Death is an underrated tool in the apologists’s toolbox. Put another way, we can use death more often and more effectively to defend the veracity of the Christian faith. Christians are usually put on the defensive when the subject of death (and suffering) comes up because, well, I don’t know why. Ever since the so called Enlightenment when human beings began to believe they could sit in judgment on God, death (and suffering) became known as “the problem of evil.” Succinctly, the argument goes this way. If God is all powerful he should be able to keep evil from happening, but he obviously can’t, so he’s not. If he’s all good, he should not allow evil to happen, which he obviously hasn’t. So God is obviously not all powerful, nor all good, ergo he doesn’t exist. Or something like that.

The problem with this explaining away of God is that it leaves a far bigger problem in its wake: if there is no God, why, then, is there evil and suffering at all? The atheist’s answer: Uh, because. Now that’s intellectually satisfying, and emotionally fulfilling. NOT! And why is it bad? I guess because it’s not pleasant. But the only thing the God-less can say of evil and suffering (and death) is that it just is, deal with it. Brute fact, too bad, so sad. But getting rid of God only makes the problem of evil worse because, then, there is absolutely no reason at all for the misery all human beings experience. It is meaning-less.

Christianity, though, makes much more sense of what all of us know logically and emotionally about death (and suffering). Tim Keller in his book Making Sense of God recounts a story that shows us how untenable the atheist (materialist/naturalist/secularist) position really is when it comes to these unpleasant facts of human existence:

Philosopher Peter Kreeft recounts the story of a seven-year-old boy whose cousin died at the age of three. He asked his mother, “Where is my cousin now?” She did not believe in God or the afterlife, and so she not with integrity talk to him about heaven. Instead she followed the modern secular narrative. “Your cousin has gone back to the earth,” she said, “from which we all come. Death is a natural part of the cycle of life. And so when you see the earth put forth new flowers next spring, you can know that it is your cousin’s life that is fertilizing those flowers.”

How did the little boy respond? He screamed, “I don’t want him to be fertilizer!” and ran away. Kreeft argues that the mother had let the modern narrative suppress the natural human intuition that death is not natural at all.

That would almost be funny and cute, if it were not so pathetic. Everyone knows that there is something about death that in no way can be described as natural. I make the case this way in a quote from myself in the book talking about the concept of explanatory power:

But why does death seem so . . . wrong? We may not feel outrage at the funeral of a great grandmother, but go to the funeral of a five-year-old and you will feel wrongness . . . viscerally . . . deeply . . . painfully. Which worldview holds the most compelling explanatory power for the anguish of death, atheistic materialism or Christianity?

At least Christianity gives us a plausible explanation. Atheist materialism? Literally nothing. So in our household, death is discussed, and often, as a scary, terrifying, horrible reality we will all face, but one which gives us confidence that God in Christ has provided a solution. Death is the ultimate question mark of existence, and Jesus provided the ultimate answer.

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