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Near-death experiences and the authority of Scripture

Published: 23 May 2015 (GMT+10)

J.K., from the UK, wrote:

iStockphoto woman-stars
I just have some questions regarding the afterlife, I’m struggling to understand all the evidence for God and such but the one that I want to believe in most is the afterlife. When Christians say that’s NDEs prove God I usually tend to think that this true but it got me thinking, when I began reading atheists explanations for them for example: we evolved the trait so they are all similar or DMT etc. So for me this doesn’t seem to prove much, and I feel that this is the only thing the afterlife has going for it. Atheists also say we distort evidence to fit our views.As many people have pointed out to me, the things we feel (human experience) can all be explained by the action of electrochemical reactions in the brain this then removes the need for the concept of the soul and since the soul hypothesis is untestable then it’s blind faith once again. I was just wondering if you knew of any evidence or could help me understand and settle my fears

, CMI-US, responds:

Thanks for writing in. I actually believe NDEs are not trustworthy witnesses about what we can expect when we die. The brain does all sorts of weird things when a person is involved in trauma, and while I don’t doubt that the light, feelings of peace, etc, were things the person experienced, I don’t believe they are actually glimpses of heaven. See Two perspectives on near death experiences.

Rather, my belief in the afterlife is informed by Someone who actually died and came back to life—Jesus. He tells us that every person on Earth is going to live forever in one of two places, and what we believe about Him decides which. Every person is born in rebellion against God, and throughout our lives we demonstrate this by sinning. God’s justice demands that He judge sin (our justice demands that sin is paid for, too, but we’re just a lot more selective when it comes to our own ‘pet sins’), so people who die in this sinful, rebellious state go to Hell, a place of judgment and separation from God.

God could send every person to Hell and be perfectly just, because every person has sinned. But God loves us, and wanted to save a people for Himself. So He sent His Son to take on humanity. Jesus lived a perfect human life—never once sinning or failing to act completely righteously. Then He died in one of the cruelest, most humiliating ways possible, and God placed the judgment for the sins of the world on Him. He died in our place, was buried, and on the third day He rose. So He has unique authority to tell us about Heaven—which He died to make available to us, and Hell, which is the only option for those who reject Him.

Scripture tells us that those who trust Jesus go to be with Him when they die, and we call the place they go ‘Heaven’, though Scripture also calls it ‘Paradise’. To be in this place is better than living in the fallen world, but it is not the ultimate destination of the believer. Rather, all those who have believed in Jesus will be resurrected when He returns, and will live with Him forever in the restored New Heavens and Earth. The new earth will feature many of the things we love most about God’s creation—it couldn’t be called ‘earth’ at all if there was not some continuity—but none of the things that were introduced as a result of sin. Believers will worship God on the new earth, as well as serving Him in various functions. Scripture speaks of us ruling with Christ and judging angels—and there will doubtless be things that we couldn’t even begin to imagine in this existence. And the important thing to note here is: Scripture is the authority, not someone’s subjective experience.

As far as electrochemical reactions explaining human experience, it doesn’t come close. An orangutan might have electrochemical reactions in its brain fairly similar to those happening in mine, but it will never contemplate the role of those reactions in its own consciousness, or communicate its thoughts on the subject via language. And as such, these electrochemical reactions do not remove the possibility of a soul. See Brain chemistry and the fate of the personality after death, and The God spot.

As Christians, we take many things on faith, including the existence of the soul. But this faith is not blind—it is grounded in the authority of Jesus, who rose from the dead. So we do not have to be afraid that what He says might be wrong, or need to be revised in light of scientific understanding.

I hope this helps.

Further Reading

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Reader’s comments

Richard B.
Lita Cosner: I praise and thank our Creator and Lord God for your wisdom and gentle faith-, scripture- and Spirit-filled responses to the plethora of naïvety expressed in NDE copy. I spent ten weeks in coma subsequent to motorbike crash in Istanbul, with broken neck and other bones, extensive brain damage, full-thickness burns and trauma from attempts to keep me alive. Prayers were said for me the world-over, whilst in coma. I am walking, talking, self-caring and praising God ("If he lives, he'll never walk or talk again." UK medics declared.) I believe it is neither God's mandate nor design for a human to die (prolonged/permanent flat-line, NOT cardiostasis), spirit to be devolved from body and then return. I am a medical doctor with specialism and extensive experience in practise of psychiatry.//-end-
Roger P.
I see DMT is mentioned. The articles in the National Geographic are interesting in that people who take this have Shamanic experiences. DMT is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. Journeying to Hades and back is one of the experiences described. People also have experiences of contacts with aliens. I suggest all this is very iffy and needs confirmation from Scripture. Deteronomy chapters 13 and 18 which give us criteria for assessing prophetic messages could also be used to judge these ned's and other experiences as having dreams of visions. Does it come true or does it work and is it consistent with Scripture?
Calum M.
As usual, a well articulated article from CMI. I like how all your arguments are Scripture based first of all, and then backed up with science. But in all cases, Scripture is always right, whatever science may seem to suggest.

Whilst I had, what I can only describe as an "out of body experience", I lay no hope of salvation upon it. I was very much alive and awake at the time and far removed from any head trauma. All it did was teach me a lesson that is Scriptural: a lesson I still try to apply some twenty years later. I do not mention the experience much to people. Indeed, I've only mentioned it thrice in my life as far as I can recall. I only mention it here as there is a bit of anonymity with posting here. All my hope is based upon the Word of God and any experience I may, or may not, have must come second to the Word.

An old Christian friend had a quaint saying that he often quoted and I think it sums up this subject well. It went like this:
Feelings come, and feelings go;
Feelings are deceiving.
Our warrant is the Word of God;
None else is worth believing.

Keep up the good work, CMI.
Lee K.
Dear Lisa,

This is a reply to your reply to me. You point out the Hebrew scripture of why we are to discount ones who have come back after dying. Are you forgetting all those who have been raised from the dead in the Bible?

Some Bible scholars have speculated Paul could have died from a stoning and raised from the dead by fellow believers. I don't believe you can dogmatically dismiss Paul from having a NDE, since Paul himself is not sure how he ended up in heaven.

Regards, Lee
Lita Cosner
The people who were raised after dying in Scripture were clearly miraculous interventions by prophets or by Jesus. And none of them had stories to tell about the wondrous things they'd seen while dead.

There is nothing in the text itself to suggest that Paul had an NDE; it is pure speculation and must be regarded as such.
Colin Locke L.
Hi Lisa,

My reply may not be right but it is simple even from the Science plus reality perspective. If we get a hit on the head we often say we "See stars". Well that is simply an electrical stimulation that IN MY HUMBLE OPINION creates the sensation of light in the brains nerve endings.

I don't recommend you hit yourself that hard But; I assure you folks we do see light when we are hit hard enough. You may even died with such a hit. In such state one can come back sometimes and I believe it is Satan that leads us to differ with Gods written word. Scripture shows none but Jesus the risen one having come back from death. God/Jesus is the ONLY one that has the Power over the LAST ENEMY DEATH not Satan. Scripture leads me to believe the same with the lie of Out Of Body Experiences. It is Satan again playing games with people who likely have some faint but none the less a belief in the after life, even if it... 'appears to include'... Jesus with a smile. It is fakery from Satan. Trust the God of the Bible and none other.
Just something to share... Shalom from Dr Col in OZZIE land.
Chris H.
I agree with the final authority of scripture on this, as Lita and many others have pointed out. I would be wary of appearing to err on the side of throwing away any such supernatural encounter in light of verses such as "some have entertained angels unawares" Heb13v2; and "every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ...." 1Jn4v2.
Implying that spiritual activity can occur, but we have the trustworthy guide and principles of scripture. For those who claim meeting Jesus through an NDE, the 'test' would be in the fruit resulting their life - not that it tests the NDE per se, but the ongoing experience of Jesus in their life - was/is *that* real? After all, that is what non-Christians will truly respond to. So I won't limit God by defining NDE categorically if I do not have to - better to focus on whatever life-changing Jesus experience that person had, associated with it!
Thanks for your wonderful ministry.
Jeff H.
Hi Lita,
I'm glad you pointed JK back to scripture as the only proven/reliable source of information about what happens after death. Any other source must of course be tested (1Jn4:1-2), which suggests, if the cited passage means anything at all, that there are those that can pass the test and bring some kind of revelation from God, right? In fact, what you have said about the bible being the only possible way for God to communicate something to us doesn't seem to hold up to your own test--scripture doesn't say such a thing. Now, I would agree that NDEs as a group can't pass the test, but is it possible that some of the reports are true? I don't think you should dismiss them all completely, especially since the Bible doesn't (according to what you have written) record much on the matter, except to point out that sometimes dreams (Pharaoh's, Nebuchadnezzar's, the Midianite soldier's for Gideon), visions or out of body experiences, (Paul's, Ezekiel's, John's, perhaps) can be used by God to convey some kind of information. And God never said He would never use those methods anymore. The hard part, of course, is how to know if the experiences can be trusted, and I believe you have made a good case that as a whole they shouldn't be trusted. Even if someone says, according to 1Jn4, that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, the content of the message can't disagree with what God has already told us. But some things, like a rainbow horse for example, can't really be refuted or confirmed, though it seems ridiculous, because the bible says nothing about all the different things Jesus may have in heaven. To say He has no rainbow horse may be just as fallacious as to say that He has a rainbow horse.
Lita Cosner
Well, if we're going to be pedantic about Jesus' horse, Revelation says that it's white (Revelation 19:11ff).

The Bible says that God gave certain people dreams and visions. The Bible does not say that certain people died and came back. In fact, Hebrews 9:27 seems to negate the possibility of NDEs. If we are going to say that God continues to use the same means, it presupposes that God previously used NDEs, and I don't think you can establish that from Scripture.
Lee K.
Lisa, the fact that the apostle Paul had either a NDE or a vision of Heaven, IMO, negates your whole argument. There is scriptural evidence of someone visiting Heaven whether in the body or not and coming back to tell about it.

I do agree that scriptures form our doctrines and never NDE's or visions. Yet do believe that God uses such things to encourage the body of Christ while also convincing some unbelievers to explore Christian doctrines more closely.
Lita Cosner
Paul's vision was not an NDE. But I think most would agree that as an Apostle, Paul's testimony carries more weight than a toddler with appendicitis. And the contradictory nature of NDEs should frankly trouble people who look to them for encouragement or information about the afterlife.

Scripture says that it is appointed for man to die once, and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). The biblical visions of heaven did not occur in an NDE context.
Paul G.
Since the first interaction between Satan and man, Satan has put forth the question - can God REALLY be believed, or is something else true, something He's not telling you. And man, faced with believing God or something else, has decided to believe the something else. This ruined the relationship between God and man. NDEs, dreams, personal revelations, and the like - no matter the sincerity or "belief" of the one making the claim - allows Satan to continue to put forth the same question. Is God being truthful? Or is something else true? Is there something He's not telling us, that is counter to what He has already told us? The same tactic used to ruin the relationship between God and man, is being used in an attempt to ruin the relationships among the elect, and to keep unbelievers doubtful.

Let's not fall for the same old deception. God's Word, whether spoken to man as it was with Adam, or written for man as He has graciously provided it to us who live today, is the sole authority on whether God exists, who He is, what happens when we leave this mortal life [Heb 9:27], and what awaits each person in the next life [Matt 25:31-46]

Let God be true, but every man a liar [Rom 3:4]
S W.
Excellent response Lita. In the last year I was in a coma for about 17 days following a severe series of complications resulting from infections contracted in the hospital. Family was called to see me for the last time. I heard (or thought I heard) an orderly say, "this guy ain't gonna make it." My mind was very confused. I remember thinking (at one point) I was in a south American country I had visited some time ago. A pop music star was also in that country on tour at the time. When, by the grace of God, I rebounded and woke-up, I remember thinking about this pop star and wondering why he was in my thoughts. It bothered me that I would think of someone I didn't follow (couldn't tell you anything he produced) instead of spiritual thoughts . Through prayer and reading my Bible, I was given peace because I came to the same conclusion you stated. It may be a mystery to some but to me, once you're in the presence of God, you can't be snatched back by science from His hand. Nor do I believe God would say, "right, I made a mistake, you can go back."
Dave L.
Thank you Lita for your answer to this rather controversial subject.

Honestly I didn't know what my standpoint would be on NDE's, but you have answered with wisdom and I love how you always refer back to scripture.

As to why the validity of NDE's, I have had some pretty realistic but completely fantastical dreams. So much for the brain only doing what is worthwhile... and I also remember Gary Bates book on aliens, where people had "realistic" experiences of visitations. I agree that the brain can do some really weird (interesting) things, and especially so under trauma where there is perhaps no mental blocks of our hope's and fears.

This is just a rant of my own thoughts, but thanks for getting me to use the grey matter to actually think about it and not just respond emotionally.
Murray D.
Whatever form a NDE might take, it still has zero authority. Unless scripture remains the only foundation that's built upon and by which you constantly walk, you're open to deception (Heb 4:12 - only scripture discerns soulish vs spiritual). "There can be only one" (authority, that is!).
Jacob W.
Thank you Lita for taking a stance on this issue - I wholeheartedly agree with CMI on this. It seems the interpretations of our experiences often reign supreme despite clear scripture (interestingly if an experience is 'vivid' then it must somehow be true).

This reminds me of the issue surrounding alien encounters that Gary has spoken so much about. I think if CMI took any different view than what Lita articulates here then the principles upholding Gary Bates' arguments in Alien Intrusion would be found of no significance all of a sudden.

Sola Scriptura is particularly valuable to the Protestant faith and I don't think modern day Christians realize why. It under-girds so much of our thinking and reasoning as Christians.
A. C.
Dear Lita, In response to your comment regarding my comment, I understand where you are coming from. Maybe I haven't explained myself clearly. When I mentioned that God sent Bill Wiese to Hell, God blocked it from his mind that he was a Christian. In other words, total separation from God's love and his presence. This is what it's like for any unsaved person, because they don't know the Lord Jesus Christ. Luke 24: v:16. John 20:14. I like to point out another thing, that this was a vision, which is an outer body experience, in which only in a vision can a Christian see Hell and Heaven. Ezekiel chapter 3 and 8. 1 Corinthians ch15 v44. and Revelation 5:5 and 10:10.
There are many other scriptures regarding this vision if you read or watch Bill Wiese's testimony. The reason why God sent Bill to Hell, which was through a vision that I am speaking about is because, not every Christian believes in Hell, because the bible is not being taught properly in churches and so Bill was sent to hell in order tell people of this Horrific place that actually exists if people continue to rebel against God. Bill even says that that they shouldn't focus on him as he is just the sign post, but should focus on God. God Bless
Lita Cosner
Sorry Andrew, but biblically I find no justification for the belief that God would send a Christian to Hell, even temporarily to make a teaching point. It even seems to imply that His Word isn't powerful enough to teach us about Hell, but then why would a mere man's experience be powerful enough, if the very Word of God isn't?
Dean Y.
Hi Lita - I still think it would be rash to completely dismiss experiences such as NDE's. Surely, there is a possibility that some are genuine? Afterall, God is not limited in how He chooses to save. I find Habermas to be a faithful Christian witness and a credible scholar, so why should he automatically be wrong? Next, consider Paul's meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus - while not an NDE, it certainly was a supernatural event and one in which he was transported, either bodily or in the spirit, to paradise.

"I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me." (2 Cor 12:2-6).

Also, I wasn't criticizing you of being a materialist, I said the idea you held regarding brain & consciousness smacked of materialism. We all hold conflicting beliefs at one time or another. I know I did and probably (and unfortunately) still do. Life - and learning - is a process. Lastly, I don't know of any Biblical teaching that God cannot or will not resurrect a dead person. On the contrary, if it brings Him glory, there is much in the Bible that supports it.
Lita Cosner
Dean, Paul was an Apostle, who was also commanded not to report about the things he had seen there. Colton Burpo was a toddler with appendicitis. Surely you can see the difference between the unique experience of an inspired author of Scripture and the imaginative stylings of a sick child.
Andrew D.
I agree indeed that NDEs are not to be trusted. If we were to trust them, then we put any arbitrary NDE and personal testimony on par with the Bible. What NDSs does, for the most part, is in a roundabout way to bolster and feed New-Age concepts like for example the ever so popular 'communicating with the dead' and so on. The Bible does not encourage the idea of NDEs and telling and trusting testimonies in this field, which explains why there is no such example there. Lazarus, who actually were dead 4 days and raised had an ideal opportunity to do so, but he didn't.
Gerald D.
Well said.

I think both evolutionist, and many religious people (including Christians). Add unnecessary 'meaning' to those things that others have told us have happened. NDE's have obviously garnered some kind of this x evolved so y would be more likely. Christians say x was experienced so y must be true. It is all relative to the 'testimony' or experience of a strange occurrence.

I believe if Christians are able to understand that the very foundation, by that I mean the only thing, from which we were created is God's Word. If this is accepted, then any event must be referenced to this bedrock. Strange things can be viewed with this lens, and then meaning added to them accordingly.

I used to think the goal was to try and remove bias and 'lens' from all interpretations (an admittedly post modern influence). I now believe that people are incapable of living without lenses. We must instead try to remove the constricting lenses that we have used to create 'meaning' and try to put on the lenses that God has made for us with his Word.

The struggle is to not incorporate something into your 'lens' before testing it with Scripture.
Gerald D.
Well said.

I think both evolutionist, and many religious people (including Christians). Add unnecessary 'meaning' to those things that others have told us have happened. NDE's have obviously garnered some kind of this x evolved so y would be more likely. Christians say x was experienced so y must be true. It is all relative to the 'testimony' or experience of a strange occurrence.

I believe if Christians are able to understand that the very foundation, by that I mean the only thing, from which we were created is God's Word. If this is accepted, then any event must be referenced to this bedrock. Strange things can be viewed with this lens, and then meaning added to them accordingly.

I used to think the goal was to try and remove bias and 'lens' from all interpretations (an admittedly post modern influence). I now believe that people are incapable of living without lenses. We must instead try to remove the constricting lenses that we have used to create 'meaning' and try to put on the lenses that God has made for us with his Word.

The struggle is to not incorporate something into your 'lens' before testing it with Scripture.
Alex W.
With this point mentioned, do you feel people such as but not limited to the Weiss's 23 minutes in hell account where he claimed to have a vision from God, so not a NDE per-se...
Lita Cosner
I believe in a closed canon, which means God is not giving any more special revelation to anyone, and the sufficiency of Scripture, which means I don't need anyone's weird vision to tell me about Hell, because Jesus tells us everything we need to know.
Jim G.
Hello, I did a search and could not find an answer to my specific concern. If it is there and I missed it, feel free to direct me there. Here is the thought: I agree with your assessment of NDE's, but I am curious as to how you would answer the specific information Colton Burpo supposedly knew and shouldn't have, most notably the existence of his sister (I admit that I was troubled by Colton's statement that she had no name, as if Jesus wouldn't have known it!).
Lita Cosner
Perhaps he overheard his mom and dad talking about her sometime when they thought he couldn't hear them. The point is, it doesn't require Colton actually going to Heaven to know it. And there's plenty weird stuff in Colton's story (for example, Jesus' rainbow horse).
St Ferd III S.
I would disagree with the author. The brain does not engage in meaningless behavior - ever, either before or during the process of death. If that is the case, then you would agree with Atheists that the human body is imperfectly designed and therefore random chance molecular structures are possible since they will inevitably have flawed designs. NDEs are some of the most powerful and lucid explanations for an afterlife. They are also god-given insights into why Christianity and the idea of immortality in exchange for a life which tries to follow scriptural authority, is valid. Atheists have converted to the Church after experiencing or having contact with someone they know, who has gone through a NDE. NDE's should be viewed as miraculous events. Everyday there are such miracles including not just NDEs, but a plethora of other smaller intimations of God's reality. NDE's cannot be explained by materialist science. There is a reason for that.
Lita Cosner
What about seizures? An electrical brainstorm seems pretty 'meaningless' to me. Why on earth would a Christian, with all the revelation from God in Scripture, look to weird and contradictory accounts from people who were undergoing a brain trauma at the time? It's insane, and unbiblical.
John P.
Concerning NDE's: My understanding is that they are not an evidence of God, per se, but that they are a solid refutation of materialism. In the sense that, even though certain people have been declared scientifically dead by current standards and understandings, and then resuscitated, those people have memories of mental activity that took place during the time they were "dead" that are verifiable (i.e. they remember conversations engaged in by the medical teams working on them). This phenomena cannot be explained via strictly materialistic accounting, since these people had no measurable brain activity at the time of these memories. If the physical brain is all that consciousness consists of, then physical activity (such as chemical interaction and neurons firing) cannot explain these memories when there is no physical activity. Thus, in the case of NDE's an individual's immaterial mind better explains the phenomena that have been recorded, and materialism fails to explain said phenomena.
Lita Cosner
We don't know that a person was experiencing something when their brain temporarily stopped functioning. Or even the extent to which it stopped functioning. Just that the person believes they experienced something while their brain wasn't functioning.

The Bible disproves materialism. We don't need weird, contradictory experiences to do that.
Tony F.
Splendid explanation. My near death experience was nothing like those of the popular reports. In the time it took to hit the car heading straight for me I felt sadness at the leaving of my family but great joy at the impending future.
Idris C.
"Atheists also say we distort evidence to fit our views," the questioner rightly states. If ever there was a case of the pot calling the kettle black according to 2 Thessalonians 2:11! (For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie.) Also thanx for pointing out that our faith is not blind. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1) Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). These scriptures remind us of the truism:There are none so blind as those who won't see!
A. C.
Hi, After reading the article on Near-Death experiences and the Authority of Scripture, I am perplexed after failing to understand the subject of the unbelief of supernatural encounters with God and meeting Jesus face to face. I two don't call them or believe in near-death experiences but actually believe to the point of passing death. I don't think we should put a restriction on what God can do on the supernatural, especially on someone visiting Heaven and then coming back to earth, whether in a vision or someone who has actually reached death. For instance, Bill Weise was sent to Hell in a vision, However God blocked it from his mind that he was a Christian. God then took him up to heaven to speak with him about the people's unbelief. Ian McCcormack, aka, Jelly fish man who died because of a sting from a boxed jelly fish went to hell and then was taken up by God to heaven and God spoke to him and Ian came back to earth and was saved after an encounter with Jesus. I am not saying every one of these visions or death experiences are true. However, I believe God's word does state this. The above persons mentioned I believe to be true, because God wants everyone to repent and believe in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ and that he died on the Cross for our Sins so that we would not have to bear the punishment. This is another way that God is speaking through the lives of unbelievers as well as Christians. God wants us to know that there is a place of eternal life with him through his Son Christ Jesus or eternal separation from him if we choose to reject him. I personally don't think we should rule out these actual visions or death experiences, but to see what God's word says. It would be interesting to hear your views.
Lita Cosner
Listen to what you actually said. God sent a Christian to Hell, but blocked it from his mind that he was a Christian. What sort of terrible theology makes that even hypothetically possible?

In all the responses questioning the conclusion I came to in my article, no one has once cited any Scripture, but rather the subjective experiences of individuals. Which just proves my point.
Dean Y.
Hi Lita - I agree that NDE's on their own are sometimes questionable routes to the truth of Jesus Christ, but there are highly regarded biblical scholars who place some of them squarely in the realm of the supernatural. One of these is Dr Gary Habermas. I won't link to his page as per CMI's feedback rule, but a quick google will find his thoughts on the subject. An excerpt follows:
Habermas: "There are much more evidential cases which indicate that God works in individual lives.
More explicitly, I am referring to well-evidenced reports from others, but which we may have never witnessed for ourselves. For example, a) incredible healings, b) non-healing answers to prayer like a double-blind experiment that has been published in a medical journal, c) experiences with angels, d) experiences with demons, e) incredibly well-evidenced near-death experiences (NDEs). On a more personal note, in some of these NDEs we may wonder about someone who reports that they stood next
to Jesus and experienced the most fantastic love ever, and wanted to go back immediately instead of living the rest of their lives here on earth! f) In dozens of very interesting cases, God seems to have paved the way on the mission field by some very incredible means, before the Gospel came to particular people groups, and so on. Please note that I basically only collect cases that are accompanied by some rather impressive data. A fair amount of these items has been written up in medical journals, for example." It's mere hand waving to say that the "brain does all sorts of weird things" when traumatized. You just don't know what the brain does during trauma or at any stage during the transition from life on earth to eternal life (or death). Consciousness is not the brain. That idea smacks of materialism.
Lita Cosner
My response should have clearly shown that I am a supernaturalist. That does not mean I have to accept every supernatural claim people throw my way, especially when it contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture. And if highly-regarded Bible scholars accept NDEs, then they are wrong to do so.
james p H.
with advances in modern medical technology, there are now too many of these NDEs to carte blanche dismiss the phenomenon; admittedly, they are a mixed bag....with some experiences conforming to Scripture and some not so much.....some could, quite possibly, even be satanic-type deceptions... the claim that "The brain does all sorts of weird things when a person is involved in trauma" is true as far as it goes...how-ever, it does not stand up where the person has "flat-lined" and, indeed, in some cases, had an official death certificate issued... there were, even, NDEs reported in the Bible...St Paul, for one....the many people that Jesus raised from the dead must, also, have had them.... at the end of the day, how-ever, our ultimate authority is Scripture and, as Jesus Himself has said: "if they believe not Moses and the prophets, they will not believe even though one returns from the dead"
Lita Cosner
Just to be clear; I did not 'dismiss' NDEs themselves. Something actually happened, whether it's some sort of false memory syndrome, or a traumatized brain trying to make sense of what's going on. What I reject is that these experiences are real or should make any difference to what the Christian believes about the afterlife.
Cody G.
The biggest problems with near-death experiences is that they hide behind the fallacious safeguard of unfalsifiability and they are generally all in conflict with one another. Long story short, I'd rather get my theology of Heaven from Scripture than a five-year-old kid (and yes, that was a reference to "Heaven is for Real").
jeremy S.
Hello Lita, I enjoy your well-thought through and wise handling of doctrinal issues, however I must disagree with CM's overall stand on NDEs. I have wondered if any of the staff have experienced one? My daughter did during a life threatening miscarriage, (she's a believer), and the angel gave her a choice to return or stay in heaven. She decided to stay for the sake of her children. I believe that NDEs and similar experiences are generally God-given as a manifestation of His overwhelming love for the world; not willing that any should perish. "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard..." To reduce such experiences to scientific reasoning, trauma, imagination, or even Satanic deception, is, to me, discrediting those having had them and restricting God to hidebound, inflexible church doctrine.
Lita Cosner
I do not believe I am restricting God at all, but I believe God has restricted Himself, so to speak, by revealing things to us about how He works. If He says He does X, and only X, He is saying He does not do W, Y, or Z.

Your daughter's experience was probably vivid, and seemed real. But it must be judged by Scripture and Scripture alone.
Murk P.
"we distort evidence to fit our views." This requires believing that something is being distorted. This something is what is real and objectively true or the statement is senseless and unfounded. Everytime anyone tries to argue against absolute truth - they must invoke it in their argument- God is so good - He made it plain to all us fallen people! "As many people have pointed out to me, the things we feel (human experience) can all be explained by the action of electrochemical reactions in the brain" All can be explained? All of reality is thus legislated by atoms and electrons crashing in people's heads? Rather egotistical and absurd... and oh oh wait a minute these reactions depend on unchanging physical laws and also laws of thought (Laws of logic) both of which are also invariant, immaterial and universal-independent of what goes on in out brains Did these laws exist before people with brains existed? Or did people start (legislate) these law? (Remember these laws are neccesary for you to ask your questions) (Is there a third option? Why why not?) An honest and rigorous approach to these questions will lead to the one who makes thinking possible. If something is true are all counter claims false? If the atoms and electrons in my head cause me to think that the moon is made of Feta and that I will live forever does that in any way affect reality? Read the Bible it cuts between soul and spirit Who we are is dependant on who God says we are.
Tim B.
I think that evidential (Not spiritual, ones where people see what is going on in the outside world) NDEs disprove naturalism, they don't prove any religion correct, but they certainly prove naturalism. I think this questioner should look up Gary Habermas' years of research on the topic. Prayers go out to him!
Lita Cosner
NDEs in and of themselves prove nothing except that the traumatized brain does some pretty interesting things. The NDEs themselves are highly contradictory when you look at the details.
James T.
Cmi i would love it if you guys did i book review of Eben Alexander's book proof of heaven.The thing that separates this book from other near death experiences is the fact that this scientist actually did believe that NDE were electrochemical reactions in the brain.It wasn't until he had a NDE himself that he changed his mind and believes in heaven.My problem is that this guy knew NDE were just electrochemical reactions in the brain.So what was it about his NDE that would make him change his mind bout it?He even rejected his co workers different hypothesis bout what could of happen.
Lita Cosner
Sorry James, I haven't read the book, but I can guarantee that my response will be the same. Christians should trust Scripture, not whatever a person claims to have experiences while their brain is undergoing trauma.
John E.
Thank you for this brilliant summation of Scripture, Lita!
rodney A.
having known the lord for over 50yrs, and having had an out of body experience during that time I think there is to much -opinion- involved in the answer to the letter, for a start, the letter writer confesses to -having listened to ATHEISTS- shows the same line of rebellion that caught EVE out, she listened to the real ATHEIST, SATAN HIMSELF. and your answer is tainted with the same doubtful understanding, Thomas showed us that -doubters- can be forgiven, however those who use the REAL ATHEIST AS THEIR GUIDE DENY THE TRUTH OF CHRISTS PROMISES.
my body was in trauma, yes, but I was well able to understand what was happening and I asked questions that were answered through this oput of body, there I asked more questions, and got more answers, even the reason I was sent back to continue living on earth, the other real truth is simple, heaven is nothing like we know while here on earth, and my guess is that until someone has such an experience they will not be able to comprehend. in fact many people reading Jesus description just cant get a grip of it because of their EARTH BOUND EXPERIANCES ONLY-. but then sadly the concept of hell frightens them no end, so they don't believe it either, sad really. believe the bible and make a decision for Christ and one will have no fear,
rod qld aust
Lita Cosner
Rodney, for me your response only proves my point about how Christians need to turn to Scripture and Scripture alone for information about the afterlife. If you can show me from Scripture how my answer was tainted, I'd be happy to listen.

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