What is the proof that there is an afterlife ? Is a question I am asked repeatedly form athiest and agnostic friends . I struggle to answer it . Please help
That is a very important question, @monabotros4.
I would say that the difficulty you are having in proving an afterlife to your atheist and agnostic friends - the difficulty that anyone would have with such an audience - has to do with their atheistic and agnostic bias against God in the first place. If there is no God, then there is no afterlife. If there is a good God, then there is necessarily an afterlife. If your friends can never get past first base, then they will never make it home.
Until they can deal with God, they will be incapable of dealing with the question about the afterlife.
I hope this will help you!
That is indeed a very important question - I would say this is the most important question that any person should ask. However, the genuineness of the questioner will decide if an answer will be satisfactory or not.
First of all, I would clarify what would qualify to be a ‘proof’. In most cases, a person is looking for ‘scientific proof’ which means evidence that can be perceived by the senses and can be tested using the tools of science. Any other evidence usually does not qualify as proof for these persons - which actually indicates a bias towards naturalistic science as the only tool to understand truth and that comprehensively rejects anything that is not material as insignificant.
In the case of an afterlife, we can provide indicators or pointers and a ‘proof’ that can be tested in a laboratory may not be forthcoming, since we are dealing with what may be considered another dimension. If your friends are open to these pointers, then you could proceed with some evidences. Here are two:
1. The deep longings of every man - This is a psychological evidence that hints at the make-up of a person. Every person has certain deep longings for things such as life, justice/fairness, righteousness, beauty, a better world etc. This cuts across culture, age, gender and all kinds of divisions. The evidence is all over - in our movies, in works of literature and in everyday conversations. Every person longs to live and not die, which is why they throng hospitals to ‘save’ life. No one, in my experience longs for death, unless he/she is mentally sick or exhausted. To me, this is a strong indicator of something beyond our present understanding of reality.
I go by this personal maxim - “The deepest longings of man are indicators of the highest truths”.
2. Near death experiences (NDE) - This is something that is only now being studied systematically and scientifically, though they have been known for millennia. Gary Habermas is a good resource - his videos are available on youtube. These are pretty compelling evidences.
Philip Yancey’s book “Rumours of another world” deals with this topic in a non-rigorous way, in the inimitable style of Yancey.
Of course, the Bible is the most authoritative source on this subject, especially the resurrection of Jesus. You could consider studying this and using this as an argument in this matter.
I would stay clear of books relating experiences of people who have seen heaven, because they are misleading in many aspects, though there might be elements of truth in them.
Greetings Monabotros4, hoping, praying and trusting that The Lord is continually blessing you as you seek to honor Him. As Ravi often mentioned, most questions that he encountered can be whittled down to 20 or so questions all contained in 4 or 5 categories (origin, meaning, morality, destiny). It is interesting that question of this sort (afterlife) that you ponder align fairly closely to the classic proofs for the existence of God. If God exists (and He does) Go, what are some pragmatic, cognitive reasons. There are many links where you can research this, here is one: (https://web.csulb.edu/~cwallis/100/st2.html) Thomas Aquinas is a good start as he is considered a great Doctor of the church. Once God is proven to exists, then John 1:4 ensues and the rest is down hill so to speak. Just remember there are many ways to answer these folks and as we broaden our worldview, we see a bit more clearly and able to respond in a most apt manner. One note, in His book, “I do not have enough Faith to be an Atheist” Norm Geisler gives many, many responses to questions like this as well as provide tools like the Road Runner Argument which is self defeating. Those who are unaware of arguments with false premise make the mistake of giving ground to the opposition whereas knowledge helps us identify arguments with false pretense. I am praying for you to uncover the wonders of the Lord and will be chief among your fans and supporters on the side line cheering you on to great things championing The Lord! Peace and Grace my friend!
Michael Ramsden says, “The right answer to the wrong questions, is always wrong.” This could be one of those cases. Trying to directly answer this question (“proof of an afterlife”), even if you have a 100% solid response, may not answer the real question - the question behind the question. It would be worthwhile to take some time (maybe you already have) and consider why someone (of any world view) would have a question like this in the first place.
Here’s some things to consider before answering the question:
- What would someone who is looking for tangible/quantitative/scientific “proof” of an intangible thing (e.g. a spiritual afterlife) gain by asking this question?
- If you could, somehow, provide enough “proof” to change their mind or even just plant a seed of doubt in their own conclusion, then what? How would that affect this person’s world view? What would they see needs changing, if anything? How would they live differently? What would it mean to them, knowing there is an afterlife?
- Is this an honest question, or just a “gotcha” question? Meaning, is the person really looking for an answer of just trying to trap you with a question that they’ve found hard to answer? Avoid the trap, if that’s what this is.
- The burden of “proof” isn’t only on you. You can also ask this person how they came to believe in no afterlife. What “proof” do they offer?
Obviously the responses you give are directly related to how well you know the person, and how easily you can keep in contact. So, I encourage you to give this question some time beyond just providing “proof”. As @Jae_Charles_Call mentioned, the world view components of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny are all tied up in a question like this. So, consider that “proofs” alone won’t fully answer the questions behind the question. It may take several conversations and a time commitment on your part.
As we say here in the southern United States, “The proof will be in the pudding.” Biblically, we will know when our faith is made sight.
While we walk the planet, evidence for an afterlife is offered by inductive reasoning. If the word of God is reliable, the resurrection of Christ feasible, and the work of the Spirit manifest in changed lives, then life after death is not an outlandish idea.
Here’s my take on the problem although I’m not very knowledgeable on this topic, here it is: The Bible is enough to prove that an afterlife exists, but since it seems like we’re talking to atheists and skeptics I must say this one thing. If they are proclaiming that there is no life after death, then it’s easy to say that what people are working hard for in this life is ultimately a waste of time. Furthermore, this suggests that the evilest people in history such as Hitler and Stalin aren’t facing any consequences for their actions because in an atheistic worldview, they don’t believe in a beautiful and all-powerful God that brings justice and they don’t believe in the afterlife.
Also, when I was writing this I thought of this verse: “A fool says in their heart There is no God” Psalm 14
I’ve been pondering this question for myself as well as I was talking with an atheist friend of mine recently. So thanks, @monabotros4 for bringing up this question. I’ve been helped by reading the other responses given here as well!
When providing reason for not believing in an afterlife in answer to a question about destiny, my friend equated it to our knowledge of the possible previous life from which we came. He claimed that because we don’t recall anything from the fore life we cannot know the afterlife and therefore if there were an afterlife it would be purely a reincarnation. But, he ultimately concludes that since we can’t know of our fore life nether can we know of or if there is an afterlife and thus concedes that there is none.
This reasoning seems to stand on faulty ground, one reason being that it’s based upon the previous life, wether or not he believes there to be one. It gives him room to ignore the fact or idea of one day giving account and standing before a just God. I’m not sure if you’re encounters have been similar to this kind of reasoning, but supremely, I believe we cannot in all coherence discuss the afterlife if we don’t first discuss the belief in God. Like @jlyons mentioned and quoting from Dennis Prager, if there’s no God, there’s no afterlife. If we try to answer this question without first addressing where we came from and if there’s a God, we might be found given a right answer to the wrong question.
To prove that there is an afterlife to atheists and agnostics is difficult and often pointless. They are not asking to learn and accept. They have a different motive, to demean and discredit Christianity. Christians live by faith and not by sight. If we try to explain it we may even have to study near-death experience (NDE) and the books written by those who saw hell and heaven and several other things. The existence of God and the empty tomb are more than enough to believe in an afterlife. I am reminded of of two things in the Bible. One is Stephen, the first martyr who saw heaven and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. The second is the transfiguration.
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
The transfiguration is a glimpse of the afterlife, a glimpse of heaven.
Jesus used a story about the afterlife to illustrate the parable of Lazareth and the rich man. It is interesting to note that neither He nor the writer that recorded the parable put energy into attempting to prove the afterlife. Christ spoke as if it was a given.
The atheist that brings up an objection to the afterlife is simply bringing up an extension of his or her worldview that excludes God.
The Christian’s world view includes the belief that Jesus created everything in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.
My opinion that the response to an atheist’s objection to the afterlife is not to argue but to live as if the Creator of the afterlife is the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead.