What’s Death Good For?
I’ve been meaning to read this little book for quite a while, and finally got around to it last week (ironically, the spur that finally prodded me to buy it was the fact that we needed another $7 to push our Amazon order high enough to get free shipping and this was the cheapest book I could think of off the top of my head—it’s a good thing edification isn’t tied to the purity of one’s motives…). It’s really quite moving to see a guy who I’m used to reading in dense philosophical discourse struggling with the pain of losing his son, and how his faith is tested and strengthened by this awful tragedy. For those inclined to think that death is just a normal and proper part of life (or something to that effect), Nicholas Wolterstorff’s lament represents a pretty convincing voice to the contrary. Death is, and always has been, the enemy of humanity.
Throughout this series of reflections Wolterstorff clings—sometimes just by a thread—to the belief that death cannot be the last word. As it has for believers down throughout the ages, Christ’s resurrection provides the resources for transcending death – both ultimately, in the world to come, and presently, in the “long Saturday” where our hope is kindled; where we learn to become better human beings and do our part to implement God’s vision for his world:
To believe in Christ’s rising and death’s dying is also to live in the power and the challenge to rise up now from all our dark graves of suffering love. If sympathy for the world’s wounds is not enlarged by our anguish, if love for those around us is not expanded, if gratitude for what is good does not flame up, if insight is not deepened, if commitment to what is important is not strengthened, if aching for a new day is not intensified, if hope is weakened and faith diminished, if from the experience of death comes nothing good, then death has won. Then death, be proud.