Gappy Persons and the Intermediate State

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One of the views on the Intermediate State is that our bodes and souls are inseparably related. Thus, when the body dies, the soul ceases to exist until the boy is resurrected. That person exists for a time, then doesn't exist for a time, and then resumes existence. Thus, that person is a "gappy" person as there is a temporal gap in their [note: I'm trying out TNIV style singular "they/them/their/theirs"...let's see if this works.] existence.

Many people have problems with gappy existence. For them identity demands continuous existence; fragmentation or gappiness is an ontological problem. To these critics, the person in question has been destroyed and then at some later time a copy has been created. But that copy is not identical to the "original" person.

Identity requiring continuity is a fairly strong intuition. But there is another description of the events which, with equal intuitive strength, indicates that identity does not require continuity: time travel. Say that upon death, God "teleports" a person forward in time to Resurrection Day. They have skipped the intervening days. From History's standpoint, they are a gappy person--they existed for a time, then they didn't exist for a time, then they resumed existence. But if they have experienced time travel, then that is no problem. They haven't been destroyed and recreated (or a copy of them created). They just jumped forward in time.

I think that most people's fundamental objections to the body-soul unity view of intermediate state is that they object to the gappy person model on a gut level. That ends up guiding their interpretive choices on various scriptures. This is not to say that there aren't some actual scriptural problems with this view of intermediate state, but I think that most people focus on the wrong problems.


The one problem with this is that corpses don't get transported through time, and neither do ashes. At least they don't seem to. Peter van Inwagen suggests that God removes corpses immediately after death and replaces them with duplicates that then decompose or get cremated. If the way God removes a corpse is by time travel to the future, then this makes a little more sense than his conception of some heavenly holding place, which assumes heaven to be a physical domain, contrary to the suggestions of scripture (though apparently Christ is physical in the resurrection body, and he presumably is in heaven and was not simply transported to the future at the ascension).

The one main problem that still remains is what Paul might have been talking about as this state of nakedness awaiting a body. That seems reduced to something much less bad than Paul conceived it if it's a period of nonexistence followed by a body appearing via time travel with full consciousness and no awareness of the time during which the person didn't exist to be aware of the nakedness of nonexistence.

Yup, this view has its problems. I don't really hold to this view, but I've seen lots of objections to body-soul unity that seem to be based on "gappy person" alone and wanted to make people aware that that is a poor reson to reject it.

That said, there is something very appealing about body-soul unity, and that is why I want to explore it more at the approprate levels.

I'll try to post yet another view later today. (I'm not sure I hold to that one either.)

I am brand new to this discussion, but was struck by what seems to me to be an obvious resolution of the "gappy person" 'problem.' First, it seems only fair to say that I am not a conventionally religious person, a Christian, nor do I think it is anything but hubris to act as if we could even approach knowing anything about a god that stands outside our universe and simultaneously is it's essence.

Time is purely a function of our universe, and perhaps not even consistent 'here.' If god stands outside the universe, the continuity of the 'soul' or 'spirit,' of a person most certainly continues without any interruption in the mind of god.

Rereading this, unfortunately after I clicked 'post,' it sounds stupid: " continuity of the 'soul' or 'spirit,' of a person most certainly continues without any interruption in the mind of god."

Let me try this: Standing outside the universe, unbound by time and knowing beginings and endings and all in between as an unbroken whole, there is no discontinuity of the 'soul' or 'spirit,' of a person in the mind of god.

Jerry, that sounds like either a legal fiction based on a divine declaration as true. There's no connection in the thing itself, but God treats it as if there is. It seems to me that a causal connection between one and the other is necessary for it to be the same thing. Time travel explains that. I'm less confident that God's seeing the two as having the same characteristics is enough for them to be the same thing. After all, if it's not time travel then it really did stop existing. Even if God is outside time not perceiving that end as an end, isn't it still an end?

Jeremy - I was thinking some more about your two objections to the time travelling gappy person view, and I came up with how I think someone who holds this view would defend it:

1) Regarding the charge that bodies are not teleported into the future. While the body and the soul are not seperable, they are still distinguishable. The important feature here is that the soul cannot exist seperate from a body. I.e. the soul has no independant existence. The other important feature is that the soul is what defines identity. Thus the same soul transported from one body to another (e.g. a mortal body into a resurrection body) is still the same person. What God is doing here is teleporting the soul forward in time until there is a resurrection body for it to "inhabit" or "inform" or whatever the approprate word would be to describe how a soul relates to a body in the soul-body unity view.

2) Regarding the charge that Paul describes a state of nakedness awaiting a body. Paul (in passages like 2Cor 5:1-10) actually only discusses two states of being: being in our earthly tent/naked/home in the body; and being in our heavenly dwelling/clothed/home with the Lord. Thus the nakedness is actually our present earthly existence, not some intermediate state.

Well, I was going to post another view today, but the huge discussion on the Penal Union post took up all my time. Oh well. Maybe tomorrow. Or the day after. Or next year.

The one hesitation I have with your reading of II Cor 5:1-10 is v.8. It's talking about being away from the body but at home with the Lord. This can't be either the current state or the resurrection.

being away from the body but at home with the Lord. This can't be either the current state or the resurrection.

Sure it can. If you read "away from the body" as "away from the [earthly] body", then it easily refers to the resurrection body when we are at home with the Lord.

Yes, this is a little bit of a stretch. But I don't think that it is stretching so far that it can't be considered. We stretch the meaning of other passages farther than that without too much hesitation. And if you read this passage this way, you have a nice duality of thought in this passage: present earthly body away from the Lord vs. future resurrection body at home with the Lord. Nice and simple and very Pauline. Contextually I think it fits, so the only real objection is the interpolating of the word "earthly". But Greek interpolates like this all the time, so it isn't like this kind of thing is unheard of.

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