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Featured Christian and Baha'i concepts of eternal life, the immortal soul and life after death

Discussion in 'Religious Debates' started by adrian009, Jan 19, 2020.

  1. adrian009

    adrian009 Veteran Member
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    In this thread I'm wanting to explore how concepts of an afterlife are understood in both Christianity and the Baha'i Faith. How are they similar and where do they differ? How do they relate to our purpose in this life? What are the key sacred writings from the Christian Bible or Baha'i writings that would define Christian and Baha'i beliefs. How about some of the scholars from your faiths? What do they have to say?

    I'm also interested in how the after life is viewed in Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism too and how they would compare to either Christianity and the Baha'i Faith. I'm focusing on Christianity and the Baha'i Faith to keep this thread relatively focused and clear. I acknowledge other faiths or the position of no faith may or may not have greater truth than either of these two religion.

    I'll get the ball rolling by starting with some very basic Baha'i concepts.

    The life of the individual begins at conception, when the soul associates itself with the embryo. When death occurs, the body returns to the world of dust, while the soul continues to progress in the spiritual worlds of God.


    “To consider that after the death of the body the spirit perishes,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has said “is like imagining that a bird in a cage will be destroyed if the cage is broken, though the bird has nothing to fear from the destruction of the cage. Our body is like the cage, and the spirit is like the bird…if the cage becomes broken, the bird will continue and exist. Its feelings will be even more powerful, its perceptions greater, and its happiness increased…”


    The world beyond, writes Bahá’u’lláh, “is as different from this world as this world is different from that of the child while still in the womb of its mother.” Just as the womb provides the environment for a person’s initial physical development, the phenomenal world is the arena within which we develop the spiritual characteristics and capacities that we need for our onward journey. Both here and in the next life, we advance with the assistance of God’s bounty and grace. Also important to the progress of our souls in the next world are the good deeds carried out in our names here on earth, and the sincere prayers of our families and friends.


    Life and Death | What Bahá’ís Believe

    There's more that could be said but the Baha'i writings and our official website seem like a logical starting point when discussing the Baha'i Faith. How about Christianity? Where should we begin in analysing what the Bible has to say?

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts. I'm really wanting to better understand the different streams of Christian thought and how it differs from my own beliefs as a Baha'i.
     
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  2. Good-Ole-Rebel

    Good-Ole-Rebel Well-Known Member

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    We are told that the spirit returns to God. (Ecc. 12:7) "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." And, (2 Cor. 5:6-8) "...knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord...willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."

    The spirit of all men return to God, in that they come under His authority. The spirit of the Christian is in the immediate presence of Jesus Christ, the Lord. After which there is waiting for certain judgments. And there is the waiting to receive our resurrected bodies back.

    Good-Ole-Rebel
     
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  3. KenS

    KenS Veteran Member
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    This isn't outside of Christin beliefs. Except I don't understand "spiritual worlds".. are there more than one in your belief system?
     
  4. 1213

    1213 Well-Known Member

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    I think this would be good beginning:

    These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
    Mat. 25:46

    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    Romans 6:23

    For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
    Mat. 5:20
     
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  5. adrian009

    adrian009 Veteran Member
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    Hi Ken,

    Nice to hear from you and happy New Year. I haven’t seen you around for a while so hope all is well.

    I agree the Baha’i concept of an afterlife has similarities with some Christian beliefs though there are clearly diverse and contradictory views about the nature of the soul and afterlife within Christendom. Some concepts such as the life of the soul beginning at conception and continuing on beyond this mortal life dependant on the Mercy and Justice of God may well align with Christian beliefs.

    The Baha’i writings refer in several passages to the spiritual worlds of God on occasion whereas at other times it mentions this world and the next.

    O My Servants! Sorrow not if in these days and on this earthly plane things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain.
    Bahá’u’lláh: Gleanings, p. 329

    Know thou, of a truth, that if the soul of man hath walked in the ways of God, it will, assuredly, return and be gathered to the glory of the Beloved. By the righteousness of God! It shall attain a station such as no pen can depict, or tongue describe. The soul that hath remained faithful to the Cause of God, and stood unwaveringly firm in His Path shall, after his ascension, be possessed of such power that all the worlds which the Almighty hath created can benefit through him.

    http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/religion/bahai/compilations/short/death.pdf


    There are of course at least two worlds beyond this one according to Christian theology, heaven and hell. Add in purgatory and we have a third.
    There is also a concept of heaven and hell in the Baha’i writings most simply be described as nearness to God whereas hell is separation.

    The world beyond this mortal realm is as incomprehensible to us as the fetus is unable to understand the world beyond his mother’s womb. However the Baha’i writings mention that we will be able to recognise those who we have lovingly associated with in this world and be close to them in the next world.

    As to the question as to whether the souls will recognise each other in the spiritual world : This fact is certain; for the Kingdom is the world of vision where all the concealed realities will become disclosed. How much more the well-known souls will become manifest. The mysteries of which man is heedless in this earthly world, those he will discover in the heavenly world, and there will he be informed of the secret of truth; how much more will he recognize or discover persons with whom he hath been associated. Undoubtedly, the holy souls who find a pure eye and are favored with insight will, in the kingdom of lights, be acquainted with all mysteries, and will seek the bounty of witnessing the reality of every great soul. Even they will manifestly behold the Beauty of God in that world. Likewise will they find all the friends of God, both those of the former and recent times, present in the heavenly assemblage.
    ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Bahá’í World Faith, p. 367
     
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  6. KenS

    KenS Veteran Member
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    Thanks Adrian. All is very well and a happy and prosperous New Year to you! Had a great time during the Christmas season!

    Could it be "worlds" here are the galaxies? I think they might be there for a reason

    . :) I'm not a purgatory subscriber.

    If Heaven and Hell are "worlds"--ok. I just understand it as just two worlds... spiritual and physical.

    I think I could agree with this. :)
     
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  7. InvestigateTruth

    InvestigateTruth Well-Known Member

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    Why the spirits cannot live on, and be judged? Why the physical body is required to be resurrected when the Spirit can live on? Did Jesus have a physical body before He was born from the womb of Mary? Does the Father have a physical body?
     
  8. Good-Ole-Rebel

    Good-Ole-Rebel Well-Known Member

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    No The Son did not have a physical body until born of the virgin Mary. The Father does not have a physical body but because both the Father and Son are God, when one sees Jesus physically he is also seeing the Father. (John 14:9) See also (John 14:20) (John 10:30)

    God wanted man with a physical body. Thus man will be judged completely as man.

    Good-Ole-Rebel
     
  9. Jainarayan

    Jainarayan ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
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    Given that Hinduism is more a confederation or commonwealth of beliefs rather than a single religion, beliefs in the afterlife can vary. But I think it's safe to say that the overwhelmingly majority of Hindus believe in rebirth through countless lifetimes. The type and number of rebirths depends on the individual soul's karma. Between births, some people believe there are heavens and hells a soul may make a stopover in. The belief in hell is not one of punishment or torment, but more of a purgatory. A stopover in heaven is a rest between births, the soul can take a breather. Again, not universal beliefs, but, well there it is.

    In chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita Sri Krishna describes the attributes and characteristics of the soul. And while the Bhagavad Gita is not a de facto Hindu "bible", it may be safe to say most Hindus view it this way, which explains it better than I can:

    Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.
    Just as the embodied soul continuously passes from childhood to youth to old age, similarly, at the time of death, the soul passes into another body.
    No one can cause the destruction of the imperishable soul.
    Only the material body is perishable; the embodied soul within is indestructible, immeasurable, and eternal.
    The soul is neither born, nor does it ever die; nor having once existed, does it ever cease to be. The soul is without birth, eternal, immortal, and ageless. It is not destroyed when the body is destroyed.
    As a person sheds worn-out garments and wears new ones, likewise, at the time of death, the soul casts off its worn-out body and enters a new one.
    Weapons cannot shred the soul, nor can fire burn it. Water cannot wet it, nor can the wind dry it.
    The soul is unbreakable and incombustible; it can neither be dampened nor dried. It is everlasting, in all places, unalterable, immutable, and primordial.
     
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  10. adrian009

    adrian009 Veteran Member
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    That's really helpful, thank you. Obviously reincarnation in regards literal transmigration of the soul from one human body to another is a significant religious belief about the afterlife, probably held by the majority of Hindus and many accross other faiths too, especially Buddhism. It may not be the same model of an after-life as is understood by the majority of Christians or Baha'is but it is a model nonetheless. Further it has a scriptural basis as you have clearly demonstrated.
     
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  11. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Veteran Member

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    Hi Ken,

    It seems to me that most Christians separate the body from the soul/spirit. They believe that the spirit goes to be with God in heaven and the body gets resurrected on earth and lives here for eternity. That is very different from Baha'i beliefs, since we believe the physical body once dead returns to dust and the soul ascends to the spiritual world and takes on a new form, a spiritual body comprised of spiritual elements that exist in the spiritual realm. Of course we cannot imagine what that will be like from this world, because there is no point of reference.

    This discussion just reminded me of a video I really like that describes the Baha'i view if the afterlife, it is very short:

     
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  12. KenS

    KenS Veteran Member
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    I'm not sure that is quite correct in the Christian belief system, although I am sure that there may be some that believe along that line (you can find a different in belief systems anywhere, I suppose).

    Yes, we believe the physical body does return to dust and our soul and spirit ascent to the spiritual world. Not that it takes on a new form but it is simply the spiritual body that is comprised of spiritual elements that exist in the spiritual realm (if you would like to use your terms--I don't think it violates our beliefs) even as it exists right now but encased in our corruptible body that will go back to dust.

    However, we will receive another incorruptible body that is no longer made of the cursed ground. Even as Jesus still has his body that wasn't made of the ground.
     
  13. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Veteran Member

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    How can the soul and spirit that ascends to the spiritual world be encased in your physical body if your physical body went back to dust?
    I am kind of confused. Are you saying that first your soul and spirit ascend to the spiritual world and then they come back to earth to join up with your physical body which becomes an incorruptible physical body? Then what happens?
     
  14. CG Didymus

    CG Didymus Well-Known Member

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    Since reincarnation you say has "scriptural" basis, can you review how the Baha'i Faith interprets those verses and/or explains them?
     
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  15. Vouthon

    Vouthon Dominus Deus tuus ignis consumens est
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    @adrian009 Good question!

    Obviously there are a lot of Christian denominations and so, historically, a great number of diverse afterlife doctrines have been advocated by different Christian theologies, ranging from a spiritual disembodied "transition" phase in Hades/Sheol awaiting bodily resurrection to mortalism/soul sleep and the Gnostic pleroma or purely pneumatic ("spiritual") resurrection.

    All of these readings were based upon exegesis of New Testament passages.

    In 2 Corinthians 5:4, for example, Paul employs a metaphor describing the human body as a burdensome but temporary earthly tent. This directly echoes language from the Wisdom of Solomon (9:15):

    • "…for a perishable body weighs down the soul, and this earthly tent burdens the thoughtful mind."
    As Klaus Berger notes, this text offers two verbal parallels to to 2 Corinthians 5:4 ("weigh down" and "tent") and "a third could just as well be present ("groan")". Furthermore, both texts are herein referring to the travails of bodily existence, that is of unglorified, embodied life.

    As already mentioned, in his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul uses the nearly identical image of an earthly body weighing down a soul identified with the "we/I" inhabiting the body:

    For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden . . . .” (2 Corinthians 5:1, 4.)

    The Greek phrase translated as “earthy tent” in both Wisdom of Solomon and 2 Corinthians is not the normative word for tent (skene) but rather the highly unusual skenos which is found only twice in the New Testament (here and in v. 4) in this single passage, and only once in the LXX corpus in Wisdom of Solomon 9:15, where it is used figuratively to refer to the ensouled human body, leading one authority on the Apocrypha to conclude that Paul “had at sometime read this passage and [was] impressed by the Wisdom of Solomon.” Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha at 158.

    Wisdom 8:19-20 states: "As a child I was by nature well endowed, and a good soul fell to my lot; or rather, being good, I entered an undefiled body." As with the exegesis provided of the Pauline paragraph in 2 Corinthians above by many scholars, where it can be inferred that Paul identifies the "we" that inhabits the body with the "inner person" or separable soul; Wisdom likewise differentiates between the "I", identified with the soul, and the body, which the "I/soul" enters and inhabits like a perishable "tent" (Wisdom 9:25).

    This is important for properly making sense of the anthropology in both texts, which is holistic but also dualistic in the sense that (according to Paul) the soul can be temporarily separated from the body at death (described as "nakedness") before being re-joined to a glorified pneumatic body at the resurrection by God, which seems to be subtly implied too in Wisdom 3:7 "In the time of their visitation [resurrection?] they [the righteous souls] will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble."

    Paul was not, therefore, a "mortalist" or advocate of unconscious soul sleep in my opinion but rather a proponent of Hellenistic Jewish "body-soul" duality; just like the intertestamental Wisdom of Solomon, which he was so greatly influenced by, and this dualism was holistic in nature: ultimately looking forward to being "re-housed" in a heavenly, pneumatic body at the resurrection, as opposed to a perpetual disembodied "nakedness" in the Greek sense (as the Corinthians appeared to have wrongly understood it, thereby occasioning Paul's explanation that this wasn't a complete picture without bodily resurrection at the Eschaton).

    Another instance is the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus:

    Luke 16:19-31

    19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.

    The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away
    with Lazarus by his side. 24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’

    27 He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30 He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets,neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”


    Note that the rich man and Lazarus have both died but are conscious in Hades.

    The rich man's brothers have not yet died, so we know that in the background provided in the parable, the resurrection of the dead has not yet happened. And yet the individuals are fully conscious and communicating with one another in an intermediate state.

    Many interestamental texts that were popular among Jews in the first century, such as the Wisdom of Solomon, 2 Maccabees, Enoch and 4 Ezra, advocate belief in post-mortem but pre-judgement existence outside the body in some manner of intermediate state.

    Some helpful distinctions were provided by the early second century church father St. Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.), which help us to identify what seems to have been the most primitive theology of the afterlife in the early church:


    Dialogue with Trypho 80.4:

    "If you have ever encountered any nominal Christians who do not admit this doctrine [i.e. the doctrine of God], but dare to blaspheme the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob by asserting that there is no resurrection of the dead, but that their souls are taken up to heaven at the very moment of their death, do not consider them to be real Christians, just as one, after careful examination, would not acknowledge as Jews the Sadducees or similar sects" (Dialogue with Trypho 80.4)

    St. Justin gives the reader, in this section of his broader argument, a very blunt and uncompromising refutation of the kind of appeals to a doctrine of soul immortality on the basis of immediate, post-mortem assumption into "an otherworldly heaven" which leaves no room for the resurrection of the dead.

    However he also rejects soul sleep/mortalism, believing in conscious existence of the soul in an interim state in wait for the bodily resurrection.

    Indeed, he was a firm believer in the idea of post-death but pre-bodily resurrection consciousness in a "better or worse place".

    The following quotations from his First Apology make his position clear:


    "1 Consider what happened to each of the kings that have been. They died just like everybody else. Which, if death led to unconsciousness,, would have been a godsend to all the unjust. 2 But, since consciousness endures for all those who have existed, and eternal punishment lies in store take care to be persuaded and to believe that these things are true. 3 For conjurings of the dead – both visions obtained through uncorrupted children, and the summoning of human souls – and those whom magicians call “dream-senders” or “attendants” – and the things done by those who know these things – let these persuade you that even after death souls remain in consciousness. " (1 Apology 18.1-3)

    "And in our saying that the souls of the wicked are punished after death, remaining in consciousness, and that the souls of the virtuous remain free from punishment and live happily, we will seem to say the same things as the poets and philosophers." (1 Apology 20.4)

    I do not claim that any soul ever perishes, for this would certainly be a benefit to sinners. What happens to them? The souls of the devout dwell in a better place, whereas the souls of the unjust and the evil abide in a worse place, and there they await the judgment day. Those, therefore, who are deemed worthy to see God will never perish, but the others will be subjected to punishment as long as God allows them to exist and as long as he wants them to be punished.”(Dialogue with Trypho 4.7-5.3)​
     
    #15 Vouthon, Jan 24, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2020
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  16. Vouthon

    Vouthon Dominus Deus tuus ignis consumens est
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    Now, to speak about Catholic ideas about the afterlife in particular @adrian009

    Catholic doctrine obviously presupposes the traditional, tripartite division of heaven, purgatory and hell, which everybody is familiar with, as well as the Abrahamic idea (shared with orthodox Islam and Judaism) of the resurrection of the dead.

    In Catholic Christianity, heaven is called “supreme beatitude” the latter word being Latin for “a state of utmost bliss” and it consists of the eternal enjoyment of the “Beatific Vision”. This state of being is an eternal and unmediated perception of the Essence of God.

    The New Testament itself tells us that the ideal goal is a "peace" beyond all understanding in which the individual is "filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:14-21) described later on by the early desert fathers through the use of the words apatheia (state of imperturbable calm) and theosis (deification/union with God).

    God permits us by grace to share in His own Beatitude, His own happiness or felicity. This is what the state of heaven essentially consists of. Theosis, in this life, is a foretaste of that glorious existence of the Blessed in heaven, whereby we participate in the divine nature (as much as is possible by God's power in this life), through the gift of infused contemplative prayer.

    Heaven, Purgatory and Hell are spiritual states of being (as opposed to physical locations) that occupy no location in space and are even apart from time as well, with the souls of the deceased thought (according to time-honoured, theological speculation) to exist in something mysterious called “aeviternity”.

    It entails a mode of existence which is a form of “participated eternity". It lies between the timelessness of God and the temporal experience of material beings - to us, for all intents and purposes, it is akin to “no-time” - although this isn't strictly true.

    St. Thomas Aquinas explained it all thus in his Summa Theologica:


    newadvent.org/summa/1010.htm#article3


    In this way time has “before” and “after”; aeviternity in itself has no “before” and “after,” which can, however, be annexed to it; while eternity has neither “before” nor “after,” nor is it compatible with such at all.


    There isn't really any succession of moments in aeveternity, as we would understand it. Here is how a Church approved mystic, Blessed Henry Suso, described this state of being from alleged direct, mystical experience (a foretaste of eternity):


    "…Eternity is life that is beyond time but includes within itself all time but without a before or after. And whoever is taken into the Eternal Nothing possesses all in all and has no ‘before or after’.

    Indeed a person taken within today would not have been there for a shorter period from the point of view of eternity than someone who had been taken within a thousand years ago…

    Now these people who are taken within, because of their boundless immanent oneness with God, see themselves as always and eternally existing

    Indeed a person taken within today would not have been there for a shorter period from the point of view of eternity than someone who had been taken within a thousand years ago…

    Now these people who are taken within, because of their boundless immanent oneness with God, see themselves as always and eternally existing
    …"

    - Blessed Henry Suso (c. 1296-1366), German Catholic mystic & Dominican priest (The Little Book of Truth). p320


    We don't claim to know if any individual person is or ever will be in hell. It is simply a possibility, whereby one is "separated from God forever by their own free choice" in a "state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed" (CCC 1033).

    One can expect that most human beings will first undergo purgatory after death, since it seems apparent to the majority of theologians that a sizeable chunk of humanity is neither wilfully evil nor particularly saintly.

    Terrestrial “time” is not part of the doctrine of Purgatory either. Here is what Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in 1988 (before he became Pope Benedict XVI):



    “…The transforming ‘moment’ of this encounter [Purgatory] cannot be quantified by the measurements of earthly time. It is, indeed, not eternal but a transition, and yet trying to qualify it as of ‘short’ or ‘long’ duration on the basis of temporal measurements derived from physics would be naive and unproductive. The ‘temporal measure’ of this encounter lies in the unsoundable depths of existence, in a passing-over where we are burned ere we are transformed. To measure such Existenzzeit, such an ‘existential time,’ in terms of the time of this world would be to ignore the specificity of the human spirit in its simultaneous relationship with, and differentation from, the world…”

    (Ratzinger, Eschatology, p. 230)


    His Holiness reiterated the same point in his 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi:


    Spe salvi (November 30, 2007) | BENEDICT XVI


    The fire of Purgatory which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away…

    It is clear that we cannot calculate the “duration” of this transforming burning in terms of the chronological measurements of this world. The transforming “moment” of this encounter eludes earthly time-reckoning—it is the heart’s time, it is the time of “passage” to communion with God in the Body of Christ. The judgement of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace…

    46. With death, our life-choice becomes definitive—our life stands before the judge. Our choice, which in the course of an entire life takes on a certain shape, can have a variety of forms. There can be people who have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love, people for whom everything has become a lie, people who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves. This is a terrifying thought, but alarming profiles of this type can be seen in certain figures of our own history. In such people all would be beyond remedy and the destruction of good would be irrevocable: this is what we mean by the word Hell. On the other hand there can be people who are utterly pure, completely permeated by God, and thus fully open to their neighbours—people for whom communion with God even now gives direction to their entire being and whose journey towards God only brings to fulfilment what they already are.

    46. Yet we know from experience that neither case is normal in human life. For the great majority of people—we may suppose—there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God. In the concrete choices of life, however, it is covered over by ever new compromises with evil—much filth covers purity, but the thirst for purity remains and it still constantly re-emerges from all that is base and remains present in the soul.


    There is a popular misunderstanding of these states of being, that they are "physical locations". But it is near-impossible theologically, because heaven/hell/purgatory are not bodily phenomenons, as St. Thomas Aquinas explained during the Middle Ages:


    "...Incorporeal things [ie spirits] are not in place after a manner known and familiar to us, in which way we say that bodies are properly in place; but they are in place after a manner befitting spiritual substances, a manner that cannot be fully manifest to us..."

    - Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274), Summa Theologiae, Supplement, Q69, a1, reply 1, Doctor of the Catholic Church


    Or an EWTN article explains:


    Heaven, Hell and Purgatory


    Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him...

    At the General Audience of Wednesday, 28 July 1999, the Holy Father reflected on hell as the definitive rejection of God. In his catechesis, the Pope said that care should be taken to interpret correctly the images of hell in Sacred Scripture:

    "The images of hell that Sacred Scripture presents to us must be correctly interpreted. They show the complete frustration and emptiness of life without God. Rather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy. This is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the truths of faith on this subject (n. 1033)."


    There is no ontological sense in conceptualising heaven, hell or purgatory as places in the same way as corporeal objects in spacetime. You could sort of fudge it by saying "oh but its a special spiritual place for bodiless conscious beings," but since we cannot fathom or relate to this in a physical way, that's akin to denying a location.

    You need to wait till the resurrection of the dead for anything approaching the material, and even in this case we arise as "spiritual bodies" which is to say, not the physical world as we know it but rather glorified matter in which the spiritual soul is paramount (i.e. the resurrected Jesus could appear in different forms, walk through walls and was mistaken for a ghost or disembodied spirit by his disciples before allowing himself to be touched, to get the point across that he had a body).

    This is what St. Paul referred to in 1 Corinthians 2:9 -


    What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived -- the things God has prepared for those who love him


    This is the same manner in which the Beatific Vision of the Divine Essence will be enjoyed by the blessed in heaven.

    So, I think it is really wrong-headed to think of the Catholic afterlife in terms of space or location.
     
    #16 Vouthon, Jan 24, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2020
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  17. KenS

    KenS Veteran Member
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    I'm not sure where I miscommunicated. Your physical body goes to dust and your spirit and soul goes to the spiritual world where Jesus abides. Your physical body stays

    One does return to earth but with a new body. Not the old one. Earth is still populated with people. Then there is a thousand years of peace with the Messiah Jesus reigning the world from Jerusalem
     
  18. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Veteran Member

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    Okay, thanks for explaining your beliefs.
     
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  19. adrian009

    adrian009 Veteran Member
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    It is a very good question CG. I have often heard that if you ask different Hindus questions you will get a different answer. We already have had Jainrayan respond to this thread whose version of Hinduism has more similarities to the Baha’is as he reveres both Krishna and the Bhagavad Gita from which he offered key verses from chapter 2.

    I would offer those same verses and a few other verses from the same text that ISHKON would consider important to understanding what Krishna taught about the nature of the soul and life after death.

    So in Bhagavad-gita, Chapter 2, Krishna continues his discourse with Arjuna who is troubled and perplexed with the moral dilemma of having to face his relatives in battle and Krishna is explaining it is the noble thing to do in these circumstances to fight and Krishna reflects the Eternal Dharma or Universal Truth as to why. An essential aspect of the Dharma is consciousness of the Eternal soul of man that is imperishable and transcendent.

    This is the context where Krishna speaks of the soul using allusions that the soul is beyond birth and death to explain its transcendent nature. These same verses have been interpreted somewhat literally to validate the belief in transmigration of the human soul from one body to the next.

    "That which pervades the entire body you should know to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy that imperishable soul. " (Bhagavad Gita 2.17)

    "For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain." (Bhagavad Gita 2.20)


    "The soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.(Bhagavad Gita 2.23)

    Where Baha’is and Vaishnava Hindus May agree is that the soul and the body are two different entities. The body is temporary and the soul is eternal. His Holiness Krishna later explains:

    "O son of Bharata, as the sun alone illuminates all this universe, so does the living entity, one within the body, illuminate the entire body by consciousness." (Bhagavad Gita 13.34)

    Further from Chapter two;

    "As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death."(Bhagavad Gita 2.13)

    "As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones."(Bhagavad Gita 2.22)
     
  20. adrian009

    adrian009 Veteran Member
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    @Vouthon

    Thank you for your thoughtful posts. Of all those who have contributed so far, you have given the most thoughtful and comprehensive consideration to this question as far as analysis of the diversity within Christendom. I don't have the depth of understanding of Christian theology and philosophy that you bring to the table. As this thread is focused on comparing Baha'i and Christain theology, consideration from a Baha'i perspective (my own based on Baha'i writings) appears the logical next step.

    As you may appreciate, Baha'is recognise the Divine inspiration of the New Testament and the Christian Bible.

    As to the position of Christianity, let it be stated without any hesitation or equivocation that its divine origin is unconditionally acknowledged, that the Sonship and Divinity of Jesus Christ are fearlessly asserted, that the divine inspiration of the Gospel is fully recognized, that the reality of the mystery of the Immaculacy of the Virgin Mary is confessed, and the primacy of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, is upheld and defended.


    Bahá'í Reference Library - The Promised Day Is Come, Pages 108-113

    There is discussion and debate among Baha'is about the authenticity and authority that should be accorded the Bible. I include a link to a paper written by Colin Dubdin in the association of Baha'i studies 1996 that gives a useful overview. Scholars in the Baha'i Faith are accorded no authority in the Baha'i writings that would exceed anyone else's learning, though scholarship and learning are considered highly praiseworthy and meritoroius. So Dubdin in the introduction summarises:

    Although Bahá'ís universally share a great respect for the Bible, and acknowledge its status as sacred literature, their individual views about its authoritative status range along the full spectrum of possibilities. At one end there are those who assume the uncritical evangelical or fundamentalist-Christian view that the Bible is wholly and indisputably the word of God. At the other end are Bahá'ís attracted to the liberal, scholarly conclusion that the Bible is no more than a product of complex historical and human forces. Between these extremes is the possibility that the Bible contains the Word of God, but only in a particular sense of the phrase 'Word of God' or in particular texts. I hope to show that a Bahá'í view must lie in this middle area, and can be defined to some degree.

    Bahá'í teachers and scholars both have an interest in solving this problem. It should be noted at this point that the problem of Biblical authority addressed here is logically prior to that of Biblical interpretation, and the defining of a Bahá'í view is logically prior to engaging in inter-religious dialogue.


    A Bahá'í View of the Bible

    So, my own position lies within this spectrum of belief as you will see.

    As we recognise the primacy of Peter as noted above and is supported by the clear text of the Gospels themselves, Paul is affirmed in the second of Peter's epistles:

    Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
    Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
    And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
    As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
    Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
    But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

    2 Peter 3:13-18

    As you may appreciate the Baha'i Faith has its origins within Islam and Christainity with Judaism. Muslims often see the Bible as corrupted and will accuse Paul of being a key instigator of that corruption. I suspect that factor led a Baha'i to write to our international governing body the Universal House of Justice for clarification wondering if Paul was a 'false teacher':

    Also I would like to know if there is any statement in the writings of Bahá’u’lláh, `Abdu’l-Bahá or the letters of the Guardian that state that Saint Paul “usurped the station of Peter, and that Saint Paul completely “changed the basic message of Jesus Christ.”

    The Universal House of Justice, a body that is conferred with the role of resolving difficult problems responded:

    Apostle Paul, a "False Teacher"?

    So long story short, Paul is accorded a high station in the Baha'i writings. If we are to consider Paul's view on life after death, or any of the Apostolic letters we have an excellent starting point.

    I believe you are correct that 2 Corinthians 5:1-12 are key verses in understanding Paul's theology about life after death. As with every other fool on this forum I googled the topic and immediately found a paper that validates your stance.

    In 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, Paul uses different methods to explain his view on life after death. He uses the metaphors of a tent, a building, clothing and being at home with God. It is clear that Paul accepted that the future with God is certain and that he will receive a building from God in heaven even though he may die. There is life with God even before the final resurrection. A life of bliss is assured for those who believe in God. This has implications for missions, namely that the future with God is ascertained.


    Abode in heaven: Paul and life after death in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10

    The paper concludes in a typically evangelical manner:

    Paul realizes that he will not live till the parousia. He believes that he will immediately be with Christ. He will experience full glory. Heaven is for real. Heaven is not a myth. Paul emphasises the fact that Christian eschatology is radically linked to the belief in heaven and that aspect should be proclaimed in the church of Christ.


    This is essential for mission. The present day emphasis on this life alone does not take into account the glory of Paul's expectation. In mission, it is necessary to proclaim the fullness of the gospel of Christ's expectation of life after death and that the building from God is awaiting the believer. It should be recognised that Paul's explanation is essential for the hope and the comfort of the Christian. In mission, it is possible to spread the comfort of life after death to all. In 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, Paul pleads that all will accept this gospel and be reconciled with God. Being reconciled with God they will also long to receive the building in heaven.

    I would also consider Paul's resurrection narrative in the same epistle, 2 Corinthians 15 essential to understanding Paul's perspective. It no doubt explains too why many Christian narratives about the after life incorporate the resurrection. We begin to appreciate the diversity of Christain thought and there is simply no way the Christian scriptures definitively defines the nature of the soul and what happens after death. This in itself is consistent with Baha'i theology as Baha'u'llah has written the soul is “a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp, and whose mystery no mind…can ever hope to unravel.’ The soul is ‘the first among all created things to declare the excellence of its Creator, the first to recognize His glory, to cleave to His truth, and to bow down in adoration before Him”.

    The Rational Soul | What Bahá’ís Believe
     
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