Introduction to Death

This post may be more properly called the Introduction to the Problem of Death.

Death, as we know, is a horrible thing: why would God allow it?

In a debate with an atheist, the objection was raised that it is absurd to think that deaths in cases such as those in the recent Christchurch earthquake could be compatible with a benevolent God who would intervene to save some people.

Part of the difficulty would be the same problems faced from the presuppositions of philosophical materialism and their implications, one of which would be the finite nature of all embodied things. If human existence is limited to the material, of course it would seem that a benevolent God would have to intervene in order to safeguard people from an ultimate demise.

However, often, I would posit, the issue is not so much with the objective case at hand, but with the projections of such a philosophy and world view. Once the material-tinted glasses are put down, it might be seen that the difficulty is somewhat negated. As Socrates (who is, of course, a preeminent and pre-Christian Greek philosopher) states in Phaedo:

And the true philosophers, Simmias, are always occupied in the practice of dying, wherefore also to them least of all men is death terrible.

Although Platonic dualism is, as I understand it, not compatible with Catholicism, such a philosophical insight into the formal aspect of a living entity does touch on the truth of the possibility of life apart from the material part.

I would suggest that, if this is taken into account, the problem of death begins to resolve itself, at least at the philosophical level (psychological is another matter).


4 thoughts on “Introduction to Death”

  1. If the soul is immortal then death loses some of its sting to be sure.
    But the problem is really one of suffering rather than death per se. Reading Plato may help with death in the abstract, but re Christchurch the mother who sees a TV set crush her baby and is then stuck in traffic on the way to the hospital, and has her baby die, will be understandably sceptical about the God who “blessed us with fine weather on the last parish picnic”

  2. But the problem is really one of suffering rather than death per se.

    Yes, it’s related to what C. S. Lewis called the “The Problem of Pain” (which probably demands a post in itself), but I think death is also quite puzzling in itself, especially for the loved ones left behind.

    I also think the topic deserves greater attention than we tend to like in the present culture. Momento mori.

    1. I think C.S. Lewis showed much more wisdom in “A grief observed” than in the “Problem of Pain”. “A grief observed” was written in anguish, and that anguish burned away some of the cockiness that you sometimes find in “Mere Christianity” etc.

  3. I’m abg fan of C.S. Lewis but sometimes he has a school prefect tone – “it’s jolly rough sometimes but let’s just keep a stiff upper lip” 🙂

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