What and Why is This Thing Called Death

In my previous two posts I wrote about how death in a movie contributes to a secular plausibility structure, and how death lends more credibility to Christianity than atheism/materialism. In this post I want to explain what death is from a Christian perspective, and where it came from.

According to Christianity, death is an aberration. It’s not the way things were supposed to be, and all human beings know this regardless of their beliefs. In Genesis 1 we read that God created the world very good, and Adam and Eve had the run of the place, it was all theirs. Except, that is, one tree. Would Adam (Eve wasn’t around yet) trust and obey his Creator:

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Death for disobedience seems a bit harsh to us, but the thing is, we don’t get to set the rules. Because life only has meaning in connection to the one who created it, to be separated from the Creator is the definition of death. The Lord God was saying if you eat what I command you not to eat, you will be separated from me, the source of your life.

Unfortunately for the human race, Satan knew this and visited Adam and Eve in the Garden to see if he could get death introduced to mar God’s good creation. Notice how Satan completely distorts God’s words when he tells Eve,“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” That was such a whopper that Eve instantly knew it wasn’t true, and she reiterates what God had said, but Satan says God is a liar:

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 

It wasn’t the eating that caused their eyes to be opened, but the pretension that they could actually “be like God.” This is the nature of sin that runs through every human heart: who gets to be God.

Thus entered death into the world. Adam and Even didn’t drop dead on the spot. Instead “they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” Since the relationship had now been severed, when they heard the Lord God coming, they hid. From the very source of their existence they were now afraid. This alienation from God is death, a spiritual death that infected all of creation, and which is the source of all the pain and suffering and physical death in the world. Fortunately for us, our God is merciful and gracious, and he promises Adam and Eve that one day he would solve the problem they created. We call that the Gospel.

To the enlightened secular skeptic this might appear like a fairy tale, but to me and my kids it provides a plausible explanation for death. To them the atheist/materialist explanation that death and its apparent wrongness simply is, no explanation required, is ridiculous. And it is.

In a final post on mortality I’ll look at what Jesus thought about death, and how that lends further credibility to the Christian view.