Why skeptics need Easter Sunday

Western society has no explanation for death, so death is feared. This weakness of the western worldview ought perhaps to prompt westerners to consider whether the secular humanist worldview is the best explanation of reality after all.

Consider how death is perceived in Canadian and Australian society: hidden, held at arms length, hushed. Think of the way death is referred to: either it’s dreadful significance is downplayed with phrases like: ‘passed away’, ‘passed on’, or it’s made light of: ‘kicked the bucket’, ‘pushing up the daisies’. Nervous laughter in the face of death is common: On his death bed Oscar Wilde is known to have said: ‘These curtains are dreadful – one of us will have to go!’ Consider how death is hidden away. The crematorium and grave yard which I have most frequented as a pastor, Pine Grove Memorial Cemetery, is hidden on the edge of  the suburbs, next to the garbage dump! Death is hidden: out of sight, out of mind.

At the root of this denial and nervous joking is this: our secular society has no firm explanation of the meaning of death and what comes afterward, so death is feared. No explanations, no hope, nothing to pray; only endings, last breaths, and fear. Science can explain how we got here– it can explain the beginning of life and the world (so it says)  – but it has nothing to say about the end of life.

There is surely something wrong with a world view that has nothing to say about this all important event our lives, our death. Such a worldview fails to explain a most important aspect of our reality. Perhaps this failure ought to prompt westerners to consider whether the secular humanist worldview is the best explanation of reality after all. Perhaps it is time to weigh the secular humanist worldview against a Christian one and consider which fits best with our experience of the world.

Consider this: where were people buried one hundred years ago? Graveyards of the past were in the front and back yards of churches. And churches were right in the centre of town, on main street. Dead people were buried publically. Such public burials display a deep confidence in the face of death. A different worldview prevailed then. The reality of God was affirmed. So death was faced with more confidence.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the Christian worldview. The bible places Jesus’ resurrection at the centre of history. In raising Jesus from the dead God places a giant, earth changing, tick of approval on this world. It shows us that human life, human bodies and all of creation matters to God! Jesus resurrection is the beginning of new creation. What God did for Christ in raising him from the dead, he will soon do for the whole world.

To conclude, I love thoughtful Christian tombstones. Here is a popular Christian tombstone from an age past. RESURGUM: this is a Latin word. It means: ‘I will arise’.

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About Mark Glanville

Mark Glanville is a pastor-scholar who ministers in a missional urban community, Grandview Church, Vancouver. Mark is Professor of Old Testament and congregational studies at the Missional Training Center, Phoenix (missionaltraining.org), and he teaches at Regent College, Vancouver. Mark's research focusses upon the Pentateuch, biblical ethics, and mission. Mark has authored a book on Exodus (Lexham, forthcoming), numerous refereed articles (including in the Journal of Biblical Literature, forthcoming) and chapters on the Pentateuch, mission, and refugee related issues, as well as numerous popular articles. Mark is presently co-authoring a book, "Providing Refuge: A Missional and Political Theology." Mark is regularly called upon to speak on in Canada, the U.S., and Australia. His previous career was as a jazz pianist in Sydney, Australia (Chick Corea and Wynton Kelly are his musical heroes).
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3 Responses to Why skeptics need Easter Sunday

  1. Thanks for sharing these insightful thoughts about how death can be viewed, if placed in its proper context. You might be interested in my article “It Was His Passion” along the same lines. http://wp.me/p1pA4k-7I

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