Archive for the ‘Death and Dying’ Category

How to Stop the Killing

January 14th, 2013 5 comments


This was posted today on the Missouri Synod’s “Witness, Mercy, Life Together Blog” by the Synod’s Chief Mission Officer, Rev. Gregory K. Williamson, a long time US Army chaplain. I thought it was excellent.

The Fifth Commandment

You shall not murder.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.

The recent murders in Connecticut have spawned debates about the growing violence within American society. Debates include gun control, mental health, school security, and parental responsibility. Most experts recommend action by local, state, or federal governments to better secure our society—legislate new laws to protect our children, more aggressive intervention for the emotionally disturbed, more oversight by social welfare agencies, but few, if any, have addressed the acts of murder as a moral and spiritual problem.

Simply put, the experts do not include sin and the old nature. The Bible records the first murder in Genesis chapter 4, “And Cain talked about Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” Not long into mankind’s history do we encounter murder, and not much has changed.

The old nature’s inclinations are close at hand every moment of every day. Scriptures exhort the wise to flee temptation; yet, to flirt with sin is titillating and stimulates the worst within us. Even those who do not process evil from a Christian perspective recognize the danger of a society that inoculates itself to violence and stimulates the passions within by vicarious means.

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, author of “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society,” writes in 1996,

 In video arcades children stand slack jawed but intent behind machine guns and shoot at electronic targets that pop up on the video screen. When they pull the trigger the weapon rattles in their hand, shots ring out, and if they hit the “enemy” they are firing at, it drops to the ground, often with chunks of flesh flying in the air.[1]

Grossman goes on to say,

This new “pseudo reality” will make it possible to replicate all the gore and violence of popular violent movies, except now you are the one who is the star, the killer, the slayer of thousands.[2]

He concludes by saying,

That force [innate rebellion against killing] has existed in man throughout recorded history, and military history can be interpreted as a record of society’s attempt to force its members to overcome their resistance in order to kill more effectively in battle.[3]

Following the massacre in Connecticut, Lt. Col. Grossman shared his concerns about the desensitizing of our society to violence via movies, television, and video games. I, for one, appreciate his call for less violence within the media; however, what Grossman fails to see is what faith reveals. That is, the innate force within mankind is not rebellion against killing; but, on the contrary, the old nature seeking to satisfy bloodlust.

Without God’s intervention there would be no moments of safety, peace, and tranquility; rather, the constant world state would be violence, murder, and massacre. No human laws, ordinances, or constraints can check this “old Adam.” This is the tragic plight of humanity without the gracious intervention of God through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Another soldier, General Douglas MacArthur, references this innate propensity to violence and war in his speech at the surrender of the Japanese on September 2, 1945 and again in his farewell speech to congress April 19, 1951 where he said,

Men since the beginning of time have sought peace.  . . . The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years, It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.[4]

MacArthur points to a solution to war and violence that is spiritual, a spiritual “recrudescence.” More precisely, and from a Lutheran understanding, it is only through the atoning work of Christ and the renewing of the Spirit that any has hope. This hope was given to us through the waters of Baptism where we were clothed with the righteousness of Christ—a true spiritual renewal.

In a society desensitized by violence, it behooves Christians to walk circumspectly, not in accordance with the wisdom of this world, but by faith.  As St. Paul writes to the Colossians,

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.[5]

–Gregory K. Williamson
Chief Mission Officer – LCMS

[1] Lt. Col. David Grossman, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, 1st ed., (New York: Back Bay Books; Little, Brown and Company, 1996) 314.

[2] Ibid., 316.

[3] Ibid., 332.

[4] General Douglas MacArthur, “Surrender Ceremony Speech,“ U.S.S. Missouri, Tokyo Bay, September 2, 1945, Radio broadcast to the world following the formal surrender of the Japanese.

[5] Colossians 3:15-18.

Depraved Indifference: Thoughts on the Aurora Murders

July 23rd, 2012 30 comments

Lessons from Aurora

In the American legal system, there is a phrase used to identify a certain mindset that leads to horrendous crimes.  That phrase is “depraved indifference to human life.”

Here is the way the criminal justice system understands “depraved indifference”:

To constitute depraved indifference, the defendant’s conduct must be so wanton, so deficient in a moral sense of concern, so lacking in regard for the life or lives of others, and so blameworthy as to warrant the same criminal liability as that which the law imposes upon a person who intentionally causes a crime.  Depraved indifference focuses on the risk created by the defendant’s conduct, not the injuries actually resulting.  The other term used for depraved indifference is “depraved heart.”

Think about this for a moment with me.  Even if a person does not actually commit a physical crime, he can be guilty of it owing to “depraved indifference” as a person who has a “depraved heart.”

As I reflect on the Aurora, Colo., massacre, that phrase keeps repeating itself in my mind.  What led an otherwise apparently smart and successful young man to stockpile thousands of rounds of ammunition for a variety of weapons, rig his apartment to explode in a fireball, and then enter a theater and kill and wound so many?  Depraved indifference to human life, that’s what.  We will hear raging debates about gun control and “if only” there had been the right rule, or regulation, or control in place, this would not have happened.  And to that I simply say, “Maybe, maybe not, but I highly doubt it.”*  Why?  Because the issue here is the young man’s depraved indifference to human life.  The acting out on that impulse was where the crime originated.

As people reel in horror and shock from this incident, everyone wants to try to put his finger precisely on what caused this young man to “go crazy.”  Surely, he must be crazy.  He has to be out of his mind.  He is suffering from mental illness.  He is not normal.  He is not like you and me.  No, he is something other than we are.  That explains it, doesn’t it?  Or does it?  Viewed from God’s point of view, which is, in the end, the only view that truly matters, it is not quite that easy.  After all, the Bible tells us that we are all born dead, not alive. We are dead in our trespasses and sin (Col. 2:13).  We come into this world as enemies of God and hostile toward God and everything He stands for (Romans 8:7).  We come into this world not merely with depraved indifference toward God, and with a depraved heart, but with active hostility to God’s perfect will for us and for His creation.  There is not a “spark” of goodness in us as we are born.  We are evil, continually, from our youth, as we learn from Genesis 6:5.  People are not “naturally good” … no, we are all natural born killers.  Shocking?  Yes, it is.  We all suffer, in various degrees, from “depraved indifference to human life.”

That indifference took on a spectacularly horrifying form in the movie theater shooting, but there is in each one of us a little “killer” just waiting to get out.  And he gets out in thoughts, words and deeds.  He gets out and does harm to our loved ones, friends and neighbors when we think the cruel thought; speak the hurtful word; fail to speak well of and defend our neighbor; and fall short of supporting and defending our neighbor, helping him to protect and improve his property, business, good reputation, or life.  Keep in mind we live in a nation where tens of thousands of people are murdered, legally and with impunity, before they even have a chance to see the light of day as newborns.  Yes, that Old Adam, as we call our fallen nature, is a natural born killer.  Depraved indifference?  You bet.  It takes different forms and shapes and is expressed in a variety of ways in our life, but depraved indifference it is, in one way or the other.

Which then makes it all the more remarkable that God actually sent His Son into the very same human flesh which suffers from this horrible condition (John 1:14).  The One who never had, and never will, commit any sin, was sent among sinful men and women to live the lives they cannot live, to provide the sacrifice for sin they could never provide, and He did it all for the sake of Love.  God is love.  God is light.  God is the holy One.  God is merciful.  God is the life-creator and the life-giver and the life-restorer.  Christ Jesus came among us and was born under the Law, to redeem us from the condemnation of the Law (Gal 4:4).

God is passionately concerned for the salvation of each one of us.  He is the complete opposite of “depraved indifference” when it comes to His Creation.  While we cannot ultimately, to our own satisfaction, explain precisely why the world is a place where horrible things happen, we can at least recognize that within each of us we see signs of depraved indifference to our neighbor’s needs and suffering.

We are led to repent of our sin, of our depraved indifference, and turn in great sorrow to the God of all comfort and seek the mercy He so freely gives.  As our society struggles to come to terms with yet another gross outburst of sin, let’s not be caught up in the thinking that would have us isolate this young man and simply regard him as a freak, an oddity, somebody less than human.  In fact, he is fully human and simply gave expression to the sinful nature each of us struggles with every day of our lives.  Do you remember the answer Jesus gave when people were trying to get an explanation for a manmade tragedy, a tower falling on people and killing them, and why innocent people were killed by soldiers? (Luke 13:3).  Jesus said simply, “Unless you repent, you likewise will perish.”  Not exactly the kind of explanation we would want, but…the only one we receive, the only one we need to hear, and the only one we must act on, today. Repent.

This event should drive each of us to our knees in repentant prayer and pleading to God for His mercy.  We pray for all those suffering from this seemingly “senseless” act of depraved indifference.  We pray for God’s peace and comfort for all concerned, and that He would use this occasion as an opportunity to turn hearts to Him.  We pray that God would use this incident to humble us all once more and help us to see how we are indeed poor, miserable sinners, and then once more turn to the Cross where the Lord of Glory died, apparently a senseless, tragic, violent death, in a manner that was an expression of depraved indifference to His holy, innocent life.

For it is there, on the Cross, that the blood that cleanses you from all your sin was shed, and three days later, the Lord rose in victory, shattering the shackles of sin, death and hell which grip you tightly.  Christ is your Savior.  Christ is your Redeemer.  Cling alone to Him, for He has taken firm hold of you.  You were buried with Christ, by baptism, into death in order that, just as Jesus was raised from the death, through the glory of His Father, so you have a new life, now, and for eternity to come (Romans 6:1-2).  You now live in the confident hope that Christ alone gives, and you reach out in love and service to all whom the Lord puts in your lives. May God grant it, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.


Rev. Paul T. McCain


Concordia Publishing House


*Please see remarks on gun control in the comment following the article. I did not want to allow that issue to overshadow the point of my editorial.

The Tsunami and the Apocalypse – Article by Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto

March 22nd, 2011 3 comments

Dr. Netto sent me this column and I’m passing it along to you….

FAITH MATTERS: The tsunami last week and the Apocalypse . . . eventually

The Bible cautions believers against speculating about the date and time of the Apocalypse, although current world events and calamities seem to invite such conjecture. There are the uprisings in the Middle East. In Japan, the tsunami and earthquake disasters are fueling raising nuclear fears. And then the nuttiness of clergymen fitting Luther’s definition of “false clerics and schismatic spirits” reminds us that Christ listed some signs of the looming end of times, for example the appearance of many bogus prophets. The Rev. Steve Lawler, part-time rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal church in Ferguson, Missouri, might just fit this rubric.

Fawler decided to “give up church for Lent,” and to adopt Muslim rituals and dietary rules for the 40 days until Easter. Thankfully, his bishop threatened to defrock him if he continued this practice, which manifestly confirms a Roman verity that preceded Christianity: Whom the gods want to destroy they first make mad. As Bishop George Wayne Smith told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “He can’t be both a Christian and a Muslim. If he chooses to practice as Muslim, then he would, by default, give up his Christian identity and priesthood in the church.”

If the times weren’t so dire it would be fun to spin Fawler’s rationale further: How about giving up love for marriage in Lent? How about giving up death for funerals, or birth for adolescence, or motherhood for fatherhood? One must cheer the bishop for trying to maintain theological sanity, which isn’t easy in today’s religious environment where major denominations are degenerating into post-Christian neo-Gnostic sects, to wit the joint celebration of the Eucharist by Episcopalians and Hindus three years ago in Los Angeles, or a same-sex wedding in a sanctuary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), also in southern California. The most titillating moment during this betrothal came when the woman pastor placed a consecrated host on the tongue of a seeing-eye dog; it is worth remembering in this context that according to Lutheran sacramental theology communicants receive Christ’s true body and blood “in with and under” the bread and the wine.

Taken by itself, the emergence of Gnostic sects is of course insufficient evidence for the imminence of Judgment Day. Gnosticism, a set of diverse syncretistic religious movements, has been around since antiquity and a huge threat to the early Church; yet the Church prevailed. St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was a Gnostic before his conversion to Christianity in 386 A.D.; be became one of the most important Fathers of the Church.

Spurious end-time prophecies also have a long track record. As Anglican theologian and philosophy professor Gerald R. McDermott points out, Christians in the days of Pope Gregory the Great at the end of the sixth century thought that Judgment Day was nigh when the Lombards, a northern Germanic tribe, invaded present-day Italy. In the 16th century, Martin Luther was certain that the Apocalypse would occur in his lifetime or shortly thereafter. Later less formidable characters obtained their 15 minutes of glory, to paraphrase Andy Warhol, by prophesying precise dates for Christ’s return (parousia), never mind that Jesus said in Matthew 24:25 that nobody could know the time and day.

In 1856, the prophetess of the Seventh-Day Adventists, Ellen G. White, reported that an angel had announced to her the nearness of Christ’s return. The angel, she said, told her what would happen to most people: “Some (will become) food for worms, some subjects for the seven last plagues.” Also in the mid-19th century, Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, predicted that Jesus would be back within 56 years.

Then in the 1970s and 1980s, Hal Lindsay achieved notoriety by informing his millions of readers that 1988 would be the year of the parousia; well, it turned out it wasn’t. This list can be continued ad infinitum and include the fear-mongering forecasters of the impending Rapture.

The craze to hypothesize about the end of time or even advance this event by human means, which according to Martin Luther is the ultimate form of utopianism, spills over to other religions as well. In Japan in the 1980s, a semi-blind charlatan by the name of Shoko Asahara founded a “neo-Buddhist” sect called Aum Shinri-Kyo. It recruited primarily graduates of leading universities and gained worldwide infamy by producing huge amounts of Kalashnikov rifles and developing chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. In 1995, they set off a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system killing 12, injuring 54 and affecting thousands of others, a misdeed for which Asahara was sentenced to the gallows; he is now awaiting his execution.

What was that all about? In an interview one of his top lieutenants told me that it was the purpose of this crime to trigger World War III between Japan and the United States, which would result in the destruction of the universe. Why would a bunch of young scientists wish to do that? “Well,” he said, “the Lord Shiva has commanded us to give him a helping hand;” Shiva is the destroyer in the Hindu trinity. When he’s done, Brahma, the Creator, would be able to begin a new cycle of creation.

So here we had a “Buddhist” sectarians killing in behalf of a Hindu god, and to top the syncretistic madness, they explained this in Christian terminology. With his hands on a Bible, Asahara’s white-robed henchman informed me that he and his co-religionists were Christ’s soldiers in the Battle of Armageddon. But who was Christ to them? “An incarnation of Shiva, the god of destruction,” he said.

All this would be hilarious if it weren’t so deadly and in total contradiction of what Scripture is saying. It is possible, suggests Gerald McDermott, that calamities such as the current disaster in Japan, are a warning or even temporal punishment from God. In fact, a prominent devotee of the Shinto religion suggested the same thing. “The character of the Japanese people is selfish. The Japanese people must take advantage of this tsunami to wash away their selfish greed. I really do think this is divine punishment,” Shintaro Ishihara, governor of Tokyo, told a press conference.

As for the ultimate Day of Judgment, the Christ’s message is clear: repent and be watchful! “If you are not watchful, I will come like a thief, and you will never know at what hour I will come upon you” (Revelation 3:3).

Uwe Siemon-Netto, the former religious affairs editor of United Press International, has been an international journalist for 54 years, covering North America, Vietnam, the Middle East and Europe for German publications. Dr. Siemon-Netto currently directs the League of Faithful Masks and Center for Lutheran Theology and Public Life in Irvine, California.

A Son’s Witness to Christ at the Death of His Mother

October 9th, 2010 3 comments

My friend, Mr. Mike Baker, wrote this powerful letter to his extended family on the occasion of the death of his mother. He posted it on his web site, and it was so powerful and comforting, I wanted you to have it too.

Dear friends and family with special words of consolation for my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus our Lord,

Expressing grief is good. Feelings of loss, regret, and sadness are healthy. In a world that increasingly shrinks away from anything difficult or painful and insists that every aspect of life contain at least an element of fun, it needs to be said that you are not expected to feel good all the time. It is okay to hurt. It is okay to mourn. With the example of Jesus weeping at the death of His dear friend Lazarus, we need to recognize that there is nothing sinful in feeling anguish and loss when someone dies [John 11:1-44]. We can look to the example of Jesus weeping in the Garden of Gethsemane and see that there is nothing inherently wrong with tears [Luke 22:35-46].

As flawed, finite creatures we’re understandably afraid of and shaken by death. Even as Christians, death can be a daunting thing to face… but there’s no shame in that. Funerals make us uncomfortable. We have clever euphemisms to soften how talking about death sounds to our ears. We use Botox and plastic surgery to hide the ugly signs of death creeping up on us. We put off writing our wills and we push thoughts of our own death as far away from our minds as possible. We marginalize, avoid, and impugn the dignity of our elderly and fear the day when we will be like them. We go about our daily lives and do our best to distract ourselves from the subject of death as much as possible by staying busy. We don’t want to confront the harsh idea of our own frailty will give way to a final moment when we will breathe our last breath.

The judgment of our souls still looms over us and that makes us afraid. We all know that there are evil things that we have done for which we will have to give account and there are good things that we’ve failed to do that we will have to answer for [Romans 2:1-16]. Somehow we know that “Well, I tried the best I could with the opportunities that I had… most of the time” is just not going to be enough on the Day of Judgment [Matthew 25:41-46]. Regret, shame, and guilt set in. We all have a sense that perfect justice should—and will—prevail in the end. If we are honest with ourselves, we have to recognize that we are all criminals in God’s court who have committed so many wrongs against so many people. If we are honest, we are all terrified of facing the end and what lies beyond it.

So we lie to ourselves and assume that death is—while terrible and inevitable—at least distant in the far off future and not something that could happen to us at any moment. Our relatively safe and long-lived culture makes it easier to believe these misconceptions about death, but this man-made illusion is not how Scripture describes our situation. Our end comes like a thief. It interrupts our plans and it comes unexpectedly [Luke 12:22:31]. Every death, no matter how much or how little warning we may have, seems to shock and trouble us. It is abrupt, unnatural, and does not ever feel like this is how things are supposed to happen. Death is just a bad deal.

Death was not originally a part of the human condition as God created it. Instead, the creation account in Genesis describes Death as a curse, a corruption, which was not part of the creative work of God who originally made Adam and Eve sinless, eternal, and very good [Gen 1:26-31; 3:14-24]. The temptation is to blame God in times like this, but we were not created by God to suffer and die. That came later when Satan entered the picture. Deceived and tempted, Adam and Eve chose the path of disobedience, ate the forbidden fruit, and fell into sin. Through that sin, death entered the world [Romans 5:12-21].

But we’d rather not even think about all that. Our relative security and affluence here in western civilization clouds our judgment and lulls us into a false sense of apathetic comfort. Undaunted by sin and death, we have turned modern Christianity into a shallow system of vaguely Judeo-Christian moral suggestions; an entertaining, satisfying subculture where many of us think that “being a spiritual person” is little more than a system for enjoying life to its fullest and serving a God that can be summoned or invoked to serve our whims exactly like the New Age philosophy of the power of positive thinking or pagan white magic.

Read more…

Categories: Death and Dying

When You Reject Natural Moral Law, Totalitarianism is the Inevitable Result

January 29th, 2010 2 comments

Archbishop Raymond Burke, in a homily given in Phoenix, Arizona:

In our culture, “the law more and more dares to force those with the sacred trust of caring for the health of their brothers and sisters to violate the most sacred tenets of their consciences, and to force individuals and institutions to cooperate in egregious violations of the natural moral law,” he said. “In such a society, the administration of justice is no longer a participation in the justice of God, an obedient response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but a façade cloaking our own selfishness and refusal to give our lives for the sake of the good of all our brothers and sisters. It is a society which is abandoning its Judeo-Christian foundations, the fundamental obedience to God’s law which safeguards the common good, and is embracing a totalitarianism which masks itself as the ‘hope,’ the ‘future,’ of our nation. Reason and faith teaches us that such a society can only produce violence and death and in the end destroy itself,” Archbishop Burke warned.

Read the entire story, as reported by CNA.

What Happens to Us When We Die?

November 17th, 2009 9 comments


I would like to float something out to you folks. Several times, in the past few months, I’ve bumped into comments from folks talking about what happens after we die that are confusing, misleading, and doctrinally vague. In one case, a person teaching a Bible class offended it deeply when he left them with the impression that at death our souls are asleep and are unaware of being with the Lord, until the Day of Resurrection. I understand the need to teach what “the Resurrection of all flesh” is all about, and that in our zeal to comfort those who mourn, we not give the impression that their loved one is just kind of “translated,” body and soul, to heaven and that the Resurrection is but an afterthought, but it has seemed to me, again, lately, via several comments I’ve read here and there, that it seems some are under the impression that the Scriptures teach a kind of “soul sleep.” Has anyone else heard this? Where do you think it is coming from?

Here is why we Lutherans absolutely reject and condemn any notion that at death our souls are “asleep” and unaware of heaven until the Day of Resurrection. This is how Francis Pieper handles this issue in his Christian Dogmatics, [also available in a digital edition] which remains to this day one of the very finest explanations of Lutheran theology available in English. If it is not required reading of all who aspire to the office of the ministry, it surely should be. This is from Volume 3, p. 511 and following:

The State of Souls Between Death and Resurrection
Holy Writ reveals but little of the state of the souls between death and the resurrection. In speaking of the last things, it directs our gaze primarily to Judgment Day and the events clustering around it. With their coming to faith, the blessedness of the Corinthians was complete except for the bliss awaiting them at “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” on Judgment Day (1 Cor. 1:7). And with Paul the Philippians and all Christians confess: “We look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body” (Phil. 3:20–21). See also Col. 3:4; 1 Thess. 4:13 ff.; 2 Tim. 4:7–9; Titus 2:13. Great significance the Day of Judgment and its sequels have also for unbelievers. They “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power when He shall come” (2 Thess. 1:9–10). But what meanwhile becomes of the soul? What is the state of the souls between death and the resurrection?

Of the souls of the unbelievers (ἀπειθήσαντες) Scripture declares that they are kept ἐν φυλακῇ, “in prison,” a place of punishment [Vol. 3, Page 512] (1 Pet. 3:19–20).16 Of the souls of the believers we are told not merely in general that they are in God’s hand (Acts 7:59; Luke 23:46), but also in particular that they dwell with Christ and in Paradise, Phil. 1:23; “I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ; which is far better.” (Luke 23:43)17 The “being with Christ” or “in Paradise” of the departed believing souls must certainly be an augmentation of the communion with Christ which Christians enjoy here on earth, because Paul adds: “which is far better,” πολλῷ μᾶλλον κρεῖσσον, better than his communion with Christ here on earth. Moreover, the life “in Paradise,” which Christ promised the soul of the believing malefactor, certainly bespeaks a blissful state of the soul after death.18 These texts surely make it evident that the departed souls of the believers are in a state of blessed enjoyment of God, even though we know nothing further as to the manner of their blessed communion with God. Deductions from the nature of the soul, e. g., that it cannot be inactive,19 are uncertain and therefore not to be urged in theology. A soul sleep which excludes a blessed enjoyment of God [psychopannychism]20 must be definitely rejected on the basis of Phil. 1:23 and Luke 23:43. A sleep of the soul which includes enjoyment of God (says Luther) cannot be called a false doctrine. …

Men have also dreamt of an intermediate body for departed souls. Kahnis reports: “Theologians (Schleiermacher) and philosophers (Fichte, Weisse, Goeschel) have come to the conviction that without a material foundation the survival of the soul is inconceivable” (Dogm., 2d ed., II, 522). This idea appeals to Kahnis himself. Likewise to Macpherson, who reasons: “It may fairly be assumed that during the period that elapses between the death of an individual and the coming of Christ, which brings with it the general resurrection, he wears a body suitable to his condition during that period, which in the resurrection to judgment is changed for that spiritual body which he will wear throughout eternity” (Christ. Dogm., 1898, p. 453). He adds: “Schleiermacher, in particular, has dwelt upon the impossibility of our conceiving or imagining a human spirit unassociated with a body.” But this idea of an intermediate body is foreign to Scripture. [Vol. 3, Page 515] Schleiermacher’s inability to conceive of a human spirit unassociated with a body does not warrant the adoption of this notion. Schleiermacher would not have had to worry about a bodiless soul had he borne in mind that there is a personal and omnipotent Spirit, fully able to keep a soul in existence without its body.

Before leaving the subject of the souls of the departed, we record the following facts: 1. Departed souls do not return to this world. This is a standing rule and divine arrangement (Luke 16:27–31). Moses and Elias, who appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration and spoke with Christ (Matt. 17:3), are to be counted with the risen.26a 2. There is no Scripture warrant for attributing to the souls of the departed a direct knowledge of particular things and happenings on earth (Is. 63:16: “though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not”). To invoke the departed saints for their intercession and help, as Rome enjoins,26b is not only idolatry, but also folly.27 3. Scripture offers no hope for the conversion of departed souls. Such wishful thinking rests entirely on human speculation. In 1 Pet. 3:18–19 a preaching of judgment, and not a preaching of the Gospel, is meant. See Vol. II, 315 f., for details.

Source: Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, electronic ed., 3:511-515 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1950, c1951, c1953).

Categories: Death and Dying