Prologue: I Want To Live
It is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment…
We are all going to die. We become aware of our mortality at a tender age, and we are taught by society to accept this eventuality as the price of life. Well adjusted individuals reconcile themselves to death as a part of their reality.
But instinctively we know that death is our enemy. And no healthy person wants to die.
So we wax philosophic and derive comfort from the axiom that “death is a part of life… (heavy sigh)” – Which it is not. Death is the cessation of life; this precious life being the gift of God.
Many of us believe that if the way we live our life has meaning, Death will seem less bitter at the end. This attitude is both admirable and constructive. The death which follows is still not good. But by all means put the best face on it.
So we live our lives the best that we can, and try to keep our minds off of the sudden stop at the end. We work hard to fill our lives with things, or to pass down to our children. Some may party and chase women or men to fill empty hours with meaning. Or if we are noble, we fill our lives with service. Even so, there is not much that we wouldn’t do to avoid death. But what CAN we do?
Medical science may someday be able to prolong or restore life. Or maybe not. I’m not certain that we even understand the force that we call life. What substance inhabits living tissue which causes it to differ from the dead? I sincerely hope that there are medical professionals who are hot on the trail. But I don’t expect a breakthrough this week. And the fate of men who live a thousand years from now is scant comfort to me.
Literature is replete with examples of man somehow achieving immortality. Mary Shelley introduces us to a world in which science has unlocked the mystery of life. Vampire stories reveal a race of once-men who will live forever, (although usually at the expense of their immortal souls.) Even Shangra La’s promise of a few hundred years seems hopeful to those of us doomed to a life of three score and ten. These stories illustrate our hopes and desires. But they are just stories.
In the real world, where can we turn? A plethora of religions claims to provide insight to an afterlife. An Afterlife! What a wonderful idea if it exists! If dying is just a doorway to a new and possibly better existence, then Death has lost its sting. All that is necessary then is to determine which belief system is correct, and to adhere to that faith. A correct choice guarantees an afterlife in a far better state. Of course a wrong choice might have dire consequences.
A prevalent view today is that all paths lead to God, that one religion is as good as another as long as you are sincere and a “good” person. If you are certain of this view, you may stop reading now. You have nothing left to learn, and your ascent to a positive afterlife is guaranteed no matter what you believe. In the afterlife you may chide me about my vain and fruitless search for the one true path to God. I have noticed though, that those who adhere to this doctrine don’t really believe in anything with certainty. They appear to be just hoping for the best.
These include the “modernists” who first explain away historical written records of the supernatural in terms of the limited understanding of primitive writers, and then use the “lack” of the miraculous to “prove” the lack of the Divine. As well as the “New Agers” who believe that it is arrogant and boorish to claim that your path is any better than the one that they just thought up. Like Aristotle they have no need to test their hypotheses. If it seems right in their head it must be right. It never occurs to them that a true God might just set His own perfect standard for reasons not totally comprehensible to we the finite.
And the testimony of the various religions contradicts this view as well. Many diverse religions claim exclusive access to God. Obviously some are mistaken.
So how do we “test” our hypothesis? How do we make certain that we are on the path to God without having already died? (Which may be too late?) The answer is simple: Just find a man who has overcome Death, and follow His leadership.
To find this man we must commit ourselves to the historical record. Who remembers the splendor of the Tutankhamen exhibits which toured the USA in the late 1970’s? King Tut was an important historical figure. These exhibits from his tomb indicate that Death overcame him. Likewise, a little research provides insight into the deaths of Gaius Julius Caesar, Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, Richard Coeur de Lion, Saladin, Zhu Yuanzhang and most other historical figures. History usually tells us how a famous person died. The written record also indicates that they tend to remain dead.