Post Author: Bill Pratt
I exist. I cannot deny that I exist without first existing. In addition, I seem to be a single, enduring self who has existed throughout my entire life. My past memories belong to my same identical self. I fully expect my same identical self to exist tomorrow and next week, assuming I don’t die. Not only do I think these things about myself, but I wager that everyone on the planet, excepting maybe those with severe mental illness, feels the same way.
Any worldview worth believing in should have an explanation for the existence of an enduring self. Let’s look at how atheistic naturalism and Christian theism explain the enduring self.
So how does atheistic naturalism explain the existence of my single, enduring self? Honestly, it can’t. Recall that naturalism explains everything in terms of matter – what physics, chemistry, and biology can describe. According to these disciplines, each moment I lose hundreds of thousands of cells and other microscopic parts.
Every 7 to 10 years, most of my cells are entirely replaced. Put another way, the average age of all the cells in the adult human body is 7 to 10 years. So, according to naturalism, I am virtually a new individual every 7-10 years. Any sense I have of an enduring self that is the same through my entire life is an illusion, a trick of the human brain.
I may resemble the self I was last week, but I am not the very same self, for my body and my brain have lost parts and gained new parts. Likewise, I will not be the same person next week or next month or next year. In fact, in roughly 10 years, I will have very few physical parts in common with my current self. On atheistic naturalism, there is no enduring self.
What about Christian theism? This worldview posits each individual self as an enduring, immaterial, soul. This soul persists from the moment of conception through death. The reason we believe our memories of the past belong to us, and not some other self, is because our memories are unified by our single, enduring soul.
My exact same soul will endure next week and next month and next year. I will exist in the future, not somebody else. My physical body can be constantly changing, but my soul can persist unchanged. The immaterial, unchanging soul of each human being explains why we believe we all think that our past, present and future selves, are one and the same, and not a series of distinct individuals.
What explains the existence of an enduring self? Certainly not atheistic naturalism. Only something like the immaterial soul offered by Christian theism can explain it.