Sunday, November 28, 2010

Writing & Wrighting About Life After Death

I write, therefore I understand. Or, more accurately, therefore I grow in understanding. That's why I am now writing as much as I can, about all things that matter to me. I am finding that in the act of writing thoughts and ideas come. Had I not begun to write, I am certain that ideas would not so easily form, which then get written.

You should write. Just... write. write what you believe, what you think, what you know and what you think you know. You have much to say. What you have to say is potentially far more interesting than some who write because they have to produce another article or book.

In Eldoret, Kenya
I'm now writing a little bit on the question: What happens to us after we die? I have studied this in my own faith, and in other religions. Yet I feel incomplete, want to know more, want to have a better answer. If I find some answers, or some path to follow, I'll write about it here for my own benefit and reference.

In my research there are certain people I trust and listen to. If they recommend someone, I check them out. Two of my credible witnesses today are Ben Witherington and N.T. Wright. If you read my website you know my admiration of Wright. I sometimes think if I have a mind of my own, or am in my Wright-mind. I Wright, therefore I am?

Here Witherington interviews Wright on the Christian idea of the afterlife.

The bullets:
  • BW - "I take it from many things you say in 'Surprised by Hope' that you believe in a limited dualism between body and soul, or body and personality, such that the person survives death and goes to be with the Lord, but that ultimately that dualism will be resolved when the resurrection of the body happens, and those in Christ are made like him once and for all."
  • NTW - If there is to be a resurrection, there must be some continuity between the embodied person now and the embodied person then. We are not just "fast-tracked to the eschaton." Because the new creation will be made out of the old creation.
  • NTW - Perhaps this is what happens immediately after we die. Maybe God "remembers"us by somehow "holding us in life with his own being." Consider physicist John Polkinghorne's idea that
    "God will download our software onto his hardware until the time when he gives us new hardware [= a new physical body] to run the software again for ourselves."
  • NTW - When Paul said his desire was to depart and be with the Lord "I don't think Paul could have said that if he'd believed it would be a non-existent state prior to the resurrection."
Here Witherington comments on NTW's position, and I find this very clarifiying.

"You can't equate heaven with new creation or the new heavens and the new earth. The latter refers to a material realm, transformed or made new by God. Heaven is not a material realm. This is precisely why Paul says in 2 Cor. 5--- that he will be absent from the body and present with the Lord when he dies.

Secondly, the Bible absolutely does not affirm the notion of the Eternal Now, as opposed to time being infinitely extended in heaven. Notice how the saints under the altar in heaven ask God "How long O Lord". No, heaven is not a place where there is no procession of what we would call time.

And as to how the new creation will be different from dying and going to heaven. Much in every way. We will not have bodies of any kind in heaven. Resurrection is what happens when Christ returns to earth, not something that happens in heaven."

Witherington seems to be affirming Wright's idea of "the after-afterlife."

1. We die.
2. We go to "be with the Lord." That is, "to heaven." It is a nonembodied state. A "holding place" until the final resurrection.
3. We are given new, transformed bodies at the final resurrection.
4. We live in the new, restored heaven+earth temporal existence (everlasting time) forever.