A family friend died last week. She was quite ill, but no one expected it to come this soon. As we approach Easter, where Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, I thought I would first start with a practical application of Jesus’ rising from the dead. We’ll get to the theological and philosophical details later. But for now, the point is to realize that most all of the theology and philosophy and logic tends to fall short when you are staring into a casket. So I submit two responses from people at the death of their loved ones.
The first Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, John Jay, wrote this on May 28, 1802 to his children just after the death of his wife:
Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?… Behold I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.… Death is swallowed up in victory. (I Corinthians 15)
By contrast, I quote the brother of Pat Tillman, the NFL player who was killed in Afganistan. Pat’s brother was drinking beer while at the podium, speaking at his brother’s funeral:
He’s not with God. He’s [expletive] dead. He’s not religious. Thanks for your thoughts, but he’s [expletive] dead.
So here we have a vivid contrast. One person has hope and can look death in the eye and say there is indeed a future, that we can be victorious over death. The other denies the existence of God, and all he has is ‘just dead.’ For such a view, there is no point, no purpose, no future. All we can say is the molecules that we call a person stopped moving around. Just dead.
If you allow Jesus, you can look at a casket and have hope: blessed, victorius, joyful, eternal hope. If you accept the secular worldview, all you have is dead. If you refuse Jesus, then you should at least be as honest as Tillman’s brother, and drink a beer. An empty beer can is as good is it will ever get for you.
I have read and reviewed a few logical arguments and philosophical positions about resurrection. None of them, pro or con, seem to mean much at a funeral. But hope does.