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Approaching the End: A Theological Exploration of Death and Dying

Oxford University Press
Place of Publication: 
New York

"This book considers two basic questions: how can we live well in the face of death?; and when, if ever, is it legitimate deliberately to bring human life to an end? It does so by considering the distinct theological approaches to death shown by four outstanding Christian thinkers: Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, and Karl Rahner. These philosophers' thoughts constitute a single extended argument on the theology of death which can be set out in relation to the practical realities of grief, fear, and hope in the face of death. There is a rightful place for grief, a good grief, even for a Christian. Augustine teaches us that death is something with which we have to contend, and indeed that the difficult and painful process of contending with death is a means through which we are brought to our final joyful end. A key point for Thomas Aquinas is that, in itself, it is always wrong to kill a human being on account of the dignity of human nature. Rahner adds that it also stands in contradiction to the supernatural destiny of human beings. Rahner is at his most profound in describing how the need to surrender oneself to God in death is anticipated throughout life. The aim of this book is not primarily to make a contribution to the knowledge of the history of theology, but rather, through engagement with the thought of theologians of the past, to reflect on some of the practical and existential issues that the approach of death presents for us"--Jacket. (Publisher)