Book Plunge: Imagine Heaven

What do I think of John Burke’s book published by Baker Books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

John Burke’s book could be the most exciting book on near-death experiences (NDEs) that I have ever read. While the majority are not evidential in the sense that they tell about people seeing things that they could not have seen that can be verified, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t much information here that should bring joy to the heart of a Christian. Namely, are some of the ideas about what is possible in the city that is being prepared for us.

This doesn’t mean that we shut our brains off and just believe entirely everything said. One has to be on guard because there have been fake accounts of people having NDEs. Burke is right though that many of these come from people who could face public embarrassment for claiming the things that they do claim. What do they gain by making them up always?

Burke is also very reliant on Scripture to make sure that the claims do not go beyond what is written. When one reads the accounts, it’s hard to not get excited. Light is a common refrain that shows up and life is right behind it. It’s as if the place that is coming is full of light that seems to move through everything and life is all around us.

Beauty also plays a major role and with this one, I was surprised that Burke didn’t address an issue that many men wonder about and that is the issue of marriage and sex in Heaven. I think marriage could have been addressed, but not the sexuality aspect. I remain uncertain about whether it will be in heaven, though making babies certainly will not take place. Still, what it is here should be seen as a foretaste of what is coming with God flirting with us about the joys of this world.

Some ideas that were really convicting also included hellish NDEs and the life review. For the NDEs of a more hellish nature, I found myself looking at my life and wondering if I was living that nature more sometimes. I do think I found some areas in which I can improve.

The life review was something common to come across as well. In this, people would review their lives like they were movies and see thoughts and emotions and how their tiniest actions affected people around them. The main question that was being asked is “What did you do with the life that I gave you?” In the accounts, Jesus cares deeply about how we treat other people around us.

I also found it interesting to hear about actual homes in the next world. This was intriguing to think of places where people live in a city. I was very pleased to hear about books being there and the constant pursuit and learning of knowledge.

Burke at one point does describe a welcoming committee and one reason they come is protection. More was said to be coming about this later, but I don’t remember it coming and it was something I was looking for. It could have been hellish NDEs, but that was not specified.

Again, I do not think that we should accept blindly every account given of an NDE, but there are too many to just dismiss them. More and more of them are also coming with evidence that can be verified.  Those with an interest in this field need to read this one.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 3

Do Near-Death experiences give evidence of theism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In Chapter 3, Jelbert goes after Gary Habermas’s essay on near-death experiences. Near-death experiences are fascinating events being talked about now and some are even talking about post-death experiences and shared near-death experiences. In these, a person somehow experiences what they say is a separation of their soul from their body. While you can often have visions of seeing a tunnel or angels or things like that, sometimes there are things seen that can be independently verified.

Of course, if we have experiences where all one sees are such things as angels and the like, then we cannot verify that any of that has been seen. What are interesting are the cases that have people seeing things that they could not see any other way. Naturally, this information has to be gathered immediately before they can talk to people who would tell them the events. For this reason, I place further huge suspicion on something like Heaven Is For Real.

Jelbert looks at one prime example of Habermas which was a case told by Melvin Morse. The girl nearly drowned and was without a pulse for nineteen minutes. When Katie came too, she gave a description of many of the events that happened, including the two physicians who worked on her and events that were going on in her home. We could try to think of other ways someone could gain such information, but good luck finding them.

Habermas also gives accounts that Jelbert says he thinks could be NDEs, such as the account of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Stephen’s sighting in Acts 7, and Paul in 2 Cor. 12. Of these, I only think Paul could likely be a near-death experience. I think Stephen was granted a vision and I don’t see an NDE at all in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

Jelbert’s response starts by saying that the view that consciousness can be separated from the brain goes against the dominant neuroscientific view. The first problem with this is that his source for this is Wikipedia which he does say is very thorough and has lots of other research. Readers here know about my thoughts on Wikipedia. It is the abomination that causes misinformation.

Jelbert goes on to cite Kenneth Ring on NDEs, but none of it deals with the more evidential cases. He then cites Jansen who says many of these sensations could be produced by Ketamine. Perhaps some cases are like this, but when you get to evidential cases, it is far harder.

Jelbert looks at this case and says that Morse is the only doctor there and he has interest in NDEs. He also points out that Morse has been found guilty of some crimes such as waterboarding his wife’s 11 year-old daughter and was sent to prison for three years. Even if this is so, we have to look at Morse’s claims and ask if they pass peer-review and if any fraud can be found in them. To not do so is to commit a genetic fallacy.

Even if we went without Morse, there are others like Moody and Sabom and many more who are collecting these stories. Jelbert is looking at one case with one doctor and dismissing the whole based on this. Even his look at how Morse could investigate is found wanting.

He describes Morse talking to a mother and asking if they had chicken like the daughter said and the mother replying “Yes, that sounds right. Which night did you mean? It was a few days ago now, but I think so.” Morse then replies with “Wow, so she saw you eating chicken!”

It’s amazing that we are to reject Morse’s view, but we should accept the view of Jelbert, who wasn’t there at all, that this is how Morse’s interviews went. A doctor wanting to follow proper procedure and not embarrass himself will want to follow through accurately, especially if he’s publishing something to be peer-reviewed. Jelbert just thinks he can tell a story and that explains it all.

Jelbert also tells about figures being placed in areas of hospital operating rooms that are not visible from the floor to see if anyone can read them during an NDE. No one has yet. Perhaps not, but some things have been cited and why should we think someone having an NDE will automatically want to go and read some strange writing somewhere instead of going to see his family?

Finally, Jelbert tells us that experiences happen regardless of religion (I’d also add lack there of considering A.J. Ayers had one), but that does not provide evidence for any deity of specific religion. Habermas I am sure would agree. NDEs cannot prove any religion. Again, Jelbert faults an argument for not doing what it was never meant to do. What it does do is show naturalism has a problem. If it does, then we should be more open to theism.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 1/9/2016: J. Steve Miller

What’s coming up on this Saturday’s episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out!

Death. It’s said to be the great equalizer and the question often comes up of what happens when we die. Does anything really happen? Is there any evidence that there could be something that happens to people when they die that is more than just becoming worm food? Over the past few decades, there has been a lot of interest in an area of study known as near-death experiences. What are these? Is there any reason to give them any credibility whatsoever? Could these not just be hallucinations or incredibly vivid dreams? If they are real, what can we learn about our world from them? To talk about these, I’m inviting on my friend J. Steve Miller. Who is he?

steve miller pic

J. Steve Miller studied at three diverse colleges and two graduate schools, primarily seeking truth about God and religion. He studied philosophy, apologetics, Psychology of religion, deductive logic, comparative religions, Greek, Hebrew, hermeneutics, exegesis, and many other subjects relevant to his quest. Since then, he has taught both here and abroad (including Slovakia, Austria, Holland, and Russia). His writing includes books on critical thinking, the new atheism, near-death experiences, writing, and publishing. He teaches religion and “Tomorrow’s World Today” at Kennesaw State University, using techniques that seek to engage students by maximizing critical thinking in the classroom. He currently lives in metro Atlanta.

Steve and I will be talking about near-death experiences and what they say about reality. Can we get anything from them about what we would call the furniture of Heaven? If not, then how seriously should we take them? What about the character change that comes from near-death experiences in some cases? What about naturalistic theories that are meant to explain near-death experiences such as ideas of the birth tunnel?

We can also talk about the cases of NDEs that are evidential. What about stories such as those of Pam Reynolds where someone sees things that they could not normally see if they were in a state where they were for all intents and purposes unresponsive in their brains? What does this say about the idea that man has an immaterial aspect to himself, such as a soul? What are we to think about many modern accounts that seem to sell well at bookstores but bring a lot of suspicion to them as well, such as the case of Heaven is for Real, which is a case that I in fact am suspicious of also?

We should also discuss some Christian concerns. What about the possibility that some people could get involved in the occult because of this? Aren’t there some people who study NDEs who are heavily involved in the New Age movement? Do Christians need to have any concerns here?

While I do think some NDE accounts are not accurate, I think some of them are and I find it a fascinating area of study. I hope you’ll be listening to the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast as we talk about near-death experiences and how we can use them in our apologetics. Please consider leaving a positive review of the show on ITunes also.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Near-Death Experiences

What do I think of J. Steve Miller’s book published by Wisdom Creek Press on Near-Death Experiences? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out!

Near-Death experiences are one of those interesting things to talk about. There really is something going on. There are people really convinced that they are having an experience and it would be hard to deny that the experiences are often life-changing. Some people have had their entire worldview altered by having a near-death experience. (NDE from here on) Some people have also claimed to see things going on that they would have no way of knowing about and when compared to people who did not have NDEs but just went by whatever they saw from TV shows and things of that sort, the people with NDEs were far more accurate.

In this book, Miller has gathered testimonies from many researchers of NDEs, including those who started out originally skeptical and decides to also go all over the world for them rather than stick to NDEs in a Western Christian context. Miller’s main point that he wishes to highlight is how the experience is different from what people who went in would expect and how there are so many similarities to the experience. In doing so, he also looks at naturalistic explanations of what goes on, including looking at Blackmore, and decides that ultimately these fall short to explain the data.

The emphasis on subjective experiences is interesting, but I would have liked to have seen more accounts of people who see items and events that can be verified when we have all reason to believe that they were “dead” at the time. The case of Pam Reynolds is one such case. There are also cases of people who come back and report seeing people on the other side who had died before they entered a state where they were subjected to an NDE and that they would have had no way of knowing. Many of these have too many perfectly timed events to just chalk up every time to coincidence.

Also included are looks at studies of people who are deaf, color-blind, and blind, and how they are able to see and hear and experience things that they had no place for prior to that in their life. If people want more, the authors suggests trying to talk to people in your area to see if any of them have had NDEs or if they know someone who has had an NDE. Miller tells us that here in America, about 1 in 25 could be expected to have an NDE and many people are hesitant to talk about an NDE to a doctor lest they be identified as crazy. Hopefully such a stigma is starting to be removed from our culture.

Miller’s book is interesting and also I think he would agree that it is a starting place. That’s why he gives further references at the end for people to do further research and that includes both sides. If you are interested in NDEs, this is something worth checking out.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God Part 6

Is there anything to reports of NDEs? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’m not going to get too much into the mind-body subject of this chapter, but I wish to comment on one aspect of it that I think is highly lacking and that is Carrier’s treatment of NDE’s, otherwise known as Near-Death Experiences.

Near-Death Experiences are experiences where the person is on the verge of death (Or in some cases now is actually dead) and they have some sort of experience where they have a separation from their body and give an account of what happened to them when they were dead. Naturally, they do return to their body or else we’d never hear about it.

Now there are some NDEs that we cannot really do anything with in the area of verification. If you die and claim you went to Heaven and met your grandmother there or talked to God or saw an angel, I cannot verify that. It could have happened, but we cannot verify that it happened.

But let’s suppose you die and while apart from your body, you see events that take place. You see meals that your family is making in your absence. You see car accidents that take place. You hear comments that are made in the waiting room.

Also important with such events is that the person is spoken to as soon as possible about what happened. This is one reason among several others that I’m skeptical about the account in “Heaven is for Real”. The account of what happened came much later and very little of it has any verification and as a Christian, I think much of it contradicts Scripture.

In this chapter, Carrier will speak of both NDE’s and OBE’s, but for our purposes, what unites them is the same. A person sees something when we have no reason to think that they would be capable of seeing anything else. (If you’re under anesthesia in the hospital, it’s quite certain you’re not seeing anything for instance.)

On page 155 he writes “Many fanciful legends have grown up boasting of amazing proofs that a particular OBE was genuine, but they have always dissolved under scrutiny; investigations turn up no corroboration for any of the story’s details, or often uncover evidence that flatly contradicts it.”

Little problem here. Not one such case is mentioned. When looking at recommended reading, I see nothing that in fact records accounts that are favorable towards NDEs. You won’t find, for instance, Michael Sabom’s work on this topic. You also won’t find Habermas and Moreland on this topic, and surely Carrier knows of this since he interacts with Moreland some in this book.

What accounts do we have? Those interested in more are free to read Sabom’s book as well as Habermas and Moreland’s. You can also find interviews of Habermas. One of him on the Sci Phi show in two parts. Here is part 1 and part 2. Also in parts one and two are him at the Veritas forum. You can listen again to part 1 and part 2.

Those interested in a debate can hear the debate he had with Keith Augustine in three parts. part 1, part 2, and part 3.

One caseI think worth mentioning right off is the story of Pam Reynolds, who gave an account of what she saw while she was dead in a sort of standstill operation. She gave a highly detailed account of various things she saw when she definitely had no way of seeing them.

My biggest problem with what I saw here was that once again, there was the sound of one-hand clapping. We are told to value evidence, but only one side of the story was given in the case of NDEs. Evidential NDEs were not presented. Again, the recommended works are highly lacking. No doubt there are several fake accounts out there, but it takes more to say all of them are fake.

Next time we will look at the question of how we got here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters