1. Prior to Christ’s ascension, all who died descended to Sheol/Hades, which was divided into two parts, one for the wicked and one for the righteous.
2. At Christ’s ascension, he went into heaven and took with him all of the saints in the paradisal part of Sheol/Hades, while the wicked remain in Sheol/Hades, waiting for judgment.
3. Upon death new covenant believers go to be with Christ in heaven ahead of the general resurrection, while the wicked descend to Sheol/Hades waiting for judgment.
4. Eventually Sheol/Hades will be thrown into hell and all believers will share in the new heavens and new earth.
See Evangelical Theology p. 323.
I’ve featured some debates with Michael Bird before, he is a famous evangelical historian.
It’s important to understand that the Christian view of humans is that we have a material part and a non-material part. When you die, the material part goes into a tomb. The non-material part goes on to be with God, until the day when you get a new resurrection body.
I’m going to steal this entire post from Tough Questions Answered to get a conversation started:
Many of the people I know who reject God or who have crafted a God that makes no demands on them have a fundamental problem with authority. They don’t want anybody telling them what to do.
For a person who wants complete autonomy, who chafes at the thought of anyone having authority over them, a creator God who makes demands is way inconvenient.
Many people who believe in God, but also have this authority hang-up, create their own version of God. This God gives them what they want when they want it. He approves of everything they do, as long as they are just trying to be happy. He encourages them to follow their desires, wherever they lead. C. S. Lewis compared this God to a senile, old grandfather who never says “no” to his grandchildren. You want chocolate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? No problem!
Is this the Christian God? Philosopher Paul Moser answers the question:
It would be a strange, defective God who didn’t pose a serious cosmic authority problem for humans. Part of the status of being God, after all, is that God has a unique authority, or lordship, over humans. Since we humans aren’t God, the true God would have authority over us and would seek to correct our profoundly selfish ways.
If you are “worshiping” a God who makes no demands on you, you’re worshiping no God at all. You’re just trying to find a deity to make you feel good about your selfish choices. What’s the point?
I’m posting this because I’m looking for comments. Do you know anyone like this? I’ll help by getting you started with some sample atheists.
Famous atheists agree: God is not the boss of them
Consider the words of Thomas Nagel, a famous atheist philosopher:
“In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.
I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”(”The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997)”
And what about atheist Richard Lewontin: (and when he says “science” below, he means “naturalistic science”)
“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our own a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, not matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door.” (Richard Lewontin in New York Review of Books, January 9, 1997, p. 28)
Interesting. He’s willing to tell people lies to keep the Divine Foot outside the door.
And one last one from Aldous Huxley:
“I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantegous to themselves… For myself, the philosophy of meaningless was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.” — Aldous Huxley in Ends and Means, 1937
So this is pretty widespread among famous atheists. How about among ordinary atheists?
Drawing on some ten data sets, Brooks finds that religiosity is among the best predictors of charitable giving. Religious Americans are not only much more likely to give money and volunteer their time to religious and secular institutions, they are also more likely to provide aid to family members, return incorrect change, help a homeless person, and donate blood. In fact, despite expecting to find just the opposite, Brooks concluded: “I have never found a measurable way in which secularists are more charitable than religious people.”
Consider some examples. Religious citizens who make $49,000 gave away about 3.5 times as much money as secular citizens with the same income. They also volunteered twice as often, are 57 percent more likely to help homeless persons, and two-thirds more likely to give blood at their workplace. Meanwhile, those who insist that “beliefs don’t matter as long as you’re a good person” are not as good as those who do think beliefs matter. The former group gave and volunteered at much lower rates.
Yet even these findings tend to obscure the impact of religion on charity. This is because some of the survey respondents that Brooks classified as secular are indirectly affected by religion if they were raised in a religious household.
Keeping the Divine Foot outside the door has advantages – you don’t have to worry about giving away your own stuff to others.
It’s a number that is trumpeted from the rooftops — and the pulpit: Half of marriages among Christians and non-Christians alike end in divorce.
But the reality is that Christians who attend church regularly get divorced at a much lower rate.
Professor Bradley Wright, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, found that among people who identify as Christians but rarely attend church, 60 percent have been divorced. Of those who attend church regularly, 38 percent have been divorced.
W. Bradford Wilcox, a leading sociologist at the University of Virginia and director of the National Marriage Project, found a nearly identical spread between “active conservative Protestants” who regularly attend church and people with no religious affiliation.
Professor Scott Stanley from the University of Denver, who is working on the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, said couples with a vibrant religious faith have more and higher levels of the qualities that marriages need to avoid divorce.
“Whether young or old, male or female, low-income or not, those who said that they were more religious reported higher average levels of commitment to their partners, higher levels of marital satisfaction, less thinking and talking about divorce and lower levels of negative interaction,” he said. “These patterns held true when controlling for such important variables as income, education and age at first marriage.”
Again, keeping the Divine Foot outside the door has advantages. You don’t have to make a commitment that goes against your self-interest. When you don’t feel good in a relationship, you can get out.
I have found that atheists think that even if Christianity were true, atheists have no intention of changing the way they live. Even if they don’t personally engage in tons of obvious immorality, they frequently advocate for a society where Judeo-Christian values have disappeared completely, e.g. – abortion, same-sex marriage. Atheism, if it means anything, means that the strong should be allowed to pursue their own pleasure at the expense of the weak. And God has to go, because he gets in the way of that unrestrained pursuit of pleasure.
I hope that more atheists look in the mirror and are honest with themselves about what’s really going on. Is it really such a terrible thing to have a relationship with the person who cares the most about you and wants the best for you? Is fun really that important that people have to push away the Creator of the universe just because he requires self-denial? You can’t get the experience of choosing to imitate God in order to be in solidarity with him if you shut him out because you want your autonomy. And that’s what we are all here to do – to know him, to be his friend, to act in a way that allows us to feel what he feels, and to have sympathy with him.
Dr. Neil Shenvi has had a successful career in the field of theoretical chemistry, but in his spare time, he thinks about faith questions. One of the questions he’s thought about is the difference that God makes when we are asking questions of ultimate meaning and purpose in life. And he’s even done a lecture on it.
Here’s the lecture:
Does life have a purpose? If naturalism is true, what is the purpose of life? If Christianity is true, what is the purpose of life?
Dr. Shenvi’s brief testimony and background
There is no purpose to the universe and us on naturalism
The answer to every why-question on naturalism is chance and necessity (laws)
Nothing in the universe has intrinsic / objective value
There is no hope on naturalism because of the heat death of the universe: everything dies
Nothing that humans do, on naturalism, matters in the long run
Given sufficient time, the universe will not even know we were here
Famous atheists like Bertrand Russell and Richard Dawkins agree on this
Purpose on naturalism:
Purpose response: we can invent our own arbitrary made-up purposes
The monopoly in a prison illustration
Meaning on naturalism:
Meaning response: we can invent our own arbitrary made-up meaning
The scrabble vs Shakespeare illustration
Value on naturalism:
Value response: we can invent our own arbitrary made-up values
The subjective opinion vs objective truth illustration
Hope on naturalism:
Hope response: we can invent our own arbitrary made-up hopes
The heat death of the universe ensures that all hopes fail on naturalism
If Christianity is true:
The universe and human beings have an objective purpose
There is a meaning to life that is objective
Human beings have intrinsic value, because God made them and values them
There is hope because there is an life after death that extends eternally
This lecture does not argue that Christianity is true because it gives us goodies
People should become Christians because Christianity is true
Christianity is actually quite difficult because it requires self-denial and self-sacrifice
What God has done to help us overcome with our rebellion?
By the way, if you want to hear a recent debate on this question, I summarized one in a recent post. The debate featured Andy Bannister vs Michael Ruse. Ruse tried to argue that you could get a feeling of self-worth from your accomplishments and that this feeling of having meaning was enough.
Here’s a lecture from N.T. Wright, whose multi-volume case for the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus seems to be getting a lot of respect from the other side, (although I strongly disagree with his economic and political views, which are naive at best). Wright has taught at Cambridge University, Oxford University, Duke University, McGill University, and lectured on dozens of prestigious campuses around the world. He’s published 40 books.
Here’s a video of his case for the resurrection:
N.T. Wright’s historical case for the bodily resurrection of Jesus
Wright basically argues that the resurrection cannot have been a myth invented by the early Christian community, because the idea of the Messiah dying and being bodily resurrected to eternal life was completely unexpected in Jewish theology, and therefore would not have been fabricated.
In Judaism, when people die, they stay dead. At the most, they might re-appear as apparitions, or be resuscitated to life for a while, but then die again later. There was no concept of the bodily resurrection to eternal life of a single person, especially of the Messiah, prior to the general resurrection of all the righteous dead on judgment day.
Wright’s case for the resurrection has 3 parts:
The Jewish theological beliefs of the early Christian community underwent 7 mutations that are inexplicable apart from the bodily resurrection of Jesus
The empty tomb
The post-mortem appearances of Jesus to individuals and groups, friends and foes
Here’s the outline of Wright’s case:
…the foundation of my argument for what happened at Easter is the reflection that this Jewish hope has undergone remarkable modifications or mutations within early Christianity, which can be plotted consistently right across the first two centuries. And these mutations are so striking, in an area of human experience where societies tend to be very conservative, that they force the historian… to ask, Why did they occur?
The mutations occur within a strictly Jewish context. The early Christians held firmly, like most of their Jewish contemporaries, to a two-step belief about the future: first, death and whatever lies immediately beyond; second, a new bodily existence in a newly remade world. ‘Resurrection’ is not a fancy word for ‘life after death’; it denotes life after ‘life after death’.
And here are the 7 mutations:
Christian theology of the afterlife mutates from multiples views (Judaism) to a single view: resurrection (Christianity). When you die, your soul goes off to wait in Sheol. On judgment day, the righteous dead get new resurrection bodies, identical to Jesus’ resurrection body.
The relative importance of the doctrine of resurrection changes from being peripheral (Judaism) to central (Christianity).
The idea of what the resurrection would be like goes from multiple views (Judaism) to a single view: an incorruptible, spiritually-oriented body composed of the material of the previous corruptible body (Christianity).
The timing of the resurrection changes from judgment day (Judaism) to a split between the resurrection of the Messiah right now and the resurrection of the rest of the righteous on judgment day (Christianity).
There is a new view of eschatology as collaboration with God to transform the world.
There is a new metaphorical concept of resurrection, referred to as being “born-again”.
There is a new association of the concept of resurrection to the Messiah. (The Messiah was not even supposed to die, and he certainly wasn’t supposed to rise again from the dead in a resurrected body!)
There are also other historical puzzles that are solved by postulating a bodily resurrection of Jesus.
Jewish people thought that the Messiah was not supposed to die. Although there were lots of (warrior) Messiahs running around at the time, whenever they got killed, their followers would abandon them. Why didn’t Jesus’ followers abandon him when he died?
If the early Christian church wanted to communicate that Jesus was special, despite his shameful death on the cross, they would have made up a story using the existing Jewish concept of exaltation. Applying the concept of bodily resurrection to a dead Messiah would be a radical departure from Jewish theology, when an invented exaltation was already available to do the job.
The early church became extremely reckless about sickness and death, taking care of people with communicable diseases and testifying about their faith in the face of torture and execution. Why did they scorn sickness and death?
The gospels, especially Mark, do not contain any embellishments and “theology historicized”. If they were made-up, there would have been events that had some connection to theological concepts. But the narratives are instead bare-bones: “Guy dies public death. People encounter same guy alive later.” Plain vanilla narrative.
The story of the women who were the first witnesses to the empty tomb cannot have been invented, because the testimony of women was inadmissible under almost all circumstances at that time. If the story were invented, they would have invented male discoverers of the tomb. Female discovers would have hampered conversion efforts.
There are almost no legendary embellishments in the gospels, while there are plenty in the later gnostic forgeries. No crowds of singing angels, no talking crosses, and no booming voices from the clouds.
There is no mention of the future hope of the general resurrection, which I guess they thought was imminent anyway.
To conclude, Wright makes the argument that the best explanation of all of these changes in theology and practice is that God raised Jesus (bodily) from the dead. There is simply no way that this community would have made up the single resurrection of the Messiah – who wasn’t even supposed to die – and then put themselves on the line for that belief.
And remember, the belief in a resurrected Jesus was something that the earliest witnesses could really assess, because they were the ones who saw him killed and then walking around again after his death. They were able to confirm or deny their belief in the resurrection of Jesus based on their own personal experiences with the object of those beliefs.
This podcast is a must-listen. Please take the time to download this podcast and listen to it. I guarantee that you will love this podcast. I even recommended it to my Dad and I almost never do that.
In this podcast, J. Warner examines the evidence for the existence of the mind (and inferentially, the soul) as he looks at six classic philosophical arguments. Jim also briefly discusses Thomas Nagel’s book, Mind and Cosmos and discusses the limitations of physicalism.
Even though the theistic outlook, in some versions, is consistent with the available scientific evidence, I don’t believe it, and am drawn instead to a naturalistic, though non-materialist, alternative. Mind, I suspect, is not an inexplicable accident or a divine and anomalous gift but a basic aspect of nature that we will not understand until we transcend the built-in limits of contemporary scientific orthodoxy.
When looking at this question, it’s important to not have our conclusions pre-determined by presupposing materialism or atheism
If your mind/soul doesn’t exist and you are a purely physical being then that is a defeater for Christianity, so we need to respond
Traditionally, Christians have been committed to a view of human nature called “dualism” – human beings are souls who have bodies
The best way* to argue for the existence of the soul is using philosophical arguments
The law of identity says that if A = B’ if A and B have the exact same properties
If A = the mind and B = the brain, then is A identical to B?
Wallace will present 6 arguments to show that A is not identical to B because they have different properties
Not everyone of the arguments below might make sense to you, but you will probably find one or two that strike you as correct. Some of the points are more illustrative than persuasive, like #2. However, I do find #3, #5 and #6 persuasive.
1) First-person access to mental properties
Thought experiment: Imagine your dream car, and picture it clearly in your mind
If we invited an artist to come and sketch out your dream car, then we could see your dream car’s shape on paper
This concept of your dream car is not something that people can see by looking at your brain structure
Physical properties can be physically accessed, but the properties of your dream care and privately accessed
2) Our experience of consciousness implies that we are not our bodies
Common sense notion of personhood is that we own our bodies, but we are not our bodies
3) Persistent self-identity through time
Thought experiment: replacing a new car with an old car one piece at a time
When you change even the smallest part of a physical object, it changes the identity of that object
Similarly, your body is undergoing changes constantly over time
Every cell in your body is different from the body you had 10 years ago
Even your brain cells undergo changes (see this from New Scientist – WK)
If you are the same person you were 10 years ago, then you are not your physical body
4) Mental properties cannot be measured like physical objects
Physical objects can be measured (e.g. – use physical measurements to measure weight, size, etc.)
Mental properties cannot be measured
5) Intentionality or About-ness
Mental entities can refer to realities that are physical, something outside of themselves
A tree is not about anything, it just is a physical object
But you can have thoughts about the tree out there in the garden that needs water
6) Free will and personal responsibility
If humans are purely physical, then all our actions are determined by sensory inputs and genetic programming
Biological determinism is not compatible with free will, and free will is required for personal responsibility
Our experience of moral choices and moral responsibility requires free will, and free will requires minds/souls
He spends the last 10 minutes of the podcast responding to naturalistic objections to the mind/soul hypothesis.
*Now in the podcast, Wallace does say that scientific evidence is not the best kind of evidence to use when discussing this issue of body/soul and mind/brain. But I did blog before about two pieces of evidence that I think are relevant to this discussion: corroborated near-death experiences and mental effort.
You might remember that Dr. Craig brought up the issue of substance dualism, and the argument from intentionality (“aboutness”), in his debate with the naturalist philosopher Alex Rosenberg, so this argument about dualism is battle-ready. You can add it to your list of arguments for Christian theism along with all the other arguments like the Big Bang, the fine-tuning, the origin of life, stellar habitability, galactic habitability, irreducible complexity, molecular machines, the Cambrian explosion, the moral argument, the resurrection, biological convergence, and so on.