Worldview concerns

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NDE’s are intriguing, many believe they tell us something about a life beyond and I believe that too, they give us some insight into that life (For me near death is near death, it may not be a clear picture of non-returnable death but a component God has instilled into us, so when people claim to have gone to heaven/hell seen Jesus/Buddha/Krishna/Joseph Smith, it’s good to be cautious, this’ll be elaborated later). However many argue against that we can know something of the other side, especially through NDE’s. Some have suggested drugs, hallucinations, or other natural causes. Some have held to the view that if NDEs do have some objective reality, isn’t it incompatible with the Christian theism? Who is righT? What position is true? We will tackle these issues here in response to the data and will address theological disputes over this. 

Multiple interpretations

Many claim to interpret an incredible light which they interpret as a specific person, other individuals not associated with this light [1]. Despite what reports say, friends and relatives are sene a lot more frequently than religious figures in NDEs. [2] When religious figures are reported, Christians report them as God or Jesus, Jews as angels and a large number of Hindus in a study by Osis and Haraldsson identified these figures as Shiva, Rama, Krishna, angels, or other religious messengers. [3] These implications raise interesting questions: Should we conclude that each of these beings were seen by the experiences? Did Christians really see Jesus? Did Jews see angels? Did Hindus see Krishna? 

We previously made the case tray deceased loved ones have been frequently seen by near Death Experiences. How can we say that those dead individuals era;;y were seen but these religious figures were not?

  1. Researchers have checked and verified the reliability of those who reported seeing loved ones who were dead, unknown to those involved. But no such evidence is available for verifying the real appearances of these religious persons. In fact, how would these near-death patients know the identity of the religious personages even if they did see them? Obviously, previous acquaintances plus corroborated testimony, as with the dead loved ones, separates these reports form the religious ones that lack both evidence of identity and previous familiarity,
  2. In the light of this lack of any preceding acquaintance with the religious person in question and the theological (as well as other) intellectual commitments form the patient, it makes sense that the identification of the figure will come from the patient’s own background. So when these situations come up, we will argue that whenever something of a religious nature is claimed but not evidenced, the more important factor in terms of interpretation consists of one’s previous beliefs. Not surprisingly, Osis and Haraldsson’s cross-cultural research backs up this contention in several ways. 
    1. No American claimed to have seen Shiva, Rama or Krishna. [source 21] Americans reported 5 times as many deceased figures vs religious figures.( 66% to 12%, respectfully). Hindu’s saw twice as many religious figures as deceased ones (48% to 28%, respectively).
    2. Social factors also play into what is observed. 61% of americans perceived female figures, Indians claim only 23%. Even the Indian women perceived twice as many male figures than female ones. This makes it tempting to state the claim due to apparently lower status of women in Indian culture. [4]
  3. William Wainwright argued in a crucial essay that, of the different cross-cultural sorts of religious experience, sensory reports (such as seeing or hearing certain phenomena) tend to be the most dependent on outside factors. [5] But none of this disallows the possibility of some true religions element’s being involved. After all, distorted experience is still experience. 

So it would appear that previous religious, cultural, and sociological beliefs affect the wide differences in NDE interpretations, including the way figures are identified. In this sense, we think that NDEs are incapable of judging the truth or falsity of religious worldviews. While they may say something rather than generic concerning the very existence of the afterlife, they present no real grounds for judging between the two options. 

No Judgement?

It’s known that even atheists have had these reports of experiencing the heavenly environment in their experiences, but why is there no mention of this Christian judgement? Or punishment of wrongs? This response will come at the issue form several angles. 

So we admit there are majority blissful experiences, however there have been hellish environments also expressed. Rawlings, an expert in the field of NDEs popularised these [6] He theorisis that many of those who do not remember encounters may actually be repressing a painful hell encounter. He provides examples in his works where his patients have described the hellish scene and later forgot the whole incident. These scenarios have been disputed by fellow Dr. Ring, but not denied. Others have reported such cases, but less in number and not always of the same sort. To reverse this scenario, why should the average NDE person, christian or not, have gone to hell at all? If he was not biologically (irreversibly) dead, we could argue that the reason he did not see hell was simply because he had not finally died. [7] Some have responded in the literature that Hebrews 9:27 indicates that people die once followed by judgement, therefore the individual should be immediately judged then following with punishment or eternal bliss. But we know NDE’s do not qualify as biological death scenarios, so why should this text even apply to NDEers? Also what happens when people have multiple NDE’s? Some heavenly and some hellike? 

We can also draw from people’s NDEs when they describe a ‘barrier’ of some form Rawlings argues there could well be a “sorting ground” or meeting place after death that separates a person from their final destination. [8] This means that on these lines, not all NDE’s have to be “heavenly impressions” they could simply be the reaction to a new environment or an immediate release of diseased or injured or broken body or even a temporary meeting place.

Carol Zaleski concludes that the interpretations of them often reflected popular concepts of the afterlife held at that time, which is just what we see today. [9] So our NDE interpretation of what we see in the ‘heavenly or hellish’ realms could also be because that’s what we know and this knowledge is stored in our conscious self.

Because of all these reasons, we do not see it fit to use NDEs to describe heaven or hell. However, as we have shown, we can verify other aspects of NDEs that are examinable and verifiable which at a minimum, points us to consciousness sustaining beyond the grave. 

Satanic counterfeits 

Christians have rightly raised the question: “Could these near-death experiences be some sort of satanic performance for the purpose of misleading people about the afterlife? After all, isn’t it enough for us to have biblical testimony of the subject of what lies beyond the grave?” [10] One thing we can guarantee in one aspect of NDE studies is that the spiritual realities can get caught up with occult theology and is something to be wary of. With sample sizes this large, there certainly will be non-Christian cases amongst them. 

Furthermore, several analysts, including some Christians, have pointed out specific occultic connections with individual NDE researchers, including more over involvement with the spiritual world. [11] In the literature we have reviewed thus far, I think there is no question that occultic elements are sometimes present. We believe that Satan can even disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), appearing harmless and inviting. 

So for such reasons, I believe we ought to be on his guard when investigating NDEs, it should make one even more wary when or if you feel drawn to this subject by strong curiosity alone, which can be a door to the occult and there are strong biblical warnings about coming too overindulged in the topic. 

This doesn’t mean as a result that all NDEs are occultic and unbiblical. As expert Anderson notes, one reason why this conclusion does not follow is that counterfeit experiences presuppose genuine ones. Just as you can’t fake money without real money, so you can’t have fake NDEs without real ones. You can’t counterfeit what doesn’t exist. Besides, and more crucially, some NDEs fit a biblical pattern. [source 38] Further, even if the spirit world is involved in some of these circumstances, it still means that naturalism is mistaken and that there really is a world with which life after death is compatible. 

Some interesting observations, perhaps, 

  • Stephen in the book of Acts who had what could be described as a pre-death vision (Acts 7:55-56). Some think that the experience Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 12:1-5 occurred to him after he was stoned at Lystra and left for dead (Acts 14:19). 
  • In Jesus’ story about the death of the poor man Lazarus, his post-death experience has similarities with some of the NDEs we discussed (Luke 16:22) 
  • For that matter, the scenario in Luke 16:22-24 about the death of the rich man may remind us of some hellish near-death experiences. 
  • Also, going to be with Christ is precisely what the Bible says will happen to Christians after death. So if believers experience this after having a very close call with death, why should we object on biblical grounds?

We think there are strong reasons to hold that dying children and believers are not turned over to Satan and his whims as they leave this world (Psalm 23:4), especially when there is no previous occultic involvement in their lives. Death is a victory over Satan for God’s children.  

We can conclude, there is no doubt that occult tendencies can and do play an important role in this topic. And it is critical that we obey the affirmed biblical teachings to avoid contact with the occult. There is no biblical room for exceptions here. 

But it does not follow that all NDEs are satanic counterfeits, some even follow biblical expectations. There is nothing inherently occultic about NDEs. Dying is natural and does not automatically involve aspects of the occult, as some other activities do. Each NDE needs to be viewed according to its own merits. 

  1. Ring, Life at Death, p40; fig 1, p56-66; Sabom, Recollections of Death, Table IX. p206; Morse, Closer to the Light, p115
  2. Osis and Haraldsson, See at the Hour of Death (New York: Avon, 1977), Table 2, p218. Also see Sabom, Recollections of Death, Table XIII, p210-211
  3. Osis and Haraldsson, See At the Hour of Death, p218
  4. Osis and Haraldsson, See At the Hour of Death, p59, 91-95, 98
  5. William L. Rowe and William J. Wainwright, eds., PHilosophy of Religion (Belmont, CA: Wandsworth, 1988), p113-130
  6. Maurice Rawlings,Beyond Death’s Door (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1978), chapter 1, 7
  7. J. Kerby Anderson agrees with this assessment (see Life, Death and Beyond [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1980], p110); Ring, Life at Death, p250
  8. Rawlings, Beyond Death’s Door, p53, 88, 92, 100, 102. Anderson appears to agree (Life, Death and Beyond, p140-141)
  9. Carol Zaleski, Other-World Journeys: Accounts of NEar-Death Experiences in Medical and Modern Times (New York: Oxford University, 1987)
  10. Moody, In Life After Life (p107-108); In Reflections of Life After Life, p84
  11. Anderson, Life, Death and Beyond, p120-126; Mark Albrecht and Brooks Alexander, “Thanatology: Death and dying,” SCP Journal, vol. 1, no. 1 (April 1977), p4-11; Robert A Monroe, Journeys Out of the Body (Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, 1971) p136-140
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