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Monday, September 10, 2012

Now I Lay Me Down: In Defense of the Afterlife

"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"

 The surest fact about our existence is that it will end.

Sooner or later everyone will die.

You and I will die.

This is our shared terminal diagnosis.

The only question left is whether death serves as the end of human existence or an entrance into the "afterlife"?

As a Christian, I am firm believer in life after death and I hold that we have good reasons to believe in this central theistic doctrine.

The theme of this post was inspired by a Youtube video I watched by Youtuber Mr. Repzion (Daniel Sulzbach?)

Mr. Repzion is a former professing believer and is contemplating issues of death, the soul, and the hereafter.

I pray this post will challenge seekers and encourage my Christian brothers and sisters who eagerly await the resurrection promised us by the grace and power of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Dualism as Evidence for the Afterlife

 The philosophy of substance dualism states that humans have a mind (or soul) independent of and non-identical to our body/brain, which forms one part of our dual human nature (ie: body and soul) .

Dualism stands in direct contrast to physicalism which asserts that only physical entities exist (ie: those things that can be described by the language of physics and chemistry) as well as property-event dualism which holds that the human brain contains and causes all mental properties.

If substance dualism is true then it lends itself nicely to hope of life after death because if the mind exists apart from the body then the mind can "go on" after the body is dead.

So why should we prefer substance dualism over physicalism?

I've "tampered" with 4 reasons to reject physicalism that were given (among others) in the book "Philosphical Foundations for a Christian Worldview" in order to make them more accessible for the reader.
REASON 1.  While an outsider may have access to all of our physical properties, at least some of our mental properties are only privately accessible.

A doctor can ravage a human body, probe its brain, and come away knowing all about it's physical properties, but at least some of it's mental properties (ie:  experience of sensations, propositional attitudes etc.) must be divulged.

REASON 2: In addition, while one may always be mistaken about the physical, one cannot always be mistaken about the mental.

For example, if I see a white sheet flapping in the wind and I think it's a ghost, while I am most certainly mistaken about the nature of the sheet (physical object), I could not be mistaken that I, at least, thought I saw a ghost (mental state).

Therefore, It may be said that I can know at least some of my thoughts incorrigibly or without error.

REASON 3: While being of or about something means nothing to physical properties, it does mean something to mental properties.

While my thoughts can be about or of Glee's Naya Rivera, such as 'Naya is simply stunning!', this relationship means nothing to my brain or any of my other physical properties.
So we can say that ofness or aboutness is unique to mental properties.

REASON 4: While our minds do stand in a causal relationships with our bodies (imagine your mental state after being roundhoused by Chuck Norris!) not all of our mental properties are conditioned by the physical.

I am typing this blog, not because of any physical property, but because I exercised a will or purposing to do so.

For these reasons we can conclude that the mind is not indentical to the brain. 

 Now why should we reject property-event dualism?

Well, If mental properties are produced by the brain (much like fire produces smoke) and controlled by physical properties, as is the case on PED, then human beings have no free-will, moral responsibility, ability, or accountability.  

We are simply bodies responding to stimuli.

This idea is, of course, false.

Not only because (1.) moral intuition and general experience give strong testimony to the reality of free-will, moral responsibility, ability, and accountability, but (2.) PED implies universal causal determinism which cannot be rationally affirmed and is thus self-refuting

So much more could be said about all of this, but I think we can rightly conclude that substance dualism is indeed a true representation of the human composition.

 Given this fact, it is perfectly acceptable to hold that the human mind need not to die with the body, but can live on after the body is dead.

The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth

As a believer, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is absolutely central to my faith and my belief in the afterlife.

For if Jesus was indeed who said he was and was raised from the dead as he said he would be, then certainly we may have the hope of such a resurrection too.

I don't care who you are; that is an exciting prospect!  

 The argument is as follows:

1. There are four established facts concerning the fate of Jesus of Nazereth: his honorable burial by Joseph of Arimathea, the discovery of his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and
the origin of his disciples’ belief in the resurrection.

2. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” is the best explanation of these facts.

3. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” entails that God exists.

4. Therefore God exists.

 While this is an argument for the existence of God it is clear that, if true, the argument proves the reality of life after death.

  Now many natural explanations have been invoked to try to explain the facts surrounding Jesus' death:

"The disciples stole the body"

"Jesus wasn't really dead"

"The disciples made it all up"

"Jesus never really existed"
 But all of these reasons fail in explanatory scope and power.

If the disciples made the resurrection up, why did they go to gruesome tortuous deaths for this belief.

Not to mention, the concept of a risen Messiah was completely foreign to the Jews at the time (and still is to many today!).

In addition, it is highly improbable that Jesus survived Roman crucifixion, but even if he did, a half-dead "Messiah" in desperate need of doctor would not engender lifelong support from hundreds of Jews who were expecting a conquering hero that would defeat the Romans.

The belief that Jesus never existed is not to be taken seriously.

And on and on it goes.

If we look at the facts honestly and in view of the arguments for God's existence, I think we can see that the best explanation of the facts concerning Jesus' death was that he was indeed raised by God from dead, which entails the existence of life after death.

              Closing thoughts

I will reiterate that there is much more that could be said about all of this.

I welcome and invite on-point comments and please feel free to send me an e-mail about any pertinent questions you have or leave them in the comment box below.

If Mr. Repizon or anyone else who may be struggling with idea of the hereafter is reading this, I pray the you will continue your search for truth.

Don't give up, for I believe that resurrection which Jesus underwent is available to you on behalf of a loving God!

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