I was thinking today about Tim Russert from NBC’s “Meet the Press,” a guy in the prime of his life, at the top of the mountain, and suddenly at age 58 – and this really hits home for me – found dead in his office in the midst of his work.
How do you deal with that if you’re an atheist looking at the death of a guy in the prime of his life? Atheists believe that death is the cessation of being so in their view humans are merely bodies and brains, but from the perspective of logic we can demonstrate that the mind is not identical to the brain. We can prove that the mind and brain have different properties, as I do in my book Resurrection.
Not only so, but if human beings were merely material they couldn’t be held accountable this year for a crime they committed last year because physical identity changes over time. Every day we lose multiplied millions of microscopic particles. In fact every seven years virtually every part of our material anatomy changes. Therefore, from a purely material perspective the person who previously committed a crime is presently not the same person. Of course a criminal that attempts to use that kind of reasoning as a defense wouldn’t get very far. From an intuitive perspective we recognize the sameness of soul that establishes personal identity over time.
If I am merely material there is another problem – my choices are merely a function of factors like genetic makeup and brain chemistry so my decisions are really not free. They’re fatalistically determined.
The implications of these kinds of notions are profound. In a worldview that embraces fatalistic determinism I cannot be held morally accountable for my actions because reward and punishment make sense only if we have freedom of the will.
There is, however, an even more profound and persuasive argument demonstrating the reality of life beyond the grave. That argument flows from the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through His resurrection Christ not only demonstrated that He does not stand in a line of peers like Abraham or Buddha or Confucius, but also provided compelling evidence for life after death.
Christianity doesn’t come along at a time of bereavement and give us some clever cliché or some peaceful way to come to terms with death. What it does, however, is it gives us something far greater: a way to overcome death through the power of Christ’s resurrection. We can live today lives of peace and serenity in a world in which we know our tomorrows are not promised for one reason, and one reason alone, and that is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because He lives we know that we too shall live.
Author: Hank Hanegraaff