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Notes on Religious Views on Life After Death Essay

Question is – What are we made of and what survives after death of the body. If anything survives how much of the original identity of that person survives and in what form? People try to answer this by:

Believing in a superior being who has communicated a promise Gathering data about LAD – near death experiences, past life memories that suggest reincarnation, the para-normal Accepting no ‘life ‘after death – we are matter and return to matter and become part of the wider world again Exploring ideas about the nature of body and soul

Some Christians believe death is the event that makes sense of our previous lives and the meaning of death itself is changed in the promise of eternal life. John Hick, ‘ it should not evoke the sickening fear with which we face what we know to be evil… It is a fuller stage in the outworking of the Creator’s loving purpose for his children.

SOURCES Revealed Knowledge – The Bible, Qur’an, Torah etc which tell us of the events others have experienced and what they claim and to those who accept them as revealed knowledge this gives certainty. Christians believe that Jesus was and is God Incarnate, so if he promises eternal life to his followers, he must be trusted. Similarly Muslims trust the Prophet Mohammed as Allah’s chosen messenger – and as he has spoken of paradise, then there must be such a place. Inferential Knowledge – Reasoning that the ideas expressed explain so much that they must be true even if there’s no proof = a belief. Hindus do not have any promise in scripture, but they trust their God loves them and so will e god to them upon death.

In neither case is there absolute proof – the believer trusts that it is true.

Religious views Christian Old Testament – good and bad alike to go to Sheol as ghostlike individuals – Job 14.7-12 There’s hope is a tree is cut down as buds can grow from the trunk but ‘man lies down and does not rise again’. However he also believes that if he has a personal relationship with God which is beyond the trials of this life he will be with God at the end.

New Testament – the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ is at the heart of the belief in LAD,. Jesus’s promise to the good thief crucified with him ‘This day you will be with me in paradise’ only appears in the Gospel of Luke – indicates that he believes in the possibility of paradise for the righteous and the repentant. However the translation of ‘paradise’ could also refer to a pleasant place. Jesus referred to heaven as the place where God lived ‘Our Father which art in heaven…’

Book of Revelations contains visions of Saints whose bloody robes have been washed clean in the blood of the lamb (Christ) in a heavenly city, the new Jerusalem. It is clear there is a heaven after death, which is separate from the last judgment, also known as the second coming, which will happen at the end of time.

The term eschatalogical gap refers to the gap between what’s in the bible and the precise details of the afterlife Purgatory – Roman Catholics only – people have to atone for sin before they can enter heaven – no scriptural evidence for this idea Limbo – not in current use, but Catholics used to believe the unbaptised or good people who’d never heard of Jesus would go here. Protestants believed such people would go straight to hell as God would have called those to be saved. One reference in Peter’s letters ‘The spirits who are in prison’ Reincarnation – some Christians have accepted this in the past – but not currently in use.

Catholics in particular value appearances by Mary (Lourdes, Fatima etc) and other saints after their death as confirming an after life.

Quakers – religious body without creeds and so base beliefs on experience, life experience varies and therefore so do views on LAD. Three main views – bit these are not fixed, all beliefs are personal. 1. The good we have done (and possibly the evil) lives on after we have gone in the lives of those affected – this might be as memories or as the impact of deeds 2. Survival of the Human Spirit as a continuation of this life in a ‘spiritual body’ (St Paul’s term). Some also believe in reincarnation 3. Acceptance of heaven and hell as destinations after death but belief in a Loving God and redemption through Christ means hell cannot be eternal Personal conclusions about LAD are based on individual experiences of the Love of God in this life in spite of the experience of suffering.

Therevada Buddists Nirvana achieved in this life, without substrate and so continuing to live in bodily form is described as a set of qualities in The Questions of King Milinda. He asks Nagasena whether he can compare it to anything in this world to help him understand. Nagasena says it can’t be compared to anything, but its qualities can. E.g ‘As a lotus is unsustained by water, so Nirvana is unsustained by all the defilements’

Islam God has a plan for the whole universe and all human beings At the day of judgement to whole universe will be destroyed and the dead raised to stand before him That day will be the beginning of an unending life on which every individual will be judged and rewarded by God according to their deeds. The Qur’an argues that life after death is vital of make sense of morality. If there is no afterlife then a belief in God is irrelevant.

Hindus believe in certain heavenly states, notably Goloka, Krishna’s heaven for devotees, but there is little justification in scripture. Hindus believe as a God loves his people he must be good to them when they die.

The Resurrection of the Body Key Christian belief is that the individual survives as an individual. Also that the individual is judged as a individual Jesus’s resurrection and ascension is the model we will follow as he was sent to show us the way, the truth and the light.. The Apostles and Nicene Creed both affirm belief in ‘the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come’ Tey also refer to the ‘communion of saints’ which refers to the Church as one body uniting those in heaven and those on earth. The point of the Creed is to reinforce belief in the face of challenges

Christians believe that man can be saved as a whole, body and soul man can glorify God through his body as he is made in the image of God, the body can become a sacrifice to God and also a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, (Corinthians 6.19-20,Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?). Also Christ at the Last Supper gave his Body and Blood as a means of salvation, so the human body is important On the same day as jesus’s resurrection Matthew’s gospel reports dead prophets rising from their graves – indicating a bodily resurrection.

Paul speaks of us dying and rising with Christ in Baptism as a spiritual experience (Romans 6.5-11) but he is clear that the body will be resurrected after death – however in 1 Corinthians 15-50 he also says ‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Irenaeus and Tertullian both interpret this to mean that flesh is resurrected for judgment and that the Spirit must be present in the flesh to enter heaven. The Creed also affirms belief in the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthains 15.35-50 Paul is asked ‘How are the dead raised?’ He uses the analogy of a seed and a bulb to show that something completely different can arise from a source. At h time there was a commonly held belief that the flesh would be resurrected – the corpse – Paul tried to make it clear that the ‘body’ refers to the whole personality and person, both inner and outer. Through Adam we are part of the physical sphere and through Christ we are part of the spiritual sphere – Christ was man and God together we are physical body and spiritual body together. Paul does not describe the spiritual body.


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