Death and Afterlife

A Theological Introduction

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"Nichols is to be commended for this outstanding introductory text on death, the afterlife, and resurrection. It will be invaluable in university classrooms."--William C. Mattison III, The Catholic University of America
What happens to us when we die? Nothingness? Judgment? Heaven? Hell? Many people today fear dying and are uncertain about life after death because of challenges from the sciences, philosophy, and even theology. In this engaging and clearly written book, theologian Terence Nichols addresses contemporary and perennial human questions about death and what lies beyond, making a Christian case for an afterlife with God.

Nichols first examines views of death and the afterlife in Scripture and the Christian tradition. He takes up scientific and philosophical challenges to the afterlife and considers what we can learn about it from near death experiences. Nichols then argues that the soul can survive death and that bodily resurrection is possible, explores how Christians can be worthy of salvation, and reflects on heaven, purgatory, and hell. He discusses death as a preparation for afterlife, providing readers with a theological guidebook for dying well. This book will benefit professors and students in theology, eschatology, practical theology, and pastoral care courses as well as pastors and priests.


"Nichols is to be commended for this outstanding introductory text on death, the afterlife, and resurrection. His book is ambitious in the best senses of that term. It addresses a topic that Christians too often sheepishly neglect or, perhaps worse, speak of in simplistic platitudes and imagery that threaten the credibility of what are in fact intellectually sophisticated Christian beliefs on the life to come. The book is also ambitious in addressing every possible facet of its subject matter, including chapters on ancient Judaism, the New Testament, the Christian tradition, scientific challenges and responses, and even literature on 'near death experiences.' Quite evidently a gifted teacher, Nichols treats all of these topics in an accessible manner that is nonetheless clearly nourished by a command of available scholarship on these topics. In nearly every chapter, he presents a fair depiction of the continuum of contemporary positions on the question at hand. The text will be invaluable in university classrooms. Indeed, the book will reward all Christians seeking to better understand Christian belief about the next life, as well as seekers who would benefit from a clear and fair account of Christian belief on this topic in conversation with common contemporary objections from a multitude of disciplines."--William C. Mattison III, assistant professor of moral theology, The Catholic University of America

"As Terry Nichols recognizes in the opening pages of Death and Afterlife, and occasionally throughout, modern theologians tend to avoid the topics in this book. Nichols, however, takes them on with courage and clarity. As a systematic theologian, he rises to the challenge of facing deep human questions and tough contemporary doubts that nag around the edges of our systems of thought, trendy or not. But he does this above all because he is a deeply committed teacher who knows from years of conversation with students that the question of life after death has hardly gone away, if it ever could."--Gerald W. Schlabach, associate professor of theology, University of St. Thomas

"In a world where even some Christians are embarrassed by talk of life after death, Nichols makes a compelling case that the afterlife is integral to understanding how life really is. This book provides the enormously valuable service of digesting a wide variety of scholarship--from theology to neuroscience--and presenting all sides fairly and accurately. The reader encounters not only biblical views of death and afterlife but also startling debates about near death experiences. Nichols provides sound arguments for why traditional Christian views of the afterlife are viable today and gives us ways not only of dying well but also of living well."--William T. Cavanaugh, professor of theology, University of St. Thomas

The Author

  1. Terence Nichols

    Terence Nichols

    Terence Nichols (1941-2014) received his PhD from Marquette University and served as professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas for more than twenty-five years. He also founded and codirected the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Center at the University of...

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"[Nichols] writes with an engaging clarity. . . . As an introduction to this important, and often sadly neglected, area of Christian theology this is a book which can safely be commended."--Geoffrey Rowell, Theology

"Nichols's book contains very solid and highly readable treatments (accessible both to undergraduates and intelligent lay people) of biblical and traditional eschatology, provides a number of fine arguments against modern reductionism, and offers a robust and thoughtful defense of classic Christian beliefs about the afterlife. I would likely use it . . . in an undergraduate (or even early graduate) course in eschatology."--Rodney Howsare, The Thomist

"[An] engaging book. . . . It presents the Christian Church's considered wisdom about death and the afterlife in a manner that is both informed and practical. It addresses the difficulty of integrating Christian belief on these matters with modern presuppositions, and only then turns to offering practical ways of making the contemplation of mortality, resurrection, and eternal life our means of dying well. . . . Nichols's writing is principled, but never boring. He is bold enough to look at big questions, and is able to discuss them clearly. . . . We need to find a way of honoring both the claims of science and those of orthodox faith, and Nichols offers one that I, at least, find plausible."--Graeme Hunter, Touchstone

"This book admirably introduces a vast topic in a concise, accessible, and engaging format. . . . The chapter on resurrection is particularly noteworthy as [Nichols] guides the reader through the relationship between modern science and theology, the Queen of the Sciences, making a bold case for belief in bodily resurrection. Seminary professors will find this elegant volume useful for theology, pastoral care, and even some Bible courses as will those wanting a responsible, brief overview of Christian teaching on the subject, including important challenges to the tradition. Protestants will benefit from reading a Catholic theologian's assessment of justification, judgment, heaven, purgatory, and hell. . . . The extensive notes provide ample direction for deeper investigation and reflection."--Jaime Clark-Soles, Religious Studies Review