Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Response to CQ--Life After Death

And on we go. In this segment of's tract against Protestant Teachings, they discuss more explicitly something that they had touched on in the earlier chapter about Hell--the idea of Soul-Sleep. They also further tip their hat to the fact that they themselves are not Catholic at all.

As usual,'s words will be in blue, and mine in white.

Chapter 4: Be Careful of Protestant Teachings
Life After Death

In the village of Gazeley in England lies a graveyard on the grounds of the Church of England.

On the gravestone of a seventeenth century tomb are these words: "He sleepeth until Jesus comes." No more than twenty or so paces from that grave is a nineteenth century gravestone on which is inscribed, "At home with the Lord."

These represent two incompatible concepts of life after death. Clearly this Church of England had been greatly influenced by the Reformation, for at that time many Bible-believing rectors were teaching that death was an unconscious state. But, as the years passed, the subsequent rectors reverted to the pre-Reformation concept of immediate life after death and the immortality of the soul.

Here we have evidence that is most definitely not a Catholic site. They criticise this Church of England for allegedly "reverting" to a "pre-Reformation" doctrine. Which doctrines were "pre-Reformation"? Those would be the Catholic ones!

Moreover, CQ makes the unwarranted assumption that "Sleeping until Jesus comes" and "At home with the Lord" are two contradictory statements. They surely seem to be, and yet, as I hope to demonstrate throughout this article, they are not.

It is difficult to understand any believing Christian not recognizing the focus of the New Testament writers upon the Resurrection as the great hope of the Christian.

The problem with CatholicQuest's discussion of life after death is that they're half right. I don't disagree with much of what they say about the Resurrection at all! However, their dichotomy between "The Resurrection at the End" and "souls in heaven or hell now" is not a logically necessary one, and contradicted in Scripture. Thus, throughout this article, many times I agree with what they say. I will try to be expressly clear, though, where the Catholic Church agrees, and where we differ.

The great hope of the Church certainly is the Resurrection--hence the Creed: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen." Yet that same creed, two clauses earlier, states a belief in "the communion of saints", historically understood to mean the communion of all those who are united in Christ, living or dead. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraph 1475, states:

In the communion of saints, "a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things." In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin.
Hence we see that the supreme hope of the Resurrection is not therefore incompatible with a belief in the immortality of the soul.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also (John 14:1-3).

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first(1 Thessalonians 4:16).
Amen! Catholics believe these scriptures 100%. Again, we do not deny the important hope of the bodily resurrection!

If death were the liberation of the soul to live in eternal joy and happiness, then death would be the friend of man.

Here is where CQ goes wrong. They equate all beliefs in the immortality of the soul with this one. This Gnostic view of death is alien to the Christian view, and even those Christians who believe that the soul goes either to heaven, purgatory, or hell at death, recognise that this is only an incomplete state, until the reuniting of the body with the soul in the Resurrection, so that we may be complete and glorified, like Jesus after His Resurrection.

Indeed, the sooner we die the better it would be.

I wonder what this group thinks of St. Paul's words, when he writes:
Life to me, of course, is Christ, but then death would be a positive gain. On the other hand again, if to be alive in the body gives me an opportunity for fruitful work, I do not know which I should choose. I am caught in this dilemma: I want to be gone, and to be with Christ, and this by far is the stronger desire--and yet, for your sake to stay alive in the body is the more urgent need (Philippians 1:21-24, emphasis mine).
Paul actually says he desires death. Why? Because through it, he would be present with Christ!

But the Bible does not treat death as a friend, but as an enemy.
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (1 Corinthians 15:26).
And yet, as seen above, Paul regards death as something desirable. How do we reconcile this contradiction? We recognise that while through our deaths, our souls are in heaven, we understand that this fact of death is not the natural order of things, but a consequence of humanity's fall into sin. As such, while there is a good that occurs at death for the sanctified, that death is itself still evil. Further, the good that happens to the sanctified at death, namely, the soul dwelling in the presence of Christ, is a partial and incomplete good, that will only be completed in the Bodily Resurrection. Finally, death is an enemy as well to those who are still alive, for they have been bodily separated from their loved ones. Again, this enemy will be defeated once they are reunited in the Resurrection. As such, death can rightly be regarded as an enemy, and the immortality of the soul can be believed.

The concept of an immortal soul is rooted in paganism. The Greek pagans believed in a soul that eternally preexisted the body; and for a short period of time this good soul was incarcerated in an evil body. This was the basis of the Greek concept that the soul was good and the body was evil. The Greeks joyously looked for the liberation of the soul from the imprisonment of the body.

Here, commits a Genetic Fallacy in this argument. Genetic Fallacy is defined by Wikipedia as:
a logical fallacy based on the irrelevant appraisal of something based on its origin.

It occurs when one attempts to reduce the significance of an idea, person, practice, or institution merely to an account of its origin (genesis) or earlier form. This overlooks any difference to be found in the present situation, typically transferring the positive or negative esteem from the earlier context.

It also fails to assess ideas on their merits. The first criterion of a good argument is that the premises must have bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim in question. Since the origin of a thing has no necessary relevance to its merit, an argument that uses such a premise for accepting or rejecting a claim about the thing in question should be regarded as flawed.

In terms of categorization, the genetic fallacy is a fallacy of irrelevance.
The fact that "Greek Pagans" believed that souls existed from all eternity and were temporarily "incarcerated" in human bodies, awaiting liberation through death (which actually sounds more Gnostic than anything else), is irrelevant to this discussion, because no Christian believes that our souls existed from all eternity and are incarcerated until we are liberated at death. Rather, the Church teaches that God specifically creates each soul at the moment of conception. It also teaches that physical matter and life are good and sacred. These two things completely contradict the "Greek Pagan" philosophy. As such, because pagan Greeks and Catholics both believe in something that could be termed "the immortality of the soul," it is erroneous to assert that Catholics believe the same thing as the Greeks, or that we took that belief from the Greeks.

This concept of immediate life after death far precedes the Greek civilization. The Babylonian kingdom was established by Nimrod. After the flood he became the founder of paganism, the elements of which can be seen in all modern pagan religions. With the abundance of evidence that we have on the issue of mortality and immortality, it would seem unlikely that any Christian could made a mistake; yet this error is deeply tenacious and widespread. The acceptance by Protestants of immediate life after death is perhaps one of the greatest errors, and certainly opens the floodgate toward the spiritism which is rampant within many Christian circles today.

More Genetic Fallacy on top of unproven assertions and conjecture.

The Bible teaches that only God has immortality.
Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality... (1 Timothy 6:15,16).
God alone is immortal in the sense of it being an essential quality for Him. For us, the immortality of our souls is contingent upon His having created them (as a distinct quality in humanity to that of animals). The Catechism states:
364 The human body shares in the dignity of "the image of God": it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:
Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.
365 The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.

366 The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God - it is not "produced" by the parents - and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.
Paul teaches that we are mortal until the return of Jesus Christ. Then only will we be clothed with immortality.
Who will render to every man according to his deeds; to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life (Romans 2:6,7).

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:53,54).
These texts are so clear and closely defined that there is no way in which the pagan concept of the immortal soul can have any credence in Christian teaching.

But again, the Christian understanding of the immortality of the soul is different than the pagan understanding. And the Christian belief in the immortality of the soul is not incompatible with these verses, nor with the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. The fact that the soul survives physical death does not in any way negate the blessed hope of the physical resurrection!

Death is consistently treated in the Bible as a state of unconsciousness, frequently referred to as sleep.
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13, emphasis added).

Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept (1 Corinthians 15:18,20, emphasis added).
Sleep, in reference to death, is a euphemism much like saying someone has "passed away" in our culture. It cannot be seriously taken to mean that death is just like sleeping (do the dead dream?), any more than saying one has "passed away" implies that they've gone on holidays.

Any idea that the dead might have any conscious awareness of what takes place after their demise is wholly denied by Scripture.
For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun (Ecclesiastes 9:5,6).

For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks? (Psalm 6:5).

His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them (Job 14:21).

His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish (Psalm 146:4).
These four references all share the remarkable attribute of being from the Old Testament. While that's not bad per se, it is important to remember that God's Revelation was progressive throughout history, and that doctrines such as immortality and life after death were rather late developments in Jewish theology and only fully revealed and understood through the revelation brought in Jesus Christ. As such, it is important to realise that these books of the Bible (Job, Psalms, and especially Ecclesiastes) not only have no knowledge of a conscious soul after death, but no knowledge even of a Resurrection! It was not until the time of the prophets that the resurrection began to be revealed.

The Second Coming is the awakening of the saints from their death sleep.
Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead (Isaiah 26:19).
This again affirms the resurrection of the body, about which we all agree. But it says nothing of the state of the soul, nor does it contradict the notion of an immortal soul.

The biblical understanding of man's state in death will protect God's people from the most compelling deceptions that Satan and his angels will bring against them just before the return of Jesus. This deception which today is called Spiritism will result when his evil angels personate dead loved ones or great people of the past claiming that they have come back from heaven to give a message to mankind.

Interestingly, Samuel came back from the dead and gave such a message to Saul in 1 Samuel 28:15-19, and Moses and Elijah appeared, talking to Jesus, at His Transfiguration. Hence, there is biblical precedent for such occurrences as Marian Apparitions, etc. It is the message, and whether that message points us to Christ, rather than the messenger, that is important.

But indeed, that message will be a message of deception from the spirits of the arch-deceiver who present themselves as the departed one. Such deception is increasingly common today. Christians who study the Word and follow its teachings will not be deceived. They will follow the Lord and rebuff any such attempts to deceive them.
But even if we ourselves or an angel from heaven preaches to you a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let God's curse be on him (Galatians 1:8).

This is the proof of the spirit of God: any spirit which acknowledges Jesus Christ, come in human nature, is from God, and no spirit which fails to acknowledge Jesus is from God; it is the spirit of Antichrist, whose coming you have heard of; he is already at large in the world (1 John 4:2-3).
What a privilege it is that, should we die before His coming, we can rest until the return of Jesus and be taken to heaven with Him.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Wherefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:16,18).
What a privelege more, that before we die, we could have a Church, the pillar and foundation of truth, to keep us secure in the true faith, so that we are not led blindly by every wind of doctrine. And when we die, and our bodies await that future resurrection, how tremendous to know that our souls will rest with Christ in paradise, ever worshipping Him and interceding for the rest of the Church!

(Category: The Church: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus--The Church and other denominations.
Soteriology: The Four Last Things--Death.)

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