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Posts Tagged ‘Death’

One final note on our local tragedy: The system is down

In the week it’s been since the shooting deaths at Von Maur here in Omaha, I’ve contemplated whether I should move on, topically. I see that many of you enjoyed the video of my daughter taking her first sled ride with me. I would like to return to less onerous subjects, but I feel like there’s just one last issue that I need to address.

Those of you who have been reading here for a while know that before I was a Christian, I was a graduate student in psychology. After I became a Christian, the more I learned about the Bible, the more I became convicted that Biblical worldview and psychology were at odds (click here fore more). What I took from my time in psychology education and some work in public mental health is that this man man system is utterly powerless to truly help people, especially in light of their problem with sin.

So in the aftermath of Robert Hawkins’ violence against the image of God, the local public mental health yokels moved to hold a press conference. It seems that every time there is a major episode of violence in this country, it turns out that the shooter was someone who managed to between the cracks of social services. This was not the case for Robert Hawkins, and they wanted to make sure we knew it. In fact, local social services had spent around $250,000 over more than a decade to try and help him.

It really seemed like they were heading off accusations that the system had failed, again. Ironically, their defense was proof that the system had indeed failed. In the days that followed, I’ve heard nobody ask what good the system is if 1/4-MILLION dollars does someone absolutely no good. probably no-one will.

I’ve held for a long time that psychology is fatally flawed. While it can describe and predict behavior, it cannot change the heart. Psychology looks to the human intellect as the sole source of truth, and views human nature as basically good. Neither assumptions are Biblical (Rom 3:10 and Prov 14:12 for starters). Since its assumption are flawed, psychology cannot reach a correct conclusion. The products of the system are proof of this. Yes people can be helped, but the root of sin can only be covered, and usually it finds some way to manifest itself again. Sadly, Robert Hawkins found no peace whatsoever in the”system.” I’d gamble that some amount of his despair was generated by all of the failed offers of help. If all of that effort was to no avail, then what?

Robert Hawkins story is tragic. What he did was despicable, but it was only the outworking of the same kind of sinful heart we all have. The system trains some people, but it cures none. It covers sin, redirects it, disguises it, but cannot kill it. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ kills the deeds of the body of sin (Romans 6:6). Again, my prayers are such that this tragedy yields opportunity for His gospel to be declared, not in condemnation of the dead, but for the sake of the living.

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No rest in laying loved ones to rest.

I attended a funeral today. It might be a bit cliche to post one’s thoughts on funerals and death after having attended a funeral. nevertheless, it is a unique context that sets our minds on very important things.

It was a Catholic funeral, and it ran about one hour. Those of you who read here regularly know that I am highly critical of the Catholic church and its teachings. This isn’t going to a critique of Catholicism, but rather some observations about the lost and how they deal with death, as well as my own personal reactions.

  1. I find that we hardy Bible-believing Calvinists find the need to scoff at the funeral services of unbelievers. believe me, I had to suppress my own tendency to mentally critique what the priest said. It’s not the time for eye-rolling or snorts of dissent or “harumphs”.
  2. The mourning of the unbeliever is real, and valid. We are created in the image of God. Death is unnatural. We have a capacity as image bearers to form bonds with others, and it is painful when those bonds are violently severed. It is good and right to mourn separation from a loved one.
  3. Funeral services of unbelievers are especially saddening to me because of the way they grasp at comfort, particularly the ministers. Their departure from Scripture leaves them unable to explain death and suffering in a satisfactory way.
  4. Regarding Catholics, I find it greatly ironic that although Purgatory was essentially invented to protect the holes in their system of salvation and to give assurance to those mourning the death of un-saintly people, I have never heard it mentioned at a Catholic funeral. It’s like were bending over backward to ignore the real consequences of sin.
  5. The priest today sounded, at times, like he was rushing through his script. My point here is not to grade his presentation, but to note how often he has probably performed funerals. He was an older man. On some level, it’s probably difficult to keep them all from running together, especially since the script is largely the same from funeral to funeral.
  6. Unbelievers typically don’t know their ministers very well. In this case, I don’t know this for certain but most of what was said about the deceased that was personal was gleaned from a discussion the previous day at the wake. It must be odd for ministers to try to say much about people who they barely knew. Most professing Christians only know their ministers on the surface, and vice versa. At the end of life, their eulogy is done by a virtual stranger.
  7. Top to bottom, most funerals I have witnessed outside my own church are somber and lack an air of victory. Victory over death is declared (I have never heard someone preached into Hell) but it is always done so without any conviction, sounding more like it is read from a book than believed.

That’s about it. I think I learned today that the funerals of unbelievers, for me, must be about their suffering. There are others times to be critical of doctrine, though doctrine is of supreme importance. i hope you all find this encouraging the next time someone you know is forced to deal with death in this way.

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