Does God create new relationships when loved ones die?

By Blogger Dr. Karin Heller
Hello Karin,
We talked about “separation” a few weeks ago and how God “separates” to create new relationships.  In regards to death and “separation”, is death ever an injustice or is it always an attempt to create something new and fresh? Do you have any insight on why God wants to “create” new relationships?I lost my brother four years ago, he died a week after his 31st birthday of pneumonia.  He was a beautiful man, he was a husband, father, teacher, and coach but most of all he was loved.  I did not mourn his death because I actually chose not to believe it for about two years.  I could not grasp that he was actually gone.  I was upset with my mom because she would always say “it is God’s will” and “that’s how he wanted it.”  Eventually, I did begin the mourning process and have come a long way.  I must say that before your lecture on “separation”, I still had a little resentment towards God because he took my brother.  I understand this now and I thank you so very much.Thank you,
Monica
Dear Monica,

Dr. Karin Heller

The biblical God did not create death, but death entered into the world on account of the devil’s (the serpent’s) jealousy and man’s unwillingness to fix the problem of an animal that suddenly started behaving and talking in n inappropriate way. The biblical God is only LIFE. As such, when confronted with death, God does not give up! Death is not an obstacle for him, because he is capable of CREATING NEW RELATIONSHIPS in spite of death! God wants these new relationships because he is a God of LIFE and not of death! He alone is able to create something good out of a separation that is a disaster. Each death is a disaster … and, in addition, sometimes an injustice. There is no greater injustice than the death of innocent people. The biblical God always attempts to rescue man confronted with death! Therefore, the problem is not God, but man! Does man want to be rescued from death and meet his creator and redeemer when the hour has come to leave this world? You did not give up at your brother’s death.  I hope your brother had the same attitude! Women are very often stronger than men (males) in front of death. You want your brother to be ALIVE. Therefore, continue to look for your brother hidden in a God who is LIFE. So, if you want to find your brother, you’ve got to find God FIRST! You remind me of the two sisters of Lazarus in chapter 11 of the Gospel of John… You should read this text. This text speaks of you! The sisters of Lazarus ask Jesus to come and heal their brother, but Jesus arrives “too late” … it’s “too late” for them, because their brother had died, but Jesus pushes them to have FAITH in HIM who is the resurrection! Through your brother’s death, God calls you to grow in faith in a God who is the RESURRECTION and who IS LIFE! That’s perhaps your vocation, to bear witness to a God who is LIFE and not to run around like your mother saying “it’s God’s will” or “that’s how he wanted it”. For sure, God wanted your brother to live and more than that, God wanted him to BE ALIVE FOR GOD in a way we can never totally be in this world. That’s to what your faith should point!
– Karin
Dear Karin, 
Thank you so, so, much for you thoughtful response.  It made me emotional and your words truly helped me understand what I need to know.  I need to find God in order to find my brother, I now know that is what I need to do.  I did read John 11.  I had never read it before but I’m glad you suggested it, it’s content really shed light on not only death but life.  My brother was a Christian man, and I know he would be proud of me for trying to better understand God.  I took this class to find a better understanding of God, religion, life, and death, and I most definitely obtained that and much, much more.  Thank you so much, you have helped me in an indescribable way.Thank you,
– Monica
Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University.Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.
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3 responses to “Does God create new relationships when loved ones die?

  1. Hanane Neff-Loutf

    Hello Dr Karen,

    First I would like to thank you for sharing those answers with us, I have to say that the subjects are very interesting.
    In the beguinning of your reply you said that God did not create death. Could you please tell me who created death? If there is any other “creator” of death which is a natural end to human beings, doesn’t it take away from the almighty God some of his power?

    Thank you.

    Hanane

  2. Dear Hanane,
    Thank you for your kind and very respectful comment! I loved your life story and reasons you gave for taking part in this great religionnewsspokane adventure! I’m very pleased to see a young Muslim WOMAN sign up for such a project. Your English is very good and the content of your writings are even BETTER! You went to France and I’m French, so there a many connections between us!!
    Now to your insightful question. The Christian belief on the origin of death is based on a certain reading of the first three chapters of the book of Genesis and other Old Testament and New Testament texts of the Bible. According to Genesis 1-3, death was a possibility for mankind, but NOT a necessity. From the beginning God created mankind for life and for living WITH God, not for death! In order to reach this goal, God made two essential gifts to mankind. The first is God’s WORD to man! God’s word indicates what is good to eat and to avoid food which was not meant to be eaten. That’s what good parents do for their kids when they say “eat good things and don’t swallow dishwasher soap”. The second was God’s creation of all kinds of food, including the tree of life! This tree represents in biblical culture food which is reserved for the gods alone. Therefore, according to the biblical text, man and woman were PRESERVED from death on the condition to listen and put into practice God’s word. Very interestingly both creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2 do not mention the creation of a “kingdom of the dead”; there is no creation of a grave yard in the world created by GOD! Only in the world created by man there are grave yards! Death enters into the world when man and woman do not fulfill anymore the conditions established by God to escape death. They start listening to a CREATURE, the serpent, who tells them “his story” of “eternal life”. Man and woman prefer to believe in this story rather than in the CREATOR God’s story and put into practice what the serpent tells them. So, the origin of death from a biblical standpoint is very complex. It involves mankind who prefers creatures to the Creator God and is attracted by the discourse of mere creatures that pretend to be “like gods”. It also involves a problem of gender issues as man and woman were precisely created to support one another and grant to one another mutual assistance in the administration of the Garden of Eden. It involves a male too coward to assist the woman when she is put under attack by the serpent and a female much more attracted by the discourse of an animal than of man who is with her.
    The book of Wisdom also declares in 2:26: “through the devil’s envy death entered the world and those who belong to his party experience it”. This statement gave rise to consider the possibility of “fallen angels”, jealous of mankind called by God to rule one day over them in the person of the very Son of God, incarnate in human flesh. In other words, these angels did not want to be ruled over by a God who was also fully human. According to a Christian biblical view there is no Creator God of death. The biblical God abhors death and saves mankind from death. The biblical God is only a God of LIFE to which death is not an obstacle for bringing humankind to the estate for which she was created, i.e. a life free from death. According to this reading, death is not “natural” or “willed by God”! Death is the biblical God’s greatest enemy and God’s power is precisely to defeat such an enemy by God’s becoming incarnate in a totally human being named Jesus of Nazareth. That’s what Christians celebrate at Christmas a week from today! What characterizes God’s people coming from a Jewish or a Christian background is precisely not to submit to death, to make it a natural and a “soft” thing, “willed by God” and so forth! No, death and sin which caused death, are intolerable to those who belong to this biblical God. That’s precisely what makes them different from those who belong to the world and its gods. Those who belong to the biblical God will never give up in front of injustice, oppression, evil which characterize death. This kind of belief is “spiritual dynamite” which affects all people be they Christians or not. Would there be an Arabic spring today without this kind of belief that injustice, oppression and evil CANNOT have the final word? So it affects you too! The only question is now if you’re willing to extend this principle to your very view of God himself or if you continue to hold to a subtle combination between your image of God and death. The latter is a compromise and already a submission to death’s rule. Don’t submit to injustice and death for the sake of your brothers and sisters who fight at the risk of their lives for values which truly belong to the only LIVING GOD!

  3. Hanane Neff-Loutf

    Bonjour Dr. Karin,
    Je vous remercie infiniment d’avoir pris le temps pour repondre a ma questions.
    If you allow me, I would like to reply to your latest post.
    I agree when you said that the concept of death is complex in the biblical tradition. But regardless of that concept, when it came to being or its relationship with God. I still don’t know who created DEATH from the biblical point of view. If I understood, you said that death was not in God’s plan and it came with the devil, should I conclude that the devil is the creator of death?
    And then you said “Death is the biblical God’s greatest enemy and God’s power is precisely to defeat such an enemy by God’s becoming incarnate in a totally human being named Jesus of Nazareth” Ok, but didn’t Jesus (peace be upon him) died according to the Christian doctrine? does it mean that whoever created death (the devil maybe) won or defeated God?
    My issue here is just who created what… If death is a creation of the devil, then who created the devil himself, isn’t it God? (unless you don’t agree with this point).
    Maybe because I come from a different background, I have a hard time grasping the concept of death in the Christian belief. Here is what I believe perhaps it will explain the difficulty I have. And please correct me anything seems illogical or does not make sense:
    God created humans for a purpose of worshiping Him, He does not need to be worshiped, the thing with humans is they are the best of His creations, unlike angels, humans have a free choice to either worship God or not. Those who do not follow his commands are following the commands of the devil who is always there to lead us astray by tempting us like he did with Adam and Eve.
    If God had a plan for the eternal life without the passing by this life He could have done so. Nothing can defeat God.
    I believe in the wisdom behind Adam’s story. Adam and Eve were tempted by their enemy, the devil, but they repented and God accepted their repentance. The war is between humans and the devils and God is far beyond that.
    We are as children of Adam to learn from both the jealousy and the arrogance of the devil and the mistake of Adam and his repentance.
    Death is a mark of mortality of humans and only God is everlasting. Death is an end to this life but an opening to the eternal life (heaven or hell).
    As for the will of God, it is something hard to explain and to understand but here how I will put it:
    Because God is All Knowing, He knows the seen and the unseen, He knows the past, the present and the future, and nothing happens without His knowledge. If we believe in a God and His is Perfect and does not make any mistakes then there is nothing wrong with the idea that He made a plan that nothing can go wrong with it.
    But here is the issue with what I said, someone can say: “Well, if God knows everything and made everything to be like it is, so why should I be punished for my sins or rewarded for my good deeds, since he made me do it anyway? where is justice in that?”
    The answer to that is: God knows and We DON’T. Because we don’t know the outcome we should always have the good intention to do good and avoid evil, if we decide to go according to God’s commandments He already knows it and if we decide to follow the devil God also knows it.
    As for the oppression, rape, murders, crimes, violence… They are also willed by God, He knows about them, and allow them to happen and there is a WISDOM behind His plan. In the case of oppression for instance, the oppressor will be punished, the oppressed will be rewarded for his patience, or his intention to remove oppression, or his efforts against it, or…
    People losing their family members by all sort of causes (Cancer, heart attack, murder, drugs,…) can have that rebellious attitude toward God and say things like “why did He allow it to happen to me? why me?” See it good that you gave the example of the parents telling their kids what to do and what to avoid and here is a similar approach;
    A 4 year old goes with his parents to the market and asks them to buy him a cookie, before even they get back home, in the car they ask him to share that cookie or just give it back to them, because they are the one who bought it anyway, guess what the reaction of the little man is? he says “NO, IT IS MINE”… I think this is very similar to our attitude with God. He gave us everything and we belong to Him, yet when He decides to take something back we say why? why me? my wage is mine (even if He allowed me to work in first place), my mom is mine (even if He created her before me), my leg is mine (even if He granted me every part of my body to use and benefit from)…
    As for the arab spring, I don’t see any spring yet to be honest. It is more like a chaos right now. Don’t get me wrong, getting rid of some dictators is good but it can be very deceptive and helpful to advance other agendas. Bouazizi is not the first oppressed man in the arab world, yet when he burned himself quickly it led to the toppling of Zin Al-Abidin… it was well organized that even Mubarak is gone… that is good, but when I see innocents being killed by some mysterious weapons like in Libya and Syria, I start wondering what is really going on, who kills who, Gov? Snippers? protestors? NATO?
    Anyhow once everything is clear I can give it a more appropriate name.
    Thank you again so much Dr. Karin for allowing me to share with you my thoughts and discuss them with you.
    Bonne journee!

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