Thursday, October 22, 2009

Confronting Death: A Christian Approach to the End of Life with Walter Wangerin Jr.

Paraclete Press sent me a complimentary copy of this DVD. A small study guide is included to use with a group. Wangerin speaks from his own experience of dealing with cancer and offers some good practical advice. Wangerin tells about how important it is to comfort those who are not sick that are in close relationship with the sick person. The video is touching without being sappy and the production quality is okay.

Unfortunately, although the DVD claims to offer a Christian approach, it doesn't deliver. Wangerin's ideas seem to be formed more by his life experience and psychology than they are by Scripture. Wangerin hopes that his part of his spirit will live on in the trees that he planted. It's not that he doesn't quote Scripture but that he's not looking to Scripture to see what it says about death and dying. He's taking ideas from elsewhere and then trying to read them into Scripture. I just don't think a passage where Elijah is grieving because all of God's true prophets have been killed and now they are trying to kill him are intended by God to be used as an example of general grieving over death. The Bible has plenty to say about death and plenty of comfort to offer. Someone could easily create a DVD about confronting death entirely based on the crucifixion. Unfortunately the crucifixion is only mentioned to tell us that Jesus was very quiet on the cross and so we should be quiet when we die as a witness to those around us that we are peaceful in death. That's just not the point of the passage at all. Jesus was being crucified! He could barely breathe! Our attention should be brought to the things that he said on the cross because of the great effort he would have had to put in to saying them! Because we have been joined to Jesus death in our baptism we will also be resurrected as Jesus was resurrected! That is the great comfort we receive in the Scriptures. But there is no talk at all of a bodily resurrection in Wangerin's video. He says that his resurrection will be when Jesus calls Him after he dies in some ambiguous spiritual way.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Paul says not to grieve as the world does. He doesn't say not to grieve. Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus. We can have hope--a certain expectation--that we will be resurrected bodily and that our brothers and sisters in Christ will be partakers in the bodily resurrection. If we place our hope in stories and feelings that exist in the mind of Wangerin, how can we have any certainty at all?

It's wonderful to hear the stories of saints who have gone before us that have peacefully entered into eternal life but I don't think they did so because they had a guilt-trip laid on them that they better do so as a witness to those around them. My wife and I lost identical twins and one of the pastors that came to visit us kept talking about how important it was to show that we were different from the world and not to grieve. Someone in that situation does not need the Law, they need the Gospel. A quiet stillness that is brought about because you are afraid what the world will say is not a true peace--it's a lie. True peace can only be found in the Gospel.


joe said...

I have noticed this as well in some Christian circles. Probably part of the happy-clappy and health and wealth influence. I remember The White Horse Inn speaking about the dynamics of emotions in the Psalms in their broadcast a couple years ago and Christians dealing with death and hardship. Found an article Michael Horton wrote with some similar sentiment I thought you might enjoy reading.

Pey-Jing Li Mehrinfar said...

Thanks for sharing your views. If you or anyone else is interested, check out! They have free study Bibles for those who are seeking God.