Saturday, February 19, 2011

Is Death the End?

In my counseling theories class this week, we are studying Existential theory. While trying to thoroughly comprehend this view, I came upon an interesting article by a well-known existential psychiatrist, Dr. Irvin Yalom. He conducted an interview with Salon magazine entitled, A Matter of Life and Death. It just so happens that this article relates to information we covered in Dr. Corsini's Theology and Spirituality in Counseling class regarding the personhood of man. Dr. Yalom specifically expresses his disbelief of the "non-material or spiritual understanding of life" and his belief that "life is finite."

As aforementioned in several other blogs, the Christian worldview believes that man is comprised of both the material and immaterial. The material aspect is our body and the immaterial consists of the spirit. "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands (Second Corinthians 5:1, NIV)." In this verse, Paul says that when Christians die, they will not be spirits without bodies. They will have new bodies that will be perfect for their everlasting life.

According to Dr. Yalom and the existential theory, there is no life after death. Dr. Yalom says that one has to realize that death is the end and everyone must face this reality in order to live life to their fullest. In fact, this is one of the main goals of Existential therapy-- to assist clients to accept the certainty of their finiteness. They focus on helping people focus on their life in the here and now, living it to their fullest.

How do we move the existentialists and all other non-believers from their limited views into the immaterial realm of God? As Christian counselors we are required to move our clients into the ideal of functioning which includes both material and immaterial help and healing. In order to do this, we have to look, not only at the here and now, but also to the future. This is accomplished by directing them toward natural and special revelation.

Natural revelation is what God has chosen to use to reveal Himself to all mankind. This includes God's creation which discloses His greatness as seen in Psalms 19, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge... (NIV)." The awesomeness of God's creation is evidence that their is more to our earthly life than death. Paul confirms what is known about God is plainly visible and that there is no excuse for not believing in Him (Romans 1:18-20).

The fall of man into sin has caused all to become "handicapped." Our sin has caused our vision to become clouded and has blinded us to God's revelation and truth which has been made plainly visible to us. We have "all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23. NIV). The payment of our sin is death (Romans 6:23a).

Praise the Lord, death is not the end! It is a new beginning. God has also given us His special revelation which has been made known to us through His Word, the Bible, His Son, Jesus Christ and through moral law! Through these, God lifts the blinders and points us back on His course toward the immaterial. The rest of Romans 6:23 has a "but." Thank God for "buts." "The wages of sin is death, BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23, NIV)."

In my opinion, existential theory is very limited in their views of finiteness. There is so much more to our life than the life on earth. We have eternal life if we accept God's free gift found in Jesus Christ (John 3:16). In comparison to our life on earth, the words of the late Keith Green come to mind. He said. "if this world took six days to make and Jesus has been in heaven for 2000 years, we must be living in a garbage can."


  1. This is a very good post, that shows the issue that Christians who want to counsel must face. I think that the hope of eternal life is what gives Christians the power to live life to its fullest on Earth, and its not the other way that Dr. Yalom proposed. Moving others to understand this hope is such a hard thing to do in a society that is focused on "ME". I think that this is a good way to attack this problem, but leaning on the Bible for much of your appeal might not lead a non-believer to change their mind. Great ideas though.

  2. I don't know Keith Green, but I like his style. Existential therapy takes an awesome opportunity to evangelize like an existential crisis and uses it to convince lost souls that the here and now is all there is and all there ever will be until death which is an absolute end. I can't think of a bigger disservice to counseling except maybe, I don't know, Fritz Perls. But seriously, what a tragedy to throw away such golden opportunities. During these times of intense restlessness and profound despair is when God makes the most sense to those who are hurting and when His strength is made perfect.


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