My wife is reading a book by John Burke, that deal with near death experiances. How much of what she reads is really on the up and up?
@islander Great question I don’t know anything about John Burke, but there are a few bits of advice I think are helpful when considering the subject.
- we don’t really understand NDEs - it is possible that there is a rational medical explanation
- even if it is a spiritual experience, that does not mean it had its origins in God—there are also evil spirits
- knowing there are deceiving spirits, ignorance, and misunderstandings, we must test and weigh everything (1 Thess 5:21) - anything that contradicts Scripture is not true (this is not a circular argument for the inerrancy of Scripture, but rather based on the fact that Scripture is historically reliable and verified via other means)
- NDEs should not be used as evidence for Christianity
While it is easy to understand the appeal of NDEs to people who want evidence or knowledge about the afterlife, they can lead people astray. For example, I once was sharing Christ with a man who was working on my cable and he tried to convince me he had a vision revealing to him that all religions are the same. Similarly, NDEs can be used to make false claims about the afterlife or for profit. So we must be careful.
Some more articles to consider below.
If the message and experience of an NDE does not distort or conflict with biblical teachings, then we should be careful not to speak against that which resulted in salvation and may have been a genuine work of God. Nevertheless, a potential problem emerges when near-death experiences are exalted as a means of bringing people to Christ. Such endorsement could lead many to trust NDEs more than they should, accepting them as generally authentic rather than examining the merits of each case individually. Indeed, if the message of the being of light, the interpretation of the near-death experience, or the lifestyle that results from the experience contradicts the teachings of the Bible, then that particular NDE should not be accepted as valid. In addition, there are some NDE accounts that provide elaborate and fantastic details concerning heaven and hell that go far beyond Scripture. When unreservedly accepted, these reports function as extrabiblical revelation about the nature of the world beyond. This can easily weaken Scriptural authority while diluting the divinely revealed content of Christian faith with the feeble projections of human imagination. The best protection against such error, if we are to hold that some NDEs may in fact be genuine, is to maintain that only the Bible can be trusted absolutely as a revelation of heavenly realities. We must also remember that medical research is still at an early stage of exploring this phenomenon and may yet provide vital understanding on this subject. It is quite possible that physical/psychological and spiritual explanations can complement each other.
I haven’t read Burke’s book, but a good tip is to check out who has endorsed the book and what they have said. In this case, comments from J.P. Moreland, Lee Strobel, and Gary Habermas are published on the back cover. The comments they have contributed seem to be more reserved and descriptive than endorsing / commending, however
Burke is primarily concerned to collate documented near death experiences and see what common factors align with biblical passages related to the afterlife. (Though I am not sure that he engages in in-depth exegesis of Scripture; what he takes to align with a biblical view will obviously depend upon how the Scripture is interpreted).
An interview with the author addresses his own aims and beliefs—perhaps these offer some perspective on the book?
Liz, thank you for your observation in the book by John Burke. I have a better view point now than I did when I asked the question. I just wanted to hear other views of it blessings your way.