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The Leveson Centre for the study of Ageing, Spirituality and Social Policy

The Experience of Ageing:
a challenge to Christian belief

The Experience of Ageing:

Helen Oppenheimer,
Fourth Leveson Lecture, 2005.

Helen Oppenheimer, the distinguished Christian ethicist, reflects on the experience of ageing and the challenge it presents to Christians. She emphasises that the experience of ageing is vastly different for different people. Some grow old gracefully and are full of wisdom, contented in themselves and a joy to others, with the worst ravages of physical and mental deterioration passing them by. For others old age is a constant struggle where the sense of loss is overwhelming. We are not dealing truthfully with old age if we fail to see both sides of this picture.

For Christians, however, the very disparity between different people's experience is a challenge. Why the apparent injustice? Why are older people handed out the pleasures and trials of ageing in such unequal measure? Helen Oppenheimer warns against arriving too easily at glib solutions but draws comfort in the end from Christ's Passion, the assurance that whatever pains life brings to us have already been experienced by God in Christ, who stands beside us in our human struggle.

The Experience of Ageing: a challenge to Christian belief (Leveson Paper 11)
Helen Oppenheimer, fourth Leveson Lecture, 2005

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