Humans have been thinking about the notion of an afterlife from the earliest of times. Some of the most popular books and movies have been written around this topic, even though few of them have been consistent with the teaching of Christian Scripture. But even without the guidance of the New Testament authors, there are good reasons to believe we will live beyond the grave. The evidence related to the existence of God and the “soulish” nature of humans ought to incline us toward a belief in the afterlife:
There Are Good Reasons to Believe God Exists
While this may seem controversial to those who dismiss the existence of God out of hand, there are several lines of evidence supporting this reasonable conclusion. The reality of objective moral truths, the appearance of design in biology, the existence of a universe that has a beginning and the presence of transcendent laws of logic are best explained by the existence of God.
There Are Good Reasons to Believe God Is Good (In Spite of the Problem of Evil)
Skeptics sometimes point to the problem of evil (in one form or another) to argue against the existence of God (or His good, all-loving nature). But when examined closely, the presence of moral evil, natural evil, Christian evil, “theistic” evil, or pain and suffering fail to negate the existence of God, even as they fail to blemish His righteousness.
There Are Good Reasons to Believe Humans Have Souls
In addition to this, there are many good reasons to believe humans are more than simply physical bodies. The arguments from private knowledge, first-person experiences, part-independency, physical measurements, self-existence and free-will make a powerful, cumulative circumstantial case for the existence of our souls.
There are Good Reasons to Believe Souls Are Not Limited to Physical Existence
While our physical bodies are obviously limited to their physical existence and cease to function at the point of material death, there is no reason to believe the immaterial soul is similarly impacted. If we are truly “soulish” creatures, our immaterial existence can reasonably be expected to transcend our physical limitations.
There are Good Reasons to Believe a Good God Would Not Make Justice, Satisfaction and Joy Elusive
All of us, as humans, yearn for justice, satisfaction and joy. These are good goals and ambitions. A good God (if He exists) would make these expectations attainable for His beloved children.
There are Good Reasons to Believe Complete Justice, Satisfaction and Joy Are Elusive in Our Temporal, Material Lives
Our daily experience demonstrates a simple reality, however: justice is not always served here on Earth (bad people often get away with their crimes), and while we continually pursue satisfaction and joy, we find they are fleeting and elusive.
There are Good Reasons to Believe a Good God Would Provide Complete Justice, Satisfaction and Joy in the Eternal Life He Offers Beyond the Grave
If these worthy desires for justice, satisfaction and joy are unattainable in our material existence, where could they ultimately be experienced? If God has designed us as dualistic, “soulish” creatures, these innate desires could eventually be realized in our eternal lives beyond the grave. If a good God exists (and there are many sufficient reasons to believe this is the case), the expectation of an afterlife is reasonable. Heaven is the place where God will accomplish everything we would expect from Him and everything we (as living souls) desire.
I don’t have to be a Christian in order to take this kind of reasonable approach to the issue. Maybe that’s why many non-Christians have developed similar views on the nature of the next life. Long before Christianity, ancient Egyptians believed the afterlife was a place of final satisfaction and joy for those who were able to obtain a life with the gods in the “Sekhet-Aaru of the Tuat”. The followers of Zoroastrianism believed those who died would eventually be brought back to life and judged so final justice could be served. There are many similar examples of such expectations of an afterlife throughout the history of humanity. Even those who knew nothing of the truth of God’s Word held an intuitive understanding of what the next life might be like. This is still true today. Our non-believing friends and family have an instinctive sense there is more to this life; a sense there must be a place where justice is finally served and where joy and satisfaction will finally be found. They have an innate expectation of Heaven, and they are simply waiting for God to reveal the truth to them. Maybe they’re waiting to hear about Heaven from us, if only we are willing to begin a reasonable discussion.
For more information about the reliability of the New Testament gospels and the case for Christianity, please read Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. This book teaches readers ten principles of cold-case investigations and applies these strategies to investigate the claims of the gospel authors. The book is accompanied by an eight-session Cold-Case Christianity DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.
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