Monday, February 12, 2007

Theological Question

Well, we did it yesterday we officially became Methodist. The first Sunday School class we sat through has me asking many, many questions. I am in hopes someone out there in blogging land has some answers.

Lesson: Life After Death

Resurrection is not immortality. Immortality is the Greek belief closely tied to the notion that human beings consist of immortal spirits temporarily housed in physical bodies. According to this view after death our phyical bodies decompose and are no more. Our spirits, however, which are undying, are set free to return to heaven. It holds that what is most real about us spirit does not die; rather, at death of our body, our spirit is simply released to resume the existence it had prior to be joined to our body.

The Christian faith rejects completely the notion of immortality. For starters, it teaches that when we die, all our consitutents parts die; not just our body but also our spirit and even our soul. We truly, entirely cease to be. Second and that is what makes belief in resurrection so breathtaking exciting. God's love incarnate in Christ will not allow us to lie silent in the grave. In the end not even the death of all our consitutent parts can not separate us from the love of God. The Christian faith is confident that when we are resurrected, all our constituent parts will be resurrectd: not just our spirit and soul but also our body.

OK that would lead me to belief that when I die every thing ceases to exist and I must lie silent in the grave until the last days when my body is resurrected. What happens to the fact that Jesus said to the thief on the the cross " today you will be with me in paradise". No I don't belief that all my family that is dead is looking down on me and watching every move I make. The bible also states no tears in heaven, some of the things we all do would cause our past love ones to cry.

Hey, this is a heck of a time in my life to be struggling with this issue. Can someone clear this up for me. This idea they are saying is the christian belief sounds more jewish to me. I understood they do not believe in an after life.


Streak said...

I must say that this is one of those areas where I have no clear idea how to respond. This entire life after death is a puzzle for me as well.

Just curious. Did the questions come from the Methodist Sunday School? Were you Baptist before?

P M Prescott said...

The old testament concept of life after death had the soul going to either (hell- german word, hades - greek word) a place of eternal separation from God; or Abraham's Bosom, which was a waiting place.
See parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man.
The ethical (ethical religions have a place of punishment and rewards based upon the life you've lived) Christian concept is that Jesus conquers death and has gone ahead to perpare a place for us -- Matthew Ch 24.
That upon Christ's resurrection and the tearing of the veil at his death all those in Abraham's bosom then entered Heaven with him and upon death all Christians join them -- thief on the cross.
Try reading my thoughts on this in my Human Sacrifices novel. Particularly why I am against all the "Left Behind" garbage that would effectively keep us in Abraham's Bosom until the second, third, fourth or fifth coming of Christ depending on which view of Revelations you follow.

Amy said...

Thanks for inviting me over to your site. As other posters have commented, this is an issue that no one has "the answer" to, and so much of our belief about life and afterlife is influenced by society and philosophy.

Here's what I know:

First, there's something about the human spirit that utterly resists death. Even after an inevitable physical death, something about what we believe, who we are, what we contributed . . . remains. I think that Christian faith supports and undergirds this part of the human experience, that death is not the end and that God moves in every part of human experience, living, dying, and whatever comes before and after.

Second, God will not abandon us, even in the most confusing, mysterious and unknowable parts of living. God will not abandon us. Whatever comes in this life . . . God is there. Whatever comes after life . . . God is there.

Deep, abiding peace to you as you live through this mystery!


Tony said...

I hope you don't mind me sharing in this discussion. I made my way over from Streak's blog.

You are tangling with some difficult issues and there aren't easy answers. There also will be conflicting opinions.

My belief is there is no such thing as the "annihilationism" that you have alluded to; no entirely ceasing to be. This is not an orthodox Christian belief.

The Bible teaches that we are made up of soul and a body, immaterial and material. There is as Amy succinctly stated a yearning within each one of us to know more and understand God more completely on this matter and we can find answers in the Bible.

2 Corinthians 5:8 teaches that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. This is true only for the believer in Jesus Christ.

However, for the one that has not called on Christ for salvation, only eternal separation from God remains. This is not annihilation; we do not cease to exist. As pm pointed out above, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Luke 16, teaches that the eternal separation is eternal, conscious torment.

Perhaps we can continue this discussion. Blessings as you seek the truth.

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...

Here's my 2 cents worth:

To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord -- 2 Cor. 5:1-10. That's not Greek philosophy, it's Pauline theology.

The form that presence takes is not important (I started to say immaterial, but that could be misconstrued).

We will not know the composition of the resurrected body until we get one.

In my mind, this is what belief in the resurrection of the body signifies:

We will continue to be discreet individuals in the hereafter. We are not mere drops of being that will be absorbed into an ocean of Divinity.

Neither will we be pure ghostly spirits that are detached from the supposed impurities of the rest of creation.

Christopher said...

Congratulations on becoming a Methodist; it can be very difficult in finding a good moderate Baptist fellowship, especially in East TX (isn’t that where you are?). If you are getting into such Sunday school discussions at your new church, then it sounds like you have found a good church that will stimulate your growth and faith.

I posted my answer on my was long. but here is a little of it:

Does Paul think that being in God’s presence is something that somehow happens instantaneously (2 Cor 5.6-8), or is there a time delay with the dead in Christ awaiting resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4.15)? Or is it somehow both? Whatever the process is, it is mysterious.

Somewhere, I learned that in the Hebraic mindset the Body-Soul-Spirit are one in the same and not divided as in the Classic Greek understanding (3 interdependent things); if so, then this goes back to what you were saying about how glorious the Christian belief of resurrection is; that is we die completely and then we a resurrected. But your question concerns the experience of time in the in-between of life and death and resurrection…is your question?

When one dies, when I die, I hope that we experience some kind of transformation (1 Cor 15.35, Phil 3.21, 1 John 3.2). The experience and the time duration of such a transformation will be relative to whatever laws of physics are in the various dimensions of life and death.

grace and peace to you and yours.

Rob said...

As a science nerd, I'd point out that this might be a question of reference frames. To us, the time between, say the Apostle Paul's death and the resurrection might appear to be about 1930 years or so (I'm ballparking that one in my head without a calculator), from Paul's reference frame, there would be no gap in time. He'd be dying and then suddenly, he'd be in Heaven at the Resurrection.

Believe it or not, it was this sort of thinking that helped Einstein develop relativity. If someone "stopped" all time in the universe and then "started" it again, would you know? Einstein concluded you wouldn't.

Alternatively, Jesus is God, and if He wants the thief to be in Paradise that day, well, the thief is in Paradise. Period!

On the other hand, Revelation 6:9-11 (New International Version) says:

"When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed."

The folks there appear to be "alive," and yet the Resurrection is not yet. Now, Revelation is occasionally metaphorical, so I'm not sure if this is a definitive example, but here it is.

Personally, I find comfort in believing that those who have gone on are part of the "cloud of witnesses." I don't know if it's a perfectly logical theological position, but it helps me through the day.

Rob of UnSpace