Joel Belz: Dying well


MARYR REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, July 24th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. WORLD founder Joel Belz now with some thoughts on preparing to exit this life for the next.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: I don’t often recommend books here. And when you find out the one I have in mind is about death, I know you might be tempted to skip ahead. 

But trust me—this is news you can use.

Bill Davis is a popular philosophy and ethics professor at Covenant College—where I serve on the board. 

Davis’s book Departing in Peace: Biblical Decision-Making at the End of Life is both rigorous and charming. Read it, and you’ll be a more thoughtful Christian in every facet of your life. 

Departing in Peace calls you to disciplined and selfless thinking. That stems from Davis’s unrelenting trust in the authority of the Bible, and his assumption that his readers share that trust. 

Through the first half of the 300-page book, Davis constructs a thorough,  Biblical foundation for Christians ready to grapple with end-of-life challenges.

For example, he takes the book of Proverbs literally when it says not to make financial commitments you have no way to honor. That includes hefty end-of-life medical or funeral bills.

But the value of this book really comes through in its second half. That’s where he applies the theory of the book’s first half.

Davis details six real-life, hospital stories. He gently but firmly helps his fellow believers grapple with the hard issues of the dying process.

Typical is the story of Tammy, a little girl that a Christian couple adopted from Kazakhstan. Tammy becomes the fifth of the couple’s five children, but they discover she has a badly defective heart.

The challenges are many and nuanced. Surgery has relatively low expectation of success. It’s costly—way beyond the couple’s resources. And the decision is urgent, leaving the parents little time to pray and seek counsel.

Davis first offers three choices available to the decision makers. Then he evaluates each on the biblical principles developed earlier in the book.

Only then does Davis suggest his own preferred answer. You may well disagree with him—but you can’t accuse Davis of cheap responses.

The book’s final chapters offer practical help. First comes specific guidance for filling out “advance directive” documents, then a frank chapter on money. Then comes a visit to a modern hospital and an introduction to the pertinent people, equipment, and procedures you’re likely to find there. And finally, Davis offers his readers a list of “things to do now.”

Scripture says that “it’s appointed unto man once to die…” So it’s hard for me to think of a more universally applicable package of wisdom than what Bill Davis has put between the covers of this book. I recommend you buy or borrow one today. You won’t regret it.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.


(Photo/P&R Publishing)

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One comment on “Joel Belz: Dying well

  1. Kathy says:

    I have ordered a copy of this book. Looking forward to reading it. I have bought so many books to read because of the reviews and recommendations in WORLD. You are such a trusted resource. Thank you.

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