Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Book Review: "Immortality: The Other Side of Death"

Immortality: The Other Side of Death
By Gary Habermas and J.P. Moreland.

Immortality is a book that I have wanted to read for quite some time. Wanted to read it to be familiar with the different arguments for the existence of life after death. The book did not disappoint.

Habermas and Moreland wrote this book at a lay level that we all can easily access; however, they have much information and arguments that will challenge those at a higher level. They provide their arguments then discussion and critique the strongest objections and opposing views. They are really good about defining their terms, which I really appreciated. When they make distinctions, they don't just make up a new term, they provide a reason behind the distinction. The writing style was very smooth and did not put me to sleep. The content kept me pausing every so often to add my own commentary (whether agreeing or disagreeing). I found myself, on several occasions, working through the logic of a conclusion before they presented the flow. That kept me quite engaged. So, what was the content that was so great?

The book is split into three different parts: The evidence for immortality, the nature of immortality, and the implications of immortality. The first chapter begins as a warm-up. They provide some of the weaker, but still traditional arguments for immortality. They cover the arguments from God's existence, the unity of the self, and desire. The second and third chapters are where things really start heating up. They cover the issue of the existence of the soul. They let the reader know about the debate and what all it entails. They then provide their argument and defend it against objections. After that they shift focus to the opposing position and provide arguments against it. (I'm not going to cover the exact content here; it warrants several posts of its own- maybe even a whole series.)

Chapter Four focuses on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Habermas puts forth the evidence and his conclusion (that Jesus did rise from the dead). He then critiques alternative conclusions. Unfortunately, since this book is not dedicated to the subject of the resurrection, Habermas did not go into great detail. He just provided enough to support the purpose of this book. If you want more information about the evidence for the resurrection and how scholars respond, please check out Habermas' Website. He also recommends reading his books The Risen Jesus and Future Hope and The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (coauthored by Mike Licona). The first is next on my list, and the second is further down.

Chapters Five and Six cover the fascinating topic of near-death experiences (NDE). Moreland and Habermas start, of course, by defining what a NDE is. They describe the points near death (or at death) that people have experienced NDEs. They describe a few, provide corroborative evidence for the claims made by the person, then provide scientific evidence that supports when in the death experience the NDE took place. They then answer some commonly asked questions about NDEs, then answer objections from medical and psychological fields.

Part Two describes the nature of immortality. In Chapter Seven, they take the traditional Christian position that all Believers will receive new bodies at The Resurrection. They take the position that, in the meantime, Believers will exist in a disembodied state. They look at alternative views and critique them. In Chapter Eight, they look at the evidence for and against reincarnation. They look at objections to both sides, and investigate the Biblical case for reincarnation. They ultimately conclude that it is false.

Chapter Nine is spent providing a model for the afterlife. Chapter Ten covers Heaven and twelve common questions about Heaven. Chapter Eleven covers the doctrine of Hell, reasons for its necessity, and objections to its existence. They specifically cover Universalism, Annihilationism, and the possibility of second chances. They do not discuss Hell with a cold-hearted attitude; which was nice considering some of the views of Hell and its necessity that I have heard some people take.

Part Three goes through the different implications for immortality Chapter Thirteen sets the stage for the remainder of the book. They discuss becoming "Heavenly Minded" and allowing all our decisions and actions to flow from that state of mind. Chapter Fourteen talks about overcoming a fear of death. Chapter Fifteen concludes the book with a short discussion of ethics and the implications of immortality on the end-of-life debates.

Immortality is an awesome book that I would recommend to everyone who has questions about the after-life (including if it even exists). The edition that I read was published in 1992. I have found that it was republished in 2004 under the title Beyond Death. The 2004 edition is almost twice as thick and provides much more detail about the specific case studies and other evidences cited.

More books by Dr. Habermas

More books by Dr. Moreland