Book Plunge: Proof Of Heaven

What do I think of Eben Alexander’s book published by Simon and Schuster? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was asked to read this book by someone interested in near-death experiences. I also have an interest in them, but I do prefer the evidential ones. No doubt, many of them provide comfort and meaning to the people who have them and while that is data to be used, I want something that can show that they are really having interactions going on outside of the body. This is a big problem for a materialist worldview.

Eben Alexander’s has been a popular one for some time and was the one I was asked about. He does have the advantage that he is a neurosurgeon so there’s no doubt he knows how the brain works. I think the case does establish that he had some kind of activity likely going on after he died. I do not think he made up his experience or anything like that.

The problem is not much beyond that is evidential. There is very little that he can point to going on in the world when he was in his comatose state and had no higher brain functions. We cannot take what he says about the beyond then in an authoritative way. We have no way of verifying it.

My big problem is it seems to be very much more of a New Age perspective. Nothing is said about Jesus and God is referred to as Om. The message given was love, which is fine, but then a part of “Nothing you can do is wrong.” I think we could all disagree with that part. Plenty of what we do is wrong.

Alexander does talk about going to church and taking communion, but one reads his book and wonders how deep it goes. What does communion mean to him? Does he take his experience as the final authority? As a Christian, I think it is important that we use Scripture to interpret our experience instead of the other way around.

Alexander’s story is indeed a remarkable one and I do think something miraculous happened that allowed him to recover from his illness. The problem is I don’t see how this constitutes proof of heaven. Heaven isn’t even defined in his book. What is this Heaven? How does someone get there?

Alexander doesn’t really spend time answering these questions. There isn’t interacting with many of the world religions to see what is said about them. There is an interesting story about his family history and about problems in scientific circles with NDEs not being taken seriously, but those of us who are more evidential in our thinking want more. As I said, my biggest problem is that the experience is the greatest authority.

In conclusion, the story is interesting, but I cannot recommend it really. I think an experience like Alexander’s does show that there is more to a person than their physical body and it does put materialistic thinking in a problem, but not much beyond that. I would much more recommend works like Steve Miller’s or Michael Sabom’s.

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

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