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» Ship of Fools   » Community discussion   » Purgatory   » Does Christianity have anything to say to the bereaved? (Page 1)

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Source: (consider it) Thread: Does Christianity have anything to say to the bereaved?
shadeson
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Down the ages christian teaching has had answers to the questions that folk commonly asked, even if they were wrong.

Our questions today are expected to be answered by science, not the church. Except perhaps the most personal one.

I met an elderly lady acquaintance who in the course of conversation asked rather wistfully if she would see her parents again.

I said she would. My church gives no justification for my answer.

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Rosa Gallica officinalis
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I would draw justification for your answer from the Nicene creed statement We believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting
And from the gospels' accounts of Jesus resurrection body- he seemed able to meet with who he chose to, and his disciples were able to recognise him

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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Was she looking for that standard answer and reassurance we know it all as fact, or for something else? Such as personal support? Like that we are hopeful, but whatever it is, we will be with each other and she will have all the support possible. One answer may right in one situation, another else time.

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Maybe I should stop to consider that I'm not worthy of an epiphany and just take what life has to offer
(formerly was just "no prophet") \_(ツ)_/

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Raptor Eye
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Christians believe in life after death, the resurrection gives us the hope and promise that we will be together with our loved ones eternally.

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Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46.10

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Freddy
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quote:
Originally posted by shadeson:
I said she would. My church gives no justification for my answer.

I agree that this is a curiosity.

The average American (I can't speak for people elsewhere) vaguely expects to awake after death in the afterlife and then go to heaven or hell.

When loved ones die this expectation becomes more pronounced and definite.

Yet few Christian churches other than my own actually teach this. The more correct theological answer involves being raised at the last day, with no gender, or marital, familial or social attachments.

Swedenborgians, on the other hand, explicitly describe an afterlife that commences immediately after death, in a more perfect world, with gender, and marital, familial and social relationships intact.

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"Consequently nothing is of greater importance to a person than knowing what the truth is." Swedenborg

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shadeson
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quote:
Originally posted by no prophet:Was she looking for that standard answer and reassurance we know it all as fact, or for something else?
As it was a street conversation I think she she was just looking for reassurance, knowing that I attended a church. But it still made me stop and think.

In the circumstances the creed seems opaque.

I have recently had a much deeper conversation with someone else in order to reassure, but it did call upon my very liberal perspective.

It just seems a great pity that the church has not developed an understandable theology from the insights given by Jesus and Paul. Or is there one?

quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:The more correct theological answer involves being raised at the last day, with no gender,
I agree with this Gospel teaching but it takes a bit of explaining. To my mind it does square with Paul (1 Corinthians 15) where he talks about the resurrection body and is probably more explicable than most christian teaching about 'justification' etc.

What do we say to the irreligious majority?

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rolyn
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quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:

Swedenborgians, on the other hand, explicitly describe an afterlife that commences immediately after death, in a more perfect world, with gender, and marital, familial and social relationships intact.

That's the one which rests easiest with myself. Presuming it is up to us to choose which version of life after death we prefer.
I blend it with that which Jesus said when the Pharisees tried to trip Him up with the hypothetical question -- who would a person would be married to in Heaven if he'd had several wives on earth? He referred to us being "Like the Angels".

In other words it will be a state we cannot fully comprehend whereby earthly values, institutions and normal experience don't come into it.

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churchgeek

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I was wondering whether the woman in the OP has a concern that either she or her parents might not wind up in heaven. Many churches are adamant that only a few - only those professing just the right faith - will go to heaven. There are many Christians with serious doubts about their own soul, and/or near certainty that their loved ones are in hell. That's the harder issue, I think.

I personally believe (and my church - Episcopal - is not dogmatic about these things) that we all live forever in the presence of God, but those who don't want to be there experience it as hell...until they (hopefully) realign themselves and choose love. So I have no problem giving a hearty "Yes!" to the question. Although I accept that I could be wrong. None of us really has certainty, but we do have faith, and hope.

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Martin60
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If they don't ask, minimally 'My condolences'. They never ask. If they did, 'All will be well'. And variants, like: 'We're all heading home'.

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Love wins

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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quote:
Originally posted by Raptor Eye:
Christians believe in life after death, the resurrection gives us the hope and promise that we will be together with our loved ones eternally.

I don't know if you are clergy. But this sort of response had me walking away, shaking my head, muttering, in my past. I wanted to say in such a context: "No. All Christians don't believe that. Some hope it might be true. Some don't care and wish we would stop behaving like eternal life was the important piece of Christianity."

This woman probably fears or worries about something, though that's unclear. Probably many of us have been in parallel circumstances to her. Eternal life-ism like born again-ism may be irrelevant to immediate feelings.

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Maybe I should stop to consider that I'm not worthy of an epiphany and just take what life has to offer
(formerly was just "no prophet") \_(ツ)_/

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Raptor Eye
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quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:
quote:
Originally posted by Raptor Eye:
Christians believe in life after death, the resurrection gives us the hope and promise that we will be together with our loved ones eternally.

I don't know if you are clergy. But this sort of response had me walking away, shaking my head, muttering, in my past. I wanted to say in such a context: "No. All Christians don't believe that. Some hope it might be true. Some don't care and wish we would stop behaving like eternal life was the important piece of Christianity."

This woman probably fears or worries about something, though that's unclear. Probably many of us have been in parallel circumstances to her. Eternal life-ism like born again-ism may be irrelevant to immediate feelings.

I do think it a very important aspect of the Christian religion, that we believe in life after death. You will see that I spoke of hope and promise. This is a vital narrative in the teaching of Jesus, throughout the New Testament, and through the millennia in Christian thinking. It's one that people have corrupted, as ever, but it stands.

The lady asked wistfully whether she would see her parents again. The reassurance of the Christian belief of an after-life would, I believe, have been a comfort. Shadeson said she would, but couldn't see that this was the teaching of the church. I see it as compatible with the teaching of the church. There is no need to go into the theological arguments one way or another with her. We can, of course, do so here.

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gog
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quote:
Originally posted by shadeson:
I said she would. My church gives no justification for my answer.

I would suggest looking at the funeral service as that would be one statement on question.

Also possible the text of some of hymns in authorised collections which speak of the here after.

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shadeson
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quote:
'All will be well' Martin
Julian of Norwich. Always seemed like an empty platitude. I think far more has been revealed to us for our comfort, so when there are tears and loss Christians should be able to offer more than tea and biscuits.

And people aren't too worried about their soul - just the separation from those they love.

quote:
it will be a state we cannot fully comprehend whereby earthly values, institutions and normal experience don't come into it.rolyn
Again, we can say from the Gospels that the 'life to come' is in the Kingdom of God - where the will of God prevails.

Because 'it will be a state we cannot fully comprehend', we must be born into it - recreated.

That in itself will be a blessing to most people as the suffering we can do little about is caused by man's inhumanity coupled with the trauma and memories of it.

I am sure this is understandable as simple theology which can be seen in both Jesus and Paul's teaching.

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Moo

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quote:
Originally posted by Raptor Eye:
I do think it a very important aspect of the Christian religion, that we believe in life after death. You will see that I spoke of hope and promise. This is a vital narrative in the teaching of Jesus, throughout the New Testament, and through the millennia in Christian thinking.
<snip>
The lady asked wistfully whether she would see her parents again. The reassurance of the Christian belief of an after-life would, I believe, have been a comfort. Shadeson said she would, but couldn't see that this was the teaching of the church. I see it as compatible with the teaching of the church.

I agree that church doctrine does not contradict this, but I'm not sure that it explicitly states this.

Moo

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rolyn
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This thread reminds me of the occasions when Rev. Adam Smallbone touched on the delicate matter of Heaven. One time in particular was when he gave a tender and gently worded explanation to a woman, not long for this life, on how God will forgive her in the afterlife.
After brief consideration she replies "What happens if God doesn't exist?".

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Change is the only certainty of existence

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Martin60
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@shadeson, damrite. That's all people want, confident platitudes.

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Love wins

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SvitlanaV2
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The interesting thing to me is that the popular concept of heaven and the afterlife seems to have only the vaguest connection with the Christian faith as such. God may be somewhere in the vicinity, but not particularly as a central character.

This being so, I'm not sure if the 'Christian' notion of the dead rising from death at a later date and somehow 'facing' God is likely to be meaningful to the average person. People just want to believe that their deceased loved one is 'looking down on them from heaven'. A friend of mine who identifies as CofE prays to God but knows little about orthodox Christianity; she was taken aback when I said I didn't really believe in the 'looking down' theory.

Of course mainstream modern Christianity doesn't say much about the afterlife/heaven anyway. It's a subject for funerals, but not given much airtime otherwise. The sociologists put that down to the security and comforts of modern life. We don't need heaven all that much.

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Teekeey Misha
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quote:
Originally posted by shadeson:
Our questions today are expected to be answered by science, not the church.

Really? I think that rather depends on the questions. Your mileage clearly varies and perhaps what you've said isn't what you mean; if it is, then I disagree with you from the outset.
quote:
Originally posted by No Prophet
...stop behaving like eternal life was the important piece of Christianity.

Isn't it? Christianity being based upon the bloke who said, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live," I'd have thought "eternal life" was pretty clearly an important piece of Christianity.

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Misha
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Freddy
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quote:
Originally posted by Teekeey Misha:
quote:
Originally posted by No Prophet
...stop behaving like eternal life was the important piece of Christianity.

Isn't it? Christianity being based upon the bloke who said, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live," I'd have thought "eternal life" was pretty clearly an important piece of Christianity.
Yes.

And I think that we all understand that "eternal life" begins in the present.

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"Consequently nothing is of greater importance to a person than knowing what the truth is." Swedenborg

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no prophet's flag is set so...

Proceed to see sea
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It'd be far better if we loved our neighbours as ourselves. The eternal life emphasis has done naught to make the world a less fearsome place.

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Maybe I should stop to consider that I'm not worthy of an epiphany and just take what life has to offer
(formerly was just "no prophet") \_(ツ)_/

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W Hyatt
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Ideally, emphasis on eternal life leads us to love our neighbor as ourselves in the here and now.

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A new church and a new earth, with Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life.

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
quote:
Originally posted by Teekeey Misha:
quote:
Originally posted by No Prophet
...stop behaving like eternal life was the important piece of Christianity.

Isn't it? Christianity being based upon the bloke who said, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live," I'd have thought "eternal life" was pretty clearly an important piece of Christianity.
Yes.

And I think that we all understand that "eternal life" begins in the present.

How can it start in the present? That means starting at a time, whereas what is eternal is beyond time.

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Raptor Eye
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quote:
Originally posted by Moo:
I agree that church doctrine does not contradict this, but I'm not sure that it explicitly states this.

Moo

If Moses and Elijah were talking to Jesus on the mountain, and God is of the living and not of the dead, the Bible says it. Of course, we have no guarantee that everyone will meet up in heaven - quite the opposite - but we have the hope of it for everyone, as we do not know who will be there and who won't, only God knows.

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Felafool
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quote:
And I think that we all understand that "eternal life" begins in the present.

How can it start in the present? That means starting at a time, whereas what is eternal is beyond time. (Gee D)

Your understanding of 'eternal' doesn't quite fit the original Greek term used in the Gospels, which literally means 'of the age/ages'. So the meaning of eternal life is closer to the idea of life of the age of the Kingdom. So rather than a focus on time (or beyond time), it's a focus on quality. Eternal does not need to have a start or an ending (that would be 'everlasting' life) thus the life of the age to come can be experienced here and now as well as after death.

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Honest Ron Bacardi
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quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:
It'd be far better if we loved our neighbours as ourselves. The eternal life emphasis has done naught to make the world a less fearsome place.

I agree that an emphasis on loving our neighbours as ourselves (as well as loving God) is to be commended highly. But the narratives we have to suggest that eternal life follows judgement. You left that bit out, as many do. I invite you to compare this fuller scenario with one that involves no judgement, then get back to me on which one facilitates the world being a more fearsome place.

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Honest Ron Bacardi
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"...the narratives we have do suggest..."

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Anglo-Cthulhic

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Martin60
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Judgement is something to look forward to, even the legendarily cruel and callous Sodom and Gomorrah get a more than bearable one from Jesus.

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Love wins

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no prophet's flag is set so...

Proceed to see sea
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quote:
Originally posted by W Hyatt:
Ideally, emphasis on eternal life leads us to love our neighbor as ourselves in the here and now.

I think 2000 years of Christianity being the foundations of western politics and economy is more than enough to understand that eternal life-ism has screwed up the world. How many wars? How many refugees created? Currently, a dried out Africa where people sell a kidney to pay a smuggler to put them on a leaky boat to Europe. Where farming to make torillas doesn't earn a living because of subsidised corn dumped into the country. And deportations. No, eternal life is the foundation of me-ism. Where business is more important than anything. And unbelievably, "Christians" vote for this.

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Maybe I should stop to consider that I'm not worthy of an epiphany and just take what life has to offer
(formerly was just "no prophet") \_(ツ)_/

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:
Eternal life is the foundation of me-ism. Where business is more important than anything. And unbelievably, "Christians" vote for this.

The interesting question is whether Christians who believe in eternal life are more likely to be selfish than those who don't.
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Teekeey Misha
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quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:
I think 2000 years of Christianity being the foundations of western politics and economy is more than enough to understand that eternal life-ism has screwed up the world. How many wars? How many refugees created? Currently, a dried out Africa where people sell a kidney to pay a smuggler to put them on a leaky boat to Europe. Where farming to make torillas doesn't earn a living because of subsidised corn dumped into the country. And deportations. No, eternal life is the foundation of me-ism. Where business is more important than anything. And unbelievably, "Christians" vote for this.

I'm not sure I really see that "belief in eternal life" is to blame for the ills you cite; it seems to be based on a rather warped logic.

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Don't assume I don't care; sometimes I just can't be bothered to put you right.

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by Felafool:
quote:
And I think that we all understand that "eternal life" begins in the present.

How can it start in the present? That means starting at a time, whereas what is eternal is beyond time. (Gee D)

Your understanding of 'eternal' doesn't quite fit the original Greek term used in the Gospels, which literally means 'of the age/ages'. So the meaning of eternal life is closer to the idea of life of the age of the Kingdom. So rather than a focus on time (or beyond time), it's a focus on quality. Eternal does not need to have a start or an ending (that would be 'everlasting' life) thus the life of the age to come can be experienced here and now as well as after death.
I have virtually no Greek at all, so thank you for your comments. AIUI, eternal is Latin in origin, and so there may well have been a shift in meaning with the translations to Latin, then into our English.

As to your last sentence though, I still see eternal in modern usage, informed by Einstein's work and that of later cosmologists. Ages and time only exist in the created universe, every bit as much as space and matter. What is eternal is beyond this creation.

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shadeson
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quote:
But the narratives we have do (have) suggest that eternal life follows judgement Honest Ron
Yes, judgement. I suppose I knew that was going to come up.

I could hardly talk about this with a gentle old lady.
And it's not something you want to discuss especially as the church is even more vague about this than eternal life.

Though it seems this has completely fouled up our ability to talk sensibly to those nearing the end of life. So the church must talk platitudes.

I can only say that no one understands what justice is and anyone knowing in eternal life what they did in this life is probably the nearest thing.

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no prophet's flag is set so...

Proceed to see sea
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If loving your neighbour as yourself was the foundation, would we be in the greed world we're in? Because we have the idea that grace gives you eternal life, the focus on the works side - which is all about not doing for others if we consider Jesus' example - is a little bit of donating, today, clicking "like". But we got our Ticket to Heaven.
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Raptor Eye
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Loving our neighbours as ourselves comes second to loving God with the whole of our selves, there is no room for selfishness. This comes from the deception of the world, it's a temptation we find hard to resist.

The idea that we've got a ticket to heaven reminds me of those who thought they were OK as Abraham was their ancestor.

I like to think that as God understands, and God loves, and God has compassion, that we will all ultimately find ourselves in heaven. But will those who do evil knowingly? Or, as suggested, will knowing it eternally be punishment in itself?

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W Hyatt
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quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:
quote:
Originally posted by W Hyatt:
Ideally, emphasis on eternal life leads us to love our neighbor as ourselves in the here and now.

I think 2000 years of Christianity being the foundations of western politics and economy is more than enough to understand that eternal life-ism has screwed up the world. How many wars? How many refugees created? Currently, a dried out Africa where people sell a kidney to pay a smuggler to put them on a leaky boat to Europe. Where farming to make torillas doesn't earn a living because of subsidised corn dumped into the country. And deportations. No, eternal life is the foundation of me-ism. Where business is more important than anything. And unbelievably, "Christians" vote for this.
(Emphasis added)

I don't agree that an emphasis on eternal life is the foundation of me-ism because I'm sure me-ism would be just as strong without any concept of eternal life. Instead, me-ism has seized on the Protestant Christian doctrine of salvation by faith alone as an opportunity to excuse itself.

Trying to remove the emphasis on personal salvation is one way to try to counter me-ism, but that has the problem of running counter to the hints we find in the New Testament about eternal life. On the other hand, if you take the view that saving faith can only grow out of our attempts to live according to the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves, then the hope for salvation in the afterlife can act as an appropriate counter to me-ism.

[ 12. December 2016, 05:18: Message edited by: W Hyatt ]

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A new church and a new earth, with Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life.

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Felafool
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# 270

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quote:
Gee D:- I still see eternal in modern usage, informed by Einstein's work and that of later cosmologists. Ages and time only exist in the created universe, every bit as much as space and matter. What is eternal is beyond this creation.
I agree to a point. If something is beyond this creation, it doesn't necessarily mean that aspects of it cannot be experienced within creation. God is 'eternal' but we can encounter God within this creation - Jesus being the ultimate encounter as the incarnation, becoming flesh so we could behold his glory.

Jesus also proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was here among us, he promised his followers that they would live life to the full. Both these ideas (and others) point to that which is beyond creation breaking into creation now, not just in the future. Scholars refer to this as realised and unrealised eschatology - here now, and not yet.

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Stercus Tauri
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An old friend once asked what I thought would happen when he arrived in Heaven to meet the two wives he had outlived. He had been an elder of the Kirk for at least half of his hundred years by the time he died, and he still didn't have a good answer, and I certainly didn't. I didn't tell him I thought it was the wrong question. I know what various Biblical passages say about it, and I've heard all sorts of convenient and comforting explanations, but millions of people don't know or feel the need to know, and I am pretty sure I'll find out one way or another if and when I need to. Meanwhile, I have more pressing stuff to deal with.

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Alisdair
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Mentioned earlier, and as far as I am concerned not at all platitudinous, Julian of Norwich's deceptively simple, but thoroughly thought through response on being asked to sum up her understanding of the upsets and worries of this life in relation to the presence of God: 'All shall be well...'

Some things we can wonder about, but in the end if God is God (as revealed through Christ), then we can be confident to get on with our lives here and now without needing to be burdened/crushed by questions we cannot presently answer, or worries that it's all down to us to figure out or get right.

That must include our dying, and it does as I see on an almost daily basis in my work with people who are facing the end of their own lives, or of the life of someone they love very dearly.

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by Felafool:

I agree to a point. If something is beyond this creation, it doesn't necessarily mean that aspects of it cannot be experienced within creation. God is 'eternal' but we can encounter God within this creation - Jesus being the ultimate encounter as the incarnation, becoming flesh so we could behold his glory.

Jesus also proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was here among us, he promised his followers that they would live life to the full. Both these ideas (and others) point to that which is beyond creation breaking into creation now, not just in the future. Scholars refer to this as realised and unrealised eschatology - here now, and not yet.

Indeed the Word became incarnate, and on His ascension took back with Him His human nature, re-uniting the creation and its Creator.

I'm not as sure about your second paragraph though, interesting though it is. My main problem is that to some extent it assumes that beyond creation is only in the future; I'd say that the beyond-creation exists full stop, totally beyond our concept of time.

[ 12. December 2016, 19:55: Message edited by: Gee D ]

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Martin60
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# 368

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Time is now from eternity. Always will be. God necessarily encompasses that.

And as to the OP, it's all about what we bring to the party. Faith, hope and charity would be good. Not being faithless, hopeless, uncharitable, fearful, ignorant, miserable, little bastards.

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no prophet's flag is set so...

Proceed to see sea
# 15560

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quote:
Originally posted by W Hyatt:
I don't agree that an emphasis on eternal life is the foundation of me-ism because I'm sure me-ism would be just as strong without any concept of eternal life. Instead, me-ism has seized on the Protestant Christian doctrine of salvation by faith alone as an opportunity to excuse itself.

Trying to remove the emphasis on personal salvation is one way to try to counter me-ism, but that has the problem of running counter to the hints we find in the New Testament about eternal life. On the other hand, if you take the view that saving faith can only grow out of our attempts to live according to the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves, then the hope for salvation in the afterlife can act as an appropriate counter to me-ism.

It's a lot easier to worship Christ than to live like Jesus, which seems to me to the heart of the matter.

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Maybe I should stop to consider that I'm not worthy of an epiphany and just take what life has to offer
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W Hyatt
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Yes, well said.

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Martin60
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2nded

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Love wins

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:
It's a lot easier to worship Christ than to live like Jesus, which seems to me to the heart of the matter.

It's certainly very hard to live like Jesus - as even his closest friends noted.

But Christianity is actually a religion in which it's very easy to go without 'worship'. Most British Christians, and probably most Christians around the world, see 'worship' as fairly optional.

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
Time is now from eternity. Always will be. God necessarily encompasses that.

Sorry Martin, I don't understand that. Time is a necessary part of creation, but not part of the Creator's realm. The incarnation was God entering into the creation with its faults, its time and space, its potential.

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Martin60
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How old is time? When did it start? How is anything not in God's realm?

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shadeson
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quote:
I think 2000 years of Christianity being the foundations of western politics and economy is more than enough to understand that eternal life-ism has screwed up the world. No Prophet
I can understand that the idea of eternal life can corrupt behaviour in this one. Especially if it is regarded as a reward for a belief. Suicide bombers are modern examples together with Christians who think faith is all that is needed to please God. But I think the rant misses the point.
Generally, people don't want their life to end.

Which of you by taking thought would not add one year to their (healthy) life?

Strictly speaking it might be an evolutionary thing but in practice it's just the pleasure of social contact which makes life desirable.

Didn't Jesus say something about having more brothers and sisters in the life to come?

So when life comes to an end christians at least should have a coherent message.

I know there are problems with NT theology but that would bring me to a rant about us having the same problem as Islam - the words in a book are holy and inerrant and fixed according to traditional interpretation.

quote:
It's a lot easier to worship Christ than to live like Jesus, which seems to me to the heart of the matter No Prophet
That's a virtuous but rather simplistic statement.

We cannot live like Jesus. We can obey his commands 'which are not grievous'

We have to live lives in married relationships and ordinary ones with unbelieving folk around. Otherwise we could live in monasteries. But it's not most peoples choice.

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
How old is time? When did it start? How is anything not in God's realm?

Time started at the Big Bang/Creation/Whatever, along with the other dimensions we know of. It is part of God's creation, to use your approach. His realm is much larger than this universe.

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Martin60
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The universe is but one in a concurrent growing infinity from eternity. God has been doing universes, creating, incarnating forever.

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Love wins

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rolyn
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Quite so Martin. God's Eternity is like the ocean and we are riding on the HMS Universe.

Not that I'd necessarily want to say to a recently bereaved person that their loved one had simply fallen into God's sea. Rather easier than getting into all that Heaven and Hell stuff though.

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Change is the only certainty of existence

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