"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What Happens After Death?

This weekend, as noted earlier, I am in Waco, Texas giving a lecture as part of the Wilken Colloquium named in honor of Robert Louis Wilken. The theme this year is eschatology. I am giving a lecture alongside Brian Daley, some of whose earlier works I noted here. He and I, I gather, are the Catholic representatives while our evangelical colloquists (the Colloquium being run under the auspices of the Paradosis Centre for evangelical-Catholic dialogue) include Todd Billings and Jerry Walls.

Walls, whose earlier collection on eschatology was noted here, has a book published just this month: Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory: Rethinking the Things That Matter Most (Brazos, 2015), 240pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Will heaven be boring? How can a good and loving God send people to hell? Is there such a place as purgatory? If so, why is it necessary, if we're saved by grace?

Questions about the afterlife abound. Given what is at stake, they are the most important questions we will ever consider. Recent years have seen a surge of Christian books written by people claiming to have received a glimpse of the afterlife, and numerous books, films, and TV shows have apocalyptic or postapocalyptic themes. Jerry Walls, a dynamic writer and expert on the afterlife, distills his academic writing on heaven, hell, and purgatory to offer clear biblical, theological, and philosophical grounding for thinking about these issues. He provides an ecumenical account of purgatory that is compatible with Protestant theology and defends the doctrine of eternal hell. Walls shows that the Christian vision of the afterlife illumines the deepest and most important issues of our lives, changing the way we think about happiness, personal identity, morality, and the very meaning of life.
My own lecture, for those who are interested, is entitled "Eschatology and Funerary Practices Today: Byzance après Byzance?" It surveys a good deal of recent Western scholarship critical of reformed funeral rites in the West today as being, inter alia, inadequate expressions of orthodox eschatology and often tools of very shoddy pastoral psychology also. I then critically review the Byzantine funeral rites to see how they fare before making some practical suggestions at the end.

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