Saturday, May 3, 2008

Eternal Life

A bit more on my all-week textbook project, mentioned in yesterday's blog. The overall topic was controversies surrounding the aging population, and the book included sections on social attitudes, government programs, economic implications--and whether aging is something humanity will have to put up with forever.

The idea that careful diet, advances in medical care, and other revolutionary health practices might soon make 150-year life spans possible has received a fair amount of media attention lately. But some people are aiming much higher than that. Someone has even written a book with the subtitle Live Long Enough to Live Forever, and at least one Ph.D. is pushing the idea (noted in the cover blurb of his own book) that "people alive today could live to be a thousand years old." Providing science can find the key to unlock the biological mechanisms of aging.

It's unnervingly reminiscent of the ancient satanic lie: "You will not surely die.... you will be like God" (Gen. 3:4-5, NIV). And nearly everyone pushing the "live a thousand years" agenda seems to believe that human ability and character are sufficiently godlike to overcome all difficulties. Ask one of these crusaders if multiplying the human life span by ten wouldn't seriously exacerbate the already considerable problems of overpopulation and natural resource exhaustion, and the reply is invariably something like, "I'm sure we'll be able to deal with that when the time comes."

Yet for all their hubris, the "live forever" types are right about one thing: deterioration and death are not "good and natural" parts of life. Death is an "enemy," a curse, a byproduct of sin (see 1 Cor. 15:21-26, 54-57). God never wanted us to die as a matter of course.

Neither, however, will He excuse our arrogance if we attempt to solve the problem without His help. Though most indefinite-life advocates admit that even if humanity becomes immune to aging it probably will not become immune to death, they seem unable to see that (even from the most strictly fundamentalist young-earth viewpoint) a thousand years isn't really all that long. Genesis 5:1-27 lists seven men who came very close to that goal--the youngest of them lived to 895 years, and two passed the 950 mark--and yet the record of each ends with "and then he died." Which covers just about all anyone now knows or remembers about most of them.

Ironically, the one man in that passage who was spared the "died" footnote--Enoch, verses 21-24--had only 365 years on earth, far less than half of the next youngest age. One might say that he was too good for earth; he was so close to God that God took him into heaven without forcing him to go the long, hard route. Enoch had no need for some medical process that would "cure" the deterioration of aging, nor to measure "living forever" in terms of chronological physical years. He knew what all true Christians know: that the only way to truly live forever, to become permanently immune not only to death but to all the problems of life, and to find "forever" so fulfilling that he would never tire of it, was to give himself completely to God.

With that and the one other exception of Elijah (2 Kings 2:1-18), the privilege of being taken to heaven without dying seems to have been reserved for those believers who will remain on earth at Christ's return. But once we trust Christ for eternal life, we need never fear death again.

And it won't matter whether our earthly lives last 150 years or 150 months.

Ever since the day when Adam bit into that fatal fruit,
Setting off a chain reaction, letting deadly sin take root,
Human life has been but fleeting, and a sense that death is sure
Casts its shadow on our living, mocks our longing to endure.

Ever since the day when mortals dared equate themselves with God--
Though He is the great Eternal, and we are but earthly sod--
People gave themselves to searching for some magic that would hold
A sure key to youth forever, sought more eagerly than gold.

And the Lord, Who sits in heaven, laughed to see such deadly pride;
But He also looked in pity on each mortal soul that died,
So He set a plan in motion, far beyond our human skill,
That would free from death the humble, those who sought to do His will.

Ever since the day our Savior breathed His last upon that Cross,
And then rose to life eternal, where He could restore our loss,
Though our bodies fade and wither, then return again to dust,
Yet our souls forever after live with Him Whose love we trust.

Still today, the proud and haughty, in this world of human fears,
Seek to find that magic potion and to live a thousand years--
Yet a thousand years pass quickly, even on the earthly scale.
Let us trust instead the promise of the One Who cannot fail!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree ... God will not "excuse our arrogance if we attempt to solve the problem without His help."

My husband and I have been discussing the issue of living to 150 lately. We've both come to the conclusion we'd rather live until we die a natural death than be kept alive with chemicals and other science, our bodies bearing the scars of countless hip/knee/heart surgeries. But we're still quite a few years from retirement. I wonder how faithful we'll be to our current intentions when some part of one of our aging bodies does need scientific "help?"

On the other hand, the whole topic brings to mind Huxley's Brave New World: Live a completely healthy life until you reach an age predetermined by elitists within the government, and then turn yourself in to die.