J. Todd Billings, The End of the Christian Life: How Embracing Our Mortality Frees Us to Truly Live (Brazo Press, 2020), is a mix of the personal testimony of one facing death and the affirming reflection on death within a conservative (non-evangelical) Protestant Christian perspective.
The book title is inaccurate in reflecting the content. On close reading, the book’s argument is not about Christian life and death, but is about universal human life and death, using language from the Christian tradition. A more accurate (if a bit longer) title for this book is “Death: The End of Human Life Understood Through the Christian Tradition: How Embracing Our Mortality in Humility and Living Small Frees Us to Live Now and into the Future Mystery”.
This is a current universalist argument in conservative Protestant Christian language. It should be taken seriously as a reflection of a deep tradition. However, it does not engage modern skepticism, but argues that traditional myths and practices get better results in this life and are a good and better bet on faith (trust) for the next life, which is currently a mystery for all.
The author rejects the health and wealth gospel popular in evangelical Protestant Christian communities. The book is a cautionary argument against the complexities and promises of modern medicine, which undermine personal autonomy and the grace of God in fully living this life. Living small in scope, simplicity, and humility is a new and attractive phrase and worth reflection as its content is outlined in the book.
The afterlife of persons in reunion with loved ones (but not others) in the presence of Jesus is generally affirmed, but with little scrutiny. The afterlife connected to beloved others and supernatural thinking is generally embraced as true and beneficial for positive outcomes, both mental and physical, in this life. We should accept the traditional Christian myth for a next life and be grateful for this life. There is life and family reunion after death, bolstered by the testimony of heart-felt, near-death experiences.
The table of contents gives a generally clear outline of the text. The book has a general subject index, a scripture index, and endnotes.
The book says that there is little new light on death, no new examples of continuing revelation, and a cautionary warning against deviation from familiar conservative (not evangelical) Protestant Christian stories and understanding of death.
Quakers: There is no mention of Quakers in this book. The author embraces that of God in every person as an integral part of conservative Protestant Christian theology.
- How do Quakers explain death and after to Quaker youth?
- What ministry do Quakers offer to seniors in the management of the final chapter of life?
- How do Quakers explain the relation of Quaker understanding with current Christian teaching?
T. Billings, The End of the Christian Life: How Embracing Our Mortality Frees Us to Truly Live (Brazo Presss, 2020).