Theological Criteria of a Christian Understanding of Death

First: Death is death—nothing more, nothing less. That death is not less than death means that death cannot be avoided by postulating an immortal soul. Death is the collapse of all relations; it is the beginning and the event of absolute non-relationality,405 and, as such, it must be taken seriously406 and suffered as the "anthropological passive."407 That death is not more than death, however, means that it has to be reduced to that limit which humans cannot set, for humans cannot abolish it.408 Thus, death must be and become what Jesus Christ made of it: the limit to human beings that is set by God alone, who, in our total powerlessness, never abuses divine power.409

Second: Space, time, and language as the factors limiting human existence prevent us from knowing what is in and after death. Liberation from these boundaries can be achieved only by paying the price of death.410 In the condition of not knowing, images fulfill a function; they are the mythological fruit of human fantasy, however, and, as such, should not be used as "signposts in a supernatural geography."411

Third: Because death is death and because not knowing shrouds human existence prior to death, death is the radical collapse in which God becomes all in all (1 Cor. 15:28). A new, eternal order of relations is established on God's ultimate faithfulness and God's eternal will to establish lasting relationships with human beings.412 Talk of eternal life that has already begun is possible only in light of God's desire to relate.

Fourth: Collapse and transformation must be understood in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christian faith in the resurrection of the dead can therefore be proclaimed "as a new beginning out of the devastating nothingness of death."413

Fifth: The connection of human beings-time—relation/communication—history needs to be related to an Other in order not to fall apart. For a theology of time, this means: The lifetime of a person becomes genuinely historical only when it is understood as a moment of God's history with all people.414 An understanding of eternity as the effective Other of time is in the offing here.

Sixth: A Christian conception of death cannot be limited to reflections upon the death of human beings. The anthropocentric boundary should be abolished by applying a cosmic perspective.

The criteria that have been briefly discussed here elicit questions that we must pursue: How can something be radical discontinuity and a complete end and nevertheless, at the same time, be continuity and a new beginning? How can identity and individuality be maintained in this contradictory process? I will address this question again (see pp. 217—19) in order to show how a relational understanding of time can assist in clarifying the issue.

We have repeatedly seen that a static, dualistic explanatory model confronts a host of difficulties and is unable to offer intellectually satisfying answers to a series of questions. I therefore will intensify my search for dynamic, relational thought models.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment