Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.
~ Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791 ~

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Do you really want to live forever?

Christadelphians and indeed all Christians look forward to some form of afterlife where they hope they will live forever. The idea has fascinated humans since the dawn of human existence. Ever wanting to escape our own death, humans have invented countless myths and legends about life beyond the grave.

The Bible, particularly the New Testament, also follows this pattern, promising eternal life to those who follow Jesus, and worship God. This eternal life is described in blissful terms, highlighting the human desire for something better than the life we experience now.

For example:
God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
Revelation 21:4
As an aside, when trying to come up with an explanation for the amount of excessive suffering in the world, believers sometimes argue that pain, suffering and death were somehow unavoidable.  This quote from Revelation would seem to destroy that argument. It is rather ironic for a believer to argue that we live in the "best of all possible worlds", while simultaneously hoping for a better one. Or perhaps the argument is that pain and suffering were necessary in order for "free will" to exist. If so, perhaps the improvement in living conditions they hope for will come via a reduction in freedom. Something to think about perhaps...

What does the Bible say you will be doing for eternity?
I must admit I don't really know for sure. I think it's actually quite vague. It would seem that no one really has a clear picture of it. I wonder why that is. It's the thing that all Christians hope for, and yet no one really knows much about it. If you are giving up on this life in the hope that the next one will be better, wouldn't you at least want some evidence? So far the "brochure" seems a bit thin on details...

But have you ever stopped to think about living forever?
For the record, I personally don't believe anyone will live forever, but it doesn't hurt to imagine...

The first few weeks would be quite exciting, for sure. The first few years would fly past.
Perhaps the first few thousand years would still be interesting.

After a million years or so, you are probably already running out of things to do. Eternity is a very long time.

Yet you have no choice now. You are looking forward to the next million years, and the million years after that. You have perhaps already spoken to every single other human who was made immortal with you. You know everything there is to know about all of them. You have perhaps done and said everything there is to do and say.

But still time keeps going...and going...and going.

My guess is that after a while you will start to realise that you are stuck. You thought it would be eternal bliss and happiness but you start to realise that your perspective is changing. You are looking down a long tunnel that just........never........ends.

It's quite frightening don't you think?

As mortals, the one thing we cannot do is survive our own death. Yet that is the one thing we want most. Once you're immortal, what do you suppose will be the one thing you will want most?

I think that if you were made immortal, eventually the one thing you would want to do is die. But you can't. It's exactly the same as the situation you are in now, but reversed.

But suppose I'm wrong.
The Bible indicates that the immortals perhaps won't get depressed and won't feel anxious. Many Christadelphians believe that they will be changed so that they won't suffer unpleasant emotions any more. But is this a reasonable view? The bible refers to God and the angels as having these same emotions that we do now. God can apparently be displeased, angry, and even feel impatient. Why would it be any different for anyone else who lives forever? Further, if all of these emotions are taken away, will you still be the same person?

What about your character and your personality?

Think back to the type of person you were 10 years ago. Think about how you've changed. Will you keep changing through eternity, or will you stay the same? If you stay the same, which version of "you" will you be? The current version? or the one from 10 years ago?

I suspect many of you will be thinking that these questions are misguided. You might simply trust that God in his infinite wisdom will have something in store for you that you are just going to love.

But what evidence do you have for this view?

After all, God is the one who apparently formed Adam and Eve with the ability to sin (perhaps even the inclination, given that Eve was tempted by her lusts before the sin), and then later punished them when they inevitably did sin. This is the same God who drowned all but 8 people because people didn't do what he wanted. He apparently created all humans but then took sides, commanding some humans to kill other humans, sometimes even wiping out entire cities of men, women, and innocent children. The very same God who could not just simply forgive sins, but required blood to be spilt in order to do so. The God who required a human sacrifice in order to "save" you from the situation he created in the first place.

Is this how you want to spend eternity?

Would you still look forward to it if you had no free will?
Think of all the appealing things you could do right now. Presumably as an immortal you could not do some or all of those things. Certainly you would not have the ability to do things that God doesn't like. That means you will have less free will than you do now. Perhaps a lot less. How highly do you value your freedom? Did you realise that eternal life comes at the cost of some (or most) of your freedom?

I think it's time to revisit that brochure and start asking the agent some tough questions.

Just what WILL you be doing for eternity, and does it actually appeal to you?

Or worse, what happens when you've had enough, and want to hop off the bus...?