I attended a very informative session today at work where a panel representing various religions gave their representative perspectives on issues related to illness, suffering and death. Interestingly, the topic could not be discussed without giving some perspective of “the after life” and how one achieves the “eternal state”. Here are some highlights from each presentation. Everything written represents quotations from each speaker.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (i.e. Mormon) Jim Johnson, Hospital VP
Mormans believe we all begin as spirit children of God. We come to earth as a necessary part of God’s plan for our “eternal progression”. We are “absolutely Christian”. We believe Jesus is the son of God whose sacrifice gives the ability for this eternal progression. In the end, we will be judged according to our works in this life by the perfect judge, Jesus Christ.
We consider the age of accountability to be 8 years old. Therefore, if a child dies before this time, they are saved by the sacrifice of Jesus. After, the age of 8, they become accountable for their decisions and willingness to obey God. Family relationships are very important in our faith…even eternal.
Death is simply a return to the original spirit state before we received our mortal bodies where we will be judged by or obedience while on earth.
Catholic, Father Malcom Neyland (Hospital Chaplain)
Catholics believe you have always existed. Even from eternity past, when God thought of you, your soul existed. At the moment of conception, the soul is united with the body.
The sacraments of the church were instituted by Christ to procure the grace we need to follow Him. Baptism covers a person up to the “age of reason” after which time another sacrament, confirmation, is practiced to demonstrate one’s personal decision of faith. The other sacraments follow to maintain this good standing. According to tradition, Catholics believe that when baptism is not possible, children are saved by the faith of their parents.
Illness and suffering are both redemptive and salvific.
The first Pope was Peter and the lineage continues from him. There were only 5 infallible statements made by any Pope. Everything else is fallible. These statement were confirmation of scripture such as Jesus was God/man and the existence of the Trinity.
Judaism, Dr. Anne Epstein (Internal Medicine Physician)
The world is broken but it is not up to God alone to restore the world. Jews cooperate with God to repair the world. It is our duty to eliminate evil and suffering. Illness and suffering are evils of nature but not caused by God.
In Judaism, there is no doctrine that people are born into sin. People are born good. In fact, most people are mostly good. Therefore, the soul is not in constant jeopardy in need of redemption. “C” is a passing grade and most people make it into the afterlife just fine. The after life is unclear so those within Judaism focus on this life here and now and not what is to come.
When death occurs, there is no embalming. The body is placed in a wood casket allowing it to return to its natural state of dust.
Church of Christ, Doug Hale (Vandelia Church of Christ)
The Church of Christ movement started 200 years ago as an effort to bring unity to all Christians in America. The system was flawed because the pattern to be restored was the that of the New Testament church and no one could agree on what the Bible had to say. As a result, what was originally intended to bring unity became divisive and narrow. Three groups have evolved from this original movement: (1) Disciples of Christ (2) Independent Christian Churches (3) Church of Christ. There is no central governing authority. Large variability of beliefs and a growing ecumenical view of all Christians.
Seventh Day Adventist, Mike Troxell (Community Minister)
Sin introduced by Adam and Eve and made redemption necessary. God took on humanity in Jesus and His death on the cross gave hope for this redemption. Salvation is by faith alone in this atoning sacrifice. At death, we sleep in the grave until the resurrection.
Adventists prefer a natural means of healthcare when possible and are generally vegetarian. They take stewardship of the earthly body very seriously. The see the body, mind and spiritual components of a person interrelated.
Jehovah’s Witness, Brian Waller (Community Representative)
Name of religion came from Isaiah 43:10. We are Christians. We believe Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins but Jesus and God are not the same. Genesis says let “us” create and Colossians says Jesus was the first born of all creation. We take these literally and view them as separate spiritual beings.
JW’s all spend on average 10-20 hours a month talking to their neighbors about their faith. Every city is divided into territories where this witnessing takes place. This is true for the 6 million followers across the world. Every JW in the hospital is visited every day in every hospital across the world. The same Bible study is done in every congregation on every Sunday across the world.
Most JWs do not look forward to a life in heaven. Earth will be restored to its original paradise and if we live well, we will be in God’s memory to live in His restored paradise.