Death and Afterlife: A Theological Introduction. By Terence Nichols (2010). Nichols writes from an orthodox Catholic perspective. He surveys the theme of death and afterlife in ancient Judaism, early Christianity, and the longer Christian tradition — Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant. Along the way he discusses the soul (and how it differs from the mind), resurrection, heaven, hell, and eternal life with God. It is significant how he is often in dialogue with modern science; his most fruitful conversation partner seems to be John Polkinghorne, an Anglican priest + physicist. He approves of Polkinghorne’s definition of the soul as an “almost infinitely complex, dynamic, information bearing pattern, carried at any instant by my animated body.” So the soul is a complex pattern of information, like a matrix. For those of us with a mathematical background, this makes sense. Nichols believes the traditional Catholic teaching on hell, purgatory, and heaven, only he envisions them not as destinations but as states of being that arise out of how we have (or have not) cultivated love in our lives. He begins and ends the book with the theme of dying well, which means ‘dying into God.’ He sees dying well as the result of living well, that is, of choosing God each day and orienting our life toward love of God and neighbor.
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