After Life.

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So I do read obituaries and have for years. Pondering “after Life” questions is part of what sets humans apart from the rest of the created order.

My daily shot of CS Lewis from “A Year with C.S. Lewis,” starts with a provocative line from “Mere Christianity,” “Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live for ever, and this must be either true of false.

In today’s obituary I read of “James G. “Jimi” Lott, a former Seattle Times photographer known for a keen eye and a compassion for the less fortunate, was found dead Tuesday evening in a Wenatchee motel room. He was 52.Chelan County Coroner Dr. Gina Fino ruled the death a suicide.”

What were his thoughts about After Life?

Then I read this one. “James Henry Smith was a zealous Pittsburgh Steelers fan in life, and even death could not keep him from his favorite spot: in a recliner, in front of a TV showing his beloved football team in action. The Samuel E. Coston Funeral Home erected a small stage in a viewing room, and arranged furniture on it much as it was in Smith’s home on game-day Sundays. Smith’s body was on the recliner, his feet crossed and a remote control in his hand. He wore black-and-gold silk pajamas, slippers and a robe. A pack of cigarettes and a beer were at his side, while a high-definition TV played a continuous loop of Steelers highlights.”

What were his thoughts about After Life?

Scientology is in the news and founder L. Ron Hubbard is described as a man who “died in 1986, ‘having accomplished,’ according to his official biography, “all he set out to do.” He left thousands of pages of writings and hundreds of hours of recorded statements.”

We know about his thoughts regarding After Life. “Hubbard eventually claimed that engrams were not simply produced in this life, but that everyone carries the residue of billions of years of past lives. All people are said to have a “thetan,” something like a soul in other religious traditions. Scientology recognizes the existence of an impersonal supreme being, but one very different from the Judeo-Christian God believed to be actively involved in human affairs. Hubbard formally established the Church of Scientology in 1953.The official Scientology Web site, in explaining the faith, says: “Man is an immortal spiritual being. His experience extends well beyond a single lifetime. His capabilities are unlimited, even if not presently realized. Scientology further holds man to be basically good, and that his spiritual salvation depends upon himself and his fellows and his attainment of brotherhood with the universe.”

Which brings us to Pope John Paul who died earlier this year and an important piece by Christoph Schonborn, “Finding Design in Nature.”

Here we read, “Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense – an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection – is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.Consider the real teaching of our beloved John Paul. While his rather vague and unimportant 1996 letter about evolution is always and everywhere cited, we see no one discussing these comments from a 1985 general audience that represents his robust teaching on nature:

“All the observations concerning the development of life lead to a similar conclusion. The evolution of living beings, of which science seeks to determine the stages and to discern the mechanism, presents an internal finality which arouses admiration. This finality which directs beings in a direction for which they are not responsible or in charge, obliges one to suppose a Mind which is its inventor, its creator. To all these indications of the existence of God the Creator, some oppose the power of chance or of the proper mechanisms of matter. To speak of chance for a universe which presents such a complex organization in its elements and such marvelous finality in its life would be equivalent to giving up the search for an explanation of the world as it appears to us. In fact, this would be equivalent to admitting effects without a cause. It would be to abdicate human intelligence, which would thus refuse to think and to seek a solution for its problems.”

Note that in this quotation the word “finality” is a philosophical term synonymous with final cause, purpose or design. In comments at another general audience a year later, John Paul concludes, “It is clear that the truth of faith about creation is radically opposed to the theories of materialistic philosophy. These view the cosmos as the result of an evolution of matter reducible to pure chance and necessity.”

This was affirmed by Pope Benedict at his installation a few weeks ago, “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”

Pope Benedict and Lewis taken together remind us of our significance even in our “After Life.” “Each is, loved and necessary and every individual human being is going to live for ever

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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