A Discussion of the Afterlife

Suppose a certain monastery claims to have in its possession a manuscript written in St. Augustine’s own hand. And suppose the monks of this monastery further claim that this manuscript was burned by Arians in the year 457. It would immediately occur to me to ask how this manuscript, the one I can touch, could be the very manuscript that was burned in 457.

Suppose their answer to this question is that God miraculously recreated Augustine’s manuscript in 458. I should respond to this answer as follows: the deed it describes seems quite impossible, even as an accomplishment of omnipotence. God certainly might have created a perfect duplicate of the original manuscript, but it would not be that one; its earliest moment of existence would have been after Augustine’s death; it would never have known the impress of his hand; it would not have been a part of the furniture of the world when he was alive; and so on.

Now suppose our monks were to reply by simply asserting that the manuscript now in their possession did know the impress of Augustine’s hand; that it was a part of the furniture of the world when the Saint was alive; that when God recreated or restored it, He as an indispensable component of accomplishing this task saw to it that the object He produced had all these properties. I confess I should not know what to make of this. I should have to tell the monks that I did not see how what they believed could possibly be true.   van Inwagen 1992, pp. 242–43

Read the entire essay:

via Afterlife Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment