Looking East from Hilltop Farm towards Gladstone South Australia

And when I die...

Jan: David, what happens when we die?

David: I don't know.

Jan: How can you reconcile that with the orthodox Christian view of "life after death."

David: The apostle Paul talks about 'resurrection' (1 Corinthians 15) and he says "Some will ask how are the dead raised; with what kind of body?" (v35)

And he doesn't know!

He talks of an imperishable body, but he makes it very clear that we do have to die and that we are substantially different when raised. The grain of wheat is different from the plant which follows. "Resurrection" and "raised from the dead" say death is not the finality- or at least that it doesn't win, but they say nothing about what follows death.

Jan: Doesn't it talk of being in heaven praising God?"

David: Only as a symbol. It's all part of that metaphor of the High King which doesn't quite work anymore.

Think about it, death is extreme. We have popular notions of ghosts which are disembodied people. But in reality, it is very hard to imagine how we survive without a physical brain. When we consider how radically brain damage can change a personality, its almost impossible to imagine who we would be and how we would exist without a brain. Any survival beyond death is really beyond our imagining. Most of the popular stuff is really about avoiding the finality of death, I think. It's an aid to facing the fear of an absolute unknown. It's not a bad thing to have some idea... some image. But truth of truths is that we don't finally know. We just don't know.

We can hope for a better future. We can talk about it in symbolic language- I love CS Lewis's images in The Last Battle- but we can't know what it is.

Jan: Is there anything at all after death, or are you just taking refuge in agnosticism.

David: I'm not sure if there is anything. There are arguments either way. Near Death experiences and the experience of people who have died appearing briefly to their loved ones are obviously real phenomena. Just what causes them, and what they mean, is another question. It may not be correct to interpret them as evidence for our having some kind of personal survival after death.

There are two things I have to say.

The first is that I no longer believe as "an antidote to death." I used to. I got converted largely because I was afraid of being on the wrong side when I died, and going to hell. Now I believe and follow Christ's way because it is a good, healthy and freeing way to live. It is saving me now- and if you could absolutely say there is no resurrection I would still live this way, I think.

Jan: Paul said "We are of all men most to be pitied" if we don't believe.

David: We, I hope there is a resurrection. I like life and my consciousness of it more than I ever have. It gets better as I get older. But if there is no more when my body stops, so what? That's how it will be. If God made it all that way, well- I can't change it. But I can't see any better way of living in the meantime.

Jan: You said you had two things to say.

David: Yes. I can't imagine how life can continue when my body dies. But once or twice leading funeral services I can only say I have been 'invaded' by the recognition that I am not just saying words, not just leading a good psychological grieving rite. Instead there has been a very strong sense that what we have being doing is real… that 'the sure and certain hope' is not just words of comfort or denial, but a real thing.

So for all my agnosticism, I suspect we may be surprised. I'm certainly not the confident disbeliever that some people claim to be!

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