The Essence of Being-Dead: A Brief Note

buryiconRecap, Criticism & Response to the Problem of Adam Pt. 1

My last two articles against annihilationism are titled “The Problem of Adam” (Pts. 1 &2), you can find them here and here. I was unaware of any comments pending moderation until yesterday, when I was responded to by some annihilationists. If you haven’t read the articles, I will summarize part 1 here first, and then part 2 in the next section, but feel free to check the articles out for yourself if you want more details. In the first article, I attack the annihilationist belief that being-dead essentially consists in being a lifeless, non-conscious body. Given the law of transitivity – i.e. If A is B, and B is C, then A is C – the annihilationist identification of being-dead as essentially consisting in being a lifeless, non-conscious body would logically imply that Adam was dead prior to death even existing. This being absurd, it follows necessarily that being-dead cannot essentially consist in being a lifeless, non-conscious body. Thus, those who die, i.e. who are rendered dead, must exist in another state, one that no prelapsarian/pre-fall creature could have experienced, for death did not exist until Adam brought sin into the world.

The first criticism I received is this:

…Regardless of what happens to the man in terms of parts and states after an event of death, he still has stopped living in the sense that he was alive (cf. what Genesis has to say about Adam and Eve as living creatures), and cannot be said to simply go on living in the same sense…

Note the commenter, on the one hand, states that “what happens to the man in terms of parts and states after an event of death” is irrelevant, and yet, on the other hand, states that “he has still stopped living in the sense that he was alive…and cannot be said to simply go on living in the same sense…” This is an inherently contradictory criticism that simultaneously affirms and denies the relevance of the state of the individual pre and post death.

Let me explain.

In whatever way an individual dies, his death results in him being-dead. This being-dead has essential properties that belong to it and it alone. This means that prior to anyone ever experiencing death, there could not be an existential state which shared the essential properties of being-dead.

If being-dead essentially consists in being-lifeless, therefore, then any being exhibiting lifelessness prior to the entrance of death into creation would be-dead. Not only this, but whatever object presently is lifeless should also be said to be-dead. Why? Because its existential state being lifelessness would be identical to the existential state of being-dead, i.e. being-lifeless.

Now, the commenter’s inherent contradiction is clearly demonstrated by his statement that “[Adam] was alive…and cannot be said to simply go on living in the same sense.” For if being-alive has essential properties that cannot being-dead, then the essential properties of the existential state one is in – be it being-dead or being-alive – are absolutely relevant to discussions regarding annihilationism’s logical coherence.

The reason why this is a problem for annihilationists is that the law of transitivity demonstrates that if being-dead essentially consists in being a lifeless, non-conscious body, then Adam, who was lifeless, non-conscious body, was dead prior to death entering the creation. This is absurd, as I’ve said, and therefore must be rejected. And once it is rejected, we see that however one defines the process of death, those who have died are-dead, and their being-dead cannot essentially consist in being-lifeless or being-non-conscious, for these states existed prior to the fall. The process of death, of dying, necessarily entails a state of being-dead once the process is complete. So what does it mean to be dead?

Whatever it means, it cannot mean to be a lifeless, non-conscious body.

Recap, Criticism & Response to the Problem of Adam Pt. 2

My second article received a critical remark as well, so let me first explain the second argument I made. Whereas the first article assumed that the phrase “non-conscious body” was logically cogent, the second article demonstrates that the phrase confuses categories. Consciousness is a property of minds, not bodies.

A commenter asked me the basis for my assertion that “all bodies are non-conscious” and my response was simple:

Logic.

When we talk about consciousness, we are talking about a property of the mind. Thus, rocks are not un-conscious, they are non-conscious, whereas comatose men are said to be un-conscious, i.e. no longer exhibiting signs of externally directed consciousness (i.e. consciousness of one’s relation to a real, external world).

Okay, then…what is a category error?

Wikipedia’s entry on category errors is decent enough for our purposes, so I will quote it here:

A category mistake, or category error, or categorical mistake, or mistake of category, is a semantic or ontological error in which things belonging to a particular category are presented as if they belong to a different category, or, alternatively, a property is ascribed to a thing that could not possibly have that property. An example is the metaphor “time crawled”, which if taken literally is not just false but a category mistake.[1]

Though the initial post regarding the problem of Adam was sufficient to demonstrate that the annihilationist conception of being-dead, i.e. of the essential properties of being-dead, is false and must be rejected. However, I wanted to take the criticism a step further and demonstrate the incoherence of the annihilationist conception of what the state of being-dead consists in.

Conclusion: Why A Recap?

I’ve taken a break from my testimony in order to draw my readers’ attention to the fact that logic is necessary when doing theology and apologetics. If one’s conception of x renders the Scriptures incoherent, then one needs to abandon their conception of x. It is neither rational nor pious to say in response that “Scripture is mysterious” or “I’m just following the Bible.” The Scripture is not incoherent; therefore, any belief that you or I have about Scripture’s teaching that makes Scripture self-contradictory is not of the Lord but our own imaginations. If you hold to a position that causes Scripture to be self-contradictory, you are not “just following the Bible.”

We may use logical analysis to refute false beliefs, in other words, just as our Lord Jesus did. Consider the following exchange between our Lord and the Pharisees in Matthew 22:41-46.

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,

“Sit at my right hand,

until I put your enemies under your feet”’?

If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Note that the Pharisees define the Christ as the son of David. From the context, we can see that what they mean is not simply a descendant of David but a merely human descendant of David. So to the question “Whose son is the Christ?” The answer from the Pharisees is this: The Christ is only the son of David (i.e. not the divine Son of God).

To this, our Lord God responds by pointing out that if the Christ is only the son of David, then David could not properly call him Lord, a term which implies a status only a king over David could properly hold. Thus, if the Pharisees are correct in asserting that the Christ is only the son of David, then it follows that David himself was wrong for implying that the Christ is not only the son of David.

The Pharisees are placed on the horns of a logical dilemma. If they admit that David is right in calling Christ his Lord, his king, then he is implying that the Christ is divine, the Son of God (i.e. not only the son of David). If, however, the Pharisees state that the Christ is only the son of God, then they must, of a logical necessity, identify David’s words as false, for David’s words imply that the Christ is not only the son of David but much more – viz. the divine Son of God.

Logical analysis is indispensable in the practices of theology and apologetics, yet there are many who, because of their commitment to a falsehood, attempt to undermine the significance of any logical dilemmas, contradictions, falsehoods, etc that are implied by their position.

Their refusal to acknowledge the heavy hand of logic will nearly always be couched in pietistic language, words that sound super-spiritual but are really just a smoke-screen for unbelief.

Be on guard against the holier-than-thou rejection of logical inferences, a tactic that seemingly has always been present in the attacks of Christ’s enemies on the truth.

Soli Deo Gloria

-h.


[1] Wikipedia, accessed December 5, 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category_mistake.

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