Saturday, May 25, 2013
The Trouble with Having Only One Life
It is impossible that you and I should live a second life; you and I have only this life to live. Let's begin with this fact. We will not be reincarnated, and we will not be given a "second chance at life" by God: time marches on, and history has its goal, having and end. When our bodies die and turn to dust, we will cease to be who we are. We may, on the traditional, Christian view, transcend our bodies and enjoy the presence of Christ in a "soulish" state, but we will never again be the people we are now.
Of course, it's impossible that our bodies make us who we are here and now. This is because, for example, my body is in a constant state of change: cells die and regenerate, there is weight gain and loss, hair growth, hair thinning, hair receding. Teeth yellow and gums recede. On the other hand, my muscles stay toned as I put them through the rigor of iron and steel, but they continually require maintenance, or else. I'm not who I was--if my body defines me--two years ago, two days or even two hours ago. Every passing second means I am changing. And yet I stay the same, and so do you. When you're 90, you're you. When you were 9 months old, you were you. Not the same by any means at all, but it was you who came out of that womb, and it's you who will rest in that casket. So you see why it is impossible that you, as you are now, will never exist again. Is that it, then?
Why can't we have a second life? Well, this would mean that we would have to have an immaterial aspect to our being that gets reanimated into a different body--for our previous body is now dust. Fair enough. It's the materialists and Christian physicalists who don't believe we have souls. Still, that would make us a different person, wouldn't it? I mean, my soul in a different body wouldn't be me as I am. I'm me because I'm me: my body doesn't make me who I am, and yet it's still and integral part of who I am. There is, however, a second option for a second life, that is the Christian concept of the resurrected body. I'm going to be me, after all, in the resurrected state. I'll look like me (and you'll look like you). I'm sure we'll all be happy with the sizes of our noses, and the shapes of our eyes. Some people don't like the way they look right now, but they shouldn't worry about that in terms of the resurrection of the body, for Beauty will enfold the resurrection like the long stretches of sun on the early evening lawn: gold on an emerald expanse, where gentle shadows cool the day's blossoms in the resting garden of colors innumerable.
I do wonder: why is it that this life, and this life alone counts in terms of standing before the judgment of God? What is it about this particular life? Why doesn't God allow for a second life? A second chance? (But again, if we did have a second life, who would we be? Not the same person). Surely that's not the reason for there not being a second chance at life: because our identity is possible only in this current life. It must be possible to be given a second life in the flow of history with the same genetic makeup, given divine omnipotence. But maybe not. Maybe history is fixed and there can only be one you because your parents make you you and their parents and so on. And just because God is all-powerful, doesn't mean he can do any and everything. He doesn't act contrary to his own nature, for example. So, if you were to be reborn into a new body with the same genetic makeup as you had five hundred years from now, that would take some miraculous genetic tinkering, and I'm sure people would freak out. I bet God could do it though. But ah, no matter then. God has given us this one life, and this one life will be taken into account before him.
This is the message of the Apostle Paul: God commands all people everywhere to repent and place faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the right to eternal life (Acts 17:31; 20:21). I do wonder a second question: why is it that as a man stands before God's judgment that he cannot repent then and there? Is it too simple? To easy? Is it that it's a "no brainer": standing before the Almighty Father of creation and repenting of the wrongs we've done? Someone would have to be a fool to not do that. Is this life a test, to see if we'll search for God, and grope for him? Why not a second life then? Well, as one person asked me, "What other"? As in, what other life can there be? There is only this life. There is no other, because there is only one you. Until the resurrection: there is another life then; but that life never ends, and it's still you, still me. So, it's best to search for God while we can.