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Near Death Experiences: Evidence against Naturalism

December 31, 2009

I just finished watching Gary Habermas’s lecture on Near Death Experiences (NDEs).  As an expert on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Habermas also has extensively studied the phenomenon of NDEs and has written the book Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality.

I believe it is normal for people of every faith to occasionally wonder, “What if everything that I believe is false?”  It is a question with which every honest person needs to wrestle.  After all, there are as many paradigms of the world as there are people.  What kind of arrogance would presume that my view is correct, simply because I think it is?

Near Death Experiences deliver a critical blow to the idea that life ends after death.  In his research, Gary Habermas cites studies showing that eight million Americans have had NDEs.  While some of these experiences are reports of “seeing a light” or “going into a tunnel,” others are much different.  There have been multiple cases published in peer-reviewed medical journals of patients who have reported the events surrounding their death–including remembering who was in the ER room, what was said during CPR, what the equipment looked like in the room, how the room was arranged, etc.  Unlike the stories of people who reported “going towards the light,” these are details that can be verified.  Of more interest, Habermas reports a study of NDEs in people born blind. These individuals were able to report physical descriptions of their physicians and nurses, although they never were able to see either before or after their NDE.

Obviously the impact of these events upon the healthcare practitioners caring for these patient would be profound.  One of the best known stories of NDEs is the case of an Idaho girl named Katie.  She had nearly drowned and was documented as having no pulse for 19 minutes.  When she arrived in the Seattle hospital where she was shipped, her pupils were fixed and dilated.  No one expected her to come out of her coma as it was apparent that she likely had irreversible brain damage.  But, in fact, she did awaken from the coma three days later.  The story that she told to the pediatric resident immediately upon awakening is chilling.  She described the entire room where the resuscitation occured, was able to remember staff members who were there, and described the equipment in the room.  She told him that an angel named Elizabeth had allowed her to see what her parents were doing the night she drowned.  She knew what her father was doing that night, what tune her brother was whistling and what game he was playing with, and what her mother cooked for dinner.  The resident was able to verify these facts with the family and confirmed that they were true.  It was a startling enough experience to turn this physician into a Theist.  Another physician, who became a Christian after his experience, describes a much worse example of a NDE when his patient exclaimed that he was in hell.

In his lecture, Habermas cites many more examples of similar well documented cases of NDEs.  Because the accounts differ so greatly, NDEs are unreliable for describing what the afterlife is like.  However, they do provide proof that humans can have conscious awareness apart from physical life.  As I watched I remembered again how easy it is to forget about the eternality of life.  Does the fact that humans have near death experiences mean that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior of the world?  No.  But it does mean that it is worthwhile to investigate that claim.  That it is worth everything to know what exists beyond mortality.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Ming permalink
    November 23, 2011 3:14 am

    You know, I do admit that NDEs have intrigued me. Now, though my parents are communist, I have converted to Christianity, and I have read the Bible many times by now. You see, though the Bible does warn of “false prophets” at the end times, I do not think that most of the NDErs fall under such a category. After all, children, even infants, have these experiences, and very few of these people in general, to my knowledge, make any claim of being a Messiah, only spreading a message of love – and we must remember that God is love.

    As a Christian, I think at least some NDEs contain truth for us as humans, and I cannot deny that some I have read have truly changed me as a person – still I am deeply religious, but now, I am more at peace with myself, and stronger in my faith spiritually. I know not God’s will in full – but I do know that He stands for supreme love, and would have us love one another. God bless you all.

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