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Death be not Proud

The Problem of the Afterlife

Series:

Mark Corner

Might people one day live for ever? Would they want to? What sense can be made of ideas commonly referred to in terms of an ‘afterlife’? What about notions of Heaven and Hell, of Purgatory and reincarnation? And in what sort of state are human beings expected to be during this ‘afterlife’ – immortal souls or resurrected bodies (and does either notion make sense)? What about the fact that any ‘afterlife’ concerns not just the fate of individuals but of society (‘communion of saints’) and even the physical universe itself?
This book tries to survey some of the existing arguments about life ‘after’ death, with chapters on material from Christian tradition (particularly the New Testament and the Early Church) and from the philosophy of religion. It then attempts to reach its own conclusions, drawing on Kant and Barth in order to suggest that death is to be overcome rather than survived.

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Chapter Fourteen Having the Same Soul and Being the Same Person 223

Extract

Chapter Fourteen Having the Same Soul and Being the Same Person The last chapter concluded that neither the soul nor the body can meet the demands of establishing personal identity through death, and that it is precisely seeking to address the issue in terms of ‘souls’ and ‘bodies’ that lies at the root of the problem. Unfortunately, there is something of an ‘unholy alliance’ between some theologians and philosophers opposing this view. Despite the fact that most of his book Body, Soul and Life Everlasting is devoted to issues of biblical exegesis, it is clear that for John Cooper the matter of continuity of identity is crucial. He asks the ‘Flew question’, that is to say: ‘What justifies the claim that we have the very same person after death as before, rather than merely an exactly similar copy?’ and claims that ‘all monists … have the problem of personal identity’.1 He argues that only a ‘dualist’ position, according to which ‘we can survive “coming apart” at death, unnatural as this may be’,2 provides the continuous history with- out which our resurrected selves cannot be the same as our earthly selves. Hence the need to believe in a disembodied soul – to be a ‘dualist’ in the sense that body and soul are presumed separable. Paul Badham is another who thinks that belief in a disembodied soul is made necessary by reconstitutionism – or as he terms it, ‘re-embodiment’. His Christian Beliefs about Life after Death claims that most theologians who have...

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