One of the guiding principles I have adopted for developing a theology is minimalism. Metaphysical speculations should be kept to a minimum and only arise where they are needed to offer answers to pressing existential questions and are actionable in life. Accordingly, with respect to the topic of an afterlife, I don’t have much to say. However, most people are concerned about the question, so I think it should be addressed as best it can be within the minimalist constraints.
There are all sorts of speculations in religion and philosophy about what happens after death. They range from a dissolution of the self within the ultimate to having some sort of “existence” beyond. That existence could be non-corporeal (a spiritual being), a heavenly existence, a rebirth to another life (reincarnation), or some other formulation.
What I can say, coming from the ontology of a divine idealism is that even after our earthly life ends, the memory of us and our life is eternal in the Mind of God. What God decides to do with that memory could take many forms. This is where all I can offer are some possible options that come to mind. There could be many others.
- Those memories could be just archived (so to speak) with nothing more happening. However, a particular life doesn’t just go into the dustbin of history. Just as our memories of past loved ones affect us now, so it would be with God.
- There could be an essence of a life that gets re-instantiated in some form and lives again.
- There could be an integration of many individual lives’ memories into some sort of composite for another life. After all, our bodies are a composite of many other beings like cells, organs, viruses, and bacteria all working together.
- We might also think about the Author/Story metaphor I often refer to. In a novel, although a particular narrative eventually comes to an end, the characters in that narrative may be revived in subsequent narratives (sequels) and live again. God could create other narratives within God’s Mind where a particular life takes on a new life, perhaps in a very different type of setting and in a very different form than in this life.
- There could be some other afterlife that we would have no concept of.
It is important to remember that all these options are just metaphors. The true reality of things could be very different.
That’s about all I would be willing to speculate about. But here’s the thing. I firmly believe that God loves each and every person and creature. If we believe that, then we can also believe that God will act in a loving way toward each life. Personally, I think that is enough.