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The awesomeness of death

by , Ph.D.

20 September 2005

Dr Andy McIntosh is a professor of Thermodynamics at the University of Leeds (UK), and a friend of AiG. A well-known creation speaker in his own right, Dr McIntosh’s professional schedule is enormously busy and yet he seems to minister extensively and powerfully around the world on creation/gospel issues. The following are some fascinating extracts from his recent email newsletter to friends (shared by permission). He writes:

‘What is time anyway? I know every second brings us closer to a deep and conclusive judgement towards which the Lord of all is steadily bringing this world and the whole of human existence (past, present and future). We had a beginning, and we are heading toward the end. We do not know when Christ will bodily return, but we know it is ever drawing nearer.

‘This has very much been brought home to me recently by the death of my father with whom 2 ½ weeks ago [at time of writing] I spent the final hours of his life. As I watched the soul depart, it was like seeing a mighty ship slip anchor from port, and the final awesome moment as when the gangplank is removed. The soul is real and evidently defines the true personality. We are not just glorified molecular machines (fascinating as these are), for death defies this. How even the most ardent atheists, who dominate our society today, can deny the soul/spirit escapes me. Even hardened soldiers on battlefields next to dead comrades know that “the person” has gone. One moment the person is there, the next moment one literally looks upon a shell, an empty case, in which the person was existing but a split second ago. Yet at that instant the material/molecules/chemistry/DNA had not in any substantial physical way altered.

‘So why is death so awesome? The atheist has no meaningful answer to death and the suffering that often darkens this deep valley. Life’s meaning, he maintains, has to be fundamentally empty, though he might desperately wish the opposite. The more callous may even mock love, kindness and all qualities that still can be found, even in fallen humanity. No, the atheist and humanist has fundamentally no reply apart from a refusal to even define what truly is human, let alone Divine. As C.S. Lewis has so ably written in that brilliant book Miracles, “… a train of thought loses all rational credentials as soon as it can be shown to be wholly the result of non-rational causes.” All rationality loses its meaning if the human race is but a cosmic accident—a chance set of physical and chemical reactions.

‘Why is death so awesome? Is it not because we are made in God’s image? As Juliet (my wife) and I grappled with the passing into eternity of the last of our four parents, and the last direct link with the tumultuous WW2 years and their aftermath, I faced starkly the question, “Why do we die?” Everything I had witnessed showed me we were not created to die. The body fights to the end to maintain life. It shuts down the life-giving blood to all but essential organs, till finally even the strongest of persons lies defeated by this greatest of all enemies. As I thought upon who I was in the light of what I had just seen, 1 Corinthians 15:22 kept coming back to me: ‘For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive … .’ We die because Adam sinned and rebelled in the Garden of Eden. The whole of the human race—Adam’s seed—fell in Adam. We may not like it, but our first forefather is the one under whose authority we are placed by nature. But as I constantly sought to remind my father, in Christ alone is our sure and certain hope. When we believe in Him as our redemptive substitute, we are transferred from the federal headship of Adam to the glorious new headship and authority of Christ. Witnessing death so close at hand underlined to me the absolute, vital need to believe in Genesis just as God has stated, and as Christ underlined with his authority.’

Postscript: Creation and open-air evangelism

In the same newsletter, Dr McIntosh also spoke of how he took part in the Leicester Conference on creation at Aylestone Leisure Centre. Organized by a group of local churches in the Leicester area some 400–500 attended and there was a ‘real buzz, as always, at the bookstalls’, according to Andy. There was much more in his newsletter worth sharing, but it was hard to get past another important application of the creation ministry in Andy’s description of an ‘immense opportunity’ for open-air evangelism. This was from 20th to 25th June this year in the University Cities of Cambridge and Oxford, where strategic open-air witness is conducted to coincide with the time after exams but before results. Andy states:

‘Constantly the subject came back to Creation or Evolution. I have said this before but it bears repeating, that if Christians are not convinced of the importance of this issue, then join us in Open Air work and see how students, business people, and ordinary people think. The perception is indeed that “science” has disproved the Bible.

‘In Cambridge a special Creation meeting was held inviting people off the streets to come and listen to a presentation. Perhaps a ministry worth considering elsewhere. Creation/Evolution is certainly right at the top of the issues people raise in evangelism in the UK.’


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