Discussion Eternal Life
What is eternal life and does it exist? How have various religions interpreted the relationship between life and death from a philosophical perspective? What do you believe? Do your beliefs relate to any of the philosophical themes raised in class? What is the nature of free will, and how is free will perceived in various religious traditions? Choose at least two different religious traditions to compare and contrast the understandings of free will. Nietzsche famously stated that “God is dead.” What did he mean by this and do you think it is true? Is morality static or circumstantial? If it is static, how does it remain so? If it is circumstantial, why do you think morality is allowed to change? Which would you prefer? Explain. Choose only one and write about it
Eternal life traditionally refers to continued life after death, as outlined in Christian eschatology. The Apostles’ Creed testifies: “I believe… the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.” In this view, eternal life commences after the second coming of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead, although in the New Testament’s Johannine literature there are references to eternal life commencing in the earthly life of the believer, possibly indicating an inaugurated eschatology.
According to mainstream Christian theology, after death but before the Second Coming, the saved live with God in an intermediate state, but after the Second Coming, experience the physical resurrection of the dead and the physical recreation of a New Earth. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. Just as Christ is risen and lives for ever, so all of us will rise at the last day.” N.T. Wright argues that “God’s plan is not to abandon this world… Rather, he intends to remake it. And when he does, he will raise all people to new bodily life to live in it. That is the promise of the Christian gospel.”
In the Synoptic Gospels and the Pauline Letters, eternal life is generally regarded as a future experience, but the Gospel of John differs from them in its emphasis on eternal life as a “present possession”. Raymond E. Brown points out that in the synoptic gospels eternal life is something received at the final judgment, or a future age (Mark 10:30, Matthew 18:8-9) but the Gospel of John positions eternal life as a present possibility, as in John 5:24.
Thus, unlike the synoptics, in the Gospel of John eternal life is not only futuristic, but also pertains to the present. In John, those who accept Christ can possess life “here and now” as well as in eternity, for they have “passed from death to life”, as in John 5:24: “He who hears my word, and believes him that sent me, has eternal life, and comes not into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” In John, the purpose for the incarnation, death, resurrection and glorification of The Word was to provide eternal life to humanity.