The Fear of Death

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Hebrews 2:14-15

James Arthur Ray, the self-help guru and motivational author who gained fame as a guest speaker in the film The Secret, has been found guilty of three counts of negligent homicide last week. He faces a sentence of up to eleven years in prison.

Ray was known for his expensive motivational retreats where participants were subjected to “sweat lodges”, that is, sauna-like ceremonies used by Native American Shamans to detoxify the body. The botched sweat lodge that led to Ray’s conviction left three people dead and 18 hospitalised.

The reason behind Ray’s sweat lodges and the intended accompanying near-death experiences is explained in his own words: “The true spiritual warrior has conquered death and therefore has no fear or enemies in this lifetime or the next, because the greatest fear you’ll ever experience is the fear of what? Death. You will have to get to a point where you surrender and it’s OK to die.”

Ray is correct. The fear of death is indeed humanity’s greatest fear. But he is tragically mistaken when it comes to the method by which it is overcome. The one who delivers us from this fear is not a motivational guru, but Jesus Christ. And the way in which Christ does it is not through inducing near-death experiences whilst shouting motivational twaddle, but by destroying the source of death.

That makes a lot more sense. To try and overcome the fear of death whilst heading straight towards it is stupidity, not courage.


2 thoughts on “The Fear of Death

  1. Chris Lovie-Tyler June 30, 2011 / 7:26 pm

    “To try and overcome the fear of death whilst heading straight towards it is stupidity, not courage.”

    I had to smile when I read that. Another good post, Tobie.

  2. naturalchurch July 1, 2011 / 7:33 am

    Thanks for the comment, Chris. One of the most profound books I’ve ever read is The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. It won the Pulitzer price for non-fiction in 1974, and is a most fascinating study of our innate drive to deny the reality of death and all its implications. It’s not a Christian book, which adds some profunditity to it – in the sense that the author is not on a mission to prove something. The book is largely forgotten today but you’ll do well to find a copy.

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