Several months ago I started a Teaching Company course titled Death, Dying, and Afterlife and despite several false starts and middle of the road stalls I finally finished all the lectures and now that my ThD program is finished I am finally able to complete the assignment for this course. This course is part of my Unschooled Master of Theology program.
So, lets jump in and see what there is to learn about death…
Discussion Questions Lecture 1
1 What factors influence the way a particular society or culture imagines or thinks about death?
Predominately a society is bound by its historical context. That is, how has the society viewed death historically? Though such views tend to slowly change over time, it still provides a deep seated anchor to the past. Likewise, a society is governed in their thinking by their worldview, or, what they image reality to be. If they believe the individual at death merely returns again to life through rebirth, such belief will have a much different affect on their thinking about death than those who believe that each individual only has one life and afterward they will be judged for their deeds and sentenced accordingly.
2 What are the most accurate or useful metaphors to use when thinking about death?
There are several used but the most frequent is death described as a deep sleep. Paul uses this metaphor when comforting those who were convinced their loved ones would not rise in the resurrection or had missed the second coming. Personally, though I find sleep to be very descriptive of death (though we really don’t know what death is like after dying), the Bible clearly assumes that the individual remains conscious and has experiences after death and before the resurrection. Jesus described it as Paradise, where as Jesus tells us that the rich man was in Hades in torment. This does not in any way appear to be an unconscious sleep.
3 What impact does reflecting on death have on the way you live?
It is sobering to reflect on the reality that one day, at some point, I will be required to give up this body and whatever it is that makes the “I” of me will cease to inhabit this flesh and bone and what will become of me I have no certainty other than what I believe by faith from the Word of God. Because I spend significant time pondering the subject, it has realigned my priorities in life, knowing that this world is not only temporary, but I can rest a little easier with the reality that life on earth is brutal, abysmal, corrupt, debased, and altogether evil. Life to me is a putrid stench and I will be thankful once it is gone and done and I am somewhere else or altogether absent from existence. I have no desire to seek after the things of this world or this life. Relationships, children, money, fame, success. These things are all futile, for death comes for everyone. If there is no afterlife and at death I cease to be, then I have no desire to remain here. If there is an afterlife, then I desire to move on immediately, for I have no desire to remain in the presence of wicked men.
Discussion Questions Lecture 2
1 What criteria should be used to develop a definition of death?
The only criteria that we can use on earth, from the perspective of the living, is physical death, or, what happens to the body as and when it dies. We know certainly the body ceases its operation to support conscious awareness. The five senses no longer register phenomena and the physical body begins to break down into its constituent components.
What happens to the conscious awareness, what we term the “I” of the individual is simply unclear. Some die in pure agony, while others seem to simply drift off, their life spark extinguished with their last breath. Does the individual cease to exist after death as the monist or materialist would contend? Is there conscious awareness and continuation of the “I” individual after death in an intermediate state such as described by the Bible? Other than this account there is no way of knowing until we each cross the void and see for ourselves (or not if we cease to exist at death). This is such a great and confounding mystery with seemingly no means of measure of drawing closer to the truth.
2 Which definition of death is the most useful?
For the Christian all of the definitions of death are useful to have the clearest picture of death as possible. In different context, such as determining the death of an individual has occurred, the physical definition of death is necessary. But, there are also important aspects of spiritual death or brain death when dealing with someone who is catatonic or has no brain activity while in a coma. There is no one right definition of death that covers all aspects of the dying process or what comes after it if anything.
3 What real-world consequences are there for adopting a particular definition of death?
Whatever way we define death will affect how we relate to loved ones of the deceased, how we treat and handle the body of the deceased, and what ritual (if any) we will participate in after death has occurred. Some cultures have elaborate ritual processes that must be undertaken in order to release their departed’s soul or spirit, even to the point where bodies are dug up years later to be re-wrapped and cared for. Egyptians did not see death as an end, and, thus, much of Pharaoh’s wealth was buried with him so he could use it in the afterlife. Without a definition of death there is no way to handle the disposition of the dead’s material possessions, though a particular society might handle such tasks by the dying person before they die. Of course, this is not always possible.
4 Is death a particular moment or a process?
Death is both a moment in which the individual ceases to function and the conscious “I” along with all the memories that individual retained throughout his/her life cease to be tethered to this plane of existence. AT the same time, dying is a process that has no clear beginning but does have a definite and distinct end (the last breath). Whether death ends the conscious identity of the individual or simply severs the connection between the physical body and the individual’s soul/spirit/essence is unclear. Some would argue that death begins at birth, as everyone is on a clear path toward their final end. But this is somewhat simplistic. An infant may be dying of a disease (in that their bodily functions are not working correctly and causing irreversible damage). The same is true of the elderly man who has lived 80 years. He may be well advanced in age and many aspects of his physical body may be not functioning correctly, but it is not until there is a life-threatening process at work that the elderly man is considered to be actually dying.
If a man severs his arm in an accident, as he lies on the ground bleeding, he is at risk of dying if he does not receive medical attention quickly. But, there are a great many variables at play in whether or not the individual is moving toward death at any given moment. If 911 is called quickly and there is a ambulance close by and they are able to render medical attention and stop the bleeding, it is hard to conclude the man was dying at any point in the ordeal. If, while in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, the man’s wounds are so severe that the medics cannot get the blood loss to stop and if he does not receive emergency surgery within 10 minutes he will certainly die, then it could be considered that this man, during those 10 minutes, is actually dying. Death, for him, is inevitable without intervention. He has not yet died. He is not actually dead. But he is certainly dying.
The same is true of the elderly man from before. Is is elderly and suffers from many ailments. But he is not dying and he is not dead. Then again, if this man goes in for a check up at his doctors and they discover he has an inoperable brain tumor and only has a week to live, it can be said now that he is dying. Yet, the day before we considered him not to be dying, even though he still had the tumor on that day as well. In this instance he was dying but he and his doctors were unaware of it.
The same is true of the wealthy man who builds his storehouses to collect and store all his wealth, who puts his trust in his riches, but does not realize that before the night is over his life will be required of him and he will die and all his wealth and possession will not save him. From his perspective, the rich man can not fathom that he is dying or will die. From God’s perspective is the man already dying? I would argue no because there is no process stipulated occurring that will cause his death. At some future point during the night there will be a process that will take his life, whether it be a stroke, a heart attack, a burglar who shoots the man in his sleep, or a car accident. The man may be walking from his living room to his kitchen for a snack during a commercial break and trip and fall and hit his head, unconsciously bleed out on the floor. At the moment he sustained the injury that is causing him to bleed out, it is safe to assume the man is dying. But, the moment he got up from his recliner he was not.
Death is both an event and a process as well as a state of being and a receptacle that houses those it exerts power over. At the resurrection, the Bible tells us that Hades and Death will give up the dead that are in them, as well will the oceans. This means that the dead are being held captive, against their will, as death is the consequence of sin which is the result of the curse. At the resurrection, death will be swallowed up by life and both death and Hades will be thrown into the lake of fire. So, metaphysically, death is much more than just an event or even a process. It is a penalty for sin. It is personified. But, it is ultimately defeated.
Discussion Questions Lecture 3
1 In what way does our society deny death? What are the consequences of death denial and terror of death?
American society has amassed an infrastructure around the dying process, sequestering those who are near death in institutions and away from family and friends, often to the point that the dying are alone at their final moments regardless of their wishes. We sanitize the death of individuals through elaborate coffins or cremation, through the extensive use of mortuaries and the embalming process to recreate the picture of life in the corpse.
By doing these things we have generationally separated death and the dying process for most people. This leads to misunderstandings, questions, and ignorance of the death process and generates a fear of dead bodies, of the dead, and of the entire subject. No longer is death common place in our society, since medical advancement has reduced incidents of death and prolonged life and life expectancy. So much so, many people go about their lives without ever considering death or its ramifications. This leads to a great deal of anxiety when death does finally come for the individual and leads to shock and dismay for the family left behind.
2 If death is the complete end of our existence, is our meaning system threatened?
I think it is. If death is all there is and the individual conscious awareness and all the memories belonging to the individual are lost, it threatens not only the purpose for living but reduces life to an accidental process and renders no meaning at all to life or death. If there is no afterlife and nothing before birth, and all there is in life is moments of happiness and other moments of misery and loss, then this existence is a pitiful one. If there was no intelligent cause to creation, to my being born, no purpose, no predestination, no plan put into effect, then there is no reason, no justification, no impetus for me to behave with any kind of morality. There is no reason or rationale other than what I view is right in my own eyes to do or say or be.
Likewise, if there is nothing after death, this means there are a great many people who have been deceived by culture and religion, thinking they would be moving on to a different (better) place.
3 Do all human beings need to live in some kind of illusion (in Becker’s sense of the word)? If so, what attitudes should we have toward our illusions?
It is not that we need to live in some state of delusion or illusion, but these delusions we foster and propagate are attempts to answer the questions of origin and purpose in life and existence, simply because we have not been proffered with the origins of our existence as of yet. The dead may know or may not know what comes after. They have experienced death in all its variety and forms, but if there is nothing after death and death is the cessation of life and function and the individual conscious awareness, then they do not know they are dead. They cannot experience anything about their death state, since they are no longer aware of themselves or their surroundings.
Attempts at explaining what happens after we die are coping mechanisms that that we can put impending death out of our minds. To be caught up in our cultures, in our societal norms, in our distractions of family and drama and work and leisure – these are all attempts to distract from the sobering reality that death is coming for us all. The absence of our worldviews (which are systems of explanation as to our origin and the fundamental reality of existence) places us in a perpetual state of instability, knowing death is coming, but not knowing when it is coming or what it means when it comes.
Discussion Questions Lecture 4
1 Do you ultimately agree more with Nagel or Rosenbaum? Are these two views mutually exclusive, or can one hold both at the same time?
Yes, it is possible to hold both views, since Nagel would argue that death is bad because it is experienced as loss to the dead person, while Rosenbaum assumes there is no experience after death and thus death is not experienced by the dead person and, hence it cannot be bad for the dead to be dead. Both can be true and, in essence, are true.
If there is no afterlife and death ceases our existence then it stands that death has no bearing on the dead, since the dead really are not “the dead” for they do not exist any longer. For the living person it can be said that death is a negative, both the death of their loved ones and the future death of themselves since such deaths and potential deaths do generate a loss – a loss of the loved one and the loss of time by preoccupation or anxiety concerning the future non-existence.
While death and the threat of death exacts a negative toll, the reality of death does not, at least not to the dead. Rosenbaum states there is no experience of being dead since the dead do not exist and cannot experience anything. Thus, there is no negative toll on the individual surrounding their death.
But, if this be the case, why is there a mechanism built into the human condition that abhors death as an enemy? Why does the body instinctively fight for survival? If there is not a universal net loss in death, why is it instinctively feared? Why do all living creatures appear to struggle against death at all costs?
2 Can something be bad for a person if they never experience it?
There is the issue of future net loss in a zero sum game. A person can be alive or dead, but not both and not neither. It is binary. But, to die means that individual is being stripped of future experiences or potential experiences they could have – pleasures, significant moments, etc. Because death is responsible for causing this future deficiency, it would stand to reason that the individual has suffered a bad thing in death without having actually experienced death itself. Death is valued as a negative since it subtracts from the person what otherwise have been a net positive.
3 Is it rational to fear death?
I would say yes for one main reason. We do not know what will happen after we die. If we did know then it would be easier to accept (depending on the outcome). But since we do not know, anxiety about death is normal. For the Christian we stand in faith that there will be a resurrection of the dead and that Christ will serve as our propitiation at the judgment. But faith is all we have been given and it does not provide any actual answers to the question.
Discussion Questions Lecture 5
1 What are healthy and unhealthy ways of grieving? When does grief become a problem?
This is difficult for me to describe or assess since I’m not personally equipped with the mechanism that drives one to form attachments with other people. In the past I attempted such (funerals, etc) and found them quite uncomfortable. It is unnatural for me to sustain them. I have not experienced grief over the death of someone before. I’ve experienced it after my divorce. It took me well over a year before I was adequately finished grieving over the loss of my marriage, though some would surely say I have never gotten over it and still grieve to this day. All of my grandparents have died, though I was not particularly close to any of them so their departing required no grieving. I’ve lost pets and I certainly grieved these. But it was over rather quickly and I eventually learned the lesson of not having pets altogether which has served me quite well over the years. Likewise my parents have made the process extraordinarily easy for me by ruining their relationships with me early on so as to spare me any loss when they eventually depart from this world. In my estimation, the world will be a better place in their absence.
2 To what extent is grief a human universal, a part of our nature, and to what extent is it culturally constructed?
I think it is utterly culturally constructed. Either that or I was malformed at conception because I have no instinct toward grief especially over the last few decades. People are predominately selfish and cruel and I’ve learned the hard way to steer clear of them and not form relationships with them. The latter was never too terrible difficult since people have rarely ever held my attention for very long. I most often starve relationships I’ve developed in the past. It was a complaint of my wife that I showed no interest in her, which I find particularly dishonest on her part. Maybe I did not express interest in her in the particular way she desired. But, this just goes to prove, at least to me, how ill-suited I truly am to social interaction and how I’m much better off in isolation and solitude.
I also think we will see in the coming future a much different kind of insanity infecting the human populous (already seen it in different segments of society). I think a time will come when there will no longer be grief. People will be driven entirely by selfish motive, desiring to gratify their flesh rather than live by the spirit of God. It is a human construct, a societal norm to grieve. The animal kingdom does not do it. As we draw closer to becoming animals ourselves, grieving will cease its desirability.
3 What functions (e.g., evolutionary, psychological, social) does grief serve?
I would argue it is entirely a social construct, a psychological ailment that requires people to selfishly hold on to the memories of those who have departed. It is paradoxical that a Christian would grief the death of a spouse or a loved one if they simultaneously claimed that loved one was now with Christ. Which is true? Which do they not actually believe?
4 If a person experiences the loss of a loved one without tears and emotional pain, does this indicate something unhealthy, or a state of mind to be admired?
I would argue that they would not necessarily be experiencing the loss in an unhealthy way. Nor do I think it is a state of mind to be admired. I think each should be left to his own judgments. If I do not desire to go to my parent’s funerals I should not be ostracized by my family for not going. The same is true of me with them. Just because I don’t go to the funeral doesn’t mean I should judge them for having one.
5 What are the best ways to help a grieving person?
Personally I say leave them alone. Only time will heal the wound they are experiencing. Then again, some may very well be “grieving” publicly for dramatic psychological purposes, seeking to get attention.
Discussion Questions Lecture 6
1 In what ways are the religious beliefs in a culture related to the way they treat the corpse in funeral rituals?
How a culture handles a corpse is directly related to the society’s particular religious beliefs. If they believe, as Christians do, that the current body is but a tool and one that that body (or a duplicate) will be quickened to life again at the resurrection, then they will bury the body, cremate the body and lay them to rest – which ends the issue. If, instead, the society believes the existence of the individual continues on in the remains of the individual, they may take greater care in how the body is disposed of. Some societies even exhume the bodies of their departed family members on specific anniversaries and wash the remains and rewrap them for future reburial.
2 What do you want done with your body after you die and why?
Personally, this is one of the major reason I want to sell my house in town and move out to the Eden property full time. I then pray (and hope) I will have enough independence at my death that I can either die on my property, in my shelter, or can wander off on my trails to a location that will not be visited by anyone for at least a few years. I would like to die out in the open or in my shelter, die, my body be stripped by the insects and the wild animals of all flesh and be covered by leaves and moss, until there is nothing but skeletal remains that are hidden in nature for many, many years before discovery, if discovered at all.
My property will overgrow with vines and tangles of vegetation within a single season, hopefully cutting off my shelter or trails from the outside world. There are places adjacent to my property that never see visitation from people, and may very well not have seen anyone save myself in twenty years or more.
More likely, though, if political and social/cultural events continue to progress as they have in the last twenty years, I will most likely be rounded up by authorities for biblical related, terrorist identified crimes and will be either imprisoned, placed in a work camp, or martyred. I could easily see in the future being murdered in an ethnic cleansing of white males from this region of the United States. The Eden property would afford me minimal protection beyond simple geographic difficulty in reaching me. But at some point I imagine the issue would come to term, most likely when I go to town to pick up groceries.
3 With what functions and roles is a corpse associated with in death rituals?
The corpse can be seen as a token of the individual that previously inhabited it, or it could be a vessel by which the individual still resides and will use to cross over to the other side, once that body has been properly buried.
4 Why was there so much resistance to cremation in many parts of Europe and America when the practice was first introduced?
Christians have the mistaken notion that fire equals judgment and that it would be wrong to reduce the body to ash. I’m not certain why their views were so narrow, though they did not have the medical advancements and understandings that we have today. A body is simply a machine in which the soul is tethered, and is quickened to live by the spirit of God. Likewise, the erroneous idea from the materialist that all we are is the body has taken a solid foothold in America and Europe, and also in the Church in those places. This has resulted in the disbelief of the soul altogether and the clamoring of the masses to preserve their ideal of the body any way they can.
Discussion Questions Lecture 7
1 What characterizes traditional, modern, and post-modern funerals in America, and what factors have contributed to the historical transformations?
Predominately all funerals in America are characterized by folk theology, or ideas and beliefs that have no grounding in biblical truth but are supported by either long standing tradition or new age propaganda. Most of these folk theologies were historically developed from an unmooring of the American society from a biblical foundation. Once the church became biblically illiterate, it required little in the way of indoctrination to skew beliefs in a multitude of different directions. Likewise, the radical left has eroded societal belief to such an extent that most people have no concept, generationally, of biblical truth and doubt the very foundation of absolute authority in a all knowing, all powerful God that is external to his own Creation.
2 How have the online world and the development of social media changed the way we mourn
I know people use social media accounts as ad hoc memorials for people who have died, since their accounts are never terminated. These sites immortalize the individual in real time from the moment of death moving backward. Additionally, social media and the new culture has isolated everyone to the point that now there is no unit known as the family, there is no community based on geography or biological ties but now new communities are based entirely on shared interest, on perceived status, class, or plight.
Discussion Questions Lecture 8
1 What does it mean to die well?
This would, of course, be defined different for each individual, but the concept is to die on one’s own terms, as one would desire to die. It is often equated with dying free of pain or anxiety, most often by the use of medications, and typically includes closing out one’s life without major dramatic or traumatic issues left unfinished.
2 What would your ideal death look like?
My ideal death would be one out on the lake, being extremely comfortable with my surroundings, being without pain or anxiety or confusion. Either dying on a hike in the woods where I lay down in a field of ferns or tall grass or deep in a forest surrounded by vegetation and slip off easily to the sounds of the birds and the insects. My body would be given over to the land to be consumed and returned to the ground with no one in society knowing my burial spot. I would like my remains to never be discovered and I would like to be resurrected there on that same land, in that same place when it comes.
3 To what extent have you prepared to die?
I have purchased the land I want to die on, and I’m actively trying to develop the land (and myself) so I can move out onto that property. Then it is simply a matter of cutting off ties with the outside world so that when I die no one would come looking for me.
I have also undertaken a comprehensive and exhaustive study of death that I might be well prepared for when it comes.
4 Have you written an “ethical will”? If not, what would you want your final message to your loved ones to be?
I would not want to leave one document, but several, and not to family, but to the general public in the way of fiction and non-fiction books.
I have a corpus in my mind for my fiction books, with 6 already published and a multitude more to be written still. I would like to finish these books and present them for free as I get close to the age of death, on a free website and on free book repositories as a full collection.
Likewise, I would like to leave behind a corpus of non-fiction workbook course books that embody my worldview and faith in Christ.
I have nothing to say to family, for anything I said would fall on deaf ears.
Discussion Questions Lecture 9
1 Why do many people claim that Jews “don’t believe in an afterlife,” while others argue that they do?
The Jewish people have often been brutalized by the world. Why this is is unclear to me. I do not know any Jewish people personally. There is also a great deal of animosity between Jews and Christians in both directions and these issues are multi-generational. The Jews initially persecuted Christians and are biblically guilty of Christ’s death, yet later Christians utterly abandoned Jesus’ teachings and persecuted Jews. The Old Testament passages as well as NT content have been interpreted in many different ways over the years, which leads to different opinions on what the Jews actually believe. In addition, at the Council of Jamnia, Judaism was completely reordered to 1. Distance itself from Christianity and 2. Distance itself from the Temple Period Judaism which could no longer continue without a Temple.
Modern day Judaism is quite atheistic and liberal in its worldview and politics, which also lend to the debate.
2 In what ways have Jewish perspectives on the afterlife changed over the centuries and why?
I answered this in the previous question. It was founded in the Desert during the 40 years of wandering after being led out of Egypt, then through the Judges and the Kings, then having the Temple built by Solomon, through the Exile, then the Second Temple building, the subsequent rebuilding by Herod, then the final destruction in 70A.D by Titus. After it’s destruction, Judaism had to reinvent itself and lost much of its authentic nature by this point. Not to mention, the Jews were blinded by God for not accepting him and not knowing the signs of his first coming.
3 What do Jewish mourning practices say about the values of the Jewish community?
Throughout its processes, the practices themselves collectively speak of the importance of the community to the individual. Those who sit for 7 days reciting items that were important to the individual, the additional 30 days of mourning without participation in worldly affairs, the tombstone ceremony, all point to the context of individual life within the life of the community, the members to indicate not only a joint faith and pracctice but to pay respect to the lost.
Discussion Questions Lecture 10
1 In what ways do Christians see their deaths as connected with the death of Jesus Christ?
We are told in the Bible that we are buried with Christ through baptism into death (his death) and just as he was raised to life again, so we too will be raised in the Resurrection (Ro 6:4-8). For our life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3). Likewise, in our death for the faith, we share in the sufferings of Christ.
2 What are the main differences between Catholic and Protestant attitudes toward and practices involving death?
While there are many similarities between the two, Catholics typically hold to some beliefs and practices that Protestants do not. These include anointing the sick as a sacrament, upholding the communion of the saints where the dead pray for the living and the living for the dead, and the veneration of relics like books and bones of the dead.
3 Is the notion of everlasting damnation compatible with the belief in a merciful and compassionate God?
I don’t know. If the Bible be true and accurate and there is a Lake of Fire and those who are not written in the Book of Life are cast into it at the end of all things, then we would have to conclude that this is part of the God we elsewhere describe as merciful and compassionate. In Romans 9:22-24 explains this, stating “What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?”
So God’s mercy is bound up in his wrath, for it is by illustrating his wrath on those who were condemned that he reveals his mercy on those who he saved.
4 How have Heaven and Hell been conceived throughout Christian history? Do you find literal or metaphorical interpretations more compelling?
There are both literal and metaphorical views of both. With the infection of materialism in the world, there are many modern Christians who are convinced that either concept is mythical, in that they do not exist and are from a simplistic time in history where there was not scientific advancement or recognition of monist ideals.
Other hold to an overly simplistic, traditionalist view of both, without much in the way of inquiry into what might lay behind or beyond the scant descriptions of either in the biblical text. Most fundamentalists adhere to such in an overly legalistic reply to liberalist thought and interpretation.
Personally, I think the Bible is true and pure and without error in every generation, and might signify different issues at different times dependent on the age in which the reader lives in. Readers today know much more about the atomic and sub-atomic level of the physical work, of quantum physics and medical advancements. The mistake is to use these advancements to discredit the Bible and its message rather than utilize these tools in seeing the Holy Spirit working throughout the text both in the individual writing centuries ago, but also in our reading today and throughout all of human history.
Personally, I am convinced the biblical message of heaven and hell is much less severe and dramatic than the reality of them is. I think when all is said and done, and the end comes, and the sky is ripped in two and the earth and heaven flee from the face of God and we all stand before the judgment seat of the creator of the universe and all that lies beyond, we will feel for the first time the utter dependency we each have in our very existence on the Son of Man, the Lamb of God.
Discussion Questions Lecture 11
1 How have Paradise and Hell been understood and envisioned within Islam?
I have no idea how they view heaven and hell other than it is similar to Christianity. One main difference is Islamic heaven and hell is based on works not on faith.
2 What is the range of Islamic positions on the fate of non-Muslims after death?
Some people, such as Christians, may warrant some kind of leniency if they have done good in their life, but there is no way to be certain given that Allah is a mystery and can and does act in way he wants (having no specific character).
3 What are the distinctive features of the Sufi approach to death?
It is said that there are several levels of thinking concerning death f or the Sufi in Islam. There is heedless man who is involved with the pleasures of the world. He sees death as a loss and fears it. Then there is the repenter who tries to fight against holding onto death. Then there is knower who embraces death because of the promise given to him, finally there is the one who has come to terms with the will of Allah and neither avoids or hastens his own death. Instead, he simply accept that which will be and his own fate. Sufi Muslims seek not to wait for death to unite with God, but practice disciplines on earth that drawn them closer to God while on earth.
Discussion Questions Lecture 12
1 How do Hindus understand the nature of liberation and the relation of the soul to the absolute?
Hindus believe in a cycle of reincarnation that traps the immortal soul in earthly suffering. By escaping the hold of want and desire for things in the earthly plane, they can escape the karmic hold on their souls and join the divine in perpetual bliss.
2 According to the Bhagavad Gita, what paths lead Hindus to liberation?
It is the abandonment of and want for earthly things that leads to liberation.
3 What are the differences between the understanding of death given in the Upanishads and those found in the earlier Vedic hymns?
The Vedic scripts are based on ritual and sacrifice, a cyclic process that is repeated perpetually. Upanishad is focused on escaping the cycle altogether.
4 What deities are most closely associated with death, and why?
Kali is the goddess of time and death. She is a ferocious deity who destroys demons and provides strength to overcome to those who pray to her. Shiva is the goddess of the holy city and is the destroyer. She brings about destruction so a new creation can take it’s place. Yama is the personification of Death and is the first mortal to die. Because of this, he leads all others in their death and provides them a way to ease their fear and anxiety of death.
5 What is the significance of the city of Varanasi in the Hindu tradition?
This city is a holy city in India and those who die here, are cremated and have their ashes scattered in the Ghanges can escape their karmic destiny and join the divine. Most every Hindu wants to die here.
Discussion Questions Lecture 13
1 In what ways does mindfulness meditation help one prepare to die?
It is a means of focus, to calm the spirit, and to center one’s perceptions. Unfortunately, it is a delusion, a trick, a deception brought about by spiritual beings, what the Bible calls elohim as well as demonic influences who masquerade themselves as messengers of light to lead people away from the truth.
2 What is the relationship of the doctrine of no-self in Buddhism to Buddhist attitudes toward death?
The self, the personal identity is viewed in Buddhism as a delusion. We are, instead, part of the cosmic consciousness that underlies all life and the entire universe. Death is the opportunity for escaping the dharma wheel, the continual cycle of birth and death and suffering, and achieve nirvana. Only through achieving this state do we escape the pain and suffering that life brings because of our desires and belief in the individual experience.
3 What is your view of the Buddhist understanding of no-self?
I personally disagree with it. But I have not always. It is a lie perpetuated by a deceiving spirit, in hopes of drawing away people from the saving grace of Christ. It is the futile thinking of humanity without God, without the gospel, and without hope.
Discussion Questions Lecture 14
1 Do you find the accounts of people with past life memory convincing?
I see two types of accounts. People who are convincing and those who seem like they are mentally unstable. I find accounts like the Chinese girl that remembers the life of someone who died in a village she had never been to and can recount many verifiable things from the dead person’s life. I think people in the US have much less credibility for some reason. I guess I just see people in the US as having some really wacky views. For the most part I think people who have past life memories are either crazy, trying to generate money, or want attention. Very few are genuine.
2 How does a belief in rebirth affect a person’s attitude toward life?
Thinking you have successive lives to live may lead someone to think this life is not important or unique and may not take advantage of opportunities for advancement or growth. The Bible is clear on the issue, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). There are not multiple lives to live. Such beliefs may lead one to think they are worthless, an accident or a mistake.
3 What role does the Tibetan Book of the Dead play in the dying process?
It is recited during the funeral to help the recently decease ease into death and to foster a better cycle in rebirth. I read this book as a teenager and can’t say it had much of a memorable impact on my thinking.
4 Does the Tibetan understanding of life as a series of “in-betweens” provide a helpful or illuminating perspective on life?
I would say it is a draw, an enticement to lure people away from the truth and reality. It really adds nothing significant to the reality of life, to the meaning of life, or instruct us in how we should live life. Then again, I can say the same thing about Christianity and the Bible. At some point it all becomes mere assumption and a waiting game to die, with life as the distraction, until we face death and venture into it, void of any real concrete understanding of what we are entering into. We may be decoupling the soul from the body and entering into the spiritual realms or we might just as likely be dying and at our last breath cease to exist as a conscious entity. To be honest, that thought terrifies me more than the prospect of hell. Paul was correct, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:19). If we as believers in Christ are wasting the only life we have somehow received, what a tragedy. If I die and discover that I’m just on a karmic wheel of Buddhism, what was the purpose of this whole ordeal? What was the meaning, the significance of the transformation when I was 17? Why did I not remain a Buddhist? What if, when I die, I come face to face with Allah, or some other angry God? What if, upon my death, I discover I am an inferior race of being that are subservient to the gods of other dimensions, what people often see when using DMT? This is what my research is focusing on. I want to get to the quick of it. I want to find out ahead of time what is exactly going on and what awaits me after my death.
5 What is the relationship between “dream yoga” (lucid dreaming) and dying?
I don’t think there is any connection between the two. I think lucid dreaming is simply being conscious while sleeping and dying is a whole over creature, a completely separate state. It is important to define what sleeping is or more importantly what dreaming is. It is the resorting of the world around us, the sensory inputs we have accumulated throughout the days and weeks of our lives and while we sleep our brain or our mind (not sure if the functioning occurs in the physical location of the brain or if it resides in the conscious repository within the soul. If the former then there is a problem when dying that our memories can somehow go with us, but if the latter then there is no issue). Either way, dreaming occurs internally, either in the brain or in the consciousness center where memories are stored in the soul and where consciousness resides. Death is not internal. It exists separately and distinctly from the individual consciousness. It is both a state of existence and prison and is at least personified if not possessing personhood in Revelation 20:11-14.
I would also argue that lucid dreaming is being marketed as “dream yoga” in an attempt to lead people astray and away from the truth in Christ.
Discussion Questions Lecture 15
1 How can someone find a balance in life between Confucian remembering and Zhuangzian forgetting?
Personally I don’t hold a whole lot of significance to remembering. I don’t hold on to memories of my childhood or of past relationships. To be honest, I would like nothing better than to have this all over with, this life, this effort, this production of something that means absolutely nothing. The stark reality is we have no idea what or who we are, where we came from or where we are going. We only know that death is universal, that it will come for us all. My personal view of this world is that it is wicked thoroughly and completely. There is no redeemable trait or individual. Then again, I would gladly trade in my life for what comes next and leave the rest of this life to those who seem to find significance in it. I just don’t want to be a part of it anymore. I have no reference point but sadness and regret and confusion and despair. I find comfort and excitement in some things, but they are trivial. Challenges that I set for myself, like switching from a laptop to a phone as my sole device (for writing and everything). But, in the grand scheme of things, these are just distractions from the greater question: why am I here? Where am I going? What the hell is all this for?
2 Is it possible for human beings to attain the complete acceptance of death as just another transformation, as shown by Zhuangzi’s sages?
The problem with this, of course, is we don’t know death is transformation. We have no verification, no actual evidence, no data to support such a claim. We have theories. We have the biblical record assuming it is a move from living to some other form of existence. But that is all we have. Without the biblical record, what do we have? The natural world. Yet, it has been so corrupted by the fall (if there was a fall) that there is no way to tell what is real and what is subsequently malformed. In the original world, before there were plants, a mist came up from the ground and watered everything! But why? And in the new earth there will be no sun and no moon and no seas! What have I gotten myself into? Will I regret being saved? Will heaven be a constant interaction with other people? Will I be cured and no longer be repelled by others like I am now? What should I do with this life I’ve been given now? What is my purpose? What will be my reward? Should I even count on walking through those gates? Is this all there is? I wish I was not here. I wish I was not forced to do this, to live this life, to live any life. But, not everything has been revealed. I wager there is a great deal that has yet to be revealed to the world, to the living. Personally I hope it is beyond what I could possibly imagine or nothing at all. I pray I will not end up in heaven with great regret.
3 How do Confucian thinkers demonstrate the importance of ritual in coming to terms with the death of loved ones?
They view the ritual as a kind of fiction, a pattern that they act out as if the spirit were there participating. Though I’m not certain I understand the point. If they don’t believe that what they are doing is actual, if it is not reaching the one who has died, then why bother with it at all? It does nothing for the living. It might distract them. It might delude them further, cementing folk theologies that they learned from birth by their immediate environment. But there is no efficacy in their actions, no resolution to the problem, no information derived about death or about the human. It is simply a show for the sake of the performance. It is futile in its efforts.
Though, with that said, I think it’s an interesting statement made, that “If one searches for a meaning of life, one will search in vain, for all meaning is created and experienced in life.”
Why can the individual not deduce the meaning of life? We are, after all, in this life, experiencing this life in real time, from a single perspective. We interact with a multitude of other sentient and maybe non-sentient beings, from microscopic “things” to insects to large and small animals, to other humans. The world and life of a snail is utterly and irreducibly different from mine. Yet, which one of us has meaning, the snail or myself? Do either of us? Its life is in my hands, under my volition. My life is not under its will. There is nothing the snail can do to me to remove my life. But I can remove its life at my whim. Oh, would if it be true God did exist and he would remove my life from me! But, he, too, chooses just as I choose. The snail has no choice over life or death or really anything from my perspective.
Human ritual means nothing in the context of life’s meaning. When we say meaning we mean purpose. What is the point? Is life the result of an accident? Happenstance? Or was life by design? Intention? There are so many multitudes of things in this life, it would truly be a miracle if it were by accident.
What difference is there between me and the homeless man who lives exposed? I have my house, where it is relatively warm and dry and safe and secure at night while I sleep in my chair in comfort with blankets and a heat source. He sleeps in the dirt, with a sleeping bag if he’s lucky with everything getting wet. He has no place to bathe, no place to relax, no means of support. I drive by him in the morning on my way to work in my car that takes me places in comfort and ease while he walks on foot. Who am I that I have the whole world and he has nothing? What led each of us to these places in life? Accident? Predestination?
If we cannot deduce from this life a purpose, a meaning, then why do we bother at all to live it? Why must we go on if there is no point to it? Why perpetuate suffering and sadness and despair?
Discussion Questions Lecture 16
1 What accounts for the variety of seemingly contradictory views of the destinations of the soul after death?
I think this originates from the lack of evidence or even a subset of data that overwhelmingly points in one direction or the other. There is, in reality, zero evidence that the soul even exists let alone what happens to it after death. We have no reliable information about what happens at death or where we came from or where we go or who we are or what the greater fundamental reality is of this phenomena we call conscious experience.
Within the framework of a Christian worldview, we can see the proliferation of different ideas about the soul and its destination after death stems from deep seated rebellion by man from God, willfully running from and denying the existence of our Creator. This is likewise an attempt to subvert the plan of God by supernatural forces in the heavenly places. Why these forces exist, who they actually are, what their main objective is, all remains an utter mystery.
This is why we have such conflicting views of death, because there is no actual information about it.
2 In what ways do Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism all contribute to Chinese views of death?
They all seem to function on an objection to the Creator God of the Christian Bible, which is odd since all of them came before the Christian faith. They can all be traced back to Romans 1, where they have “suppressed the truth in unrighteousness…although they knew God they did not glorify him as God, nor were they thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image made like corruptible man, and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things…they dishonored their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Ro 1:18-25).
This is what all of humanity has done to itself and these three religions are perfect examples of this.
3 What is the significance of the second burial in Chinese death rituals?
The second burial is a link to the universality of death while the first burial is significant of the individual death, or what the Chinese call the “unlucky burial.” I could also see an inherent economic incentive as well, since graves could be reused again and again if the remains are relocated elsewhere. But, this is historical Chinese practices as most today are cremated when they die, and, yet, they still have a shortage of places to house their dead.
4 What role do ancestors play in the life of the Chinese?
They seem to exist as the central thread of the family unit, with ancestors typically two generations back receiving veneration and offerings at the family altar which is in the central hall of the home. Family members worship at the altar and offer them news and events of the family as well as consult with them about important events. They offer them food and drink and interaction with the living. If an individual who has died does not receive such interactions they can become angry and turn into ghosts. These ghosts can haunt their family members and there are several sacrifices and items that can be warn to ward off such evil spirits.
Discussion Questions Lecture 17
1 Can suicide ever be rational? Is the desire to commit suicide itself a sign of mental illness?
This is a difficult question to answer. As I understand it, most suicide is committed out of a deep seated sadness, a misery, intense physical or emotional pain that makes the thought of living unbearable. Typically it is because of a terminal illness, or lost love, or peer pressure, or a drug addiction, or crime that causes one to take their own life. But what about the response to life itself, to the culture one finds themselves in? What if they are simply dissatisfied, insulted, disgusted by the world and by existence itself? What if everything they’ve ever been told or taught about the world, about reality was a mirage, a lie, a trick, a delusion to perpetuate the system in which drives society itself?
Personally, I have no draw or temptation to commit suicide. Yet, at the same time, I have no desire to go on. I have no interest in this society or in the lies this existence insists on living. Whether it is American culture, Japanese culture, Chinese culture, Finnish culture – it is all lies perpetuated to keep a system function where the generationally wealthy continue on as such. As Jesus concluded, “for the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Ti 6:10).
I think in this instance, suicide would be a rational response to the state of the world, simply because the world is not in some kind of temporary state of sorrow or bitterness or difficulty or tragedy or warfare. But because the state of the world and of existence (no matter where or to whom you are born) is utterly and irreconcilably corrupted and debased and immoral and destitute and wicked. So to answer the first question, yes, I think suicide could be a rational response to the immoral world in which humans reside.
Is the desire to commit suicide a sign of mental illness? I think it can be. But most often I think it is a sign of the instability and deplorability of the so called systems and safety nets that are supposed to protect people. It should not be an automatic assumption that suicide minded people are mentally ill. But I would wager all suicide minded people are experiencing some kind of personal or professional crisis or suffering from a mental illness (where they are depressed regardless of their circumstance).
2 Should one always intervene to try to stop a suicide?
No. The people who were helped by Jack Kevorkian should not have been stopped. As history has shown, now this is available to all people in Oregon who are suffering from a terminal disease. Kevorkian spent several years in prison because of his willingness to help people no one else had the nerve to help. There are some people who will not be helped, cannot be helped.
Should we always try to stop those who are committing suicide for emotional reasons? This is difficult to answer. If they truly want to kill themselves there is nothing we will be able to do to stop them. But, I think there is a time coming in the future when mentally ill people will be considered a drain on society and will be exterminated along with Jews and Christians and conservative dissidents. At that point, this question will no longer be relevant.
3 What are the warning signs to recognize? What are the best ways to help a person who is suicidal?
People who are overly and uncharacteristically somber, who attempt to give away their possessions, who no longer finds satisfaction or fulfillment in the things they used to, and those who suddenly cut themselves off from the world around them, from family and friends, these are typically signs of a suicidal person. Unfortunately, all of these characteristics describe me perfectly. I am somber, though not uncharacteristically. I am giving/selling all of my possessions, but not because I don’t want them, but because I am wanting to move to Eden and want to live a minimalistic lifestyle. I do not find satisfaction in things I used to, like music and friends, etc. But, this is because of a deep-seated distrust of all people drawn specifically in response to the actions of those around me. The conclusion I’ve come to is no one can be trusted, no one thinks of others, only themselves. No one is good. All are wicked. The world would be better without humans in it. Lastly, I have cut myself off from all friends and family and only talk with co-workers, but never outside of work. This is simply because I have no interest any longer with fostering friendships or familial ties. It’s just not worth it. If I drank, I would definitely drink alone. Does this mean I’m suicidal? I think not.
Honestly, I don’t think there is a way to help suicidal people. Only time will prove if they pull up or if they don’t. Psychotherapy maybe. But to be honest, not sure if we are doing more harm than good.
4 In what ways is the myth of Sisyphus analogous to human existence, and in what ways is it not?
In some ways we are simply repeating ourselves in everything we do. As the Preacher states in Ecclesiastes, “all is vanity. A chasing after the wind.” Yet, at the same time, I can look back on my life and see a progression. I am so much better off now, despite illness and infirmity, irration, etc than I was when I was 17. I might have had better health, been slender, and had hope and promise. But, what I really had was ignorance. I had no idea what the world was or what it would or could do. Those around me were lying to me, betraying me for their own betterments. Today I am on my own, I am independent of parent or so called friend or deceptive lovers. I bring no punishment on others by involving them in my idiosyncrasies and I am free from the drama that swirls around many a fool. Everything that I have now is built on what came before. So the work has not been in vain.
Discussion Questions Lecture 18
1 What are the theological and non-theological arguments against euthanasia?
AS for non-theological arguments, many state that to allow right to die laws is no different than killing the person. They see no distinction. They also argue that if allowed, doctors would no longer be viewed as healers but as death dealers. Additionally, they state that such laws would be abused, with patients opting for suicide rather than leaving their family with medical bills or a family member thinking of their own self and what’s in the will rather than the care the individual needs.
Theologically, the main argument is that suicide violates the commandment, “Do not Kill.” Some argue that there is a distinction between active and passive euthanasia, while others say there is no difference.
2 What are the most compelling arguments in favor of euthanasia?
Most argue from a position that pain and suffering can be avoided if people are allowed to choose for themselves. This was the argument of Jack Kevorkian, who stated “Dying is not a crime.” I would argue that, despite this being true today, I think it will be a crime in the future. Likewise, I think there will be laws passed in the future that justify the mass killing of different groups based on perceived and abstract notions of equity and a sense of responsibility to the planet over the people who live on it.
Another group that assisted people with suicides was the Final Exit Network. They did not require people to be immediately dying to use their services. They were sued for assisting in the death of a woman in 2015 and lost.
An oddly telling account of the deplorable state of the mainline denominations today, the United Church of Christ has come out in support of active euthanasia claiming that suffering was not intended by God for people and should be avoided. This flies in the face of the biblical text concerning not only suffering but also the traditional stance of assisted suicide. It is the same old song and dance of taking emotion, perspective, and social theory above that of the authority of Scripture.
3 What are the possible abuses that can occur if euthanasia is legal, and how can legislation be written to prevent these abuses?
This was already discussed above.
4 Should a person have to be near death to be legally allowed to choose death?
I don’t personally think so. Nor are they really anyway. It is not illegal to kill oneself. It is illegal to attempt to kill oneself and it is certainly illegal to help someone else die or to kill someone out of sympathy. No one who has successfully committed suicide is held responsible for a crime, especially not murder. Their assets are not seized. No judgment is convened against them. Those who attempt suicide are not arrested and taken to jail. They may be taken to a mental ward for a 72 hour hold. But this is an attempt to help them under the assumption that they are suffering from a temporary mental state that has led them to attempt suicide with the full aim at get them to a place where they will want to live again.
If someone is responding logically and in a healthy way to the total depravity around them, or have simply not made anything of themselves in this life or have had a horrible experience living, and they want to die, I believe they certainly should have the legal right to end their life. They already have the practical right to do so or God would have implemented a mechanism that stops us from attempting to do so.
5 What are the differences between voluntary and non-voluntary, passive and active euthanasia?
Voluntary euthanasia requires the person’s request to be killed. The non-voluntary occurs when the person is incapable of consenting (such as a person in a vegetative state). A third is involuntary where someone who does not want to be killed is killed so that they avoid future suffering. Example of this would be the person who is being burned at the state and they are shot in the head by a compatriot who wants to ease the immensely painful suffering they are enduring. There is also passive euthanasia, where the individual simply denies for themselves treatment that could prolong their life. Active euthanasia occurs when someone seeks to end their life by taking steps to do so.
6 Which, if any, should be legally permitted?
Currently passive and active euthanasia is legal in Oregon and possibly in other states and countries. Oregon requires individuals be terminal with less than 6 months to live, while other countries, such as Canada, euthanized an elderly woman during the COVID pandemic because she did not want to endure another lockdown in her nursing home. In the Netherlands, there was a young woman who requested that she be allowed to commit suicide because her life had not turned out as he had liked and she was suffering from severe depression that medical professionals could not remedy. The government granted her request and she was killed in January 2021.
This is difficult to determine. People who are certain they do not want to live, and have nothing to live for, will take their own lives. The issue then is, do we ignore this and allow people to suffer from physical pain or mental illness just to preserve the abstract idea of saving a life? If we put in place the mechanism by which individuals can take their own lives in a pain free way does that mean we have participated in murder?
There is honestly no direct prohibition in the Bible against suicide. There is nothing in it about passing laws allowing people a safe and pain free way of killing themselves. Just as there are no direct prohibitions against pornography in the Bible. There are Scriptures that indirectly prohibit all the above, but these require some level of extrapolation from the culture of the time to today.
I have no conclusive opinion on laws concerning suicide. All I know is, despite not wanting to be on this earth, not wanting to be alive, not finding satisfaction in other people, but finding them to be utterly corrupt and debased and selfish, I have no compulsion to end my own life. I pray almost nightly that God would take the remainder of this life he has given. I did not ask to live in this place or to participate in this experiment or this punishment that living is. I want to be free of pain. I want to be free of sadness and regret. I want to be free of this corrupted and vulgar system that humans have put in place. I just want to go on to whatever is next, whether that be heaven, hell, or the nothingness that the modern religion dictates. But, not only have I no compulsion to take matters into my own hands, but even passive death was not something I desired when I had a heart attack. I had the near perfect opportunity to just return to my property lay down and wait to die. Instead, I paddle for over an hour back to the public dock and called 911. I apparently, at least at that moment, wanted to live. I cannot say that I would make the same decision today.
Discussion Questions Lecture 19
1 Do people have a “death instinct?”
I do not agree with Freud’s and others’ assumption that there is a death instinct that drives us perpetually toward death and destruction. I also don’t believe there is an eros drive that is constantly moving us toward procreation. Not only do I have utterly zero interest in producing offspring, but I am very thankful that I made the decision in my youth against it. Despite this, there is certainly a sex drive, though I’m not certain how “natural” this is, given the diverse worldviews one must maneuver through. If evolution is correct, where did this drive originate? Why? If the Bible is correct, why then do humans have the sex drive, did they have it before the fall (assuming they did), and why do angels have it as well (see Genesis 6:2), even though they do not participate in marriage in heaven and are prohibited from producing offspring (even though they biologically can)?
I think death is, ultimately, the preferred option to living in this current age.
2 Is war inevitable given human nature?
I believe war is inevitable given the fallen human nature. But, there is no way to determine what moral status war has in heaven. Is God or Michael and his angels immoral for waging war against Satan and a third of heaven in Revelation 12:7ff? Was the Lord of Hosts wrong to muster the army for battle (Isa 13:4)? What about the Israelites in dispossessing the promised land from its inhabitants?
We must be careful that our thoughts place us in opposition of God (Acts 5:39; 23:9). As Paul puts it, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (He 10:31).
3 What are the criteria to determine if a war is just?
If it fulfills God’s purpose. If it is something that God approves of, if it is by his will, according to his purpose. Only this criteria will define war (or anything) as just. There is no other criteria. No logic. No rationalization. No thoughts or opinions of men. It doesn’t matter if we think it is fair or right or just. Our opinion carries no weight on the matter.
4 Would you locate yourself anywhere on the pacifist continuum?
I don’t want to fight because I have nothing to lose (and nothing to fight for). Anything I have that I hold dear is impossible to take or destroy from me. It is my faith in Christ and my hope in the resurrection of the dead. If, at some point I die and discover that I am dead and non-existent, then I will still suffer no loss, as I am non-existent and in no way can feel or experience the loss of my hope in the resurrection or afterlife. I died believing that my Lord and King would keep his word, that he would raise me again from the earth, that he would quicken by my bones back to life, and that at the judgment I would be found innocent of any sin because of the work he accomplished on the cross. This will always be with me, even in non-existence, for the last belief, the last thought I will have at death will be of his promise and his word and his faithfulness to “finish the good work he began until it is completed in the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).
Given the times in which I live, though, and the insanity that has erupted the last few years as the culture slides headlong down into the abyss, I have entertained the temptation to take up arms against my government, against these God haters, fight with arms and political clout to bring about victory for my country and for conservative values. But, I must heed the command of God, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” (Ro 12:19). This war Christians are not to win. We are to stand for the truth, even if it means to the death, defending the reality of Christ to a fallen and deplorable world. This is our battleground in the spiritual realms, not against flesh and blood.
Discussion Questions Lecture 20
1 Why is the United States alone among Western democracies in carrying out executions?
Personally I think it is because most of the world has already fallen to the globalist ideology, compromising on biblical principles generations before America did. But, this will soon change and the US will likewise comply, as soon as the radical left removes the conservatives in power in the individual states. They have with near certainty reduced the US to a one party rule after the 2020 election and now they must work to quash all dissent.
Americans follow a secularized version of God’s laws. This is why there is still the death penalty in the US.
2 If it can be proven that the death penalty is not a deterrent, would it still be justified? If so, why?
Yes, it is justified because it was established by God.
3 Does the near certainty that innocent people will be executed if the state carries out executions constitute a compelling argument for banning it?
There was a time before DNA evidence that innocent people were convicted and executed for crimes they did not commit. This is not an argument against the death penalty but against the corruption of the justice system itself. It is not support against the death penalty now because DNA will be used going forward to rule out suspects that could have previously been convicted in error. But, such individuals are known by God, and if they are not saved they are simply dying for the sins they have committed in their life.
4 What are the arguments for and against considering the death penalty cruel and unusual punishment?
When something goes wrong and the individual being executed suffers pain or torture, then I would say it is cruel. Then again, God instituted stoning as the death penalty in Israel and I can’t imagine a more brutal way of dying. Maybe slow roasting over a wet wood fire. Being drawn and quartered. Then again, what about the ultimate death penalty, the Lake of Fire? Is this cruel and unusual punishment for the lost?
The reality is, it doesn’t matter what we think. Our opinion does not have the standing to criticize God’s motives or actions. Whatever he does, whatever he says, this is right and true. “Let God be true and every man a liar” (Ro 3:4).
Discussion Questions Lecture 21
1 Why do people treat some animals (e.g., their pet dogs and cats) with such love and affection, and treat other animals as objects to be confined, killed, and consumed?
People do not live rationally. They are subjective, and live in relative position to their wants and desires and needs. It is also culture that dictates a great deal, such as the example above.
2 Is it justifiable to kill or cause harm to another sentient being if not necessary to do so (e.g., for our survival)? If so, what are the reasons?
As a independently volitional individual the morality of such an act would reside solely in the will of the individual in question. On the one hand, self defense is considered justified in the eyes of the laws in many countries. Yet, the killing of another human by a starving person for food is not allowed. The drive to survive, to eat are strong forces. It is unrealistic to think an individual, given the right circumstances, will not strike out to survive. We kill multitudes of animals for food each year. They are sentient. Justifiability is relative.
3 Why is vegetarianism far more common among members of Asian religious traditions than members of the monotheistic Abrahamic faiths?
I would argue it is largely geographic. They have the plant life and climate to support it. Likewise, Asian religion tends to be cyclic and supports reincarnation. If one truly believes they can become a dog or a cat or a chicken in the next life, they may not have an appetite for eating their neighbor.
Discussion Questions Lecture 22
1 What does the commonality among many people’s near-death experiences tell us about the truth of their reports?
There are two sides to this issue. The commonality either provides evidence for the authenticity of their claims, or, since these experiences are not under controlled conditions, people are building on what they’ve heard from others. There is no means by which to measure the accuracy or authenticity of near-death experiences, simply because there is no way to determine what occurs after death except for the individual who dies, and even he may not be privy to what is occurring.
2 How can we determine if near-death experiences are evidence that some part of the individual survives death or if they are just the activity of the dying brain?
There really is no way of determining this unless we invent some kind of technology in the future that can accurately measure the supernatural realm. Likewise, there is no way to determine with any certainty that near death experiences are brain activity alone, unless of course, some technology is developed that can accurately record and project brain activity as mental thoughts. But, if the human being is dualistic in composition, upon the decoupling of soul from body, the measuring, which would certainly be required to connect to the body, would logically record nothing once the soul departed.
Discussion Questions Lecture 23
1 Have we approached the limit on how long humans can live, or will advancements in science and technology allow humans to live radically extended lifespans?
I think two options lay before us. We will hit a top limit, where nothing we do will prolong life beyond the sum odd 100 year line. Then again, the other option is that we become hybrid beings, engineered on a molecular level to avoid disease and alter personality traits. Additionally, bodies will be able to be cloned and technology will advance to the point that bodies will not be needed (unless, of course, they are needed to maintain life).
It is said lifespan has more than doubled. Then again, there are arguments against this, that all we really done is significantly reduce birth deaths, which means that we haven’t extended the life of the individual on average, we’ve just brought many more people into the pool.
2 What are the different theories of why people (and all living beings) age, and how are these different theories connected with different approaches to life extension?
There are a couple of different ideas. Aging is a process of entropy. It is part of the Curse brought about by Adam and Eve in the garden. This curse is not natural and neither is death.
Another idea is that the cell can only reproduce itself around 60-70 times for humans. It is different limit for different kinds of animals. Once the cell reproduction limit has been reached, errors begin to appear in the new cells. This is considered aging and illness, eventually producing so many errors that major system begin to malfunction and eventually break down altogether resulting in death.
There are attempts to increase longevity in people by using undifferentiated stem cells to produce replacement organs. They also believe they can prolong life by elongating the telomeres by the use of drug therapies, but this produces a greater risk of cancer. Other attempts include the use of antioxidants to combat free radicals, which has led to a 30% increased life expectancy in fruit flies.
Personally, I think they will one day discover a cure for sickness and death. Children will be genetically engineered for desired traits, super soldiers will be engineered for performance, and those considered enemies of the state (which will be a one world government) will be both killed in widespread persecution and will be unable to die (as technology will be used to bring them back to life). See Revelation 9:6.
Discussion Questions Lecture 24
1 What are the problems, both individual and social, that would result from human beings achieving radically extended lifespans or immortality?
There would be issues pertaining to activity and preoccupation. What will people do with their time? They will at first be able to do what they never had time to do before, but after that, there will be nothing or them to do as they will run out of things to do on the earth. They will have seen everything, experienced everything. Nothing would be new or exciting. Of course, this argument is somewhat faulty since near immortality would provide the individual the ability to experience a multitude of careers and experiences that were too focused before or out of reach. I think humanity will reach this point, but immortality will only be for the elites and it will be so compromised in some way that a Christian will not be able to accept it. All will one day experience true immortality, but only briefly as we will then all be summoned to the great white throne where all will be judged by the things they have done on this earth. Then there will be gnashing of teeth.
Population will grow exponentially if no one was dying. This would not only be a drain on systems and services but on all basic resources. It is possible our lofty ideal of immortality would quickly become a living nightmare.
There may be potential diseases or illnesses that we know nothing about so far because no one has experienced them yet due to our current life expectancy limitation.
2 Would you want to live 500 years if given the option? Would you want to live forever?
If I were able to live for 500 years from this point going forward, I would only want to do so if I could improve my health drastically and also had substantial funding. I do not want to live 500 years in poverty and suffering and misery.
I do want to live forever but hope to do so under the auspices of an all knowing all loving creator of both heaven and earth. My hope is that he will provide for me in heaven the absolute best options for my particular personality and gifts (preferrably a library researcher in a far off galaxy where I work and live alone in utter isolation save for the occasional visitation of an angel or two).
3 Would an endless number of years to live inevitably result in boredom?
I don’t think so. It is possible but I think one would gain a great amount of wisdom and practical knowledge and many doors would be opened to them. Not sure they would grow tired of living different lives or experiences. You could have multiple spouses (given they died but you didn’t), different careers, etc.
4 If death is the end of us, does it make life meaningless? Or is it the reason that life is meaningful?
Yes. I would argue that if there is no God, no resurrection, and no afterlife then there is no point to this travesty of an existence. I have no interest in particpating in this “adventure” any longer. I pray every night that God will take me in my sleep and let me finish out this time in the Intermediate Sate. There is no purpose, no meaning, outside of the biblical message.
What does all this talk of death really mean? What is the point of even dwelling on it? For me, the revelation is there is only one certainty in this life, in the existence of the individual. There are few other things that have any real certainty at all. But death, it comes for each one of us, it takes the same from us no matter who we are, where we come from, or what we have done with the life we were given.
The Preacher was correct in his assessment: “let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die” (Isa 22:13; Ecc 8:15).
Until my next assignment…
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Excerpt from The Light Aurora:
The door’s lock released and Dr. Lewis looked around at each of them.
“Stay close, and be ready for anything. I’m not sure if they’re all in the Command Center or if they are trying to secure Level 4. Hell, they could all be evacuating.”
He stared at Scott as he came up onto the landing.
“Let’s go,” Scott said.
Dr. Lewis pushed the door open and walked out into the hall, followed by the others – in ones and twos.
Level 2 was similar to the other level, with a long corridor, doors on either side, all with security displays recessed into the wall next to them.
But, as they entered the corridor, Scott’s breath caught in his throat.
As he stood there with the others, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
In front of them, probably no more than a few yards away, were three bodies lying on the floor. One was sitting up against the wall, the side of his face melted, exposing his right eyeball and a good portion of his right skull.
Another one was laying face down, his entire back opened up at the spine, as if his spinal cord had been ripped out of him from behind.
The last one was a few more feet away from the others, on his back, his eyes seared from his head, black, burnt flesh where his eyes used to be.
The intercom came back to crackling life.
Derrick said over the intercom.
“Don’t worry. You can answer,” he said. “I can hear you.”
Scott looked up, then fixed his gaze on the security camera at the end of the corridor.
“Yes?” Scott finally asked.
There was a pause, static.
“What are you doing, Derrick?” he asked. “Did you do this?”
“Indeed,” Derrick said, coming back on.
“They refused to help me.”
“What are you trying to do, Derrick?” Scott asked.
There was another pause.
“I want to go home, Professor,” the boy said.
“Yes,” Derrick said, his tone soaked with some other-worldly confidence that did not belong in an innocent, ten year old boy.
“I want to go home, Professor,” he said again. “Would you be interested in coming home with me?”
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