Question Eleven

Why would a pure materialist fear death?

Do you mean a compulsive shopper?  Maybe.  But also someone who believes there is only one substance in the universe, and that substance is physical or material.  A materialist believes that spiritual substance does not exist.

So perhaps it follows that a pure materialist, unencumbered by religious or spiritual speculation, would carry no fear to the grave.  Why should he, having lived in the purity and certainty of the “unreality” of the spiritual?  Why then would one fear the mere cessation of existence?  Why would many, in fact, not welcome it?  A final rest indeed.  And might any lingering fear of death simply be attributed to emotions conditioned by one’s cultural experience, with its residual religious notions of an afterlife?

Maybe so.  Then again, must a “pure” materialist live with a presumptive certainty (see Question Five)?  And following, how much effort (or perhaps self-awareness) is required to allow for the possibility of the mystical — the numinous?  How much knowing must allow for the unknown?  What would be involved with that kind of interior work?  That is, if we possibly have an interior.  And is a man willing to expose his interior to himself?  What is to be discovered?  What is to be opened or closed?

Although it was curious and then stabilizing for me to discover years ago that the claims of Christianity are first material and historical before they are religious or philosophical.  The message is nothing less than the claim that God became a man at a point in known human history, and that all of history spins around that center.  The spiritual became the material in the Incarnation.  The story demands that I move from any mere subjective understanding of my experience of the message to an understanding grounded on what may in fact have actually occurred in time and space.  It seems to me that this is the anchor, the consolation, and the primary disturbance of the Christian message.  And if this message is to be dismissed, must we do so on those (material) terms?

So what is the movement forward?  What is asked of me?  Are we talking about simply living by The Golden Rule (a.k.a. Be Nice to Your Neighbors)?  Or is it worse than that?  Much worse in fact?  Instead, is it about facing God’s material reality that has intruded into human history, a timeline that includes yours and mine as well?  Or to finally be avoided is it a message that requires the dismissal of that same historical moment?  To commit yourself to it not being so?  And if that is the price, will you pay it?

And what if you choose to not dismiss the whole affair?  What if the material of God is allowed to reorient both your material and spiritual life?  Are you open to what presents itself as the grand adventure?  As I read it, the material work of God is nothing less than a salvation story writ large.  Will you be content to reduce it?