What happens when we die?
Today I had someone bring up an idea that seemed similar to one I have heard before. The person told me that when you die, that’s it, you die and decompose just like an animal. This view is shared by some religions, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They also believe that a person doesn’t have a soul, they are a soul, so when we die that is indeed all their is to our existence, but they believe that the person will be “resurrected,” or recreated at Christ’s second coming.
The view that their is no heaven, no hell, no soul, no “life” beyond the one we experience and live now is a semi-atheistic view, because if you believe that, then that means that their is also no heaven, no God, no creator, no bible, no Christ, no devil, no sin, no imperfection… So, I will begin my argument from that viewpoint.
First, were we created?
When it comes to creation, there really is only one alternative belief system to the Religious system, and even within this alternate belief some points tie in religion. This alternate belief is Evolution. There are three types of evolution, cosmological evolution, biological evolution, and human evolution… That is, the evolution belief of the Cosmos, or solar systems/universe, the evolution belief of life, and the evolution belief of man, perspectively.
Within these evolution beliefs, there are three main types of evolution. Instantaneous Creation Evolutionists believe that God created the beginning thing at the start and then left it alone to “evolve.” The second is Theistic Evolution, which teaches that the beginning thing did evolve from a previous state or form, but it was by God’s guidance. Finally, we have the third, Atheistic Evolution, which teaches that the beginning thing developed from random forces alone.
With the question of HOW the universe, life, and man came to the related issue of WHEN they came to be. Those who believe the origin of all three to come from God (called Special Creation) point the date of their existence to around 6 to 10 thousand years old. Those who hold all three to the Atheistic Evolution viewpoint point the time of the universe in the ten billion years ago, life to be about four billion years old, and the existence of man to be approximately 30,000 years old. There are also those who believe in a mix of the above or are in between those given dates.
The Church defined in Vatican I that all Christians must believe that the Universe was created by God alone (Special Creation). The Church does not define whether the stars, planets etc. were created at that time or developed over time. She does say, however, that whatever the case may be, it was all done in God’s plan.
As for life, the Church does not have an official position on whether or not life developed over time, but again it states clearly that life was ultimately created by God (special creation) and if it did develop from there, then it would be by God’s guidance.
And as for man, the Church is much more clear and ties in the previous two teachings. While the Church does allow the possibility that man’s physical body developed from previous biological forms under God’s guidance, it states that God Specially created man’s Soul. God immediately creates them upon the creation of a new human being. The important thing here is the Soul. The Church ultimately forbids the Atheistic Evolution standpoint.
What about the time of creation?
The Church has declared that the Universe is a finite thing, meaning it has not existed for all of eternity. She does, however, leave open for personal opinion as to whether the universe has existed for 6-10,000 years or for billions. One should weigh the evidence using both Scripture and Science. Remember that even though faith is above reason, God gave us reason, and he cannot deny himself. Therefore faith and reason will agree on the correct answer.
Ok, how about the time of creation? Was it 6 days?
There are two viewpoints here, either that it was literally 6 24-hour days or it was a more extended period. The Hebrew word yom is used for “day” here and can be used for a longer period of time. Given the language used in scripture here, it is presented to us as literal 24 hour days, and to deny that means that we cannot read Genesis chapter 1 as a strict chronological order. This is a possibility as well.. It could be that this is meant to be read as a topical reading rather than a chronological one. Even if this is so, it’s still a record of God’s work and things that God did. It is impossible for us to deny that this is the work of God, even if it is presented in a style of historical writing that we are not used to today.
Following reason, that brings the question, what of Adam and Eve?
It is just as equally impossible to pass off the story of Adam and Eve, and the fall as just a fictional story. The question here is of monogenism, that is that we all descended from two parents, Adam and eve alone or polygenism, that is that we all descended from a pool of people represented by Adam and eve. If we believe in polygenism, then that means that their existed other human couples which we all derived from. If this is true then that means that the fall and the teaching of original sin is useless and never existed. Therefore polygenism is a pointless argument if we put our faith in Scripture. Revelation confirms this as it confirms the existence of original sin and the need for a redeemer. Genesis chapter 3 uses figurative language but nonetheless points to a real deed committed by real people.
Next we will discuss the existence of the Soul.
First, what is the soul? It can be defined as the internal principle by which we think, feel and will, and what animates our bodies. The question of the existence of a soul is one of the most critical problems we may come across because if a soul does exist then so does life after death. The stance that when we die, we die and that is it is called physicalism. The opposing argument is called dualism, which states that we are comprised of both body and soul.
Let us, for a moment, assume the physicalists point of view. If the matter that composes your body ceases to be, then you cease to be. Correct? That is what happens when you die, right? Science teaches us that every 7-9 years ALL the matter in your body changes at atomic levels. You look completely different than you did 7-9 years ago, do you not? You will probably look even more different in another 7-9 years. Does that mean that every 7-9 years we are an entirely new person? That is nonsense! Look are your baby pictures, for example, you look at them and call them yours. How do you do this when the person in those pictures is comprised of completely different matter than what you are today? It is after all a different body, therefore a different person. In fact, why plan for your retirement now, since “you” won’t be there??
That thought process is a joke; YOU are the person in your baby pictures, YOU are the person looking forward to YOUR retirement. This is, by SCIENCE, only possible is there is a part of you that exists aside from your physical material. Something that doesn’t change and that is your SOUL.
In philosophy we know that there are material things, which we call accidents, these are the things we can see, smell, taste, touch ect., these are not permanent things, and accidents are what die when our bodies die. Where there are accidents, there must also be an essence. Our essence is our Soul. An essence is permanent in contrast to the accident of being; it is the true nature of a “thing.”
It is the soul that remains the same from the time we are created and continues for eternity. It is what makes us the same person as the baby in the picture; it is what makes us the same person whom we plan retirement for. It makes us, “us.”
Further, we know that all living beings are conscious beings, right? You are fully conscious of being you. A cow is fully conscious of being a cow, we would assume. Why don’t we know the cow is conscious of being a cow? If everything were only physical, and you had obtained complete knowledge of a cow, then you would know exactly what it was like to be a cow. But you don’t. You would never be conscious of being a cow even if you possessed all the knowledge in the world of cows. This means that there is something more than the physical, something more than knowledge. Each living being possesses a soul!
If we have a soul, and it isn’t physical, that means that it is spiritual. If it is spiritual, then it is created, outside of being subject to physical limitations, such as death. Spiritual things are immortal. We know as Christians of the realities of Heaven and Hell.
These are the places our Soul exists once it leaves our bodies. Once our physical bodies are no longer animated by our spiritual soul.
So I ask you, do we just die, decompose and cease to exist or is their more to it? Is there an “afterlife?” Are we just physical, or do we possess something spiritual as well?
“”Deviating from faith, they are implicated in the darkness of perpetual blindness, although they have the day of Christ and the light of the Church before them; while seeing nothing, they open their mouth as if they knew everything, keen for vain things and dull for things eternal.” – St. Ambrose