Sunday, March 06, 2016


This is a sequel to my earlier post:

1. Chris Date said: 

God had warned Adam that “in the day” he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die (Gen 2:17). The Hebrew phrase translated “in the day” often just means “when,” and needn’t be taken woodenly any more than when one says, “When you eat too much, you get fat.” Had God intended to emphasize that Adam’s death would take place immediately, he might have used the demonstrative pronoun: “in that day” (cf. Exod 13:8). Instead, when God carries out the sentence of which he had warned, that sentence is clearly literal death. Hence he says that “to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19), and he evicts Adam and Eve from the garden so that they will not “live forever,” lacking access to the tree of life (Gen 3:22–23). So mankind fell into mortality.

I'm in nearly complete agreement with this statement. My only disagreement is that I wouldn't say mankind fell into morality. Rather, Adam and Eve were created mortal, with an opportunity to gain immortality for themselves and their posterity–and opportunity which they blew. 

2. My bigger is disagreement is that Date makes the aforesaid statement to support this claim:

#2: Scripture consistently teaches that human beings are mortal and will not live forever unless God grants them immortality. This he will grant to the saved, but will withhold from the lost, who therefore will not live forever.

The problem with this claim is that it flounders on a fatal equivocation. Mortality/immortality can mean two different things:

i) The immortality of the body

To be immortal is to be deathless. Mortals die, whereas immortals never die. In this sense, mortality/immortality refers to physical or biological life and death. 

ii) The immortality of the soul

To be immortal is to survive death. The body expires and decays, but your personality subsists because the mind is essentially independent of the body.

The soul can't die because it was never alive in the first place. It was never alive in the biological sense. A human soul is not the kind of entity that can expire or decay. It is not a physical organism. 

(i) is more of a popular or dictionary definition whereas (ii) is more of a philosophical definition. Now my immediate purpose is not to argue for one or the other. Rather, my point is that death is only an argument for annihilationism if we define mortality in terms of (i), and combine that with physicalism. 

3. But there's another problem for Date's argument. He says "I don't, actually, define biological death as equivalent to oblivion." But that presents a twofold problem:

i) If biological death isn't equivalent to oblivion, then how can death count as evidence for annihilationism? You see, Date talks about mortality as if that's evidence for annihilationism. But when he denies that biological death is equivalent to oblivion, how does that support his position? If you don't pass into oblivion when you die, how is death or mortality evidence for annihilationism? 

ii) In addition, his denial is nonsensical. By his own admission, Date is a physicalist. And according to physicalism, the mind produces the brain. It's a cause/effect relation. Hence, brain death results in the extinction of consciousness. 

It's like a light-bulb that's connected to a power generator. Cut the power and the light goes out. 

Since Date is a physicalist, there's no way he can compartmentalize the implications that physicalism has for annihilationism. His commitment to physicalism delimits how life and death can be defined. 

The only way to avoid that implication is if God made duplicate bodies, stored on an M-class planet somewhere else in the universe, and at the moment of death, God instantly uploads the decedent's consciousness into the duplicate brain (which presumes a computational theory of mind). Otherwise, there's nothing to bridge the gap between the moment of death and the general resurrection. 

Since this duplicate body scenario obviously doesn't happen on earth, it must occur at some extraterrestrial locale. But from what I've read, annihilationists typically reserve the general resurrection for the day of judgment. 

Perhaps Date can crawl out from under the desk he's quivering beneath to offer an alternative that's consistent with his commitment to physicalism. 

4. Death can either be defined as an event or a condition. In reality, it is both. What is the postmortem condition of a decedent? What condition is the decedent in, given physicalist annihilationism? Answer: oblivion.

5. Let's approach this from another angle. Suppose we could preserve a corpse from decay. There'd be no brain function. Would it be dead or alive according to Date?

Suppose we could digitize a person and store the data, then turn the abstract data back into its pre-digitized form. Would the individual be alive during storage?


  1. Another well known problem with physicalist conditionalism which I think isn't stressed strongly enough is the problem of identity. In physicalist conditionalism, it's difficult to explain how the resurrected person is actually that person who is supposed to have been resurrected. At best it would be a exact and perfect duplicate of the person, but not really the same person. In which case, this newly created person doesn't deserved the punishment of the person who already died. Some might argue that even if it were the same person, it might be a case of double jeopardy to punish him again for his sins with physical death.

    The law of identity that states A is A doesn't seem to apply in a physicalist conditionalist resurrection. In a dualist resurrection, it's the same immaterial soul that's united to a re-constituted or newly constituted body, and so doesn't encounter the same problem.

  2. "4. Death can either be defined as an event or a condition. In reality, it is both. What is the postmortem condition of a decedent? What condition is the decedent in, given physicalist annihilationism? Answer: oblivion."

    Good post. I'd note that "death" is also defined as a *process*. We see this usage when the bible speaks of "the death of Christ," referring to the time he was alive on the cross, paying the penalty for our sins. Or, we might say of a person, "it was a good death," referring to the dying *process* that resulted in the state of being dead--say, if they died with dignity and honor.

    The other matter is that Date has endorsed the body-identity view. On this view, Chris Date = X = his body. This allows him to say that X still exists just in case X's body does. On this view, biological death would result in the annihilation of the *person* but not necessarily the X. Note that this view makes human "persons" into *phase sortals*. That is, the person who you are interacting with is *not* identical to Date, or, X. It's just a *phase* in X's career, like being a teenager is a phase.

    This might allow him to answer some of your objections, but it raises other, particularly nasty objections. Date is in the predicament because he thinks his case for annihilationism doesn't rest on any philosophy of persons or minds. This has led to his embracing silly positions like the body-identity view in order to get around one set of objections to physicalism, but he also endorses contradictory materialist theories of persons to get around other objections to materialism. And make no mistake, defeaters are part of his case for annihilationism. So Date's case for conditionalism--which includes defeaters--is made up of contradictory elements. Perhaps he can clear this up for everyone.