Salvation by Natural Instead of Supernatural Means

What is your view NT Wright’s view that the Second Coming will not lead to a destruction of the Earth and all of us go to a new Heaven, but that Heaven will come down and combine with Earth?

Hitchens has elsewhere described Christianity as a death cult, so focussed on the world to come that many Christians ignore and not try to improve the world they live in today

Heiser’s view links into that - what if, perhaps due to humans attempting to improve who they are, what they do, and by science, do bring about a New Heaven here on Earth? Where humans do actually no longer die in the future - by science?

What if, perhaps, the Humanist viewpoint that which will bring about NT Wright’s heaven on earth, because the Humanists are the one who are following the commands of love one another?

Or do the Christians here disagree, that humans searching for immortality or heaven here on earth is arrogance and the wrong thing to do?

Is perhaps the disagreement be regarding a naturalistic human-made eternal life vs a supernatural God-given eternal life?

If God uses evolution to create man, then why can’t God use human science to give humans eternal life?

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@Witchdoc, this is a fascinating discussion, but can you please keep it on topic rather than endlessly branching out onto many others?

My apologies.

I do like to see where various things logically end up.

If God uses evolution to make humans (with many deaths along the way), why cannot God use science to lead humans to eternal life?

What if Christianity had got the order wrong - we sin because we have not lived long enough? The longer we live, the wiser we become, knowing the difference between Good and Evil - We commit evil because we are not old enough to be wise enough.

kinda like Ideal Observer Theory - The older and wiser, we become more like the ideal observer

Ideal observer theory - Wikipedia.

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It’s a long story, but you sort of hinted at the answer already - in the Christian vision, the true ultimate goal of humanity is not eternal life per se but the Beatific Vision - deep, intimate, indescribable communion with God that can only happen through God’s supernatural grace, not through our own natural striving. So even if technology can eventually significantly extend our lives, it is still finite and limited. (Eventually the heat death of the universe will occur, no matter how advanced the civilization.) To break out of this cycle one needs something more which transcends the natural order.

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It’s a long story, but you sort of hinted at the answer already - in the Christian vision, the true ultimate goal of humanity is not eternal life per se but the Beatific Vision - deep, intimate, indescribable communion with God that can only happen through God’s supernatural grace, not through our own natural striving.

That sounds rather Calvinist - we are Totally Depraved, and only by God’s (Irresistable) Grace are the Unconditional Elect saved.

Meaning that there is no point - God decides who can and will be saved.

I think both atheists/agnostics and NT Wright would see that as an excuse to be lazy, where only God’s grace brings about change instead of humans trying to bring about Heaven on Earth.

But the language of heaven in the New Testament doesn’t work that way. ‘God’s kingdom’ in the preaching of Jesus refers, not to post-mortem destiny, not to our escape from this world into another one, but about God’s sovereign rule coming ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.10 The roots of the misunderstanding go very deep, not least into the residual Platonism that has infected whole swathes of Christian thinking and has misled people into supposing that Christians are meant to devalue this present world, and our present bodies, and regard them as shabby or shameful.

Heaven, in the Bible, is regularly not a future destiny, but the other, hidden dimension of our ordinary life – God’s dimension, if you like. God made heaven and earth; at the last, he will remake both, and join them together for ever. And when we come to the picture of the actual End in Revelation 21—22, we find, not ransomed souls making their way to a disembodied heaven, but rather the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth, uniting the two in a lasting embrace.12

Resurrection, by contrast, has always gone with a strong view of God’s justice, and of God as the good creator. Those twin beliefs give rise, not to a meek acquiescence in injustice in the world, but to a robust determination to oppose it. It is telling that English evangelicals gave up believing in the urgent imperative to improve society (such as we find with Wilberforce in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries) about the same time that they gave up believing robustly in resurrection and settled for a disembodied heaven instead.

–NT Wright, Surprised by Hope

As NT Wright appropriately asks, why are we not treating injustice? Seeking to improve society? Bring and make Heaven on Earth?

You have a busy mind. Regarding Hitchens, one could quickly cite a lot of Bible passages why he’s wrong to apply what he says to Christianity. I think I can say unequivocally - no Christian who understands his faith correctly loves death. Sometimes I think ideas about the rapture are just a cheap escape from the problems of this world - but there are many “solutions” that offer such escapes.

I’m not sure I can disagree, given my view that evolution leading to humans doesn’t really make sense of the cross and I think it also doesn’t make sense of Jesus’ return.

Is there scientific evidence to show we can more quickly make correct moral judgments with age? Is it universal?

Read Revelation - and 2 Peter 3 is quite clear. What do you think a biblical position should be?

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be [d]burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

This has parallels to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s “Omega Point”.

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You’re confusing God’s role in election and salvation with how salvation unfolds in history. Nothing I said necessitates heaven being some sort of Platonic escape from our corrupt earthly bodies. In Reformed theology, humans are corrupt - not just their bodies, but their very souls and wills. God’s supernatural grace ultimately restores the whole human person, not just their souls. None of this is incompatible with Wright’s view that God’s sovereign rule will come to earth one day. In fact, some Reformed theologians have held postmillennialist views of the eschaton, where Jesus will only return once the whole world has become righteous, prosperous, and Christian. It is conceivable that postmillennialism could be combined with the idea of “salvation by technology”. (In fact, Christian transhumanism is a thing, although it’s not currently popular yet.)

The important divide here is whether technological is merely an accidental means to salvation, or if technology is the essential means of salvation itself. Most Christians would be fine with the former, such as using technology to better human lives in general and to support the spread of the Gospel in particular. Most would disagree with the latter - the most important goal is to have people put their faith in Christ instead of achieving economic and physical deliverance, which is finite and limited.

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Is there scientific evidence to show we can more quickly make correct moral judgments with age? Is it universal?

There has been alot of research into moral psychology.

In 1987, moral psychology was a part of developmental psychology. Researchers focused on questions such as how children develop in their thinking about rules, especially rules of fairness. The big question behind this research was: How do children come to know right from wrong? Where does morality come from?

There are two obvious answers to this question: nature or nurture. If you pick nature, then you’re a nativist. You believe that moral knowledge is native in our minds. It comes preloaded, perhaps in our God-inscribed hearts (as the Bible says), or in our evolved moral emotions (as Darwin argued).2

But if you believe that moral knowledge comes from nurture, then you are an empiricist.3 You believe that children are more or less blank slates at birth (as John Locke said).4 If morality varies around the world and across the centuries, then how could it be innate? Whatever morals we have as adults must have been learned during childhood from our own experience, which includes adults telling us what’s right and wrong. (Empirical means “from observation or experience.”)

But this is a false choice, and in 1987 moral psychology was mostly focused on a third answer: rationalism, which says that kids figure out morality for themselves. Jean Piaget, the greatest developmental psychologist of all time, began his career as a zoologist studying mollusks and insects in his native Switzerland. He was fascinated by the stages that animals went through as they transformed themselves from, say, caterpillars to butterflies. Later, when his attention turned to children, he brought with him this interest in stages of development. Piaget wanted to know how the extraordinary sophistication of adult thinking (a cognitive butterfly) emerges from the limited abilities of young children (lowly caterpillars).

Piaget focused on the kinds of errors kids make. For example, he’d put water into two identical drinking glasses and ask kids to tell him if the glasses held the same amount of water. (Yes.) Then he’d pour the contents of one of the glasses into a tall skinny glass and ask the child to compare the new glass to the one that had not been touched. Kids younger than six or seven usually say that the tall skinny glass now holds more water, because the level is higher. They don’t understand that the total volume of water is conserved when it moves from glass to glass. He also found that it’s pointless for adults to explain the conservation of volume to kids. The kids won’t get it until they reach an age (and cognitive stage) when their minds are ready for it. And when they are ready, they’ll figure it out for themselves just by playing with cups of water.

In other words, the understanding of the conservation of volume wasn’t innate, and it wasn’t learned from adults. Kids figure it out for themselves, but only when their minds are ready and they are given the right kinds of experiences.

Piaget applied this cognitive-developmental approach to the study of children’s moral thinking as well.5 He got down on his hands and knees to play marbles with children, and sometimes he deliberately broke rules and played dumb. The children then responded to his mistakes, and in so doing, they revealed their growing ability to respect rules, change rules, take turns, and resolve disputes. This growing knowledge came in orderly stages, as children’s cognitive abilities matured.

Piaget argued that children’s understanding of morality is like their understanding of those water glasses: we can’t say that it is innate, and we can’t say that kids learn it directly from adults.6 It is, rather, self-constructed as kids play with other kids. Taking turns in a game is like pouring water back and forth between glasses. No matter how often you do it with three-year-olds, they’re just not ready to get the concept of fairness,7 any more than they can understand the conservation of volume. But once they’ve reached the age of five or six, then playing games, having arguments, and working things out together will help them learn about fairness far more effectively than any sermon from adults.

This is the essence of psychological rationalism: We grow into our rationality as caterpillars grow into butterflies. If the caterpillar eats enough leaves, it will (eventually) grow wings. And if the child gets enough experiences of turn taking, sharing, and playground justice, it will (eventually) become a moral creature, able to use its rational capacities to solve ever harder problems. Rationality is our nature, and good moral reasoning is the end point of development.

–Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind

Read Revelation - and 2 Peter 3 is quite clear. What do you think a biblical position should be?

The NRSV 2 Peter 3:10 is translated as

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.b

with the Oxford Annotated Bible note that the elements refers to the heavenly bodies.

Regarding salvation, the gospels indicate that the Kingdom of God is for the here and now.

As NT Wright writes

This explains at a stroke the otherwise puzzling fact that the New Testament often refers to ‘salvation’ and ‘being saved’ in terms of bodily events within the present world. ‘Come and save my daughter’, begs Jairus; as Jesus is on his way to do so, the woman with the issue of blood thinks to herself, ‘If I can only touch his clothes I will be saved’; ‘Daughter,’ says Jesus to her after her healing, ‘your faith has saved you.’8 Matthew, telling the same story, abbreviates it drastically, but at this point he adds an extra note: ‘and the woman was saved from that moment on’.9 It is fascinating to see how passages like this – and there are many of them – are often juxtaposed with others which speak of ‘salvation’ in larger terms, which seem to go beyond present physical healing or rescue. This juxtaposition makes some Christians nervous (surely, they think, ‘salvation’ ought to be a spiritual matter!) but it doesn’t seem to have troubled the early church at all.10 For the first Christians, the ultimate ‘salvation’ was all about God’s new world; and the point of what Jesus and the apostles were doing when they were healing people, or being rescued from shipwreck, or whatever, was that this was a proper anticipation of that ultimate ‘salvation’, that healing transformation of space, time and matter. The future rescue which God had planned and promised was starting to come true in the present. We are saved, not as souls, but as wholes…

The point is this. When God ‘saves’ people in this life, by working through his Spirit to bring them to faith, and by leading them to follow Jesus in discipleship, prayer, holiness, hope and love, such people are designed – it isn’t too strong a word – to be a sign and foretaste of what God wants to do for the entire cosmos. What’s more, such people are not just to be a sign and foretaste of that ultimate ‘salvation’; they are to be part of the means by which God makes this happen in both the present and the future. That is what Paul insists on when he says that the whole creation is waiting with eager longing – not just for its own redemption, its liberation from corruption and decay, but for God’s children to be revealed: in other words, for the unveiling of those redeemed humans through whose stewardship creation will at last be brought back into that wise order for which it was made.12 And since Paul makes it quite clear that those who believe in Jesus Christ, who are incorporated into him through baptism, are already God’s children, are already themselves ‘saved’, this stewardship cannot be something to be postponed for the ultimate future. It must begin here and now. In other words – to sum up where we’ve got so far – the work of ‘salvation’, in its full sense, is (1) about whole human beings, not merely ‘souls’; (2) about the present, not simply the future; and (3) about what God does through us, not merely what God does in and for us. If we can get this straight, we will rediscover the historic basis for the full-orbed mission of the church. To pursue this further we need to look at the larger picture within which all this makes sense: the kingdom of God.

Perhaps far off-topic, but are you familiar with Terror Management Theory?

Nope, never heard of it before, but it looks like it makes some sense in explaining why religion is popular. That said, does it have any evidence base or is it simply a rationalisation?

This is interesting, but it didn’t really answer the question I was asking.

I agree. Many Christians like to refer to the “already-but-not-yet.”

I don’t disagree with him on the whole, but I’d quibble a bit with this point - our stewardship cannot overcome natural evil.

Obviously Jesus talks about the kingdom in Matthew 5 as if it has begun in the here and now, but he also says his kingdom is not of this world. Jesus also says we are to be salt and light. But salt wouldn’t be needed if there was or was going to be perfection in this world - if nothing went bad. Light would not be needed if there is no darkness. We can’t overcome sin and corruption in this life - we can glorify God, but we aren’t glorified until Jesus’ return.

As Paul says:

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

But notice, that even in N.T Wright’s words, he’s referring to creation being brought back into a “wise order” without corruption and decay - how can this happen with evolution? If the wise order included a process of death - how can it overcome death?

I think evolution has that philosophical problem in general. If a process of death and selection somehow brought us to this point - then how is it good to care for the less fit? Aren’t we undermining natural means to save our race?

Sometimes it’s hard for me to justify believing that the world is young because of dating methods, but it’s never, ever hard for me to say, after clearing my thoughts of the noise, that evolution didn’t lead to man. That the world needs a Savior sent from God is obvious to me. He was humble enough to be born where animals are kept, and obedient enough to die. He asked for a way other than the way of the cross. There was none. A supernatural resurrection was required. There is no salvation by natural means.

I’m curious why you decided Christianity wasn’t true if you did? Why do you find certain Christian views of salvation/glorification more attractive?

Let’s take a look at this from a CASE perspective (Christian affirming the science of evolution). Why must a world in need of a savior preclude the use of evolution by God to create humanity?

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It does.

There are stages of morality observed during development, just like stages of cognitive develipment.

When a Christian commonly cites, becoming a Christian made them more moral, perhaps that may be true - yet we also know that maturity and better moral judgement and behavior come with age and wisdom.

A failure to be moral is a failure to behave rationally. This fits in with ideal observer theory. If you have watched “The Good Place”, there may be many things humans do which inadvertently cause suffering to others, which one doesn’t know about because they do not know the suffering they are causing.

Knowledge is a key feature for humans or organisms to be moral.

As is played out over and over again, when people learn sexuality for many, particularly for males more than females is not a choice, that conversion therapy is harmful and torturous and ineffective, the knowledge of conditions such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia or 21-alpha hydroxylase deficiency causing some to be genotypically one gender and phenotypically another or karyotypically one gender but physically another gender or androgenous or intersex or babies born sexually ambiguous and assigned a gender and that there are actual brain changes on fMRI making those who want to change gender more similar brainwise to their gender of choice, increase in knowledge and understanding of the very real physical, genetic and medical aspects of gender dysphoria affects acceptance of LGBT.

The drunkard’s failing is that he is not behaving rationally, drowning in a bottle of misery though he would actually be happier without the bottle.

Kids take time to learn certain behaviors lead to group happiness.

As Haidt argues

Kohlberg’s most influential finding was that the most morally advanced kids (according to his scoring technique) were those who had frequent opportunities for role taking—for putting themselves into another person’s shoes and looking at a problem from that person’s perspective. Egalitarian relationships (such as with peers) invite role taking, but hierarchical relationships (such as with teachers and parents) do not. It’s really hard for a child to see things from the teacher’s point of view, because the child has never been a teacher. Piaget and Kohlberg both thought that parents and other authorities were obstacles to moral development. If you want your kids to learn about the physical world, let them play with cups and water; don’t lecture them about the conservation of volume. And if you want your kids to learn about the social world, let them play with other kids and resolve disputes; don’t lecture them about the Ten Commandments. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t force them to obey God or their teachers or you. That will only freeze them at the conventional level.

Both play, life, and experience teach people morality.

Strict rigid rules, especially if the “good book” is a “not so good”, actually hinders the development of good moral judgement.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to justify believing that the world is young because of dating methods, but it’s never, ever hard for me to say, after clearing my thoughts of the noise, that evolution didn’t lead to man. That the world needs a Savior sent from God is obvious to me. He was humble enough to be born where animals are kept, and obedient enough to die. He asked for a way other than the way of the cross. There was none. A supernatural resurrection was required. There is no salvation by natural means.

The evidence for humans having evolved is crystal clear. Many here would agree with me that we can and do “know” humans evolved, in the same sense we “know” gravity.

I’m curious why you decided Christianity wasn’t true if you did? Why do you find certain Christian views of salvation/glorification more attractive?

. I was a YEC too once! Christianity teaches us to follow the truth wherever it leads - no matter the cost. I even went to bible college, wanting to be a pastor. The truth has led me to where I am now. I “know” Christianity is false, in the same sense one “knows” 1+1=2; belief in Christianity was for me not a choice once I knew it was false.

Copying pasting myself -

I grew up in a “non-denominational” church, but that is basically church speak for effectively evangelical/Baptist.

The church I went to was visited by AnswersInGenesis, and they were quite convincing to my young mind that yom was always literally a 24 hr day.

I was probably for quite some time what many might consider a very fundamentalist Evangelical.

I went to the ranked 1 top school in my state, which also had quite a few Christians. We collectively hated on having to study evolution during biology, and thought it was all bullshit. Our kind but secular biology teacher tried her best to teach us evolution, but it basically went in one ear and out the other, since we all obviously “knew” evolution was wrong. We studied enough to know what was expected and write it down, but didn’t believe much of it.

It was many years later when I thought that if I really was serious about the whole Christianity thing, which I was, having been a worship leader, bible study leader for many many years, that if I was going to become a pastor, I should learn more and broaden my understanding of Christianity, and off to theological school I went, studying a M. Div while working as a MD at the same time.

Why were there Liberal Christians? My pastor made them out to be heretics, lukewarm Christians who have exchanged the power of the Living Word for lies from Satan.

I read Peter Enn’s The Bible Tells Me So, and learned about how the Jews viewed the bible was quite different to how we do it. That there was a Mesha Stele, where the god Chemosh told the Moabites that the reason why they were enslaved by Israel was because they were disobedient to Chemosh. Then later, Chemosh instructs the Moabites to cherem (put to the ban, the same word cherem used in the bible when YHWH commands them to eradicate the Canaanites) the Israelites. Well, hey! The biblical author wrote about God the same way as the people around them thought about their god. He also demonstrated that different authors in the bible viewed things differently - eg on intermarrying other nations, on how Shechem (the capital of Israel) came about - the Israelite author said that it was bought, the Judaian author said that it was from a rape.

Peter Enns convinced me that fundamentalist, conservative Christianity was actually less true to the bible than liberal Christianity - that the Torah recorded people with opposing arguments.

From there, I wondered why secular bible scholars believed what they believed. If Christianity is True, I had nothing to fear from reading their works. I tried Nietzche, and hated it and couldn’t read his books at all. I then found Richard Elliot Friedman’s Who Wrote the Bible. He is an amazing writer, making studying who wrote the bible read like a detective novel. I learned about how we can obtain two complete Flood stories, and their contradictions and language used are explained by it being two stories becoming one. I learned how Aaron and Jeroboam have numerous numerous similarities, from a golden calf singular being made by Aaron and Jeroboam, to their children’s names being the same, Nadab and Abijah vs Nadab and Abihu. Friedman showed me the political motivations for a priest from Shiloh to turn to Jeroboam to restore his people to national power, and then when Jeroboam let the priests from Shiloh down by not appointing them as the official priests, they were unhappy and turned against him. Friedman showed me how truly human the bible is, with its errors, contradictions, and personal agendas in its writing.

I learned and read near death experiences at www.nderf.org (nearly 5000 NDEs collated by a MD).

I learned about people born with ambiguous genitalia at birth, assigned a gender. I learned about how bonobos use sex for social harmony - including male - male and female - female.

I met people from other religions, Muslims and Mormons, who were absolutely 100% convinced their religion was true, giving a variety of reasons for their belief. Some of them were the sterotypical “just believe” type - who simply believed and rational discussion was not going to change anything, because they were the kind who simply believe.

Some of my Christian friends told me stories of how some fellow Christians prophesied or God gave them a dream that they would go to China and become a missionary, or become a pastor - which later evidently became obviously untrue.

I had a recurrent dream when I was younger and still a very faithful Christian that I was fighting a battle for Christianity in the Last Days, and that I was climbing a tower, but as I climbed the tower, I learned that Christianity was not what I thought it was. I had thought nothing of it, that it was just a dream, but now I wonder.

I learned about people’s gay conversion therapy stories here on reddit.

I read about the other side, why are Jews not a Christian?

All of the above gradually led me to where I am now.

Freed from religious bias, it was easy to see the sheer breadth and how convincing the evidence for evolution is.

I think for creationists who believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and Inerrant, it is very difficult to convince them that creationism is false and evolution is true.

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I can maybe get at your question better by asking you some: Why do you think we need to be saved? What do we need to be saved from? What are we being saved for?

I’d really like to have this conversation, but don’t want to distract from a very interesting OP. Would you be open to a conversation via direct messaging?

Without authorities, people would be more moral? Are you an anarchist, just curious? This conversation is meandering…But I was hoping you would show me some scientific evidence on elderly and morality; that’s what I meant by saying it didn’t really answer the question. If we all got very old and no one was an authority, you think we would be wise and moral?

As a clinician, I tend to approach things using “clinical judgement”.

In medicine, we have sayings. “Never say never.”

Don’t promise “everything will be fine”.

I think many rules can be useful, but to be dogmatic can be counterproductive.

Doctors have to be flexible. It could be this. It could be that. Therapeutic guidelines, algorithms, etcetera are all useful but they are but adjuncts to good clinical judgment in medicine.

Being dogmatic patient x has y can cost lives.

Same thing with rules. They can be a guideline, but when you start saying “abortion is always wrong” you run into ectopic pregnancies, when you say “thou shalt not lie” you run into troubles with your spouse if you’re too honest, etcetera.

Good judgment is better than rigid inflexible rules.

The bible actually has a good example of advising people to use good judgment - in one proverb, it advises you to rebuke a fool - because reasons. In the next, it advises you to not rebuke a fool. Also because reasons.

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@Witchdoc, your OP made reminded me about the TV series The Good Place. Have you watched it? If you haven’t, you should. It’s a very fascinating show about a group of characters who try to get into the show’s version of heaven, and interweaves various different philosophies and ethical systems into the story line. However, the show’s creators also consciously avoided any mention of God or concepts of heaven from any religion. So it’s a vision of what it feels like for humans to reach heaven by “natural” instead of “supernatural” means. As a Christian who does believe in heaven but in a different sense, the show was very illuminating in highlighting the differences.

(Beware that there are spoilers to the show in the next paragraph!)

Basically, by the fourth season the main characters finally successfully reach The Good Place where they are given everything they could ever want - all foods, pleasures, sights, hobbies, activities, and means of self-improvement, as well as unlimited time and perfect health. This is thus very close to the vision of a “natural heaven” that might some day be achievable via human technology. However, the characters discover that other denizens of The Good Place who have lived there for a long time have become bored, depressed, and forgetful because of how monotonous and repetitive their existence is. The show plays on the old trope that “to be human is to struggle and know that life is short” - those in the Good Place no longer have any fear of failure or death, so they actually decay as human beings. In the end, the main characters convince the administrators of The Good Place to institute a system where once a person feels “ready”, having tried all the pleasures and activities they wanted, they are free to step into a portal where they can cease to exist, like a “wave returning back to the ocean”. (Here we see the influence of Buddhist philosophy.) That is how the show ends - with all the main characters walking into the portal, their story finished.

To me, the show illustrates how even if technology eventually manages to fulfill all our natural desires - perfect health, unlimited pleasures, even unlimited self-improvement and immortality - none of this will bring lasting satisfaction. Eventually we exhaust our capacity to enjoy natural things, and the logical move is to erase our own existence, as The Good Place argues. But to me, this is absurd! It seems like a contradiction - the true goal of existence is to eventually not exist. Then why bother going through all the suffering and pleasure in the first place?

In the Christian story, this is where God and supernatural heaven come in. The true Christian idea of the supernatural is not just a fulfilment of natural desires. Instead, the supernatural, by its very nature, is unlimited and final - it gives a lasting joy and bliss that never exhausts, because its source is something unlimited - God Himself, the source and sustainer of all existence. The supernatural is also indescribable using natural creaturely language - I cannot demonstrate to you what exactly the Christian heaven is going to be like, nor how it is going to solve the problems of natural heaven. I cannot persuade you that it actually exists or is possible. It is necessarily an apophatic concept, something we can only glimpse at through negation of natural concepts. It is something that we, as divine image bearers, have a distinct longing for - as C. S. Lewis said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” Yet paradoxically it is also something that we cannot achieve or even conceptualize using our own efforts, because if it did, then we would not be satisfied with it.

That is what differentiates the Christian heaven from the natural one. The supernatural is not about magical powers or superior technology. It is about going beyond, communing with the fundamental ground of existence and source of goodness Himself. That longing for the beyond is something that I honestly cannot extinguish or disregard in myself, and is probably near the core of why I am a Christian.

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Yes, I have seen it. I’ve actually referenced it in this thread above. Great minds think alike :wink:

I thought The Good Place raised a good point. If you are doing x for salvation / points and you know it, does that totally negate the whole point?

It gives a good explanation, if God exists, for Divine Hiddenness.

Can one be truly altruistic if one thinks one is getting a reward for it? If there is a judgement day, can it be just for both who know the scoring and those who don’t know the scoring?

The Christian philosopher Kiekegaard raised the question, is it better to be a Christian for all the wrong reasons (eg for selfish preservation) , or is it better to be a non-Christian for all the right reasons (eg a person seeing Christians behave immorally rejects Christianity as they believe it would be immoral to be a Christian) ?

For me, my Christian upbringing and focus on truth has led me to, reject Christianity itself as false - I have outlined my story previously here in this thread. I currently believe that to continue to br a Christian, despite me “knowing” it is wrong, would be sinning and against how I was brought up as Christian. The bible says to take up one’s cross; for me, that is to leave Christianity despite the large cost to my friendships and family relationships. Doing the right thing is hard; it would have been much easier to just pretend to be a Christian still.

5000 NDEs collated by an MD at www.nderf.org are quite consistent in that those who experience them (regardless of religion, be they Christian, agnostic, atheist, Muslim) typically find a rather universalist “God-figure”, and become less religious and dogmatic after their NDE.

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