Scalia on Preaching the Resurrection at Funerals

February 18, 2016

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the following about the funeral of Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., and even more about the importance of preaching–especially at a funeral!–preaching the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the eternal life which follows from that. This gives us a sense of what we can expect at Scalia’s funeral. Too bad our president will miss the opportunity to hear the gospel (something we all need). I always say a memorial should be more about the Savior than the servant.

Supreme Court of the United States Washington, D. C. 20543

CHAMBERS OF

JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA

September 1, 1998

Dr. James C. Goodloe

Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church

1627 Monument Avenue

Richmond, Virginia 23220-2925

Dear Dr. Goodloe:

I looked for you unsuccessfully at the luncheon following the funeral yesterday. I wanted to tell you how reverent and inspiring I found the service that you conducted.

In my aging years, I have attended so many funerals of prominent people that I consider myself a connoisseur of the genre. When the deceased and his family are nonbelievers, of course, there is not much to be said except praise for the departed who is no more. But even in Christian services conducted for deceased Christians , I am surprised at how often eulogy is the centerpiece of the service, rather than (as it was in your church) the Resurrection of Christ, and the eternal life which follows from that. I am told that, in Roman Catholic canon law, encomiums at funeral Masses are not permitted—though if that is the rule, I have never seen it observed except in the breach. I have always thought there is much to be said for such a prohibition, not only because it spares from embarrassment or dissembling those of us about whom little good can truthfully be said, but also because, even when the deceased was an admirable person—indeed, especially when the deceased was an admirable person—praise for his virtues can cause us to forget that we are praying for, and giving thanks for, God’s inexplicable mercy to a sinner. (My goodness, that seems more like a Presbyterian thought than a Catholic one!)

Perhaps the clergymen who conduct relatively secular services are moved by a desire not to offend the nonbelievers in attendance—whose numbers tend to increase in proportion to the prominence of the deceased. What a great mistake. Weddings and funerals (but especially funerals) are the principal occasions left in modern America when you can preach the Good News not just to the faithful, but to those who have never really heard it.

Many thanks, Dr. Goodloe, for a service that did honor to Lewis and homage to God. It was a privilege to sit with your congregation. Best regards

Sincerely,

Antonin Scalia

HT

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One Response to “Scalia on Preaching the Resurrection at Funerals”

  1. phfs9 Says:

    I have always had a problem attending funerals and memorials. It is a rare event for me to attend one. I have always believed they are for the living and not for the dead. I recently attended a memorial only to be asked why I was there and the reasoning for the question when I asked was not only Un-Christian but ridiculous. This experience only strengthened my belief that funerals and memorials are for the benefit of the living and not for the dead. I do wonder what the Bible says about my belief in this and no doubt others will find it harsh!


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