Christianity - Self, Death and the Afterlife


The Meaning and purpose of life

To Glorify God and have a personal relationship with him 

  • Christians believe that Humans can't know the nature of God.
  • The Bible - John's Gospel - often refers to God's glory - because we are created in God's image, Christians argue we should reflect and spread God's glory throughout our lives.
  • By living a life that glorifies God means Christians will experience the Kingdom of God.

To prepare for Judgement 

  • In Genesis - humans were created to have fellowship with God - but the original Sin resulted in alienation from God.
  • Only God could restore the relationship - this is done through Jesus' Atonement 
  • The final act of reconciliation is Judgement - all humans will face - Christians are unsure when this will take place.
  • The Parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) - this is the best way to describe Judgement.
  • Heaven is seen as a reward for good behaviour - justification by works.
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The Meaning and purpose of life 2

To bring about God's Kingdom on Earth 

  • For some Christians, they believe that the Kingdom of God will be fully realised after death.
  • Some Christians argue this is an event sometime in the future - e.g. the 2nd coming of Jesus & the Last Judgement.

Others argue the purpose of life is to live in a way that values the kingdom;

  • Stewardship - the responsibility of caring for God's creation not just humans but also animals
  • The Old Testament - talks about a new age filled with justice, peace and fulfilment.
  • God will make a new covenant with Creation.
  • Instead of waiting for God to intervene, humans should act and bring about the Kingdom of God on earth through the use of justice.
  • Christians who already try to bring about God's Kingdom see it as a means of giving glory to God - develop their own virtues
  • But from this, they develop a personal relationship with God sustained through prayer and meditation.
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Concept of the Soul

In the beginning, God gave Adam 'the breath of life' - which is interpreted as the soul.

  • Plato argued that there were 2 realities - the imperfect world of humans and the World of Forms.
  • The body perishes at death but the immortal soul returns to the World of Forms before experiencing Reincarnation.
  • Dualism - The soul is distinct from the body - 2 separate substances - The soul defines the person.
  • Holistic view - both the body and the soul are linked and perish at death
  • Psychologists - believe in the psyche - this determines human individuality.
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The Resurrection of Jesus

The resurrection of Jesus forms the very centre of the Christian faith

  • It forms the basis of Christian hope for a life after death
  • What would be the point of life and death if the resurrection was fictional 
  • All Accounts of the resurrection were similar and all had the same information portrayed.
  • Christians are divided as to whether they will rise as a physical body (like Jesus) or as a spiritual body.
  • This event has opened up the possibility for an eternal life after death for humanity.
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Resurrection of the Flesh & Spiritual resurrection

Augustine - Resurrection as physical

  • The Fall (Adam and Eve disobeyed  God) - affected the whole of humanity
  • Humans are dependent on God's Grace to deliver them from the eternal punishment of sin
  • Christ's atonement and his physical resurrection provided the possibility for a continued life after death if God chooses you. 
  • To Augustine, if Jesus' resurrection was physical, then ours will be.
  • This view is also adopted in Roman Catholic Tradition.

Spiritual Resurrection 

This view was adopted by St Paul

  • Some Christians believe that at death the body decomposes back into the ground / destroyed during cremation.
  • However, the soul survives death and lives on with God
  • The Soul may be resurrected into a new heavenly body that had no physical existence on earth
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Interpretations of heaven, hell and purgatory

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory as physical

  • Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory are physical realities
  • Belived by some Fundamental Christians - Protestants reject the idea of purgatory 
  • A Judgment, Christ will return in glory to judge all, those assessed as holy will be taken to heaven by angles - those as sinners will be cast into hell.
  • For Roman Catholics, people undergo a period of cleansing suffering and pain, enabling them to enter Heaven.

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory as Spiritual

  • Those who believe in spiritual resurrection - believe they are all spiritual realities.
  • Modern Catholic teach these realities as spiritual.
  • Purgatory is not a place. Heaven is a Spiritual state and Hell is a realm of torture.

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory as psychological 

  • Some Christians argue Life after death lacks empirical evidence. 
  • Heaven, Hell, and Judgment are products of the human mind (e.g. joy, happiness, sadness)
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Objective immortality - Process Thought

Refer to God cards

  • God and the universe are uncreated and eternal - God did not create the universe from nothing but from a complexity of chaotic and formless matter.
  • God is not omnipotent - he seeks to achieve his purpose through persuasion - leading to complex and intelligent being (humans)
  • God and the universe exist panentheistically - God in the universe the universe in God.
  • Most Process theologians believe in objective immortality - all individuals remain eternally as objects in the mind of God after death - we, therefore, will never die.
  • Process theologians reject the idea of subjective immortality - the main belief held by Christians that after death humans exist as thinking subjects with continued experiences.

Criticisms of Process Theology

  • It is meaningless - if a person no longer has an individual experience - what is the significance of being in God's mind.
  • For Christians the point of life after death is a solution for why there is suffering  - if a person no longer exists, there is no verifiable proof or awareness that there is life after death.
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