Friday, June 30, 2006

Never No More

“They are no more.”

That is the way Hindu’s refer to the death of their family or friends. It’s an interesting expression, which says a great deal about their worldview. In contrast, in the West we refer to the death of someone by saying they have “passed away.”

Most Hindu’s believe in reincarnation, a 12,000 recycling of the soul into other forms of life until one reaches moksha (freedom from cyclical life). When someone dies they are no more from their present state; they are also no more from their identity as a person. My 80-year-old friend, Mr. Kumar, ceases not only to live, but also to be Mr. Kumar. He really wasn’t Mr. Kumar when I knew him; it was just his present state. Mr. Kumar is no more; he is now someone or something else. While this teaching may seem odd to those outside the faith, Hindu’s find comfort that life continues even if the state of that person does not.

Those in the West, who do not believe in reincarnation, and especially those of the Christian tradition, view death as the continuation of the personality, passing from life on this earth into an eternal condition. Where that eternal state may be is often a subject of debate. For evangelical Christians we point to the Holy Scriptures, the book of Hebrews which states, “It is appointed ONCE to die, and after that the judgment” (9:27). (Judgment does not refer to punishment but accountability).

Working with the Turkana of Kenya, most of the people were animists. They did not have a concept of an on-going living soul and therefore believed that the death of person meant they were no more. Unlike the Hindu, however, the soul does not move into another cycle of life, but really are no more. The worldview of the nomads in the desert and that of the educated atheist in the halls of academia, at least on this issue, are the same.

As I write this post, my mother-in-law is near death (which literally means separation). When she is separated from this life, her family and friends, she will pass to an eternal state. She, like all of us, has been created unique in person, uniquely an eternal personality. Our Eternal Creator, which does not change in either form or function, remains consistent with His creation. For those who are followers of Christ, we move from separation of life on earth, but we are never no more.