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Mary Neal was white-water rafting in Chile with her husband and some friends when she got pinned under a waterfall. She tried to raise her head out of the water to get some air, but the surging water was so powerful, she says, "I quickly realized ...

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Displaying 1–32 of 32 comments

Daniel Holmes

January 21, 2013  6:39pm

There is a serious spiritual trap that this article has not addressed. You can find an NDE to endorse any theological position that you want. Betty J. Eadie's original NDE blockbuster book, Embraced by the Light, squarely endorsed Mormon theology as did another book by an LDS named Angie Finnemore. Eadie goes so far as to say that she was told in the afterlife that the LDS church is the truest church on earth. Both their testimonies are on YouTube. If you want to hear a former Mormon tell you that Jesus commanded her to leave Mormonism, lest she go to hell, you can hear the testimony of Key Lynn Trimble who appeared on the 700 Club in the 80's (based on how young Pat R looks). If you want to hear that there is no hell and no sin, you can find it. If you want to hear that homosexuality is OK, and even caused by God, look up Christian Andreason's testimony. In short, NDE stories are a very confusing place, and hopefully you will end up back at the foot of Christ with your Bible in hand.

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David Hallowell

January 05, 2013  5:36am

Early in my ministry in Ukraine a brother who was suffering from blackouts came to me for help feeding his family. During our conversation he told me what caused the blackouts. He had been a long-haul truck driver. He had a wreck and went into a coma for 7 days. During this time he found himself on the outside of a beautiful city with golden gates and had visited his aunt who had died a believer some years previous. He was not a believer then. He heard, "Your time is not yet." Next he saw his body then woke up in it. Long after that he came to Christ. Now he drives once more. During 64 years in the faith I noticed that we tend to decide what is real by our own experience or dogma. Teachers of cessation theology believe that today God does not do any "Miracles," nothing obviously supernatural as in scripture. But in 20 years serving the Lord in Eastern Europe I have seen many miracles of healing and guidance, I now believe there is much more to the spiritual world than we yet know.

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Rick Dalbey

January 04, 2013  1:13pm

Hugh, I just don't think there is a big market for articles and books about I died and went to hell. There are a few written from the perspective of those that were given a chance to repent. But for the most part, if an unsaved person had an NDE and experienced judgment or the torments of hell, they are going to try to forget it as soon as possible and as best as possible, not write a book about it. When I was a teenager in the 60s I inhaled nitrous oxide from a cocktail chiller and whether I died or just had a bad trip, (I'm not sure which it was), it was horrifying. Teens do commonly die from inhalants. I felt it was eternal, and when I came to, I tried to forget it as much as possible and as quickly as possible. Never did that again. But 3 years later I got saved and was delivered of the fear of death and judgment I felt.

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Hugh Wetmore

January 04, 2013  7:13am

The part of the Gospel I miss in ll this is "the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my Gospel declares" Rom 2:16. "For God has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead" Acts 17:31. The tendency of all the NDE's described is God's total, unqualified loving acceptance of everyone. This is "good news" but it is not the Christian Good news. Current Christianity tends to push Grace to an extreme that ignores sin and the need for repentance and faith in Christ. We play games with the nails that crucified our Saviour.

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mIRIAM o'rEGAN

December 28, 2012  7:20am

I loved this article - especially since I had just read Eben Alexander's account, which is fascinating from the scientific side of the materialist/spiritual divide. Reflecting on its theological content however, I came to this conclusion: For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Cor 13:9-12 As Mark Galli says, it is clear that Alexander had an encounter with the love of God, although as he admits himself, it's almost impossible to put the experience into words. These accounts are not the Bible; they are not canonical; they are testimonies of whatever partial revelation of heaven individuals have had.

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Rick Dalbey

December 24, 2012  12:06pm

I agree Claire. "If an NDE were to contradict the clear teachings of Jesus and the gospel, I would be skeptical." If the experiences are clearly demonic or the messenger explicitly conveyed bad doctrine, run don't walk to the nearest Bible. However I would make the distinction between the NDE experience and the subject's interpretation of the NDE experience. Clearly there is only one way to salvation, through the shed blood of Jesus and universalism is an evil fiction. But when confronted with spiritual realities beyond our comprehension we say stupid things sometimes like, "let us build 3 temples for Moses Elijah and Jesus" or we fall down like John to worship an angel and the angel has to tell us not to do that, like he did twice Revelation 19:10 and 22:9. What would we do if like Ezekiel we were confronted with a 6 winged creature or a 4 faced being being resting on a wheel within a wheel covered with eyeballs. I would be Pleadin' the blood of Jesus and speakin' in tongues for sure

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Claire Guest

December 24, 2012  11:42am

Paul Becke, are you referring to the passage in Matthew where those who had ministered to the poor, sick, imprisoned, etc, did not realize they had also been ministering to the Lord while doing those things? If so, I don't see any bad theology in their words. I agree with Vijay Mathias' comment: "If an NDE were to contradict the clear teachings of Jesus and the gospel, I would be skeptical." The Lord tells us in His Word "even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." (2 Corinthians 11:14)

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Paul Becke

December 24, 2012  3:23am

More specifically, William Payne: 'In the NT, fruit is a spiritual product that comes from having the right theology about Christ and a right relationship with Christ.' No. It is very clearly not. 'Love is the fulness of the Law' The whole purpose of religion is the service of love, self-giving, self-sacrificing love, inspired solely by the Holy Spirit, but of which the beneficiary is not necessarily aware. Yes, Christ died on the cross for them, too. This, however, should in no wise be construed as a justification for failing to evangelize, to spread the Christian faith by word of mouth and/or the written word, of course, where the opportunity arises, to be reflected in the evangeliser's own Christian witness.

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Paul Becke

December 24, 2012  3:13am

'The assumption is that one can have "bad" theology and be acceptable to God as long as one's fruit is good. In the NT, fruit is a spiritual product that comes from having the right theology about Christ and a right relationship with Christ.' William Payne, then how do you explain the words God addresses to the Good Sheep on Judgement Day in Matthew's Gospel? Indeed, the Good Sheep's response that he didn't recognize him as the God he was being told BY him he had helped in different ways in their hour of need. The sole description of the Last Judgement in the whole of scripture, and given by God, himself. For that matter, why did Jesus tell Peter that he was to be the rock upon which he was to build his church? Why didn't he refer to the new Scripture that was to be written? It was, indeed, the church of early times that decided which books were to be canonical - the official scripture of the new dispensation?

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Paul Becke

December 24, 2012  3:02am

An absolutely inspired article, Mark, if I may say so. A very insightful analysis, elucidating so much that I had understood more obscurely.

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Rick Dalbey

December 24, 2012  1:12am

Amen Vijay. And doctor Payne, I really am with you. Experience does not make doctrine. There may be times though that an experience can be so categorically beyond our comprehension that we have no way to interpret it...some of the interpretations of the Neurosurgeon are flawed obviously, everything must be compared to the Bible, but there is no reason to doubt that these people have had real authentic experiences in the afterlife. But let's not be inventing scripture either.

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Vijay Mathias

December 24, 2012  12:08am

Now to the question of NDEs. If an NDE were to contradict the clear teachings of Jesus and the gospel, I would be skeptical. I would not necessarily disagree that something spiritual had happened, but I would question how much of this experience was a true other worldly experience as opposed to what Mark describes an individuals perception of the spiritual world based on their own past reality. On the other hand, the prophecies of the OT, the birth, life and miracles of Jesus, his death and resurrection, Pentecost and the life and witness of the Church provide far more certainty as to what to expect in the after life compared to one or more NDEs.

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Vijay Mathias

December 23, 2012  11:53pm

Rick, I agree with you 100% and you provide solid evidence from the Scripture. The rest, especially Neil and the others are simply hedging. There is absolutely no indication in John 11 that Lazarus did not go to heaven. Neil also sets himself up as not only a biblical scholar but also someone who has access to the earliest manuscripts. The ones we have are late 2nd century. Yet he ignores 2000 years worth of reflection on Paradise on the basis of where he thinks a comma should be. It must be nice to put oneself into the mind of Paul and claim he didn't really mean he would be with The Lord. Or to think that because Peter thought he must have seen a vision, the transfiguration did not take place. Peter actually insists in 2 Peter that it really happened. Moses and Elijah were there! And of course it is easy to dismiss the elders and saints in Revelation around Gods throne. One may as well dismiss the worship of the Lamb and the One who sits on the throne if it contradicts one's theology

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WILLIAM PAYNE

December 23, 2012  10:58pm

A Neurosurgeon says this after his experience: “I’ve come to know absolutely the existence of an all-loving and powerful God — that our souls are eternal. I go to church all the time, but I have also come to realize strongly that there is no one right religion. All aspects of religion have everything to do with the rich, deep, eternal reality. Anything about religion that says they are the only one is just doomed dysfunctional human thinking. It’s all about showing compassion and forgiveness in our lives and giving our faith and belief to the source of all creation.” This is the problem of which I spoke. If his interpretation is true, the gospels are wrong and we do not need a Savior. Like it or not, this is another gospel. What do we do with it???

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WILLIAM PAYNE

December 23, 2012  7:58pm

Rick, saving faith is a gift. It comes from hearing the true word of God, a message through which the HS energizes us so we can believe and receive grace upon grace. After Peter confessed that Jesus was the Son of the living God, Jesus told him that flesh and blood did not reveal that to him. It came from God. When God gives us grace or a revelation, it is a divine gift. I did not call it a "spiritual gift" as you state in your terse post. It is very important that we preach the same Gospel as we received, the one that is found in the NT. Paul has stern warnings for those who preach other gospels even if they come from angels and personal revelation. Personally, I am quite inspired by near death testimonies and I am very open to surprise when I die. However, in this life, it is important that we measure revelation and personal experience against the standard of the Bible. Otherwise, we could be led into another gospel, one that opens us up to the pluralistic perspective.

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Vic Christian

December 23, 2012  5:48pm

Your rather lengthy article had many good points - thank-you. However, I don't see how any person's experience, even if followed by life changes and the doing of good works, if it denies Biblical truth, can be from God. It seems that if this were true we would not need God's written Word but rather just need to pickup these books from the local bookstore. If God's Word is in fact complete, unless these authors experience reflected this truth and pointed us to God's plan of salvation, they are worthless. Is this not the case?

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Rick Dalbey

December 23, 2012  5:16pm

"In the NT, fruit is a spiritual product that comes from having the right theology". Yeah, I love that verse. "Right theology is a fruit and it matters." I love that verse too. Where were they? Perhaps Galatians where the fruit of the spirit are listed...Goodness, patience, right theology. Or maybe Matthew 13...but that is people being reproduced and the angels harvesting them at the end of the age. It must be John 15, bearing much fruit and your fruit remains, not there either. Could you point out where right theology is a spiritual fruit? Or where having right theology produces fruit. Our seminaries must be bursting with fruit!

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Claire Guest

December 22, 2012  10:13pm

ITA with William Payne. RE: the article - I've only read one book which is listed: 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper. I also read a book years ago called My Glimpse of Eternity by Betty Malz. I did not see any questionable theology in either book. Just powerful testimonies which glorify God in agreement with His Word.

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WILLIAM PAYNE

December 22, 2012  4:38pm

A repeating theme in the comments section of CT relates to the supposed superiority of fruit over right theology. For example, Ecumenicals and pluralists lambaste, "You shall know them by their fruit not their doctrine." The assumption is that one can have "bad" theology and be acceptable to God as long as one's fruit is good. In the NT, fruit is a spiritual product that comes from having the right theology about Christ and a right relationship with Christ. It is not works righteousness. It is the result of the indwelling HS who transforms us into the living image of Christ. In fact, the proper response to "Who do men say that I am" is a theological gift from the HS. Right theology is a fruit and it matters. That is why Evangelicals measure experience by the light of Scripture.

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david ondich

December 22, 2012  12:46pm

This is an insightful and informative article, touching on a lot of related issues. Due to time I haven't read many of the comments so I may be repeating what someone already said. First of all, the author's initial question seems to be the right one: do we trust theology or the 'good news' of living in an eternity of infinite love and forgiven? In Paul's commentary on love in 1 Cor 13 he answers that question this way: we can know 'all mysteries and all things' but without love it is meaningless (v2)- theology is just another form of knowledge like geology or biology- it is an enterprise limited by our human constraints- only our experiences of love are ultimately meaningful because that is what is ultimately real- for God is Love (1 Jn 4:8), that's ultimate truth, the good news. I don't think God came to Earth to found debating societies (ie, 'religious denominations'!)-if a NDE makes someone more loving that is what I would believe. God is not a theologian. God is Love.

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hilary cook

December 22, 2012  6:15am

How can people be so assured that their ideas are the only right ones - Jesus never said, by their doctrines you shall know them, (his followers), but by their fruit!!!!!!!!

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hilary cook

December 22, 2012  5:53am

Although not an NDE Thomas Aquinas, that prodigious author of the Summa Theologica had an experience of G-D during Mass one day, not too long before he died. He never wrote again, and declared what he had written 'all straw'.

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Paul Becke

December 22, 2012  5:12am

What a thoughtful, insightful article. By the way, I suspect that Christ was reiterating to Eben Alexander the import of the saying of St Augustine (which he, himself, would have inspired) : 'Love God and do what you want;' meaning, as one blogger put it: 'If our love of God is real and profound, then that is all that matters. Right actions flow irresistibly from that love. If we get the love of God right, then all else follows.'

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Neil Watts

December 22, 2012  12:05am

It is all very well to quote "This day will you be with me in Paradise." However that interpretation is based on a wrong placement of the comma.A better reading is "I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise". Jesus didn't go to paradise on that day! Remember what Jesus said to Mary on the Resurrection Sunday. The best description of what happens at death is the story of Lazurus in John 11. I died (the sleep of death, according to Jesus) and was raised to life several days later - and hadn't been in heaven! Paul's statement about being "absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" needs to be interpreted in the light of what he wrote elsewhere (I Thess 4:16,17 and I Cor.15:50-56). Paul did not expect to go to heaven until after the resurrection at the return of Christ. Oscar Cullman was correct in his view of the non-immortality of the soul.

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gARY sAMPSON

December 21, 2012  11:35pm

I have no issue myslef with people wanting to believe in these near-death experiences although it is peculiar that each experience tends to be as different enough as to warrant another book. What bothers me is Christianity Today not putting up its usual theological radar and smoking out every heresy. If an author like Mark Bell writes and strays just a tad from traditional theology, CT looses the heresy hounds. In talking about "The Shack" CT used the words, "dangers of The Shack's vision of God, salvation, and the Church". What's the difference between the author of The Shack's vision and these people who "die" and see human angels and other beings not discussed in the Bible. Why is it all not harmless fun as long as it points you to Jesus? I'm just looking for some consistency from the Editors.

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WILLIAM PAYNE

December 21, 2012  9:54pm

I also believe that Paul was caught up to the 3rd heaven (cf. 2 Cor 12 ff.). It happened when he was stoned to death in Lystra (Acts 14:8ff.). He was brought back when the disciples surrounded him. Also, John the Revelator was "in the Spirit." Additionally in recent times, Christ has been appearing to Muslims, Hindus, and pagans of all sorts as he reveals himself and calls unreachable people to believe in him. Clearly, God is up to something big. He is the evangelist. Like Christ, I desire that all should be saved even though I act as if all will be lost unless the church does its part to win people to Christ (modified exclusivism). Still, caution is needed. All the after death or visionary experiences I have mention focused clearly on Jesus. Lying wonders (Matt 24:24, II Thes 2:9) are real and are associated with the deception of the end times. Perhaps the author is too quick to believe everything he reads. I rejoice with the good fruit and will withhold judgment until I know more.

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BRADFORD ROSENQUIST D D

December 21, 2012  9:51pm

As is the case in so many declarations regarding going to heaven when one dies, the experiences of people take precedence over scripture. Even Paul admitted that the man to told him of a vision, did not give a declaration of whether he actually went there or simply had a vision or dream. The idea that people go to heaven and then come back is simply contrary to the facts of our current existence. We cannot go to where we are not changed from carnal to spiritual bodies. Jesus was seen by the two apostles to be at the transfiguration talking in a vision...not that the two Elijah and Moses were resurrected. Jesus had not even been resurrected as yet to make the possibilities of resurrection to spirit bodies, as was Jesus' body after he was resurrected. Peter even declared in one of his first sermons that the burial place of David was still intact...not yet resurrected. This idea of people going to heaven when they die is based on the Greeks philosophies of the immortal soul.

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Rick Dalbey

December 21, 2012  3:06pm

Brad, at death we are asleep in Christ only in regards to the the world’s (and our family's) point of view. But we are very much alive and active in heaven. Jesus said “This day shall you be with me in Paradise”. Moses and Elijah carried on an animated conversation with Jesus at the transfiguration. John saw myriads in Heaven singing before the 2nd resurrection. Paul visited the 3rd heaven and heard sacred words. Jesus taught about the rich man and the beggar in conversation after death. As Jesus said to the Pharisees, “He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.” Mark 12:26-28. Many saints have died, their spirits left their body and then came back...every one that Jesus or the disciples raised from the dead.

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BRADFORD ROSENQUIST D D

December 21, 2012  2:40pm

It is always important to respond to issues of controversy. This idea of people still on this earth suddenly becoming a part of the spirit realm is exciting, just like the science fiction realm of Star Trek and hope for future exploration in space. As a Christian, my authority on anything to do with the realm of the spiritual is the Bible...not personal experience. Personal experience is as subjective as it gets, whereas, the Bible, as God's word is the factual bottomline. I either believe what God has declared in His word or I don't. The remarkable hope of the Christian in the resurrection of the dead in Christ at Jesus' return...as Paul emphatically pointed out in I Cor. 15...no resurrection of the dead...no hope...we are the most foolish of people. I Cor. 15 tells us, as does I Thes. 4, that our change from mortal to immortal is at the time of the resurrection...it even differentiates between those alive at the time and those asleep in Christ. At death we are asleep in Christ.

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Galen Currah

December 21, 2012  2:07pm

Helpful article. It took 50 years of following Jesus for me to come to critique equally (a) personal experience stories, (b) theologies that support or condemn those stories, and (c) culturo-logical frameworks by which we humans interpret both of those. The theistic religions that compete with the gospel trace their origin in dreams and angels. At the end of the day, we must return and listen to Jesus, the One True God incarnate.

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DANIEL GNANADURAI

December 03, 2012  3:59pm

It irritates me when there is no arrangement for printing.

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Rick Dalbey

December 02, 2012  5:16pm

Why do we so easily tolerate anti-supernaturalist authors like Oscar Cullman or even NT Wright? Jesus said, This day will you be with me in Paradise. Paul visited the 3rd Heaven, Moses and Elijah conferred with Jesus, to be "absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." Most Christians have long known this and millions of near death experiences seem to confirm it. What, after all, are angels who appear and disappear at will or ascend in flame as the Angel did for Manoah. We are surrounded with a great cloud of witnesses looking on and it is not metaphorical as Moses and Elijah proved. "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit." Westerners just seem to have an anti supernatural bias. And an anti-bible bias.

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