Understanding Death

Understanding Death

Jesus said that God causes the rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). Both believers and non-believers all share this same sin-cursed planet, and there is nothing we can do of ourselves to save ourselves from the effects of it.

Most of us came to a harsh realization of our mortality, even as children. It’s a very gloomy prospect to comprehend that we will all eventually die. And I know from crushing personal experience that this sometimes happens to our loved ones sooner rather than later.

None of us like death. Whether someone has lived a full life or dies ‘too young’, we grieve at their passing. The pain of loss causes us to ponder probably the most asked question—‘Why?’ ‘Why are we here if it is just to become nothing more than dust?’ And, ‘Why me?’ or perhaps, ‘Why us?’ In my experience, most Christians also struggle with this question. We might wonder why our loving and all-powerful Creator God would allow any of His precious children to suffer, sometimes in agony, before the end eventually comes.

Indeed, it is not a pretty picture, and there is tragic evidence that many have turned their backs on God because of the death of a loved one, or seeing a horrific international disaster that just did not make sense to them. But this struggle with the meaning of death is made far worse when people, including Christians, buy into an evolutionary understanding of death—often without even realizing it! If we do this, we can unwittingly accept some of its spurious concepts, including the idea that death is natural. As such, we might not provide satisfactory answers to others.

A straightforward answer is found in Genesis. It provides a correct biblical understanding of history, rather than the false evolutionary one. Moreover, we can find great joy in realizing that our Creator God knows our plight, and actually has done something about it.

Evolution: Death is “Just Natural”

Almost everybody has been subjected to an evolutionary/long-age view of the world at some stage. That is, all organisms have danced to the tune of death and struggle over millions of years. This story constantly invades our lives in our education, the news, and even in children’s literature. This ‘deep-time death’ theme is a form of indoctrination; hence its widespread acceptance. For example, evolutionary astronomer Carl Sagan said in one episode of his immensely popular TV science series, Cosmos: “The secrets of evolution are time and death. There’s an unbroken thread that stretches from those first cells to us.”1

His view, like most scientists today, merely echoed what Charles Darwin popularized in his famous book On the Origin of Species. Darwin wrote, “Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.”2

There has been much written about Darwin’s motivation for his theory. He struggled with the premature death of three of his children. And many commentators say that the death of his beloved 10-year-old daughter, Annie, finally destroyed any vestiges of Christian faith he had. He stopped attending church—something that I have seen many Christians do after losing loved ones. Darwin concluded that the world was ages old and concluded that death had been here since the beginning. In this view, ‘God’ becomes the author of death and suffering and a cruel ogre. Death became king to Darwin, rather than the One who has the power over life and death (Rev. 1:18).

We see this ‘death is king’ theme even in popular movies. The hugely influential science fiction author H.G. Wells (1866–1946) was a rabid evolutionist who trained under ‘Darwin’s bulldog’ Thomas Huxley.3 The 2005 Stephen Spielberg remake of H.G. Wells’ classic science fiction tale, The War of the Worlds, stays true to its evolutionary precepts of death and struggle. But I wonder how many could see Wells’ anti-Christian ideas coming through? It employs the idea of older (on the evolutionary scale), and therefore more technologically advanced, Martians attacking the earth with the aim of exterminating mankind. Wells wrote how these ‘superior aliens’ viewed humans: “No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.” (emphasis mine).

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