and friends from the previous life. This doesn't fill me with any hope, rather with despair.

How can one do better the next time? Why would the next time be better than this time? Am I different, or is it just that my circumstances have changed? If it is just the circumstances, then why am I responsible for what seems to be my circumstances and not my own actions? Furthermore, what is karma, and how does it work to balance out who goes where? What is the mechanism for karma?

Lastly, how does one evaluate evil and good in this system? If people are working off poor decisions or bad things that they have done in previous lives, then why should I try and help them? It might just get in the way of what they need to do. Is there room for compassion and mercy? It doesn't seem so.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Death and That's It

The following is from a blog I follow:

Last April I had occasion to speak in Zurich, where I made some of these same points. After the speech, a few of the twenty-something members of the audience approached and said plainly that the phrase “a life well-lived” did not have meaning for them. They were having a great time with their current sex partner and new BMW and the vacation home in Majorca, and saw no voids in their lives that needed filling.

It was fascinating to hear it said to my face, but not surprising. It conformed to both journalistic and scholarly accounts of a spreading European mentality. Let me emphasize “spreading.” I’m not talking about all Europeans, by any means. That mentality goes something like this: Human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate. The purpose of life is to while away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.

To my way of thinking this is the "eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die" mentality. If there is nothing after we die, then why not? But are we really here to simply enjoy life and its pleasures and then die? Is this all it means to be human? What about those who have little or nothing to enjoy in this life? What about the millions who endure poverty, violence, hunger, disease, and a premature death? It's one thing for wealthy and comfortable Americans and Europeans to enjoy this life and then die. At least we got to enjoy this one. But many people haven't had anything to enjoy in this life, and won't.

Furthermore, I believe that this kind of mentality strikes against the core of what it means to be human. In Jewish and Christian tradition, humans are created in God's image. That means that we bear marks of some sort that are like God. This includes, but isn't limited to creativity. To be truly human we should not be mere consumers of the pleasures of life, but we should be creative in our jobs, in the arts, in seeking justice and aid for the oppressed and poor of the world. This life isn't about my pleasures. If this "European" mentality is true, then why should I care about other "collections of chemicals" that don't have it as good as I do?

Lastly (for this post at least), what about the injustices of life? Isn't there something in each of us that cries out against violence against myself and about violence, rape, and murder against other people? If this life is all that there is, then there will be no justice for these people. How sad. Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Genghis Khan, Mugabe, Saddam Hussein, and many others will cease to exist, but they end up the same as all the people who have done good in this life. What's the point? If you want to leave a legacy, do bad things. You will be remembered for longer, and by more people than if you did good things.

But there is another option. God promises true justice, not just for history's "really bad boys," but for everyone. That includes the bad things that I've done as well. But if there is no life after this one, then the evil in this life, well, it just is.

Listen to Dennis Prager on this topic:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Death and After

In my last post I said:
Our greatest evangelistic tool may (should?) be the fact of death and what happens after. What happens to the human after death? There aren't many options, and most of them deny ultimate human significance.
So what are the options?
  1. That's it. When we die, we die. We bury (or otherwise dispose of) the remains. Any living on is the legacy and whatever we leave behind, for good or bad.
  2. Reincarnation. We come back in some form, usually tied to how we've lived in this life.
  3. Some sort of spirit life. I'm not sure what to make of this, as I've not heard much about it.
  4. Resurrection. We receive new bodies, similar to, but better than our old ones. Life is lived in God's presence with others who are acceptable to him.
  5. Don't know. I'll hope for the best.
Did I miss any? If so, please leave comments and I'll add them for future discussion. For those of you who are following this on some level, how do you react to these options? If you are a believer/follower of Jesus Christ, which are options that you believe? If you are not a believer/follower, which options do you believe? Why?

Next post - start talking about each of these options in more detail.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dying without God

I just finished reading Albert Mohler's blog for today - Dying without God, The Absence of Belief at Life's End.

I highly recommend that you read it, especially in the light of recent polls that show that more and more America is becoming a non-religious country. I see this trend more and more in my students.

I'm filling in for my pastor in a couple of weeks, preaching on a few verses from the middle of Psalm 103. These verses speak of the shortness of human life. Without giving away my sermon (come back in a few weeks for that), human life is short and all of us will soon be forgotten. My hobby is family history - unearthing the details of the live of people who are long gone. It's exciting to find the details, yet most of the information about people will never be remembered. Nor does it even exist. The knowledge of all those people simply doesn't exist anymore. Only the bare bones about them is left - death, wills, locations, marriages, children, birth or christening. Many times these are gone as well. We know nothing of their hopes, dreams, aspirations, desires, personalities or even their looks.

So what does this have to do with death - mine, or yours? Simply this. Our greatest evangelistic tool may (should?) be the fact of death and what happens after. What happens to the human after death? There aren't many options, and most of them deny ultimate human significance. I'll be exploring this more in the near future. My thesis will be that if there is no God to meet after death, then there is no ultimate human significance.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Rock of Ages

Another favorite hymn, again by Augustus Toplady. (What a name!) Here's a link to a nice rendition of it, again by the Celebration Choir.

And the final selection on that CD which has a part of the hymn at the end of the song "When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder"

And the lyrics.

And now for the commentary on the hymn itself. The first two lines (repeated at the end) are a play on the word "cleft." "Cleft" can be both a noun and the past participle of the verb "cleave." Thus, Jesus is both the place where we hide and he is broken for me.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
Then these words:
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.
(Or, save me from its guilt and power)
The author has neatly captured our need. We need to be saved from sin twice, if you will. We need to be saved from the guilt of sin, from the wrath of God, and we need now and in the future to be saved from the power of sin so that we can live pure and holy lives for our God.

The next stanza underscores strongly our helpless position before God (Toplady was a strong Calvinist.)
Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law's commands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.

Nothing that we do can atone for our sins. We are completely and truly helpless before God. Only he can save us. So the next stanza continues. We bring nothing but sin and rebellion to God. He does all the work.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown,
see thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee.

Jesus is our hope not only for this life, but also for the life and world to come. As Romans 8 states, Jesus intercedes for us and nothing can separate us from his love.

Hide yourself in Jesus, cleft for me, cleft for you. Hide yourself in him both now and in the life to come.