Rawlings School of Divinity


Doctor of Philosophy in Theology and Apologetics (PhD)


Ed Smither


Islam, Christianity, Afterlife, Theology, Philosophy


Christianity | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


A theological doctrine of eternal life raises certain qualitative and existential questions. Considering the unfathomable duration, one may rightly ask, what will that experience be like and will it meet the experiential needs of human beings so that there are no intimations of boredom. Eternity, then, creates a potential existential problem for humanity. The problem is potential because eternity creates a certain need, a need which can concisely be stated in this way: quality must overcome quantity. Both Christianity and Islam teach human beings are intended to live forever so both religions must overcome this problem if eternal life within that religion is something to be desired. In this study, the problems of eternity are divided into two distinct classifications: the Qualitative Gap Problem (QGP) and the Teleological Gap Problem (TGP). The QGP is an objective problem and considers the relation of the divine to humanity as a solution to eternity. The TGP is a subjective problem and considers how the ultimate good of the afterlife aligns with human telos and consequently, human flourishing. This study argues that the Islamic afterlife does not have the theological and philosophical resources to meet both gap problems simultaneously and must compromise on one in order to meet the other. Subsequently, the study submits that the Christian view of afterlife overcomes both gaps because of the God/man relationship in Heaven focused supremely on, in, and through the God-man Jesus Christ. It is it our holistic relationship to the Triune God that grants eternal joy for all of redeemed humanity.