After Death: Life in God by Norman Pittenger
Dr. Pittenger, philosopher and theologian, was a senior member of King’s College, Cambridge for many years, then Professor of Christian Apologetics at the General Theological Seminary in New York City, before retiring in 1966. Published by The Seabury Press, New York, 1980. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
The author proposes to ‘demythologize’ traditional Christian teaching about death. Since death is inescapable, we have every reason to face up to its reality and come to terms with it, so far as we are able.
Chapter 1: The Fact of Death
What is here attempted is a ‘demythologizing’ of traditional teaching on the subject of death. But the author makes it clear at the outset that he does not see such ‘de-mythologizing’ as the entire negation of the perennially Christian conviction that human existence has significance here and now and also has significance beyond this mortal life.
Chapter 2: The Loss of Belief in the ‘After-life’
At the very time when life beyond death is no longer a matter of vital importance, there is an increasing emphasis on the worth of human personality, that life in itself is valuable, that human life is especially valuable, and that somehow the very grain of the universe is on its side.
Chapter 3: Human Existence in Body and Mind
Behind, through, and in all our existence there is a relationship with a Love which is enduring, undefeated and indefeasible, faithful in its caring and able to preserve in its own unsurpassable life all that has been worthily achieved in the created order -- including all that has been worthily achieved by us humans.
Chapter 4: Relationship with God
All existence, and particularly human existence, stands continually in a genuine relationship with God. Part of our difficulty is the unfortunate notion that the divine is not susceptible of any kind of change.
Chapter 5: Resurrection: Christ ‘Risen from the Dead’
Biblical study, of the most exacting sort, can never answer the question of what precisely did happen, nor can it provide the evidence necessary to assure us of the specific and concrete events associated with Jesus’ resurrection, whatever they were. But we are to take very seriously indeed what the stories in the Gospels and in the earliest Christian writing and preaching were concerned to proclaim: that Jesus’ death on the cross was not the end of the matter.
Chapter 6: Resurrection: Our ‘Risen Life’
The resurrection of Christ is a way of affirming that God has received into his own life all that the historical event, designated when we say ‘Jesus Christ’, has included: -- his human existence as teacher and prophet, as crucified man upon his cross, in continuing relationship of others with him after that death, and also what has happened as a consequence of his presence and activity in the world.
Chapter 7: God as Recipient
In process thought, God is the chief receptive agency in creation. Whatever is done, and wherever or by what or whom it is done, makes a difference to God, meaning that God is not only that One who effects things; but also is the One who is affected by things. He remains always God, yet the accomplishments of the created order are received by him into his own life, and to them he responds by making use of them for the furthering of his divine intention.
Chapter 8: Conclusion and Summary
The inherited notions of "life after death," with their (to many of us) impossible assertions, must be de-mythologized, or better, ‘re-conceived. The affirmation which Christian faith must make has to do with relationship with God, here and hereafter.
An Additional Note: Addressed to Those Who Mourn
We find comfort and consolation in the sure conviction that God is always doing ‘more than we can ask or think’, as the old prayer phrases it. God will do everything possible for us human children, come what may.
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