There have been a scores of books recently on near death experiences (NDEs) and visits to heaven (and an occasional drop into hell). I briefly considered reviewing a wide swath of these, but there’s way too many. But I was also given pause by the thought, “Has anyone looked closely at these? Or is emotion at work here, much like Y2k and 2012?”
No, I’m not skeptical of NDEs in principal as a possibility. Many of these people’s experiences may be true in every detail. Others may have really seen something, though not really know what it was. There may even be a hoax or two out there, but I haven’t heard of many. In any case, I was pleased to find that Hank Hanegraaff wrote Afterlife, in which he does what few others dare to do:
Take the time to really read the NDE stories and see if their claims stand up to simple reason.
For people who don’t like their beliefs to be disrupted, Hanegraaff probably doesn’t make a lot of friends. All that he is doing, however, is some simple critical thinking. Like asking, “Why do so many of these accounts seem colored by the person’s personal beliefs? Why is everyone’s vision of heaven different?” (paraphrasing Hank here). Indeed, those are good questions.
Since many of these accounts come from Christians, Hanegraaff compares the accounts to biblical theology to find the hits and misses. One interesting NDE has a man describing heaven nearly identical to the Apostle John’s version in The Book of Revelation. Was John’s metaphorical attempt to describe the indescribable so perfect that others couldn’t at least try to use different terms? I think experiencing heaven would encourage one to be a little more creative.
I glad someone is out there doing the dirty work. Also a bit sad that using basic reading skills is now “dirty work.” For those who think this is an exercise in futility because they think there isn’t an afterlife, there is a massive body of work from both scientific and theological perspectives that strongly argue otherwise (such as Brain Wars or Immortality, to name a few). But that debate is not the point here.
It’s okay to let emotion draw you into a book, nonfiction or fiction. That doesn’t mean you have to turn the left side of your brain off. Especially in nonfiction.