27 May 2013

Tragic Joy

There's a fine piece by Carl Trueman in the June/July 2013 issue of First Things: "Tragic Worship." You can read it here. Almost in passing Trueman writes some words that resonated with me:
I am sure that the separation of church buildings and graveyards was not the intentional start of this process [Christian worship as distracting entertainment], but it certainly helped to lessen the presence of death. The present generation does not have the inconvenience of passing by the graves of loved ones as it gathers for worship. Nowadays, death has all but vanished from the inside of churches as well.
Only a few months ago I posted here about the tangibility of the Christian doctrine of the communion of the saints in churches that bury their dead in the place of worship. It's nice to see that a serious theologian like Trueman agrees.

The reality of death--at least non-cinematic death or death seen other than through the "cool" medium of television--has largely vanished from contemporary American culture (at least middle and upper-middle class white American culture). That is has vanished from American Evangelical Christianity is even more disconcerting. Without the reality of death, the reality of the resurrection becomes less central. Or, as Trueman observes, "The tomb is certainly empty; but we are not sure why it would ever have been occupied in the first place."

Or, as I might put it, there's no true joy without the tragedy of death.

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