Basic Questions Series: Why Sin

The Raising of Lazarus

This autumn at Holy Trinity Brussels, we are going through a series on basic questions of faith and Christianity. Last week, I started things off with “Why God”. This week, we heard a sermon on “Why Sin”. So, for the next few months, I will be posting responses and thoughts on these topics every Monday. So, for today…why sin?

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Meaning in Death

“To die, to sleep—
No more—and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to—’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished! To die, to sleep.
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.” — Hamlet
Continuing a recent theme, we must pause to question whether there is any meaning in death. Death — that closure of possibilities; Death — that last enemy to be defeated. Whether it is embraced in a stoicism or a philosophical release of the soul from the body (à la Socrates) or it is shuddered at and avoided (à la Hamlet), it is the inevitable end of humankind. It is experience throughout life in the deaths of others. Is it darkness? Can one die with dignity? Is avoiding death the purpose of health and modern medicine? These are just a few of the questions.

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Death and Resurrection


“Death has been swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?”– 1 Corinthians 15:54-55

Death as the closure of possibilities, death as the impossibility at the end of my experience, silences. All projects end, all desires fulfilled or otherwise cease, all hopes expire, all dreams fade into the ontological nothingness that is death. It is the last enemy, and in many ways, the only enemy. All threat, all power, is an invocation of the threat of death, all power is the calling forth of death into life. But what would it mean to call life into death?

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The Closure of Possibilities


“Mortals are they who can experience death as death. Animals cannot do so. But animals cannot speak either. The essential relation between death and language flashes up before us, but remains still unthought.” — Martin Heidegger

A prince lies dying, having accomplished his vengeance, but being poisoned, he is slowly breathing his last. His best friend and witness to all the events is there, and he is commanded by his friend, by his prince, to speak. To tell his story, the tragedy of his life. But before his eyes shut, before he shuffles off his mortal coil he notes, “The rest is silence.” In so saying, he speaks his last and dies. There are no more words, words, words. There are no more possibilities. The story has been written.

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True Martyrs


They’re supposed to be safe there but they’re not. They’re vulnerable. Say the holy words. Remember Issa. — Homeland, Abu Nazir

Are you a martyr? This word carries with it certain connotations today. These are not necessarily the best or most loving connotations. Especially in the wake of terrorism and jihadism in the twenty-first century, martyrdom is associated with killing (often suicidal) for a religious cause. Or it is associated with dying, being killed, for belonging to a certain religious group, persecuted, often times, by a different religious group. But it was not always defined in this manner.

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The EU and Terror


How to defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized. Don’t let fear rule your life. Even if you are scared. — Salman Rushdie

It is a complicated history, one that stretches back to before the outbreak of the first World War. In seeking a genesis of terrorism, in seeking to understand what drives terror, the West must admit that it is partially responsible for its genesis. We are bound up in a network of power relations that are now turning against our citizens. We are reaping what we have sown. We have sown fear, we have sown war, we have sown desperation. We reap what we sow. How do we relate to this history and to modern terrorism that is now found in the streets of Madrid, London and Paris, as well as many other places? What, if anything, can the EU do about terror?

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Living, Dying, Living


“O, I die, Horatio.
The potent poison quite o’ercrows my spirit.
I cannot live to hear the news from England.
But I do prophesy the election lights
On Fortinbras. He has my dying voice.
So tell him, with th’ occurrents, more and less,
Which have solicited. The rest is silence.” — Hamlet

But is it? In now, my third consecutive post about death, I want to turn from its violence and its solace, to the fact that it is not the end. I want to talk about resurrection. I want to talk about the unknown, the music after the silence.

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