December 29, 2012


Does Belief in the Afterlife Diminish Man? (Donald DeMarco, 12/11/12, Crisis)

A true Christian does not think of himself as someone standing at a bus stop and doing nothing more than waiting for the bus (that will take him to heaven).  He understands that what he does in this life determines his reward in the next.  If we are faithful to the commandment to love God, ourselves, and our neighbors, that love will secure our place in heaven.  The existence of the afterlife should supply people with a strong motivation to live well in this life.  On the other hand, if there is no afterlife and we are all headed for oblivion, what is the point in being loving and decent human beings in this life?  Under such circumstances, life would be comparable to the uneventful tenure of a lame-duck politician.

The real problem is scarcely ever stated.  And it is this:  by clinging to the present world, believing it to be the only world that is real, we can become highly reluctant to recognize its faults, no matter how glaring they might be.  It is like a doting parent who cannot abide any criticism of his only child, or the youngster who cannot tolerate anyone disparaging his baseball card collection.  Human beings have an inveterate propensity to overvalue what they have and turn a blind eye to their imperfections they contain.

The Christian regards his life as a gift from God and holds it sacred.  He also valuates it in terms of an ideal, which is to say, something more perfect.  Heaven is the reward for a life well lived.  But if a person identifies his life with the ideal, it may not occur to him that it stands in need of considerable improvement.  As a result, he loses an important incentive to work hard to improve himself.  Would a factory worker expend himself if he knew that at the end of the month, there would be no pay check?

The theocentric view is inclusive inasmuch as it includes man, whom God embraces with his Love.  The anthropocentric view, by definition, excludes God.  But it also excludes, by implication, man, since it closes him off from the Infinite to which he is naturally inclined.  In other words, the anthropocentric view, in addition to denying God, diminishes man.

Posted by at December 29, 2012 7:32 AM

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