Christian Apologetics - Lesson 30

Final Thoughts

When contemplating life after death, remember, Jesus has been there and come back. Will you commit your life to him or reject him?

Ronald Nash
Christian Apologetics
Lesson 30
Watching Now
Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts


I.  Life After Death


II.  The Most Important Question


III.  Naturalistic Worldview


IV.  Mind, Soul, and Body


V.  Book XIX of Augustine's City of God


VI.  Intellectual Recognition vs. Commitment


VII.  The Most Convincing Evidence


VIII.  Jesus Has Been There and Come Back

  • Introduction to Apologetics.

  • Apologetics involves finding evidence and presenting arguments to defend the Christian faith.

  • Two prominent worldviews are Christian theism and naturalism.

  • The law of non-contradiction states that A cannot be B and non-B at the same time and in the same sense.

  • Explanations and responses to different worldviews.

  • If God is good and all powerful, then why does evil exist?

  • Discussion about how the existence of evil is consistent with God's character.

  • Your noetic structure, presuppositions and view of epistemology are important elements in the formation of your worldview.

  • Discussion of deductive presuppositionalism vs. inductive presuppositionalism.

  • Objections to inductive presuppositionalism.

  • Arguments for and against evidentialism.

  • Arguments for and against foundationalism.

  • Discussion of natural theology.

  • There are valid, sound and cogent arguments for the existence of God, but no coercive proofs.

  • Discussion of different arguments for God's existence.

  • One version of the cosmological argument for God's existence emphasizes God as first in time, another emphasizes God as first in importance.

  • A possible world is a way the real world could have been. Modal logic, propositions, state of affairs and eternal entities are some of the considerations when discussing a possible world.

  • Something is logically possible if its description does not include a logical contradiction. The existence of the laws of knowledge refute the system of naturalism.

  • Middle knowledge is a form of knowledge attributed to God by Molina.

  • Miracles are a dividing line and central to Christianity.

  • David Hume's rational arguments against miracles and responses to those arguments.

  • Two miracles central to Christianity are the incarnation and resurrection.

  • The question of whether or not Jesus is the only savior touches on pluralism, inclusivism and exclusivism.

  • Pluralism is the view that all religions have salvific value.

  • Inclusivism is the view that even though the work of Christ is the only means of salvation, it does not follow that explicit knowledge of Christ is necessary in order for a person to be saved.

  • Salvation is totally the work of God and all children who die in infancy are elect of God.

  • Discussion from a biblical perspective of God's character and attributes.

  • Open theists believe that God does not have a perfect knowledge of the future.

  • Divine omnipotence and divine omniscience are two attributes of God.

  • When contemplating life after death, remember, Jesus has been there and come back. Will you commit your life to him or reject him?

These lectures were given at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida during the fall of 2001.


Dr. Ronald Nash
Christian Apologetics
Final Thoughts
Lesson Transcript


[00:00:02] I want to deal with the stuff that's in the last chapter of the Faith and Reason book and Life's Ultimate Questions. I know you didn't bring this book with you, but let me just read the beginning of chapter 20. Okay. And notice what I do in both of these books is I say to my reader, of all of the most important questions in life. Do you know what the most important one is? Will a man live after death? And any worldview that doesn't offer us not just a guess, but a really solid answer. Any worldview that doesn't give us an answer to that question is a worldview that we have a right to look beyond. Let's look at page 275 Unfinished business. Boy, there's an original title. Mm hmm. Shoot the first before I bring this book to a close. Several pieces of unfinished business require attention. The first is the important matter of survival after death. Human beings do not want to admit that death means the termination of our existence as conscious persons. That's true. Human beings want an answer to the problem of death. If there is no answer to the question posed by death, if there is no hope beyond this life, then of course we must attempt to make peace with that fact. Now. I've been kicking naturalism around all through this book, remember? I'm not I wasn't very kind to naturalism, but they deserve it. Read everything I did to them. But since a naturalistic worldview closes the door on any possibility of survival after death. Anyone who was a naturalist must approach life with the conviction that someday everyone he or she loves and everything he or she values will cease to exist for him or her.


[00:02:32] However much they may long to survive death. Consistent naturalist must treat the appearance of this desire as a superstitious relic of a pre enlightened period in their lives or in the life of the species. And so naturalistic presuppositions do rule out any hope of personal survival after death. But now a more basic question comes to the surface. At this point why would anybody in his right mind choose to be a naturalist? I'm adding a few words there. As we've seen, there are plenty of reasons to look elsewhere for an adequate and rational worldview. We have found good reasons to consider favorably an alternative worldview that happens to teach that we live in a universe in which personal survival after death is possible. And there are better reasons to believe in that worldview than there are no reasons to believe in naturalism. As it turns out, a properly informed Christian view of the self and the survival of that self after death is more complicated than many friends and many enemies of theism recognize because of some of these subtleties. The Christian position is often misunderstood or misrepresented. And because of this, many attempts to defend it and attack it, miss the mark. Now, I'm not going to sit here and read everything, but I do. I do. I felt the need at this point of dealing with a serious objection to the materiality of the human soul and, of course, the existence of the soul as opposed to the body and the brain and all of that. So I came across some interesting work by a philosopher named William Rolle. Now, I believe firmly that William Roe grew up in a Christian home. I could give you my reasons for that belief. This is a guy who clearly has personal familiarity with a reformed worldview.


[00:04:41] And so I formed the belief, rightly or wrongly, that William Roe's parents were godly Presbyterians. And he became an atheist. But William Roe, who at the time he wrote this, was head of the philosophy department at Purdue University. He called himself a friendly atheist. Now, I've always decided that if I'm going to be dealing with an atheist, I'd rather be in the presence of a friendly atheist. Now, let me explain what role meant by that. A friendly atheist is a person who believes that somebody else can be rational while believing in the Christian God, even though he, the friendly atheist, doesn't find those arguments especially persuasive. Now, one of the reasons William Rowe was a friendly atheist is because he had become a personal friend of Alvin Plantinga and some of these other solid Christian philosophers. And Rowe just couldn't say. Well, Al, speaking to our Plantinga, you're you're a dumbbell. Because he didn't want to pay the dollar fine for saying that. So anyway, I'm reading through Bill Roe's philosophy religion book. And he comes up, he he starts dealing with the question. Let me find it here. Well, forgive me for reading to 76 the last quotation from Bill Rowe. And this. You've got to all admit that this this is a problem that has concerned you from time to time. The evidence we have indicates that our mental life is dependent on certain bodily processes, especially those associated with the brain. Now, if you're a Christian, if you're a philosopher of a certain kind, you know that you don't want to confuse the soul with the brain. The brain is a part of the body. The soul is not. Now, back to Roe. We know, for example, the damage to various parts of the brain results in the cessation of certain kinds of conscious states, such as memories, thought processes and the like.


[00:06:59] My 86 year old mother who will never listen to this tape. She had an MRI when she moved down here to be with us. The doctor looked at the MRI and he said, I can see the deterioration of her brain on the outer limits of the brain. That means not necessarily Alzheimer's, but certainly dementia. Well, my mother my mother doesn't remember what happened yesterday or the day before. You know, certain things happen to a human being when bad things happen to the brain. It seems eminently reasonable. I'm now reading from Roe to infer from this that consciousness is dependent for its existence on the existence and proper function of the human brain when at death the brain ceases to function. The reasonable inference is that our mental life ceases as well. That's a serious problem, and I don't think a good apologetics course will remain silent about that. Okay. What do we say when somebody says, well, look, he was in an automobile accident. His head went through the windshield. He can't remember. He can't think. His personality has changed. He had a brain tumor. Okay. Now, Roe himself offers an interesting analogy. I know you don't have the book, but this is page 277. Roe thinks that the the atheists objection here may depend on a false analogy of how the mind and the body are related. And so here's what he says. If we think of the mind as a person enclosed in a room. Now, let's draw a picture here. Here is a person. This person is enclosed in a room and. The only access, presumably, that that person has with the outside the world. Outside that room is a window. Okay, now let's keep reading. If we think of the mind as a person, this this person is an analog for the human mind.


[00:09:13] We can readily understand the dependance of mental functions on the body without having to suppose that with the death of the body, the life of the mind must cease. For while a person is enclosed in the room. Experience of the outside world will depend on the condition of the window. As long as the person is in the room, the person's contact with the outside world is dependent upon the window. As long as a human mind. There's contained within our bodily existence. Our contact with the outside world is dependent upon the window, and the window would include the brain and other physical functions. That's the analog. This is the body, this is the brain, etc.. Okay, now let's keep going. Board up the window. Partly or completely, and you will affect tremendously the sorts of experiences the person in the room can have. If you close that window, then obviously the person's access to the outside world becomes impossible. So too. When the human person is alive and a body changes to that body, particularly the brain, will have considerable effect on the sorts of mental experiences the person is capable of having. But perhaps now this is an atheist talking. But perhaps bodily death is analogous to the person gaining freedom from the enclosed room. Death, let's say, puts the person outside the room. That means he's no longer dependent upon the window for his contact with reality. As death after death, perhaps the mind loses its dependency on the bodily organs, such as the brain. The mere fact that the mind is dependent on the functioning of the brain while the mind is associated with a living body, is no more proof that the mind will cease functioning at bodily death. Then is the fact that the person is dependent on the window while he or she is in the room.


[00:11:40] Prove that when the room and the window are no more, the person will cease having experiences of the outside world. Now I have not found that kind of reasonable. Handling of this issue in any other writing. And the fact that I find it in the writings of an atheist, albeit a friendly atheist. Is. I think this is this is helpful stuff in apologetics now. RO being a friendly atheist says. Now he's going to come back at us. And he's he's going to he's going to critique it. And you can read what he says there. He's got this good analogy, but his worldview and his paradigms and his presuppositions are going to lead him to come up with objections. But I don't I don't think his objections work. I don't think they work at all. Now I then go on in chapter, this last chapter, to spend 1 to 3 or four pages expounding one of the greatest books you can ever read. It's Book 19 of August and City of God, where he talks about peace, eternal life, and the highest good. One of these days I'm going to preach a sermon on that book, 19 of August and City of God. But until I can preach a sermon on it. Let me tell you this. I think that is one of the greatest books that any of you could ever read. And what I do here is give you an introduction to that. But then I closed this book. I still am going to close this book in a moment. I closed this book in a good Baptist way. You can say amen. Same. Or you had. You don't know what I'm going to say yet. Oh, okay. That's okay. But what I do is this.


[00:13:48] If you've read this book and you're persuaded that the Christian worldview is, in truth, superior to any other worldview that is out there, we may still have a way to go. Because what all of us needs is not just a theoretical grasp of a worldview. We need an existential. Acquaintance with the living God. And I say here, if this book ends without my helping you understand that you've got to go beyond a mere intellectual grasp. Of a world view, albeit the best world view that's out there. I will have failed in my task. And I quote here from. Well, John Stott or Steve Evans, let me quote Steve Evans, who's now teaching at Baylor University. There is a gap. This is page 24. There's a gap between an intellectual recognition of who Jesus is and a commitment to him. Logically, it would seem that anyone who admits that Jesus is the Son of God should be willing to follow him and obey him. It is a truth which ought to transform their lives. But in fact, there are many people who will give at least verbal assent to the proposition. Jesus is God, but who do not seem to care very much about Jesus or even pay him much attention. It is clear then, that what is necessary to become a Christian is not merely acceptance of a proposition on the basis of evidence, but a change in a person's whole orientation to life. I think even a Presbyterian can say amen to that. Thank you. Okay, now. The conclusion of this book. If you brought it, turn to the end. What I do here is I again talk about the mind body problem and the possibility of life after death and so on. But again, the arguments are philosophical.


[00:15:53] In fact, there's even a repetition of some of the ROE stuff. Yeah. In fact, the the whole of the ROE stuff in here. But when I come to close this book. Let me read the last three paragraphs. Okay. And if you didn't bring your book, that's fine. Just close your eyes and listen. Christian theism does more, therefore, than provide a conceptual framework in which survival after death is possible. It goes further and promises eternal life to humans who meet certain conditions, as Jesus said, on the resurrection, on the life He who believes in me will live even though he dies and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Needless to say, if Christian theism is true, the person who spoke those words was God incarnate and conquered death and his own resurrection from the dead Crete and to Chile to Roman Catholic apologists. And they wrote a very good book, Handbook of Christian Apologetics, published by InterVarsity. Craft into Chile. Ask an obvious question that is less than obvious for many people. What would be the most convincing evidence for life after death? Skeptics would probably reply only if we could put our hands into the wounds of a dead man. Who had risen again and showed himself to us. Could we be absolutely sure that there is life after death? Only then would we have a sure and certain hope of the resurrection. Even this evidence, however, will not convince one whose will is set and whose mind is made up in the wrong way. Christ did rise and was seen and touched. Christians are assured of life after death, not just through argument, but also through eyewitnesses. The church is that body of witnesses, the chain of witnesses, beginning with the apostolic eyewitnesses to the resurrection.


[00:17:51] And then I quote from craft and to Chile, great quote. Thus, they say the Christians answer to the most skeptical question of all What do you really know about life after death, anyway? Have you ever been there? Have you? Have you come back to tell us? The Christians answer is no. I haven't been there and come back. But I have a very good friend who has. Well, I wish I'd written that, but I did, because I quoted it in here. Okay. No, I have, But I haven't been there and I haven't come back. But I have a very good friend who has. Well. Okay. We've done everything we can. We haven't said it. Covered everything that's in your books, but you've got you on the books and you can read them, and I hope you'll continue to read them even when the course is over. Thank you for listening to this lecture. Brought to you by biblical training, dawg. Your prayers and financial support enable us to provide a biblical and theological education that all people around the world can access. Blessings. As you continue to study and live out your faith and as you grow in your relationship with the Lord.