Most of us have a one-hundred percent chance of dying, and dying is the most common cause of death. So perhaps it requires a little consideration, now and then…
In five years of blogging my most popular post by far has been “The Meaning of Life According to Hamlet, Paul and Deep Thought”. So I decided it was time to discuss the meaning of death. Unfortunately Deep Thought, an imaginary computer invented to calculate the meaning of life, apparently had no opinion on the meaning of death…
Death is pretty popular these days. That may seem like a rather crass statement, but unfortunately, it’s true. Take, for example, the idea in certain religious circles that you can only be sure of getting to heaven by killing yourself along with other people: you prove how great God is by committing suicide and murdering them. That isn’t, incidentally, the God of the Bible.
Death has been explained and explored in as many ways as the human mind can imagine. One of the most popular ideas about death is that we die because we need to have another go at getting life right: reincarnation. Seems like a good idea, eh? Why shouldn’t we get another chance at life if we blow it? The problem is that according to such philosophies the majority of us are going to “blow it” through tens of thousands of life-times. So if you’re not used to dying yet, you’d better start getting used to it now.
(Photo Laurent Belanger)
Unless God puts his foot in the door first-or more specifically, on the Mount of Olives-we all have a one-hundred percent chance of dying. Dying is the most common cause of death. And I don’t mean that flippantly either, because when God warned Adam against disobedience, he meant not that Adam would be zapped on the spot by a lightening bolt the moment he disobeyed, but that he would begin to die, and he would keep dying, until he was dead. God was not keeping Adam and Eve from fulfillment in life: he was trying to help Adam make a wise choice and so avoid death. Alas, Adam opted for death.
Another highly popular explanation for death was promoted by Mr. Darwin in the nineteenth century, and of course by all his fans up to the present day. In Darwin’s theory death is nature’s way of disposing of the older, more primitive life forms, and giving rise to the new and more successful. Darwin believed that some races of man were more highly evolved than others, and would soon see their extinction. Yes-he was genuinely biased against certain groups of humans, a fact rarely included in discussions of the “elegance” of evolution theory.
Darwin himself had been influenced by others, particularly Herbert Spencer, who coined the word “evolution” and the phrase “survival of the fittest”. These concepts gave rise to “Social Darwinism” which saw wealthy, successful intellectuals as being more evolved than the poor and the weak, and later “eugenics”- the idea that the weakest in the human race should be discouraged or stopped from breeding. Such ideas were taken up and implemented very successfully by men like Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin*
The meaning of death in evolution, if we look at it honestly, is that it’s a vital part of the onward-and-upward trend of life on earth, including that of humanity: it’s a good thing. More specifically (and modern evolutionists generally avoid this aspect of the discussion too) the death of the less successful, the less attractive and the weak is necessary and inevitable. No wonder such men as Hitler liked the idea. And by the way, the meaning of life according to evolution is struggle and competition, so better your neighbors if you can.
This view of death demeans you. It makes your life little more than a stepping-stone for someone else’s. In the rising tide of atheism, unbelief and skepticism in our world, there are many who would read what I just wrote and then claim to be more than willing and happy to be one of those stepping stones. But for those who are not, there’s a far better explanation for death, and a hope beyond it which far outweighs any pain experienced on its arrival.
It’s sometimes said by the cynical that heaven is a fairy story for those who can’t face the thought of death. My view is that evolution is a fairy story for those who can’t face the thought of heaven, God or judgment. As I’ve written before many times, I’ve seen no evidence for evolution, and neither have you. Oh, you’ve seen different kinds of dogs, but they’re still dogs. You’ve seen people with black skin and white skin and yellow skin, but they’re still people. In contrast, I’ve seen plenty of evidence that there is an incredibly intelligent and powerful Creator, a creator who is eternal, and who therefore must have power over death.
The Bible gives an explanation for death which is, I believe, higher, deeper, and more noble than that of the evolutionist. For me it fits the whole claim found in the Bible that there is a holy God who has absolute standards. We as his creation, beginning with Adam and Eve, have failed to live up to those standards, and the result is death:
“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a)
A perfect God cannot allow a rebellious creation to live for ever: there has to be a check-point: a consequence and an answer to our fallen condition. However, the Bible teaches one death only.
A God who is able to make such an amazing, beautiful universe must also, as the Bible declares, be a loving God. And it’s that love which provides the antidote to death:
“But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23b).
The gift of eternal life comes by a healing of our broken relationship with God in which God chooses to forgive us completely and put us on the right path. Death parts us from our fallen nature which caused the problem in the first place. It’s nothing but good news-the good news about Jesus Christ. Please see my recent post on the gospel:
*See for more info on the link between the theory of evolution and murderous philosophies, see the following posts: