The Theology of Death?

Posted December 27, 2011 at 2:34 PM by Joey Livingston

"Theologians argue that we were created to live forever", Dr. Jones says, "but that the first man, Adam, sinned, and that as a result of that sin, God cursed all of mankind to suffer a spiritual death."

I'm sitting with Dr. Michael W. Jones in his office, drinking a cup of coffee. He sits across from me, preparing his bowling ball for a league series game. He's not good at bowling, he once told me, and that's what he likes about it. Doing things you're not good at is healthy for the mind, he said. It helps to keep the world in perspective, and reminds you that everybody is good at something, but nobody is good at everything. This is why we need each other, he argued. This is why people need to work together.

I hear what he's saying, but I'm confused. "I thought that God cursed us to suffer a physical death?" I ask.

"That's part of it," he responds, "but the argument of theologians is polysemous. They're not going to be clear, or their argument would fall apart. They have to keep it ambiguous, so that they can dance a little bit if anyone tries to shed some light on what they're saying. But they're argument, in general, is that the curse brought spiritual death, and that this, in turn, caused physical death."


There's a sound quality in his voice that's akin to the tone that someone might take if they were telling a good joke. "I take it you don't adhere to this argument?" I ask him.

He stops what he's doing. "Well, think about it. These same theologians argue that when Jesus died, he took away the least for some." There's a long pause, like he's waiting for me to say something, but I remain silent. So he asks a question, perhaps on my behalf.

"So if He took away the curse...then why are we all still dying?"

I don't immediately grasp his implication, and I must look a bit befuddled. He moves a bit closer, a look on his face a bit like he's about to teach kindergarten class.

"The curse brought spiritual death." He holds one hand out, "The spiritual death caused physical death." He holds the other hand out, "Jesus took away the curse." He pulls both hands back, "That means the curse is gone. So why are we still dying?"

I finally get it. I've been in this place a lot when listening to Dr. Jones. The concepts are often simple, but my religious upbringing somehow makes it harder for my mind to grasp them then they should be.

"I don't know," I finally ask, "why are we still dying?"

I think he was waiting for this moment, or was trying to build to it. He explains that death is a good thing, that it was never a bad thing, and was always part of God's purpose and design for His creation. He explains that death is a motivator on this earth, and that we can make a difference for the generations to come if we work hard and love each other, but we have a limited time in which to do it. "How many people," he asks, "would spend their days laying around, watching TV, playing games, and whatever else, if they felt like they had forever on this earth to do what was really important?"

I chuckle at this thought. "We already have enough people like that as it is," I respond.

"Exactly. So the reality is, you're going to die, and that's not a bad thing. You're not going to die one day because Adam ate a piece of fruit. You're going to die because God created you to live, to die, and then to be with Him. You're physical death has nothing to do with a curse or any other concept out of old covenant theology. God has given you life on this earth to do something good for your children, your brothers and sisters, your friends, and your fellow man. And you don't have forever to do it, so He intends for you to get moving, right now. Not tomorrow, but today."

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