Lest the Darkness Define Us

Imperfect copies of imperfect copies are we. The fall into sin introduced not only death but also physical decay and disease. Every Sunday, we admit as much in our Confession of Sin, “We are by nature sinful” (LSB 151, 167). All this means we are in a death spiral. Like “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way, death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

After many years of research, scientists pieced together the human genome—a long-awaited breakthrough with many possible benefits. (Hooray!) Yet, we also learned we are decaying and losing information, not “evolving” into better beings. (Boo!) Through mutations, each passing generation is becoming more corrupted. Now, if these aberrations made us stronger and more robust, we should celebrate—but they don’t. At best, our mutations are neutral; at worst, they inflict harm and lead to many genetic diseases.

The DNA inside us plays a part in cancer, suffering from Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, and affects the rate at which we age. The interaction between our genes and environment also influences our “epigenetics,” which genes turn on and off. Both biology and the environment impact what takes place on both a micro and macro level within us.

Should this surprise us? Genetic corruption keeps inflicting its chaos, undiminished since Adam, our first father, sinned. From our saddest of days when he ate of the fruit, these defects continue to increase. Consider Rheumatoid Arthritis. In the bones of the dead, we find no signs of this affliction more than a few centuries old. Only in 1800 did this disease’s first description enter human history by a French physician, Augustin Jacob Landré-Beauvais.

So, what of Alzheimer’s? My dad died of complications related to Alzheimer’s, and my mom is suffering its ravages. Most of us realize the disease is on the rise, and we can’t say why. Is something in our environment setting off this cascade? Is this a genetic degradation? Some call this disease “Type 3 Diabetes” since a strong correlation exists between insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s. Regardless, here we are, crushed by this onslaught, with few families left unscathed.

Ponder the possibility of our redemption being dependent on our intellect or rational consent to various propositions. Well, if so, if someone can’t understand who Jesus is, salvation for him will remain elusive and far afield. Still, consider this: Can an infant name his mother, understand her characteristics, and describe who she is? No. Here’s a better question. Does the baby trust his mother and realize all is well when she holds him? Yes!

Give heed to Jesus’ words, “Unless someone is born from above… unless one is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5). Yes, Jesus Himself calls our entering into His kingdom a birth. Like our physical births, our spiritual births don’t result through any actions of our own.

So, your faith isn’t a result of your knowledge—or intellectual assent since saving grace does not depend on you but God. By grace, you are saved through faith—and this is not your own doing but a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). Yes, faith itself is a gift, which means God gives us this however He chooses to do so. A gift depends on the giver, not the receiver.

Now, we can believe what Scripture says instead of twisting and cavorting its baptismal texts. Yes, baptism, indeed, does “save” (1 Peter 3:21) and grants us the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Like circumcision brought a baby boy into God’s Old Covenant, baptism now brings infants of both sexes into His New Covenant (Genesis 17:11-14, Colossians 2:11-12).

Suppose your belief is the product of your intellect. Well, if true, as your memory degrades, your trust in God also disappears as You lose your understanding of Him in the shadows of oblivion. Not so, Jesus declares. “My grace is enough for you because my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). “Nothing in creation can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Romans 8:39).

Despite what your personal experiences may make you think is true, you did not “choose” and make yourself a child of heaven. The spiritual reality is, “you were dead in your trespasses and sins,” devoid of spiritual life (Ephesians 2:1). To be alive involves birth; in our Father’s kingdom, baptism. To do this, He creates faith in our hearts as He decides to do. Not done, God nourishes our confidence in Him, which explains why He extols us to come to Church (Hebrews 10:25). Yes, for us who are being saved, the Word of the cross is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Whenever someone we love fades away before us from dementia or Alzheimer’s, find solace in what God tells us. Remember for the other—He is the One who will preserve him or her in the one, true faith.

By God’s grace because of Jesus, the Christian will joy in God’s presence for all eternity—even those with Alzheimer’s. A person’s belief in Jesus isn’t a mere byproduct of intellectual ability. So, someone’s loss of “brainpower” doesn’t mean such trust is gone or withered away.

The Lord, our God, reveals the end of the story to us. On the Last Day, Jesus will return. From our graves, He will call forth our bodies and reunite them with our souls, bodies incapable of disease or dementia. Yes, He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and death will be but a forgotten dream. All mourning, crying, and pain will long-cease, for the old order of things, this current fallen creation, will be gone forever (Revelation 21:4). In this eternal reality, we “will reign forever” with Christ, and no dementia can ever steal this away.