The only alternative most people see is an effort to stretch out this material life a little longer. A giant amount of society’s resources and energy goes into this effort. But finally it turns out not to be a true substitute. Some see it more as a delaying tactic that doesn’t mean much in the context of centuries.
There is an actual alternative to death, but you won’t hear about it on the local news. It’s unlikely there will be sermons about it in neighborhood religious gatherings. Why? Two obvious reasons come to mind.
First, the alternative is too simple. And, second, it’s too costly. Christ Jesus taught that the pathway into the kingdom of heaven, which is right at hand, is through a childlike quality of thought. We live in a world where too many adults don’t adequately value for themselves the humility, purity, and simplicity of a child’s thought. And yes, the cost of giving up materiality for spirituality is just too often “unaffordable” in a world that prizes a material over a spiritual view of reality.
The Bible gives concrete examples of the fact that there is a clear alternative to death. The life of Enoch is one. The Scriptures say he walked with God and pleased God. That sounds to me like a life of childlikeness, as well as a willingness to pay the price of giving up material for spiritual perceptions (see Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 214). The Bible explains that Enoch was translated. That is, he did not die. He was lifted out of mortality into immortality (see Gen. 5:21–24 and Heb. 11:5). Christian Science reveals the requirements for translation. They’re pretty demanding. Especially when everyone nowadays wants quick answers for major issues (see Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, pp. 67–68).
It is possible that we haven’t truly come to grips with this teaching we’ve been given about translation as the alternative. We are being called on literally to challenge mortality. This Science reveals that there is no death. Of course, to the everyday material senses, the world is full of it. But to God-given spiritual sense, there is no death.
Many Christian Scientists may be thinking more in the mode of most other Christians, who find comfort in the theology that teaches a soul goes to heaven if we’ve been good. Our church members may follow this general pattern and believe that they continue right on outgrowing mortality until they demonstrate immortality. Both theories are comforting. But they are not describing absolute reality. The Bible says, “In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death” (Prov. 12:28). Do we edit that statement into something it doesn’t really say, like “In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof, there is life after death” or “There is another plane of existence”?
When we have the courage to face death more squarely as no part of God’s allness, and when we more fully admit that His presence is the only reality, then we’ll see more of what the Bible and Christian Science mean by acknowledging deathless being.
A fellow church member tells me that years ago he received a medical verdict giving him only a few months to live. Today, healthy and very active, he keeps close to his heart the words “there is no death.” He feels those words reveal the truth that saved his life. While many would assume that the Christian Science conviction that there is no death makes no sense, the reality behind it is saving lives. Even more, it is foundational teaching for the true alternative to death.
We Christians celebrate Christ Jesus’ appearance—Christmas is a holy time for us. We celebrate Jesus’ reappearance—affirming resurrection on Easter morning is a powerful experience. But how often do we celebrate Jesus’ disappearance in the ascension? He utterly defeated death’s supposed reality.
If we don’t think beyond the belief in death or life after death, we’ll find it harder to move beyond it. When we begin thinking more seriously about translation, we’ll begin moving more seriously toward it.
Nate Talbot is Clerk of The Mother Church and a member of the Christian Science Board of Directors.
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