This is an unofficial follow-up to my "Boring Christians" post and it will be short. I feel like I am doubling down on a really sensational moment in my daughter's psychological/theological development. I recently ended a post about catechizing with a funeral story. But the catechism application is only half the story. The other element is the development of death to Christian theology. Since many of us only die once, after a long time of living, it may seem less pertinent than other elements of Christian living. However, while most people are in fact boring Christians, it is certain that we all will be, at some point, dead Christians. This isn't something to fear but it certainly is something that we need to manifest in ourselves before we return to the dust. And if we are to manifest it in ourselves than it certainly must work itself outward through our households.
Christian death has an unusual tint to it. Death is necessary in Christian theology. God does not rectify creation so thoroughly, currently, in Christ such that death ceases. Death remains something in front of the Christian. An assurance that everything that is wrong since the fall in fact ceases in the very death judgment that we earned in the garden. Human death is at the center of justification,
Q40. Why did Christ have to suffer death?
A. Because God’s justice and truth require it:
nothing else could pay for our sins
except the death of the Son of God.
And human death is at the center of our entrance to eternity,
Q42. Since Christ has died for us,
why do we still have to die?
A. Our death does not pay the debt of our sins.
Rather, it puts an end to our sinning
and is our entrance into eternal life.
So is it fitting for households and churches to principally talk more about death? Mere hours after finding out my wife's grandmother had passed away I found myself sitting at the table with my daughter. Because of previous family worships that explained the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ I proposed to her a simple question. I assumed it would take her by surprise: "Kenize, will you be sad when I die?" Without blinking, or slowing the spoon's movement to her mouth, she answer "Yes, dad. I'll be sad." Well there you have it. My attempts to rattle my daughter for a teaching moment fell flat.
It is at this point that I am certain my psych grad sister is shaking her head.
Eventually discussions of death were concluded by Kenzie with a "Mom will die. Dad will die..." around the table. The concept of death has apparently sunk in. Not in a morbid introspective way, this isn't the foolish accumulation of gravestones in the front of our yard for Halloween but in a way that exemplifies faith in Christ's death and resurrection.
Flash forward to the grave service and a brief encounter with my daughter. The resurrection was able to be affirmed because death had been established. Just like evangelical movements seek to persuaded of sin/sinfulness on their way to "the gospel," so the future bodily resurrection requires a knowledge of death. Christian should be excited to talk about death because it is the necessary and natural step toward redemption and resurrection: Christ was raised for our justification (Rom 4:25) The Heidelberg Catechism reflects this in its format which moves from man's misery to the apostle's creed and man's redemption.
Previously I argued the need for boring Christians to address and affirm their status. So likewise here I am calling upon the church to affirm the necessary truth that eventually we will be dead Christians. This is an element of Christian doctrine that cannot be overlooked. We must address it and address it often.