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June 28, 2013

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How does anyone know?

What is a soul?

What evidence do you have for the existence of this thing you call a soul?

I like this approach, Jim. Thanks.

What happens before you're born?

I would agree that the question "What do you think happens [to us] after we die?" is a good way to start an engaging and fruitful conversation - I would take pleasure in pursuing such a discussion.

But there's an important consideration for you to keep in mind when you embark on asking that sort of question: you should make at least some allowance for the possibility that you might actually be able to learn something from the other person - that they might be able to offer some insight you've never considered or encountered before, and it might just change your own views, even if only a little bit.

Initiating such a conversation without that sort of allowance in mind is at best impolite, and easily degrades into boorishness, a potentially insulting condescension, and a tendency to display willful ignorance. You want to be careful about that.

@Otto Tellick

To me, your second paragraph suggests that we can't really KNOW what happens to us when we die--an agnostic position. As this was written by Mr. Wallace to Believers who possess the certainty of salvation, there is no reason to presume that such an exchange "might just change your own views, even if only a little bit". Offering to others "the hope that is within us" while being sure of the One in whom that hope is grounded, is the most loving thing that we can do and is what we are called to do.

Carolyn

You possess the certainty of life after death? (I assume thats what you mean by salvation)

Really?

What evidence do you have?

Mike

Here's a question I've used with some good results:

"That's great Bill. Sounds like you're well prepared for retirement. Tell me, what are your plans for AFTER retirement?"

Mike,

The resurrection of Christ.

1 Corinthians 15.

When presented with the evidence, I find the witness to be reliable.

If you are indeed interested in what J. Warner has to say in relation to that matter, try reading "Cold-Case Christianity."

@Carolyn

Thank you for your thoughtful response. There are two distinct categories of doubt with regard to your "certainty of salvation":

First, there's the question whether the "evidence" (as cited by Bob) is actually reliable, as opposed to being a misconstrued or fabricated account that appeals to the common human tendency to indulge wishful thinking.

Second, with regard to just those people who choose to accept the notion that there is personal existence after death, and further accept the speculation that such existence must place each individual into one of two possible conditions (either eternal bliss or eternal conscious suffering), I would expect that any such person might experience doubt as to which outcome was really in store for him or her personally.

(I gather that different subsets of Christians seem to have different "theories" about the "implementation details" for the sorting out of souls after death, and that's why I used the term "speculation." But that's a separate issue from the personal sense of "certainty" vs. "doubt" that any single individual might have regarding his or her own "destiny" on entering afterlife as defined in such terms.)

If you (or Christian evangelists in general) currently stand convinced beyond doubt that you are going to heaven, I'm inclined to think this might actually translate into a presumption on your part that you personally, as a "moral agent," are now doing nothing wrong in this life, and that you are fully entitled and justified to continue doing as you do now until you die.

Is it the case that you would maintain such an assertion, no matter what anyone else might say? That's a big part of the consideration I was talking about.

@Otto Tellick

Thank you for asking questions in such a polite, civil manner. Allow me to answer something of your question about Christan evangelists in general.

If we have confidence about the life to come, it is not because we think we're doing nothing wrong in this life. It's not because we think we think we've earned eternal life. It's precisely because we realize that our own works could never merit that prize. Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ, the righteous one, died for sinners. He "became sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." That is, his goodness gets credited to the account of those who don't deserve it, but who merely trust him, turning from self and sin. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Oh, and one more thing: I think you're right that it's good to approach things with the attitude that we, too, may learn something. Still, it's usually more like one former beggar telling another beggar where he found abundance.

May God open your heart to his gift.

@Jim Swindle

I just came in and was going to address this post from Otto Tellick when I saw you had already done so. There's nothing I can add to your reply--you covered it all! Thank you!

My parents would answer the question: Nothing. Life is like a light bulb. On then off. Where do you suggest I go from there? They know I believe differently, and that the Bible is my reference point. But, how do I engage them lovingly without coming across as if I am trying to trump their own reference point with God, who they acknowledge exists but to whom they acknowledge no sense of accountability. I would appreciate your thoughts on this. Thank you!

Chris,
Follow up their response with a question like this: "Where did you learn that life is like a light bulb - on then off?" Then get into a discussion about that. You will likely get into a discussion about the validity of reports about the after life, miracles and what science says.

“What do you think happens when we die?”

Reminds me of those books: How to ask a girl out

You might fool some people once for a minute with this Christian pickup line.

But the second time the alarm bells will go off: Person is has an agenda. Person not really interested in me; person interested in 'directing' discussion (as stated in last sentence of the OP).

People, if you want to evangelize, just do it. Big smile: Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior? Don't be coy. Don't be an amateur psychologist. Come out and say what you mean. Don't play games or pretend you are interested in having a discussion. Deliver your message and don't try to delay the consequences.

RonH

Gotta love it! The atheist instructing Christians about "how to effectively evangelize"!

@Jim Swindle:

I'm grateful for your response. The main part of it followed the lines of thought I was expecting, making a somewhat plausible case that when a person actually "comprehends" the NT narrative as you intend, they will of course "turn from sin" - but they'll still be sinners (indeed, they may very well do a few more wrong things before they die), and they'll still die because in the mortal life that comprises reality as we know it, nothing takes away that fatal attribute of being a sinner - but they'll still be given blissful life everlasting because of the personal feelings they've had about Christ, as they personally understand that entity/concept. On balance, it's basically good.

And of course, while "the wages of sin is death," the wages of not having those personal feelings about Christ before dying is... eternal conscious suffering! That still seems like a punishment that is somewhat (or rather, infinitely) disproportionate; I gather this idea "sells the product" for some customers, but must make it a hard sell for some others.

I honestly appreciated this comment:

... it's good to approach things with the attitude that we, too, may learn something. Still, it's usually more like one former beggar telling another beggar where he found abundance.

I would only add this: perhaps you may learn that some people you speak to have a belief, possibly as firm as your own, that they are not beggars, and that the "abundance" you want to tell them about, being imaginary, is a mere speck compared to the abundance they already have, whether that be some other dream as imaginary as yours, or an enthralling and life-changing glimpse of reality's awesome truths through a truly objective lens.

@Otto Tellick: You wrote,

"...they'll still die because in the mortal life that comprises reality as we know it, nothing takes away that fatal attribute of being a sinner - but they'll still be given blissful life everlasting because of the personal feelings they've had about Christ, as they personally understand that entity/concept.

On balance, it's basically good. And of course, while "the wages of sin is death," the wages of not having those personal feelings about Christ before dying is... eternal conscious suffering! That still seems like a punishment that is somewhat (or rather, infinitely) disproportionate; I gather this idea "sells the product" for some customers, but must make it a hard sell for some others."

Still trying to reshape and restructure the picture, I see! It has nothing at all to do with having "personal feelings about Christ." It has everything to do with bending the knee, accepting our personal sinfulness, accepting the work of Christ on the cross on our behalf, and then turning from sin to Life. You refuse to grasp the accountability of the individual for his sinfulness, and you delight in ascribing fiendish glee to God while He blithely tosses people into hell and eternal suffering. If hell is where one goes, one has only himself to blame for it. God provided the out; the proud and arrogant man will sneer at His gift of salvation, proclaiming it a fantasy and God Himself a myth. (He will, however, have a very, very long time to ponder the error of his choice in eternity...) You still have time to make the right choice, Otto Tellick.

I agree with your comments, Carolyn and Jim. I add only this re: eternal punishment:

God is eternal and the sin against him is eternal unless we accept Christ's gift of salvation in which he gives us his righteousness in exchange for our sins. That is what gives us right-standing with God and opens the door to heaven for us.

However, if we do not accept Christ's gift, we have no righteousness, but remain in our sin. In result, our sin remains an affront to the eternal God eternally. Therefore, we remain separated from God for eternity. The argument that eternal punishment isn't fair doesn't hold water in light of that.

Put another way, if a person rejects God's forgiveness, he remains unforgiven. It's as straightforward as that.

Any discussion attempting to engage unbelievers with the Good News should be aware that the part they have the most trouble with - eternal conscious torment for unrepentant immortal human souls - isn't even Biblical. The biggest objection unbelievers have to Christianity is essentially an idol. If you as an evangelist haven't read Christianity's top scholar on Hell, Edward Fudge, you need to do so immediately; "Hell: a Final Word" is a concise enough version of his work for a beginner. If a couple of hours' reading is too much, watch the following 1hr Youtube video: "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHUPpmbTOV4"

If an hour's worth of video is too much, see this 5m clip: "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ojyoeG4Jg0"

Incidentally, Edward Fudge is not alone in this analysis: among others espousing this view are, John Stott, Basil Atkinson, Bishop Charles Gore, William Temple, 98th Archbishop of Canterbury; Oliver Chase Quick, Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Ulrich Ernst Simon, G. B. Caird, John Wenham, Michael Green, Philip Hughes, Roger Forster, Dr. Glenn Peoples, Clark Pinnock, Greg Boyd, Homer Hailey, E. Earle Ellis, Ben Witherington III, etc.

With all due respect, Raymond, though Edward Fudge had certainly written at length on the subject, his treatment of hell and eternal suffering has many who don't support his ideas. I'm making no case either way here, just saying. In any event, hell is the absence of God, a grim concept.

I was just going through this post a moment ago and the wording of the OP's original question jumped out at me from the page: "What do you think happens when we die?" This is the exact question our four year old daughter brought to me one day, prior to my own acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior. That very question spurred a spiritual journey which led me to Christ and, ultimately, this child also became a Believer. Praise God for His unfathomable gift of faith and grace which came as a result from such a humble question!

This is why I firmly believe in Re-icarnation (which WAS in the Bible before it was removed because people figured they no longer needed to "behave" if they could come back and do it again.)I believe in Karma and the laws of nature and physics, that were placed by the cosmic creator or God, to help govern the universe. The Eastern religious philosopher's got it right. They discovered the answers to all these questions based on scientific principle. While the west was looking outside for God and material things, the east looked within and they all report the same thing. That we are one with God. He is like the ocean and we are the waves....individual soul expressions of the one true God, our creator. They report that there is something beyond this physical shell after we die and that we are omniscient & infinite and made of light. Through prayer, devotion and meditation we can realize this. No longer am I confused, no longer am I prejudice, I no longer fear death, I have a purpose in this life, I am grateful each and every day and understand that the highest form of reality is realizing our oneness with God. God is ever lasting, ever-changing joy and bliss...God IS Love.

@ Joan: You've made several assertions in your comment, that I think need to validated if they are to be taken seriously. For starters, when and where was re-incarnation taught un the Bible, and how was it removed. I've studied Biblical transmission, and find this particular assertion completely fabricated. Can you please enlighten us as to what we missed? Perhaps you can reference some books or verses that were removed? You might want to read about the council of Nicaea, I think you will find it quite enlightening.
As to Karma: The Bible teaches that we "reap what we sow". So the concept is not entirely an eastern one (let's remember: the Bible is a compliation of book written in the ancient near-east culture). So I suppose we can agree on this idea.
As far as a comic Creator having made the laws that govern our universe, we agree on that as well. But when you say "The eastern philosophers got it right." you might want to tell them that, as the eastern philophers I've read and listened to seem to rely on "uncertainty" and are quite comfortable with doing so, while being bothered by the certainty of Christianity. (Depak Chopra as an example). And eastern philophers do not all report the same things, so your assertion is false prima facia. You further state that "They discovered the answers to all these questions based on scientific principle." then go on to mention that "They report that there is something beyond this physical shell after we die and that we are omniscient & infinite and made of light." Can you provide a scientific study that supports this "report". (I'd be intersted in reading it.)My prayer (as well as that of millions of other's) has not revealed any such thing.
I am happy to read that you are no longer perduice, fear death, have a purpose in life, and are grateful, but because your statements are terribly self-contradictory, and many are simly false as to the facts, it does seem a stretch to say you are no longer confused. While we are part of the universe that God has made, We are not a "part of God", we are His subjects. He made us. He lives in us thru Jesus Christ. (Who is God). I recommend that you read the Bible for yourself, It says what it says, and it is quite clear, if you simply read the words. Another great source that I recommend is a book by Greg Koukl (The founder of STR.Org) called Ancient Words. It is a collection of essays that oputlines the basic facts that are so often misrepresented and falsely reported.
God is Love, but God is also Just, and Wrathful, and wise, and merciful. We cannot accept the good, and disregard the bad, if we are going to be intellectually honest. As the written, in-errant Word of Go, The Bible does not lie.
All we must do to avoid this place called Hell is repent, and accept the free gift of salvation offered to us by God. "To him who has ears, let him hear."

Sorry for all the typos.

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