My friend Tom keeps me on my toes in the comment section of my previous blog post. I totally agree that we should greet reports about near-death experiences—or any other unusual spiritual experience—with a healthy amount of skepticism. Isn’t this what the author of 1 John means when he talks about “testing the spirits” to see if they’re from God (1 John 4:1)?
But in the following reply, I worry that we can be overly skeptical.
I hear you. Regarding the 4-year-old, the father goes to great lengths in the book to say that he didn’t coach his child, and mostly I believe him. Again, NDEs are commonplace, and what the child says isn’t so different from other reports I’ve heard—including one first-hand report. NDEs happen all the time. Whether there is anything to them or not, I would take on a case-by-case basis. Evidence suggests that in some cases, there is something to them.
If it were my child, and he experienced the NDE reported in that book, I would say that he had a meaningful encounter with God—and I’d probably leave it at that. Since I’m in the business of believing in the afterlife, I probably wouldn’t be as astonished as the father seems to be. And I certainly wouldn’t interpret the boy’s experience in the theologically shallow way that the father does.
But I wonder if you’re not overreacting because of a few outlandish reports you’ve heard. Of course, people misunderstand, misinterpret, or abuse these experiences. While I am hypersensitive, for example, to Pentecostals who tell me that I ought to have these kinds of experiences—like speaking in tongues—if I’m fully Christian, I don’t doubt in many cases that they have them or that they’re genuine.
There is a spiritual realm, and there is a lot of mystery in Creation. Our skepticism can be misplaced, I think, because we are victims of a post-Enlightenment milieu that tells us nothing beyond the physical universe is real.