In Christian teachings, eternal life is not an inherent part of human existence, and is a unique gift from God, based on the model of the Resurrection of Jesus, viewed as a unique event through which death was conquered "once for all", permitting Christians to experience eternal life.

I got thinking about this because of a glib equation of the incarnation as "beauty" and "belief" rather than eternal life.

Is it an epistemic error to believe in eternal life if nothing "exists" of sentient life after it has all died out? What if something exists that we usually think of as subtending on life?

  • As per the oldest answer, there are two possible meanings of "death": 1) the cessation of existence and 2) continuation of existence but in some different way from "eternal life". Jesus taught that all humans will resurrect someday, so whatever "eternal life" is is not merely "continued existence": the gift of God is something more than that. – elliot svensson Oct 28 '18 at 0:31
  • It's Greek in origins. Maybe if you will replace this 'Christian' idea by greek philosophy, that won't be closed. – rus9384 Oct 29 '18 at 6:22
  • It seems to me that this question is better suited for a religious SE. – Mark Andrews Oct 29 '18 at 23:52
  • "Is X an epistemic mistake if X is not true?" Well obviously. I'm not sure why you're asking this or what you thought you'd get out of answers. – curiousdannii Oct 30 '18 at 1:59
  • @curiousdannii how is it obvious? did you not read the other comments etc. that ask what is meant by 'eternal life'? – user35584 Oct 30 '18 at 17:19

Yes, if nothing exists after sentient life has died out, then belief in eternal life would be "an epistemic mistake." If there is no life after death, then belief in life after death would be an incorrect belief and evaluably false.

Christians believe that everyone will have cognitive experience beyond death and that everyone (Christian and non-Christian) will be "resurrected" (Acts 24:15, John 5:28-29) to stand before God, be judged by him, and either enter heaven (eternal life) or hell (eternal destruction). It is believed this will happen in bodily form, and not as magical spirit beings. Christians believe they will have "glorified bodies" in heaven.

Part of the basis for this belief as well as the glorified body belief is on the resurrection of Jesus Christ described in the Gospels (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20-21) where Jesus appeared to numerous groups of people, including his opponents and skeptics which then came to believe, a total of over 500 people over a period of 40 days where the disciples could touch his body and they ate with Him, indicating a physical body. They were fully convinced of seeing a bodily resurrection Jesus and went to their violent, bloody deaths because of their being convinced of this truth.

The rest of the basis for this belief is pretty much in the truth and reliability of the Bible as a whole and of Jesus, who talked of eternal life quite often. Christians would point to evidence from history, archeology, prophecy, and philosophy for corroborating the truth in the Bible. They would use the 3 tests for historical validity, the same for other historical documents: external evidence, internal evidence, and the bibliographic test.

Also note that Christians don't necessarily claim that "near-death experiences" (and certainly not people who claim to go to heaven/hell and come back) validate this belief. Near death, parts of the brain (e.g. the cortex) shut down, facilitating some crazy visions and feelings. While these reports may sometimes come in accord with Christian claims, they aren't really considered good evidence of an afterlife.

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    Welcome to Philosophy.SE! I have made some tweaks to your answer according to my personal taste... you have the ability to "roll them back" whenever you feel like doing so. – elliot svensson Oct 28 '18 at 0:32
  • "Christians believe that everyone will have cognitive experience beyond death" Some Christians. AFAIK protestants do not believe in that. At least not between death and resurrection. – rus9384 Oct 29 '18 at 6:30
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    @rus9384 the cognitive experience I am referring to is the resurrection. Not between death and resurrection. I'm not readily aware of any Christian group that doesn't believe in a resurrection of the dead. Perhaps full preterists, though that is definitely a heterodox position. – Alex Strasser Oct 29 '18 at 17:15