Immortality is in the news this week with the release of Dinesh D'Souza's newest book, Life After Death: The Evidence. Everyone from Rick Warren to Dallas Willard is endorsing the book, which attempts to build a case on empirical grounds for life after death. Even the atheist Christopher Hitchens, who has debated D'Souza, calls him a "formidable opponent."
D'Souza directs his arguments to the skeptic, who generally has trouble believing that God exists. Discounting the existence of God pretty much gets you off the hook in terms of immortality, because if God doesn't exist, then there's no such things as life after death.
But if immortality doesn't exist, then why do we think about it so much? Why do even the most skeptical people like to think there's a heaven, especially when someone they love bites the dust? Christians have a fairly straightforward explanation for this preoccupation, and it's found in the book of Ecclesiastes: "I have seen the burden God has laid on men," the writer of Ecclesiastes observes. "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men" (Eccl. 3:10-11).
If the Bible is to be believed, what this simply means is that people think about eternity and immortality because God, their creator, put the thought in their hearts. Fair enough. But does this constitute evidence, or is there something else we can go on to prove something that is immaterial and beyond our ability to measure?
There are at least three more components to an argument for immortality, assuming we can start with the premise that God exists. If you're a skeptic reading this, you may as well go directly to D'Souza's book. Or check back in a week or so when we will present some evidence for immortality that stands apart from evidence for God. For now, let's take a look at three pieces of evidence for immortality that assume the existence of a supernatural, immortal God. After all, if you already have good reason to believe than an immortal God exists, then you also have good reason to believe that immortality exists. In fact, immortality for created beings is what you would expect from an immortal Creator.
In their book, Beyond Death, J.P. Moreland and Gary Habermas list several arguments based on God's existence that help make the case for immortality. We're going to look at three of them.
The first argument is based on divine imprint. The Bible tells us that God created humans in his image. Obviously, this doesn't mean we look like God (which would be impossible since God is spirit), but we do share some of his qualities. One of these qualities has to do with God's dwelling place. "Heaven is a suitable place for a being like God," write Moreland and Habermas. "Perhaps we are like God in this respect. We were meant to live a type of life suited for a heavenly mode of existence."
The second argument is based on divine justice. Whether they always act on it or not, all humans have a sense of justice. We want justice to be done when someone has wronged someone else (especially when that someone else is us). Yet on this earth, we see a great deal of injustice and inequality. Justice isn't always done. If God is completely and infinitely just, he must deal with injustice. We know he isn't dealing with all injustice in this mortal life, so we can reasonably believe he will take care of injustice in the life to come.
The third argument for immortality is based on divine revelation. This argument simply says that if God exists, and the Bible is his trustworthy message to humanity, and if the Bible contains God's revelation that all people will live forever, then we can take God at his word. Immortality and the afterlife exist.
Next time we will consider some evidence for immortality apart from the worldview that says God exists.