You Will Call, I Will Answer: An Interview with William Stuntz
What do you expect to find in the moment after you die?
I don't know. I'm not inclined to speculate a lot about it. We are told very little, and that's fine with me. I believe in the afterlife. I cannot begin to understand its precise character. Again, that's fine. It doesn't bother me at all.
Your life is ending sooner than you must have expected. Are you pleased with the life you lived?
I'm not displeased in the sense that I never got to see that or do this or enjoy something else. I have almost none of those feelings. I am utterly satisfied with my life in those terms. I have gotten many more good things than I could deserve in any conceivable way. I have been incredibly more blessed, along multiple dimensions, than I would have imagined when I was young. In that sense, I am perfectly pleased with my life.
What I am displeased with is my own living of life. I feel an acute sense that I ought to have done better with the circumstances I was given. This is one of the reasons why it cut me so deeply when people suggested that suffering is God's discipline -- because I find it so very, very easy to believe in a God who is profoundly disappointed in me.
It seems utterly natural to believe in the Disappointed God, because I myself am disappointed. He must be even more disappointed, I think, because his standards are so much higher than mine. How could he not be disappointed? That makes complete sense to me.
It's the other God, the God who does not experience that kind of disappointment, the God who sees me the way that Prodigal Son's father saw him -- that is the harder God for me to believe in. It takes work for me to believe in that God.
Do you have any favorite quotations or favorite scriptures, when it comes to death?
Yes, a passage in the fourteenth chapter of Job. The passage as a whole is not hopeful. Job is uncertain what will happen to him when he dies. In the end, he says that he will return to dust and there will be nothing after death.
In the midst of the passage, however, before he turns to despair, he has a moment of hope. It's a brief moment, just a couple of verses in the midst of an extended passage. Yet he says, "You will call and I will answer. You will long for the creature your hands have made" (Job 14:15).
I find those lines very powerful. The concept that God longs for the likes of me is so unspeakably sweet. I almost cannot bear to say them aloud. They are achingly sweet for me to hear.
There are many passages I love, but that one in particular has grabbed hold of me. Job's hope, it turns out, is more realistic than his despair.
Professor Stuntz continues to work and live with his wife in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He attends Park Street Church in Boston, where he recently gave his testimony. His family and friends are grateful to know him for as long as he is left with us, and when he is called home we trust he will find a God who is not disappointed, a God who longs for him, a God who calls him by name.
William Stuntz passed away on March 15, 2011. Read the tribute to his life here.
Dr. Timothy Dalrymple is the Associate Director of Content at Patheos, and writes weekly on faith, politics, and culture for Patheos' Evangelical Portal. Follow him at his blog, Philosophical Fragments, on Facebook or on Twitter.