Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Family completeness in heaven...?

I've just been listening to a recent Unbelievable show on the question of "Why does God allow suffering?" featuring a discussion between Vince Vitale (Christian) and Julian Baggini (Atheist). Most of it was the same old stuff and not much worthy of comment. But one comment made by Vince Vitale made me pause for thought.

I can't remember the exact wording now, but he was talking about a Christian family who had experienced the pain and suffering of a late-term miscarriage. The gist of his comment was that the family who lost the baby gained comfort through the knowledge that their child would not be lost to them forever, and that their family would be complete in heaven. In other words, the miscarried child would go on to eternal life, and would be part of their family in the world to come.

Its a great thought, and one that I'm sure would give some comfort to a grieving family, but only makes sense if you don't think it through. If you stop and think about this, there is no reason why this should only apply to late-term miscarriages. It would have to apply to early miscarriages too. Including those that occur before the couple even know they are pregnant. Indeed, there's not really any reason why this shouldn't happen in the case of a fertilised egg that doesn't implant.

Statistically speaking, about three out of four conceptions do not lead to babies. The majority of these do not implant or 'miscarry' before there are any signs of pregnancy. But put this in the eternal context imagined by the Christian family above. This would mean that for every child you actually have, in heaven you will have an extra three, on average. That is to say, that only a quarter of the human population of heaven will actually have had a life in this world.

Whichever way you slice it, this idea makes no sense in the light of salvation theology. Did Christ only die for a quarter of humanity and the rest get a pass to heaven? Indeed, if we follow the reasoning that children who die very young (and in the womb?) get a free pass into heaven, then the implications are inevitably that the souls of all miscarried children will outnumber the souls of people who lived on earth and got saved many, many times over. As only a fraction of the quarter who make it to term will be saved.

Stop and think about it for a moment. It just makes no sense.

But now, stop and think again. What sense is there in putting a dividing line in at the moment of birth? If a baby has a soul after birth, they must have had one just before as well? And a month before that? And before that? There is no dividing line that actually makes sense. The reality of miscarriage actually makes the claims of heaven and salvation sound nonsensical. Doesn't it?


David Evans said...

Your last paragraph seems like it would also be a cast-iron disproof of reincarnation. But is it so obvious? If you regard the soul as a property of the body, maybe. But if you regard it as independent of the body, presumably God can create it and attach it to the body whenever he chooses.

Ricky Carvel said...

True. But if God doesn't attach a soul to the body until very late in term or after birth, then all the evangelical arguments against abortion need to be dropped. Evangelicals seem to think (and I used to think) that the moment of conception is the only dividing line that makes any sense for the creation of a soul.

Reincarnation? Well maybe on average you have to go through being reincarnated as a miscarriage three times for every life you live? Of course the law of averages and the law of large numbers mean that there are some poor souls out there who would have spent their entire existence going from one miscarried 'life' to another. Urgh.