The nominal Christian funeral

Anyone who has been to a nominal Christian funeral knows what happens there. After we are told that the dearly departed lived life with gusto, it’s time for noble comments about eternity. The weight of a thousand past funerals will be remembered and earnestly repeated along with religious bits-and-pieces picked up from the popular culture. Sentimental songs with vague spiritual aspirations will be played. We may hear the syrupy agnosticism that assures us that the departed is immortal “because he lives on in our hearts and minds.” Then comes Hallmark-card Christianity of the “he’s smiling down on us now” variety, and the pastor seals the deal by speaking of salvation without repentance, Christ without the Cross, and love without holiness. Yea, we are afflicted by the trials of life, but don’t worry… it’ll all pan out in the end, when God will wipe away every tear.

Bob Dewaay notes that one of Rick Warren’s oft-repeated errors in The Purpose Driven Life is stating Scriptures intended for believers as if they are intended for all. This is what happens at funerals. The 23rd Psalm or Isaiah 40 or Revelation 21:4 is read indiscriminately, without explanation, to both believers and unbelievers. It surely happens for various reasons. Some pastors are deceivers of the flock, weaving a drowsy spell like the evil queens of fairy tales. Others may just not want to get into unpleasant stuff with mourning people.

This reluctance to speak the whole counsel of God seems to me a travesty that endangers souls. To use Psalm 23 as an example, Scripture is clear that the Lord will not lead the unbeliever beside the still water. Only believers will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Per 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, God will inflict “vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” It is only in hearing this very bad news that the unrepentant will be led to seek the very good news, the righteousness of Christ that covers us from God’s righteous wrath.

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