If you are fortunate to live in a place where spring is complete with lilacs in bloom, it does feel as if new life is on its way as the sunny days linger a little longer. As butterflies flutter among the lavender blossoms, the memories of snow and gray overcast days seem to quickly fade.
For those in recent years who have lost loved ones the memories feel like they will fade, and the loss is not only painful but baffling in how a place that held life — the human body — can now be lifeless. This issue of Covalence is dedicated to those questions of an afterlife.
We start off with an insightful commentary from theologian Philip Hefner, who writes, “Christian faith undergirds my questioning. That faith makes the questions both necessary and possible. If I believed, naturalistically, that we are nothing more than bundles of matter, dispersing through burial or cremation, there would be no doubt about where things stand — at least in the short-term — the days or weeks or centuries it takes for our molecules to merge with the environment.”
It is a great jumping off point for Seminarian Jaren Summers’ research on the perspectives of theology and science on death. The brief outline of the historical dialogue on the notion of an afterlife feeds into some more interesting exploration of the writing of physicist (and theologian) John Polkingorne.
Next is our news section, which offers a snapshot of the conversation about climate care taking place in the church. What this undoubtedly tells us is that we feel a connection to the natural world and indeed are part of the natural world ourselves. But while we wonder what life’s end is like, we still are eager to embrace life around us and preserve it for others who follow after we no longer walk the earth. That faith-filled response for the future speaks to the love that centers us in our life here and that to come.
Susan is an author with a long-time interest in religion and science. She currently edits Covalence, the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology’s online magazine. She has written articles in The Lutheran and the Zygon Center for Religion and Science newsletter. Susan is a board member for the Center for Advanced Study of Religion and Science, the supporting organization for the Zygon Center and the Zygon Journal. She also co-wrote Our Bodies Are Selves with Dr. Philip Hefner and Dr. Ann Pederson.