He who forms the mountains,
who creates the wind,
and who reveals his thoughts to mankind,
who turns dawn to darkness,
and treads on the heights of the earth—
the Lord God Almighty is his name.
- Amos 4:13
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
- Romans 1:20
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
- Luke 16:19-31
“One of the obstacles to enjoying the peace of a tranquil mind, Epicurus reasons, is the fear of death, and this fear is increased by the religious belief that if you incur the wrath of the gods, you will be severely punished in the afterlife. But, rather than countering this fear by proposing an alternative state of immortality, Epicurus tries to explain the nature of death itself. He starts by proposing that when we die, we are unaware of our death, since our consciousness (our soul) ceases to exist at the point of death. To explain this, Epicurus takes the view that the entire universe consists of either atoms or empty space, as argued by the atomist philosophers Democritus and Leucippus. Epicurus then reasons that the soul could not be empty space, because it operates dynamically with the body, so it must be made up of atoms. He describes these atoms of the soul as being distributed around the body, but as being so fragile that they dissolve when we die, and so we are no longer capable of sensing anything. If you are unable to feel anything, mentally or physically, when you die, it is foolish to let the fear of death cause you pain while you are still alive.”
- Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained
Epicurus (341-270BC) started the field of philosophy called Epicureanism, which wrongly interpreted as the basic principle of life as being the pursuit of pleasure. To Epicurus, ‘pleasure’ is derived by seeking knowledge. John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) built upon Epicureanism in pushing for education for all, thus improving the pleasure of all people.
In The Philosophy Book, it states that Epicureanism is woven into the US Declaration of Independence. This is true in that John Locke stated that our inalienable rights were life, health, liberty, and possessions. Since half the original colonies used slave labor, “possessions” might be considered to extend to the slaves. There was always the thought of moving away from the slave-driven agricultural economy. Thus, the authors of the Declaration of Independence eliminated health and changed possessions to the pursuit of happiness. Yet, a bit of pure Epicureanism may still apply as education for all was an important factor in the new nation.
But getting to the quote about Epicurus’ ideas regarding the fear of death, it does not make sense and it does not work.
Billy Graham was one of the greatest evangelists of the Twentieth Century. No one would think Billy Graham would be afraid of death. Indeed, he knew he would go to be with God in Heaven, but according to his grandson Will Graham, he had a bit of hypochondria, fussing over various aches and pains and on the manner of his demise, the pain leading up to death. Thus, the Epicurus idea does not work. Billy Graham had no doubt about whether he would be welcomed on the other side or suffer punishment. Rev. Graham knew his sins were washed away and he was forgiven. Yet, he fussed over aches and pains, oddly outliving his wife who never complained about pain at all. (In learning that, I know where my wife gets it. She has lived a relatively pain free life, although she has had monstrous medical problems.)
Does Epicurus’ idea on the fear of death make sense? Epicurus proposes something that has no proof. And to add to that proposition, he proposes an idea of atoms (the building blocks of the soul) dissolving upon death, or what Democritus and Leucippus called “atoms” because they were uncuttable. How can an uncuttable thing dissolve? The soul is spiritual, and thus not made of earthly mass and energy. If that were not the case and mass was involved, thus atoms were involved, the laws of conservation of mass and conservation of energy would apply. Their state might change, but the atoms could not dissolve into nothingness. Thus, the Epicurus idea to resolve the demise of the soul and conquer the fear of death neither works nor makes sense. Of course, my argument uses knowledge not discovered until well after the life of Epicurus, about 2,000 years or so later. But for his time, it was only as theory, but death was all too real.
I know many atheists and a few agnostics that believe that when you die, your life ends at that moment, no afterlife at all. But these same people do everything they can to avoid their end. If Epicurus was right, why would they fear death so? I dare say that the Sadducees, who did not believe in the afterlife, did everything that they could to keep going and avoid death. Is this hypocrisy, doubt, or making sure that you touch all the bases? Whichever you choose, it is inconsistent.
So, maybe, just maybe… Forget the “maybe.” The Bible is right. Our soul will not die. We will either live with Jesus in Glory or we will be judged and thrown into the lake of fire.
And why has not anyone returned from the dead to tell us all about it? According to the Luke parable of the rich man and Lazarus, it would do no good. But then they have. People rose from the dead when Jesus was crucified. Moses and Elijah appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration. Yet, we have no stories about how wonderful Heaven is from these people. Yet, God reveals Himself. God created all things. We see the evidence of God everywhere, and God works within believers in a way to prove He is with us. As Paul said, there is no excuse.
Epicurus did as many historical scientists do today, or as I like to refer to them, atheist wishful thinkers – and oh how I pray for those caught in belief in God, but stuck repeating unproven theories as being fact, not science at all. Epicurus sees a problem. He has not real intention of avoiding the wrath of the Greek gods or the one true God. Thus, he ignores the elephant in the room, inventing a fanciful idea of dissolving atoms to explain away the afterlife. Yet, Epicureanism ranged from corporate morality to personal morality, but none of us has an excuse. We all know that we fall short of even a lax moral code. And what better way to explain something away than to make it so absurd and fanciful that people might want to believe in it, even though it is wishful thinking.
Yet, God makes Himself known. In spite of the atheist wishful thinkers, evolution and millions of years can be proven false on the whole and what is left is highly irrational at best. Yet, they ignore the elephant in the room and dream up things like millions of comets crashing into the earth to bring water to a waterless orb, but then they found out that the earth really does have enough water in underground aquifers to cover nearly all the earth (the high mountain ranges emerging near the end of the flood when tectonic plates made massive shifts – in part to prevent that type of global flood in the future – the rainbow is the symbol, but the surface of the earth changing provided the protection against a global flood).
Let us not ignore the elephant in the room. God is real. God is alive. God created all things. God loves us and wants a personal relationship with us. And God has prepared a mansion for all who believe and trust in Jesus, the mansion awaiting us in the next life, and that life lasts forever.
But even a fanciful, crazy idea of dissolving atoms may not be entirely farfetched. Dr. Duncan MacDougall, Haverhill, Massachusetts, USA, weighed dying people just before and just after death in 1907 and discovered that they weighed about 21 grams less after death. While the experimentation was not repeated, the newspapers of the day announced that the soul has mass, 21 grams or about three-fourths of an ounce. Yet, the believers know that the soul does not dissolve. The soul leaves the body, and we will, at that moment have a new body, a new creation, a body perfect in every way. The soul does not dissolve or die, it goes on to the next life.
If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.