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What is the mind? From the thousands of pages devoted to this question, no one can explain how consciousness, and the sense of one’s self as a mind, can emerge from three pounds of gelatinous pudding inside our skull. How is it that an organ, made of basically the same material of mitochondria filled cells as, say your liver, is able to generate consciousness, thoughts and the sense of the mind? What is this sense of one self as a mind? One aspect that digs deep into this question is Near-Death Experiences

Near-death experiences (NDEs) are events that take place as a person is dying or, indeed, is already clinically dead. People who have NDEs are called near-death experiencers (NDErs). From the time near-death experiences were first medically researched and described by Dr. Raymond Moody in his pioneering book, Life After Life, in 1975, medical doctors and other researchers have examined this phenomenon in depth. [1]

Numerous best-selling books and a quantity of movies on the topic coming out recently over the past few decades indicate the popularity of the topic of NDE’s.

Prior to Raymond Moody’s book, Life After Life, [2] the collective attention has generally been on common phenomena like sense of being dead, looking down at one’s body, going down a passage or dark tunnel, seeing a light, meeting persons or supernatural beings, being part of a life review, seeing lavishing scenery, re-entering your body, feelings of peace and loss of fear of death. As wonderful as these sound we need solid verifiable evidence that can be externally reviewed. These could be true, or they could be reactions of a dying brain and the crazy firing of neurons. 

These examples above are all subjective, are there any NDE’s in objective verifiable reality? What evidence can be presented in their support? Can these occurrences be tested in any way? Do any of these conflict with the Christian worldview?

Now before we look at the evidence it is important to distinguish between clinical (reversible) death and and biological (irreversible) death. 

Clinical — external life signs such as consciousness, pulse and breathing are not present.[3] In these type of cases, biological death virtually always results if no steps are taken to reverse the process. 

Biological — not affected by the quantity of attention, for it is physically irreversible. 

[4] Raymond Moody adds a 3rd category between the two — absence of brain-wave activity (‘flat’ EEG rating is a clear sign). It is clear to note that most near-death reports were close to clinical death. [5]

Studies since the back in the 70’s have come along way and are more empirical now and scientific. The most recent data has challenged alternative explanations previously given and this has brought about the opportunity to create a minimalistic view for life after death. Minimalistic being life in the ‘initial moments’ after death, not some detailed version of heavenly life to even necessary eternal life. Basically, NDE’s, at best, generally only make reference to life a few minutes or hours after death (although we will indicate some exceptions in some of these eventual cases). So while we cannot proceed beyond the evidence, even a minimal life beyond death remains crucially important, since this would still be a major blow to those who deny the afterlife.


  1. Raymond Moody, Life After Life (Atlanta: Mockingbird Books, 1975).
  2. Raymond Moody, Life After Life (Atlanta: Mockingbird Books, 1975).
  3. There appears to be some impression as to how many of these signs should be present, especially if it was impossible to check thoroughly at the time of the crisis
  4. for an enlightening discussion on this: Michael Sabom, Recollections of Death: A Medical Investigation (New York: Harper & Row, 1982), pp. 5-9, including helpful definitions provided by the Russian scientist, Professor Negovskii; similar ones also given by Cardiologist & CPR expert Maurice Rawlings, Before Death Comes (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1980) p. 18
  5. Moody, Life After Life, pp. 101-104. Sabom also discusses the relevance of ‘Brain death’ but doesn’t seem to be quite sure where to place it on the definitional scale (p8-9)
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