Life After Death (Part 1)

This is a great post on a subject that is often difficult to get across to other.

Veracity

Have you ever tried to share the concept of Heaven with someone who doesn’t understand much about the Christian faith?  The theology of Heaven can be a stumbling block to those who have haven’t thought much beyond caricatures of floating angels and harps in an afterlife.  How can something that every reasoning adult must process be so subject to myth and misconception? Can an apologetic approach help?

Yvonne Brendley recently gave me back issues of Bill Brendley‘s Areopagus Journal, published by the Apologetics Resource Center. The Fall 2011 edition addresses the topic of life after death.

So is there evidence for life after death?  This journal will address biblical, historical, philosophical, and scientific evidences that support the reality of life after death as well as refute false ideas about it.
Craig Branch, Senior Editor, Areopagus Journal, Fall 2011

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About dwwork

The name of this blog is taken from 1 Peter 3:13 - “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience. This verse became special to me over ten years ago when I was asked to teach an adult Sunday school class on Christian apologetics. This interest grew over the years to the point that I took some graduate level classes in apologetics. I think the best way to be prepared to give and answer to everyone who asks is to know scripture. It is my hope that through these short devotionals the reader will become more familiar with each verse. I have tried when possible to make them personal hoping in some small way to show that God’s word written over two thousand years ago is still relevant today. In the writing of these short devotionals I have been able to better understand how God’s word impacts my life. It is my hope that you too will come closer to our Lord Jesus and develop a closer relationship with Him. Finally, if the reader finds anything in conflict with scripture please let me know. God’s word is the final authority always overrules anything I might write. David
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8 Responses to Life After Death (Part 1)

  1. lotharson says:

    Heaven is very seldom an obstacle for anyone.
    Just knowing it will be wonderful suffices for much people, even if can’t figure out much more.

    The true stumbling block is this doctrine of eternal hell or even worse that God predetermined people to suffer eternally.

    Friendly greetings from continental Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

    • dwwork says:

      I agree, everyone is good with heaven. It is the Christian teaching about heaven and life after death that often falls short. The doctrine of hell is the tough one.

    • John Paine says:

      As just one example, many people believe that they have to be ‘good’ in order to get to Heaven. This theological misconception about Heaven is really a miss on the Christian faith and the personal God who bankrupted Heaven to prove how much He loves us. It’s our job not only to teach Ephesians 2:8-9, but to live it. So while I wholeheartedly agree that given the reality of Heaven or Hell, people have a lot more difficulty with Hell, unfortunately part of that difficulty reflects a consumer attitude–as in “I’d rather go to Heaven than Hell.” If our theology is working correctly our driver would be a desire to eternally worship God in His presence.

      I would also agree with you that predestination and suffering are more difficult stumbling blocks. Getting into middle knowledge and justification is a difficult undertaking. Paul wrote quite a bit on these topics in Romans, but many of us have a hard time grasping these doctrines.

      Thanks for commenting!

      • lotharson says:

        Hello John, thanks for your thoughtful response.

        The problem is that if we hold fast on the doctrine of ETERNAL hell (especially coupled with divine determinism) we can no longer say that God is love without utterly distorting the meaning of this world.
        Love means always striving for fostering the well being of the person.
        It’s obvious this can’t be the case in hell.
        And God creating sentient puppet which he predetermined to suffering eternally is all the CONTRARY of what love is all about.

        When a hardcore atheist come about and tell me that he believes in love, which is for him a bunch of chemical reactions in brains, I will tell him he has REdefined the word.

        But reformed people do far worse with their doctrine of unconditional damnation, which is the INEVITABLE consequence of their belief system.

        The Calvinist folks of the Westboro Baptist Church are much more logically consistent when they say God HATES most human beings.

        That said, I am genuinely interested to dialog with you (or anyone else) on these issues with a spirit of mutual respect.

        Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

        http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

      • John Paine says:

        Hello Marc:

        I enjoy the opportunity to dialog respectfully with people who hold different beliefs or perspectives, and would be happy to oblige you. Truthfully, I haven’t spent much time studying “divine determinism” (and some of the other views you refer to), so you’ll have to help me with some definitions.

        I’m not much of a theologian, but have spent quite a bit of time studying and am grounded in Christianity. I have checked out your blog, and you have found SharedVeracity.net so we know where we’re coming from. Consequently I’ll share one thought before we get into the dialog—I believe that reality works at multiple levels, and that there are levels of details that can obscure our appreciation of meaning and essence. For example, to paraphrase C. John Collins from his Science and Faith text: some people would say I’m patting a pile of atoms in my lap, but to me it’s a cat. Both views are wondrously true, but one captures the essence (and purpose) while the other is a part of a drilldown that man can still only barely understand. I bring this up because I believe with God that many dualisms are possible, such as free will and and election.

        The Westboro Baptist hatemongers don’t have any credibility among Calvinists, Baptists, Christians, or any right-minded people (however you define them) anywhere, so let’s take them off the table.

        If I understand you correctly, I disagree with the idea that God is anything but love. I believe that God (not man) defines love and makes the rules, and that love has many manifestations and components including compassion, but also including discipline, correction, and even the allowance of suffering. We may not like it, but God is very different from Santa Claus.

        I believe in unconditional election, but not in ‘unfounded’ election, so I cannot agree that God creates people for the purpose of being eternally condemned any more than he would create sentient puppets for the purpose of loving him.

        Anyway, that’s a start. I welcome your comments.

      • lotharson says:

        Hello John.

        Wow you raise many issues!
        Obviously I cannot address them within a comment but I am going to deal with Calvinism in many future posts on my own blog.

        The problem is that I am dealing with many topics at the same time: fundamentalism, militant atheism, materialism, UFOS…but don’t worry, reformed theology occupies a special place within my heart 😉

  2. Clarke Morledge says:

    Lothars Sohn,

    I thought I would chime in a bit here as you had some very thoughtful comments over on the Veracity blog, and these seem to be related.

    Regarding the doctrine of eternal hell, there seems to be three types of approaches: (1) The traditional view of endless torment or punishment for the damned. If I am understanding you correctly, you object primarily to this view. However, if you have not done so, you should check out the work of Robert A. Peterson, a theology professor at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis in the American Midwest. His book written for a popular audience, _Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment_ , examines nearly all of the known objections to the traditional view and makes his case defending the view. (2) The view of universalism, which holds that all people will be eventually saved, is often associated among American evangelicals as being the view held (at least by implication) by former mega-pastor Rob Bell, but generally does not find much support among those who accept a high view of Scriptural authority. Perhaps the best popular attempt to defend such a view from Scripture comes from those involved with Jason Pratt’s (and others) “The Evangelical Universalist” website. (3) Another alternative is the view of annihilationalism, which is the view that the damned will be punished but that their souls will eventually be destroyed in hell once they have experienced their punishment. The premier advocate of this position today is Edward Fudge in his super-huge _The Fire That Consumes_. I recommend these writers because they represent the very best of their respective positions and because each writer seeks to base their views on Scripture. I have found myself at times opposed to the traditional view, but I have to confess that after reading Robert A. Peterson, he makes a very compelling case and deals with the objections in a very cogent and winsome manner, though he has some difficulty with some of Fudge’s arguments at times.

    It would take me another long comment to suggest resources for dealing with the predestination issue, so I’ll let that one go for now…. except…. one good place to start would be to examine some of the back and forth between two Minneapolis, Minnesota pastors, John Piper (Calvinist, http://www.desiringgod.org) and Greg Boyd (Arminian/Open Theist, http://reknew.org/). Both men are evangelicals, but they take completely different approaches to the predestination question you raise. If you Google for both of them, you’ll see the Internet light up!!!

    At some point in time, we will hit on these over at the Veracity blog, and so I don’t want to highjack some of the wonderful stuff David is doing here. But please stick around as you have raised some really important issues. It is just extremely difficult to address these things in an occasional blog comment here and there. I just think it is important that if we are inclined to critique someone else’s view that we try to engage the best arguments defending the position in question. Otherwise, we risk misrepresenting the view that we seek to critique.

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