The Jehovah's Witness view on death and resurrection is false.
Debate Rounds (4)
First, I want to thank MadCornishBiker for agreeing to debate me on this topic. It's a topic I find very interesting for both it's metaphysical implications and for its practical implications.
The meaning of the resolution
Second, let me explain what I mean by "The Jehovah's Witness view on death and resurrection." If I've got this wrong, MadCornishBiker can correct me or clarify in the first round, but I ask him to be as clear and unambiguous as he possibly can.
Basically, Jehovah's Witnesses believe that when we die, we cease to exist. We are not immaterial souls who survive in any consicous state after physical death. We are purely physical beings animated by what they call a "life force," which in some publications is likened to electricity. But a "life force" is not the same thing as people traditionally think of as a soul. It is not a person and therefore has no personal identity.
After we are dead, Jehovah remembers us perfectly and completely. At the resurrection, Jehovah uses his perfect memory of us to bring us back into existence, albeit with some improvements. Although the resurrection entails physical humans coming into existence, it is not a raising up of the same body that died. Rather, Jehovah fashions a new body which he brings to life.
It is important to note that in the view of Jehovah's Witnesses, the person who rises at the resurrection is the same person as the one who died. That means that we ourselves will be raised up at the resurrection. It won't just be a replica.
The burden of proof
It is my burden in this debate to show that the Jehovah's Witness view is false. I will provide arguments to that effect. Con does not have the burden to show that the Jehovah's Witness view is true, although he can do so if he wishes. Con's burden will be to show that my arguments fail to show that the Jehovah's Witness view is false. So, in other words, all Con has to do is refute my arguments.
Round 1: Acceptance, definitions, clarifications, rules, and well-wishes.
Round 2: Opening arguments.
Round 3: Rebuttals.
Round 4: Conclusion.
1. No new arguments in the last round, although rebuttals are allowed.
2. Con may rebut in round 1.
3. Voters must vote on the content of the debate, not on their own views, nor on arguments they would like to have made, nor on what goes on in the comment section or discussion forums.
4. Fairness and charity are expected from both debaters and all voters. No motive-mongering.
5. Forfeiting the last round is a loss of the whole debate. Forfeiting just one round prior to the last round is a lost of conduct.
I have made the debate 6000 characters long to encourage voting and discourage forfeiting.
Good luck, MadCornishBiker. I hope for a challenging exchange.
Pro's description of the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses is pretty accurate, and I would only change one point in it. the body into which the resurrected personality is placed, along with all it's memories, is not just a human body with a few improvements, it is a perfect human body as was the body which Adam was created into, and in fact as was the body that the personality and memories of God's son were placed in when the time was right, hence Jesus being called "the second Adam".
This new body is one which is not subject to sickness and death, since it has not inherited Adamic Sin as we all do when conceived.
That is in fact the whole reason that a new, and perfect body is needed at resurrection.
Having cleared that point up I shall say no more, it makes a refreshing change to debate with someone who apparently has a fair idea what he is disagreeing with.
There is a lot of confusion out there over the word "soul", and most translations translate the word "Nephesh" in a variety of way, not just as soul, but simply as life, and variations on that theme. It is no wonder there is so much confusion over what a soul actually is.
Of course that is Satan's plan, in order to drag as many away from the truth as he can. Hence there is such a confusion not just of religions, but particularly within Christendom itself. However truth is truth, and there can only be one.
I should add that unless otherwise stated all scriptural quotations will be from the New World Translation, and considering title of the debate any other material will come from jehovah's Witnesses publications available for checking online, and links will be provided to them for that purpose.
I shall leave round one at that I think, and wait to see my opponents first round of argument.
Again I thank the proposer for the respectful nature of the challenge and for his clarity and intention to do all things "Decently and by arrangement" as scripture puts it.
Con's clarification on the JW view of resurrection is perfectly aligned with my understanding of it, so we can just dive right in.
What I'm going to argue and it's implications
What I am going to argue is that it is impossible for a person to cease to exist, then to come back into existence. And it does no good to appeal to the omnipotence of Jehovah because the impossibility is not due to a lack of power any more than the impossibility of creating a square circle. Regardless of how powerful Jehovah is, he could not make the person who comes into existence actually be the same person as the one who died rather than a mere replica. The reason is because there is nothing that could possibiliy be done that could make the person who comes into existence be the same person who died.
If I am right, then there are two possible implications. One implication is that JWs are wrong to think we cease to exist when we die. If resurrection is a reality, it would imply that we continue to exist in a disembodied state between death and resurrection so that the same person who once animated the body that died can reanimate the body that is raised at the resurrection, therefore preserving personal identity.
Another possibility is that there will be no resurrection, at least not of original people. If there is something like a resurrection, it would only be the replication of previously existing people, which does us no good since we ourselves will have permanently ceased to exist.
Either of these possibilities will have even further implications. It will mean that either the Bible does not teach the JW position on death and resurrection or else the Bible is not the word of God. So clearly if I'm right, it will require a paradigm shift in thinking for a JW. As for me, I once held the JW position. After changing my mind, I went with the first option above.
I think the reason it is so hard for people to change their minds, even when the evidence is sometimes overwhelming, is because it's rarely possible to change your mind about just one thing. Changing your mind about one thing has implications for other things because all of our beliefs are connected to each other, and you can rarely just change one in isolation from the others.
By I digress. Let me get into the arguments now.
If you've read me carefully, you've noticed that I make a bold claim. Rather than claim it's unlikely that the JW position is true, I claim it's impossible for it to be true, which means it doesn't just happen to be false, but it's necessarily false. My arguments may be hard for some people to understand, but I think they prove with absolute certainty that the JW position is false.
I am going to use some thought experiments to show why it is impossible for a person (or anything for that matter) to cease to exist then come back into existence.
First thought experiment
Given Jehovah's omniscience, his knowledge of you now is just as exhaustive as his memory of you after you're dead. That means whatever information he uses to recreate you at the resurrection is information he already has. It is possible, then, for him to use that information now to fashion a body, bring it to life, and cause it to have all of your memories and personality traits.
But clearly if he did so, that person would not actually be you. You would be you! The other person would be an exact duplicate. It is impossible for two persons to be the same person. The fact that the other person would have all of your memories and personality and even think he was you doesn't change the matter. From the moment of his or her creation, he or she will begin to have different experiences from you. For example, if the person were created five feet away from you, and a moment later a bird pooped on his head by not yours, one of you would experience something the other wouldn't, which makes it impossible that you could be the same person.
If Jehovah happened to wait until after you were dead before he did the exact same thing, it wouldn't for that reason be you that he was bringing into existence. If it's only a replica while you're alive, then it would only be a replica after you were dead because Jehovah would be doing the exact same thing. You're death doesn't change anything.
Second thought experiment
Suppose that at the resurrection, instead of using his perfect memory to bring one person into existence who had died, he brings 12 versions of that person into existence, each exactly alike both physically and mentally. Well, clearly 12 persons cannot be the same person. At least 11 of them are replicas. So which one is the original?
None of them are the original! Thnk about it. If the 12th person is made just like the 11 replicas, then the 12th person is a replica, too. They're all replicas, and there is no original.
It wouldn't change the matter if Jehovah happened to only create one. If all 12 would be replicas if he created them, then if he only created one of them, it, too, would just be a replica.
The only way it's possible for a person who has died to rise from the dead is if they continue to exist in a disembodied state between death and resurrection. If they cease to exist when they die, they are gone for good. At best, Jehovah can create a replica of them.
To overcome this argument, Pro will have to think of some criteria of personal identity that makes the resurrected person be the same person as the one who died. The problem is that there is nothing that could do that. Memories are not sufficient because Jehovah could put the same memories into several different persons, which shows it's possible for two people to have all the same mental properties (memories and all) and still not be the same person. There is nothing Jehovah could do to a risen person that he couldn't do to a replica, yet a replica is still just a replica and not the original person.
Therefore, not even Jehovah can bring a person into exitence who has ceased to exist.
I have to admit I find that a fascinating series of thoughts, and a lot hinges on what you consider to be you in reality.
When Jesus was born he was a perfect human child, because all imperfection, which we inherit from Adam, were removed at conception.
However he was still "just" Jesus, he was not at that point the Christ, nor did he have the personality or memories of God's son. If you really stop to think about it you will see who obvious this is or should be.
That is because our personality grows with our experiences and memories so unless he was given all of the personality, and therefore all the memories of God's son he would not be God's son at all. Would an immature human mind be able to hold all information, all those millennia of experiences? Not a chance.
Thus it was only on his Baptism, when he formally and publicly accepted his role that the Personality and memories of God's son were transferred to his human body.
The principle is exactly the same for the resurrection.
You do have a very valid point in that God could, if he wished, create more than one of each of us, but at the instant of creation each one would most definitely be the same person because they would have everything that makes them a person, and individual. However as they had different experiences they would cease to be the same person, just as we change continually, if only in minute increments, with every new experience.
It is very true that in the resurrection that we will not have the same body, but we will have everything that makes us, us. There is nothing else, other than our personality and our memories, that makes us what we are.
Precisely the same would happen if we were cloned. At the instant of cloning we would both be "us" but that would change as soon as we started having different experiences however slight the difference.
In a very real sense the you that you are now, is not the you that you will be tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that. The differences may be so slight that you don't notice them, though others may, but they will be there none the less.
Interestingly what others recognise as us is only the physical shell, it is not us, it is what contains us. That was illustrated by Jesus resurrection. He did not come back in the same body, and not even it seems in a human body.
Even Mary didn't recognise him in the Garden and the two disciples he spoke with on the road to Emmaus only recognised him after when they thought about his conversation and his mannerisms.
The fact that he was able, twice, to appear in the middle of crowded and locked rooms apparently out of thin air, tends to indicate that it was a spirit body that he could materialise and dematerialise at will. It even appears that he could make the wounds form the nails appear at will.
However for all that he was still Christ, still the person that his followers knew and loved.
Thus it will be in the resurrection. We will have new, perfect bodies, but we will still be "us" in every way that matters, and still be changing day by day, even minute by minute, as we do now.
That is why the resurrection of us, as we are at the moment of death is not only possible, but inevitable.
However it has to be admitted that if I were to die tomorrow, the "me" that was resurrected would be the me that existed tomorrow, not the one that exists as I type this argumentation.
It is also true that the "me" who is resurrected will not be the same as the me that is there the next hour the next day, the next week.
God cannot do more than that, nor should he.
The Law of Identity
According to the Law of Identity (one of the most basic laws of logic), A is identical to A. Everything is identical to itself.
But we may not always knows that two entities are actually the same entity. For example, Lois Lane doesn't know that Superman and Clark Kent are actually the same person.
If whatever is true of A is also true of B, and vice versa, then A and B are actually the same thing. It turns out that everything that is true of Superman is also true of Clark Kent and vice versa because they are the same person.
If there is just one thing that is true of A that is not true of B, then it is impossible for A and B to be the same thing.
Now suppose that God creates two copies of the same person. Each has an identical physical structure, down to the molecule, and each has identical memories at the moment of creation, as well as identical personality, desires, thoughts, etc. It would still be impossible for them to be the same person for two reasons.
First, because they would be located in two different places. It is not possible for one person to be located in two different places at the same time, and it is not possible for two physical humans to occupy the same space at the same time.
Second, because it's possible for something to happen to one without it happening to the other. For example, one could get pooped on by a passing bird while the other doesn't. If there is something possible of A that is not possible for B, then A and B cannot be the same thing.
Since in any case where Jehovah creates two copies of the same person, it's impossible for everything that is true about one to be true about the other, it's therefore impossible for the two copies to actually be the same person.
Con's view of identity
This refutes Con's claim that if Jehovah were to create two versions of the same person, that they "would most definitely be the same person." They would not and could not be the same person.
Con claims that "There is nothing else, other than our personality and our memories, that makes us what we are." But as we've seen, personality and memories are not sufficient to establish personal identity since it's possible for two different persons to have the same personality and memories. Something more is needed.
Con claims that although two identical persons at the resurrection would be the same person at they moment they were created, nevertheless "as they had different experiences they would cease to be the same person, just as we change continually, if only in minute increments, with every new experience."
Although there is a since in which we claim that a person who has undergone a radical change in personality is "not the same person," we do not mean that literally. When a person has new experiences resulting in new memories, and when a person changes some aspect of their personality (e.g. overcoming anger issues), they are still literally the same person. Otherwise, it would never be just to punish a person for what they supposedly did in the past. And it would false for a person to ever say anything like, "I used to have anger issues" since the person who had anger issues no longer exists and the present person is literally a different person than whoever it was that had anger issues.
Con says, "In a very real sense the you that you are now, is not the you that you will be tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that." If we take his "real sense" to mean a "literal sense," then this is just nonsense. Not only is it nonsense, but it refutes the Jehovah's Witness view on death and resurrection that I spelled out at in round one which Con agreed with. In the JW view, the person who rises at the resurrection is the same person as the one who died. But if it is true that we are literally not the same person from day to day, then it is impossible that the person who rises at the resurrection is really the same person as the one who died. After all, the person who rises immediately has a different experience (being resurrected) than the person who died.
It's also nonsense because if taken literally, it means that none of us have existed for longer than a moment. We ourselves were never actually born. We have no parents. None of the memories we have are real since we ourselves did not participate in them. Culpability, which is central to Christianity, is out the window since nobody living today is guilty of any crime that was committed yesterday. Whatever crimes were committed yesterday were committed by people who no longer exist.
So Con's view of personal identity needs some work. Or at least it needs some clarification.
By the law of identity, it is impossible for Jehovah to create two people and have them be the same person. For that reason, all of my previous arguments explained by thought experiment in the previous round are sound, and Con has not refuted them.
Con needs to come up with some criteria for personal identity that will make the person at the resurrection actually be the same person as the one who previously died rather than being a replica.
After all, suppose that instead of bringing you back into existence at the resurrection, Jehovah chose instead to bring a perfect replica of you into existence at the resurrection. What would be the difference in what Jehovah did? I submit that there could be no difference from what Jehovah's Witnesses claim Jehovah is going to do, which is to use his perfect memory of you as a blueprint for creating you at the resurrection. And that means that if you cease to exist at death, then all Jehovah can do at the resurrection is make a duplicate of you. You yourself will be gone for good.
I want to thank Con for a speedy response. I was really busy over the weekend, so it took me until today to post my opening arguments.
For one thing it is based on suppositions and hypothetical instances which whilst not physically impossible are morally impossible, and since God is a highly moral individual that makes then absolutely impossible.
To stand a chance of being an argument which meets the criteria built into the title of the proposition it has to be something that fits in with the Jehovah's Witnesses view on death and resurrection.
Since everything Jehovah's witnesses believe is based on scripture, let us examine that first.
Ecclesiastes 9:5,6 For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they anymore have wages, because the remembrance of them has been forgotten. 6 Also, their love and their hate and their jealousy have already perished, and they have no portion anymore to time indefinite in anything that has to be done under the sun.
Therefore the Jehovah's Witness view of death at least is in line with scripture and true Christian teaching. None of that is affected by Pro's argumentation
How about the Jehovah's Witness view of the resurrection?
God promises that al those who have not committed "sin against holy spirit" will get a resurrection with the option on eternal life, in the same sense that Adam was created with. That can only mean being resurrected into a perfect human body.
Ironically nothing in the argumentation of Pro affects that either because his argumentation is based on the idea of an exact copy in all senses. Scripture does not claim that, and neither do Jehovahs Witnesses. What scripture promises is that the dead will be resurrected into these perfect bodies exactly as they were when they died.
It doesn't promise that they will always remain the same, in fact it promises that they will be given the opportunity to learn and change.
All it promises that at the moment of resurrection we will be "us" What we become from that point on depends, as it does now, from minute to minute, on how we react to what we encounter along the way.
Since neither scripture, nor the Jehovah's Witnesses suggest more than one copy of each person, that part of Pro's argumentation is not relevant to the Proposal as worded either.
What makes us, us?
Simply that, as stated before, we are whatever we are at any given moment, and that changes according to experiences when we die, since we experience nothing we cannot change, and therefore on resurrection, for however long that lasts we will be exactly who and what we were at the moment, the precise moment of death.
The exact moment of opening our eyes will signal a change in us whether or not we have our beliefs vindicated or completely destroyed either way that will change us, so no matter how accurate the copy God has made, we will change moment by moment. Our initial state however will still have been the "us" we were at death.
Our memories will not change, they will simply be added to, though they may start to fade with the passage of sufficient time.
So not only is the Jehovah's Witness view of death and resurrection correct, and possible, it is inevitable if God's purpose of having the earth populated with perfect, eternally living, human beings is ever to be realised.
It is true that the scenarios presented by Pro in his argumentation are impossible but since they bear no relation to the Jehovah's Witness view of death and resurrection I can only feel that he has failed to prove his case.
Again I thank my opponent for this opportunity.
This has been a quick debate. Thanks to MadCornishBiker for such speedy responses. Apparently we both had some free time today.
I agreed not to make any new arguments for my position in this last round, but I do want to respond to the new arguments Con made in the previous round. And if there's room, I'll summarize.
Con attempts to refute my argument by claiming the laws of logic do not apply to organic life. He made no attempt to substantiate that claim, but he says it's the "only problem that I can see with Pro's argumentation." If that's my only problem, and it turns out not to be a problem at all, then Con should agree that I've won this debate.
The laws of logic are universal necessary truths. They are true in all possible worlds. In fact, they are what determines what is possible and what it not possible. So the laws of logic apply just as well to organic life as they do to the rest of reality.
Con attempts to refute my argument by claiming the hypothetical scenarios would be immoral, and God is not immoral. But this is just a failure to understand a thought experiment. It's irrelevant whether God would actually create multiple copies of people or not.
Moreover, the arguments did not stop merely with hypothetical scenarios. The first scenario showed that if Jehovah waits until you are dead before creating an exact duplicate, the duplicate would not for that reason actually be you. And that is what JWs think will happen--Jehovah will wait until after you are dead before creating a person from his memory.
The second scenario showed that if Jehovah only creates one person at the resurrection, the person would not for that reason actually be the original person who died. And that is what JWs think will happen--Jehovah will only bring one version of you into existence at the resurrection. So Con is mistaken when he says my scenarios "bear no relation to the Jehovah's Witness view of death and resurrection."
Con has objected to my argument on an irrelevant basis--that because Jehovah is moral, it would be morally impossible for him to create multiple versions of people.
Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 confirms the JW view of death. Recall that the JW view on death is that we cease to exist when we die. But Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 only says that we will not be conscious. People who lose consciousness by falling asleep or falling into a coma do not cease to exist. If it's true that we are not conscious once we're dead, it doesn't follow that we cease to exist. Con is reading something into this passage that isn't there.
Also, Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 says that those who die will "have no portion anymore to time indefinite in anything that has to be done under the sun." Doesn't that exclude a future resurrection? If not, then Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 cannot be taken at face value. If taken at face value it does exclude resurrection.
One more point about Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 that will apply equally to other scriptural arguments Con makes is that if it turns out the scriptures actually teach the JW position, that would only serve to prove that the scriptures are wrong. It would not refute my arguments.
Con's argument here is a little confusing, and I suspect it's because he doesn't really understand my argument and what I mean by "personal identity" or "replica," etc.
Con argues that although the scriptures promise that the dead will be raised, it doesn't promise that they will remain the same. I have nowhere claimed that people remain the same in the sense that they don't change their properties. Of course a piece of wax can change from being a cube to being a sphere, but it remains the same piece of wax. In the same way, a human can change their minds, change their physical appearance, etc., but they remain the same person through these changes. You don't literally become a different person just because something changes about you. Saying that a person has changed presupposes that it's the same person before and after the change. Otherwise, we wouldn't say the person changed, but that the person ceased to exist and a new person took their place.
I fully grant that the Bible teaches that the person who rises is the same person as the one who died, and I fully acknowledge that JWs believe that the person who rises will be the same person as the one who died. What I am arguing is that given the JW view on death, that is impossible. Either it's false that people will be raised from the dead, or it's false that people cease to exist when they die, or they're both false. In any case, the JW view on death and resurrection is false.
Con's comments about how we will change with time are irrelevant to my argument since the issue isn't about a continuously existing person undergoing changes, but about continuity of personal identity when there is a gap in their existence. Continuity of personal identity is not the same thing as continuity of traits or properties.
I think I have made a pretty solid argument against the Jehovah's Witness view on death and resurrection. I think the only difficulty with this argument is getting people to understand it. I do wish Con would think carefully about the arguments before giving his final response.
Since it is impossible for a person to cease to exist, then come back into existence, then either we do continue to exist in a disembodied state between death and resurrection, or else we have no hope for a resurrection at all. Either way, nobody should give much thought to whether they should become Jehovah's Witnesses or not. If you decide they are wrong about death, then you can't convert anyway. If you decide they are right about death, then you have no hope beyond the grave, and therefore nothing to gain by converting.
Thank you, reader, for your time. Please vote.
And thank you once again, MadCornishBiker. Maybe we can debate something else in the future that's a little less esoteric.
Scripture tells us that on death we exist only in the memory of God, in the same way that our deceased loved ones live in our memories, only God's knowledge of us is far more detailed than that of any human. Hence he can replace our complete set of memories and personality in our new perfect bodies, the same way that he placed the memories and personality of his son in Jesus on baptism
Because the body that the personality and memories are placed in becomes the person because it is our memories and personality which makes us, us, not the flesh we inhabit.
In fact it is not nonsense to suggest that the "us" that we are today is not the "us" that we will be tomorrow, because as Pro has already admitted we change continually as our experiences shape us. He admitted that in his statement that two identical versions would soon cease to be identical as they were shaped by what happened to and around them.
Sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander. If the identical copies change and become different the n so do we all.
That is why God's judgment on us all will only be made on the "us" we are at the time of judgement, not before. Our pasts will not be held against us provided we have turned our backs on them. There are many currently in line for salvation now who would not have been if their judgement had happened before they learned the error of their ways, and doubtless some who are in line for it now who will not be if they move away from the true path.
I am going to say little more now because I fell it has all been said, but as a brief summary, Pro has already said that two identical copies would soon become different because of circumstance surrounding them, and by that same token we all change every day, every minute sometimes, however small the changes are, and as the scots say "mony a mickle maks a muckle" Many a little makes a lot.
In that case I respectfully suggest that his own argumentation has disproven his own case.
Again I thank my opponent for this opportunity, and, like him, would enjoy another debate on any bible based subject at some time in the future. However I do restrict myself to bible based subjects since to my mind they are the only ones worthy of the effort.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by calculatedr1sk 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Both Pro and Con demonstrated respectful and pleasant conduct, had acceptable S&G, and neither used sources other than a scripture or two because this was mainly an abstract philosophical debate for which sources wouldn't be necessary. Pro clearly dominated in the quality of his argumentation. Con had a muddled position and never found a viable way to overcome Pro's thought experiment or invokation of the law of identity. In round 3 Con tried invalidating logic itself for this context, and also tried to establish that multiple copies would be immoral and thus impossible since Jehovah is highly moral, and invoked ecclesiastes 9 to bolster his case. Pro answered both objections in his conclusion and very effectively turned ecclesiastes 9 to his own cause and against his opponent's case. In Con's conclusion he thus seems to have finally accepted Pros thought experiment and even embraced it to show that somehow because copies will grow different, his argument is valid. It didn't work.
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