I’ve struggled with whether God exists, but the question of whether my soul exists (including whether my individual consciousness exists) has never really given me much trouble.
It seems almost trivial to me to infer that—even under a purely materialistic view of the universe—if human consciousness can arise from the energy delivered by the Big Bang, then surely human consciousness can return to and be stored intact in some kind of energy.
One can imagine human consciousness present with a human body, but can’t possibly imagine human consciousness being present in a place resembling heaven?!?
That would be like saying one can imagine a song on a CD, but can’t possibly imagine a song on that CD being stored on a cloud server (or on a streaming server).
Heaven: The Supernatural Cloud Server
But storing energy would be a materialistic heaven. That’s not the supernatural heaven and supernatural soul of the Bible.
I am not saying that the soul is some collection of energy from our body.
My point with this somewhat clunky analogy: It seems highly likely that you and I each have something associated with us that can fairly be called a soul—something beyond our material selves alone.
Seems Easy Enough
It is also not hard to imagine that there is something about our bodies that relates to our consciousness that has not been discovered that also relates to our soul.
Honestly, just look at another human being. You can see that they have a soul. Try it. It’s there.
The more immediate question, to me, is what happens to our souls when we die?
Consciousness Lives On
Newsweek published a thought-provoking article earlier this week describing research that it says seems “to suggest that when our brains and bodies die, our consciousness may not, or at least not right away.”
The article, “Where Do You Go When You Die? Increasing Signs That Human Consciousness Remains After Death,” reports on the research of Dr. Sam Parnia, director of critical care and resuscitation research at New York University Langone Medical Center.
Newsweek explains that “Parnia’s research has shown that people who survive medical death frequently report experiences that share similar themes: bright lights; benevolent guiding figures; relief from physical pain and a deeply felt sensation of peace.” Medical-death survivors who died on an operating table are sometimes able to recount objective details of the doctors’ actions from the viewpoint of an observer that are verified by the doctors themselves.
“I don’t mean that people have their eyes open or that their brain’s working after they die,” Dr. Parnia told Newsweek. “That petrifies people. I’m saying we have a consciousness that makes up who we are—our selves, thoughts, feelings, emotions—and that entity, it seems, does not become annihilated just because we’ve crossed the threshold of death; it appears to keep functioning and not dissipate. How long it lingers, we can’t say.’”
Sources & Notes
The Newsweek article:
Kastalia Medrano, “Where Do You Go When You Die? Increasing Signs That Human Consciousness Remains After Death,” Newsweek, February 10, 2018, http://www.newsweek.com/where-do-you-go-when-you-die-increasing-signs-human-consciousness-after-death-800443.
Steve, There is a lot in scripture to verify the existence of life which is not part of this physical world. It is not studied much and all the 60 years I have been a Christian I do not remember lessons being delivered to prove those concepts. But, in these latter years many are denying the Spirit/Soul which lives beyond this physical death. When Jesus was here on earth he displayed his power over evil spirits which no man could see. Remember Legion and the swine? Mat 8:28-32 ASV And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, there met him two possessed with demons, coming forth out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man could pass by that way. (29) And behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? (30) Now there was afar off from them a herd of many swine feeding. (31) And the demons besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, send us away into the herd of swine. (32) And he said unto them, Go. And they came out, and went into the swine: and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep into the sea, and perished in the waters. The best story is in Luke 8:26—.
In all of prior history no such event was recorded, yet there has been many records made of supernatural beings. For what purpose would you think that men were taught that demons could inhabit a body as in these examples? Is that still happening today?
Some say yes, but in my opinion that is one of the powers of Satan that Jesus bound. It is bound in the effect that no force external can force its self on a man today unless the individual allows it. That said, notice a communication from Peter. 2Pe 1:13-14 ESV I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, (14) since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.
Check that out in many translations. Notice the description his of dual body as Peter speaks, noting that he explains that Jesus identified this to him. Put this to the test.
Thanks for your note.
Yes, I remember Legion and the swine.
You asked “For what purpose would you think that men were taught that demons could inhabit a body as in these examples?” I don’t know – probably at least to show the power of Christ and his relationship to the supernatural and to help show he was divine. “Is that still happening today?” I don’t see any reason to think that demons are not still active. You could be right that Jesus restricted that power of Satan and/or of the demons before he left Earth, leaving us only or mostly with human-generated evil and natural evil (for lack of better term – tsunamis, cancer, and the like), which seems to be enough evil that we don’t need demon-generated evil on top of it. But, again, I just don’t know and that particular question isn’t something I’ve thought deeply about it.
2 Peter 1:13 seems ambiguous. Hard to know if Peter is referring to his spirit separate from his soul or is just a further metaphor for dying. (NLT translate it as “For our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me that I must soon leave this earthly life,”).
This is an interesting subject, one I should dive in to some time.
I am in firm agreement that consciousness continues to remain intake, even after death. Since we are in agreement about this, it raises some questions.
1. To what extent do you believe in the concept of Heaven and Hell? Are they just metaphors or are they literal places?
2. If you do believe that Heaven is a literal place, do you think belief in the Gospel is a requirement for entrance into Heaven? If it’s not a requirement, does that minimize the power of the Gospel? Or, if Heaven is not a literal place, does that minimize the power of the Gospel (after all, we all operate on incentives and if there is no reward for the sacrifice in this life, how can that be existentially compelling)? For me, consistently pursuing the good and the true depends largely on the existential belief that God will reward faithfulness and punish injustice. Without that, the existential fuel would dissipate.
Hi Anthony, Thank you for your comment / questions.
On (1), I think heaven as a “place” is well attested and have no hesitations on it. What exactly place means here, that is a different question. I don’t know.
Hell is much less so attested, and I have lots of hesitation about it. How can heaven be what heaven is represented to be if and when people I love aren’t there?
As one of my favorite folk singers says, any kind of heaven everybody doesn’t get in won’t seem like heaven to me. With hell’s likely absence from the OT, and the questions raised about its alleged expressions in the NT (e.g., Gehenna as a trash fire, metaphor v literal description, etc.) and the ambiguity there (e.g., fire of an everlasting torture vs of annihilation vs a separation from God) and questions around duration (e.g., infinity vs temporary) and as permanent (e.g., can make a different decision once arrive), the contradiction with the concept of a loving God, etc., etc., I don’t think folks who don’t believe in hell, at least as generally expressed, are unreasonable.
For me, I haven’t rejected it and haven’t embraced hell, either, and I have a lot of doubt about it. It isn’t something I’ve really deep-dived on. I don’t think I’ve ever written on it.
I’ve had a book sitting on my shelf as to-be-read for some time called Four Views on Hell: Second Edition (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). I’ve heard good things about it as source that takes a thoughtful and scholarly look at the questions in a balanced way. I hope to get around to reading it sometime soon.
On (2), I hope that everybody gets into heaven. I suppose your question in part depends on what you mean by “the Gospel.” For me, the power of the words and deeds of Jesus, coupled with his resurrection, cannot be minimized. Whatever it establishes and provides, it establishes and provides. If it is universal, regardless of a belief, I think that would be great, and I suppose that would maximize its power.
I don’t think I view or act as you expressed (“God will reward faithfulness and punish injustice. Without that, the existential fuel would dissipate.”) as I think that a Christian’s desire to act in conformity with the desire of God is an act of love and relationship, rather than an act of transaction (do good, get rewarded, do bad, get punished), at least in its preferred form.
Hope that helps.