The Consummation of All Things

The religions of Semitic origin see the world process, in teleological terms, as leading to a final consummation beyond death and beyond history. The Christian creeds conclude with the affirmation of belief in the resurrection ofthe dead and the life ofthe world to come. There are many problems that exercise philosophers of religion reflecting on these apparently extravagant beliefs. Are there philosophical grounds for expecting survival? Does the notion of life after death make any sense? Is eternity itself to be thought of in temporal terms? Does belief in resurrection make better sense than belief in immortality? How are continuity and identity secured across the divide between this life and the next? Is there free will in the 'morally frictionless' environment of heaven? Further questions of philosophical and moral interest are raised by the specifically religious doctrines of heaven, hell and purgatory. In this chapter we shall survey and examine a selection — but only a selection — of recent work on these problems.

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