The Thanatologist – J.Eppinga

Cabbages&KingsBookFor our “Word Wednesday” selection this week we turn to a chapter (originally an article The Banner) in the second collection of Rev.Jacob Eppinga’s writings for the Banner rubric “Of Cabbages and Kings”, found in the book More Cabbages and Kings.

At the end of the day I have been reading through these clever and interesting little glimpses of church and ministry life, and came on chapter 20 titled “The Thanatologist” last night. That word comes from two Greek words meaning “death” (thanatos) and “study of” (logos), so you can guess what a “thanatologist” does. That’s right, he studies death and dying.

In this piece Eppinga, a former CRC minister, reflects on his years of ministering to the dying and conducting funerals. As always, he has some fine thoughts, including these closing ones:

Another impression that has come home to me repeatedly is the completely unmasked backruptcy of unbelief in the presence of a lifeless human form. In the last few years, a rash of articles have appeared in various publications and journals dealing with the phenomenon of death. An ancient king decreed that the subject was never to be mentioned in his presence.

Today sees an opposite impulse. Modern intelligence is minded to concentrate its full light on the valley of the shadow. Studies entitled ‘on Death and Dying,’ ‘The Power to Die,’ and others, set forth by experts who call themselves thanatologists do have some insights.

In sum, however, their words and thoughts are as empty as tombs and cemeteries on resurrection day. Arnold Toynbee, a giant in the field of history, having authored the renowned twelve-volume Study of History, and whole library shelf of other books, is pure drivel on the subject of man’s last breath. It makes me weep.

My thanatologist is Saint Paul! I can practically quote his I Corinthians 15 from memory. If he is wrong, then, as he says, ‘we are of all men most miserable.’

But he is right. Praise the Lord (p.112)!

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