Near-Death Experiences: The Seventh Reason To Think That Christianity Is True
In this series of videos we are building a cumulative case for Christ by looking at 10 reasons to think that Christianity is true.
This is the seventh reason in this series, The Argument From Near Death Experiences.
In previous videos we have seen that:
- Not only did Jesus claim to be God (and if he’s wrong He’s lying or crazy)
- Not only did He back up that claim by fulfilling prophecy
- Not only did He back up that claim by rising from the dead
- Not only after He died the religion that He taught spread rapidly and peacefully across the world just as He predicted it would.
- Not only did He leave us a miraculous picture of His resurrection from the dead in the Shroud of Turin
- Not only does Jesus still continue to work miracles in our day as seen in scientifically validated miracles...
But also modern science looking at NDEs is giving us a glimpse of what life after death is like and it is revealing a Christian pattern, just like Jesus taught.
The study of NDEs has exploded in recent decades. I am NOT talking about the popular anecdotal works from the 80s in the New Ages section of the bookstore. We are talking about peer-reviewed scientific research of NDEs published in academic journals.
What they have found is that millions of people in the West who were declared clinically dead (no heartbeat, no measurable brain activity on an EEG, no brain stem activity which would be indicated by no blink or gag reflex), people who shouldn’t be experiencing anything, have a series of life changing experiences.
This has a lot of implications for the philosophy of mind as it certainly seems like a total refutation of materialistic views of the mind since these people are having consciousness with no measurable brain activity.
But it also has implications for the existence of God and even the truth of Christianity.
In order to show this we need to do two things. First explain why these NDEs should be taken seriously. Next we need to see why they support the truth of Christianity.
Why Near Death Experiences Need To Be Taken Seriously
There have been MANY scientific studies on NDEs. If you are interested in these, I suggest looking at the work of Dr. Bruce Greyson or Dr Pim van Lommel for starters.
What these studies have shown is that millions of people now have had these experiences.
The general nature of this experience consists of several elements:
- Out of body experience
- Accurate visual perception when out of the body
- Accurate auditory perception when out of the body
- Tunnel experience
- Feelings of peace and calm
- Life review
- Being in another world
- Encountering relatives and friends who had passed away
Now skeptics will say that these people are not really experiencing anything. Rather it must be the brain doing something at death due to fear or lack of oxygen or whatever.
But this skeptical response does not work for a number of reasons:
- Veridically Reported Data -This occurs when the person having the NDE reports data that can be verified by independent researchers. While clinically dead, many have experienced what happened to them in the operating room or the waiting room down the wall, in accurate detail. These details were later corroborated by doctors, nurses, and other people present. This could not happen if these experiences were hallucinations due to drugs or lack of oxygen. Every study has this.
- Visual Perception Of The Blind - There have been studies on people who were born BLIND, who have no physical capacity to see, can in fact see when they are clinically dead having a NDE.
- Personal Information About Deceased Individuals - People who have an NDE report information about other deceased people that they could not have known otherwise which can be later corroborated.
These reasons tell us that these out of body perceptions are veridical, that these "dead" people are having legitimate perceptions at a time when they are clinically dead.
So we are talking about people having complex sensory experiences at a time when there is NO measurable brain activity at all.
As one researcher has put it:
"Since the publication of several prospective studies on NDEs in survivors of cardiac arrest, with strikingly similar results and conclusions, the phenomenon of the NDE can no longer be scientifically ignored... The NDE is an authentic experience which cannot be simply reduced to imagination, fear of death, hallucination, psychosis, the use of drugs, or oxygen deficiency."
- Pim van Lommel, "Non-local Consciousness A Concept Based on Scientific Research on Near-Death Experiences During Cardiac Arrest", Journal of Consciousness Studies 20 (1-2):1-2 (2013)
For these reasons we should take NDEs seriously.
How Near Death Experiences Support The Truth Of Christianity
So NDEs need to be taken seriously, but what does that tell us about the truth of Christianity?
Well, Jesus talked quite a bit about the nature of the afterlife. He described in significant detail. So if Christianity is true then when we die we would expect certain things to happen. We would expect the nature of the afterlife to be like Jesus described it.
What we see now in these Near Death Experiences is that there is a significant correlation between what commonly happens in an NDE and the teachings of Jesus.
In other words, the NDE itself is an experience that is rich in Christian theological elements.
Now it is true that many of these NDEs vary in detail, but the common core experience seems to remain the same across all individuals and cultures.
In fact there are five common elements between Christian teaching and the common core NDE:
- The Continued Existence Of The Soul: That an afterlife exists at all! Jesus taught that the human soul continues to exist after the death of the body and that our conscious experience continues after death. NDEs confirm this teaching of Jesus. According to those who have an NDE, death is not a loss of consciousness but seems very much like a soul separating from the body and continuing to exist in a spiritual realm. This continued existence of the soul seems to be also true for others, as many who experience an NDE claim that they have met deceased relatives in the afterlife.
- The Existence And Nature Of God: Contrary to many pagan religions that teach there are many gods with various personality problems, Jesus taught that there was one God, a loving God, who is the “God is love” (1 John 4:16) and that “God is light” (1 John 1:5). NDEs confirm this teaching of Jesus. People who have a NDE almost universally describe a God, one God, of indescribable beauty, love and peace. They describe this God as a God of light and God of love and they say that being in the presence of this God brings such an immense feeling of joy and peace that is so intense it cannot be described.
- Love As The Primary Purpose Of Life: In contrast to many religions, Jesus taught that love was the primary purpose of life. He said the Greatest Commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37). This is confirmed by those who have had an NDE. They learn the purpose of life is to love
- The Existence Of Divine Judgment: Everyone knows that Jesus taught that we are all judged after we die on the basis of how we have loved. This seems to be confirmed by those who have had an NDE who say they experience a “life review” where everything they did was played back to them like a movie and that they felt the effects that every one of their actions had on others, both good and bad.
- The Existence of Heaven And Hell - Again, everyone knows that Jesus taught that our eternal destiny would be in one of two places, Heaven or Hell. People who have had a NDE seem to confirm this. Many who have had a NDE say this is a “point of no return” where if they were to cross it they would not be able to come back to their body. Many describe Heaven, they say it is indescribably beautiful and that they really want to go there. Others describe a “hellish” near death experience with suffering, demons, and pain.
If Christianity is true we would expect that the human after-life experience would contain what is known in theology as the four last things - death, judgment, heaven and hell.
All of these elements are common in NDEs and they are cross-cultural meaning that studies of people from around the world who have had NDEs show that these experiences have very similar content.
If NDEs were heavily influenced by pre-existing religious beliefs there would be significant differences in their content. But the opposite seems true. These similarities are impressive.
So according to current scientific research on NDEs, we continue to exist after we die, and that afterlife is very much just like Jesus described it.
We can summarize our argument this way:
If we have good reasons to think that the human afterlife experience is what Jesus said it would be, we have good reason to think Christianity is true.
We have good reasons to think that the human afterlife experience is what Jesus said it would be.
Therefore, we have good reason to think that Christianity is true
The first premise is self-evident and the second is verified by the core near death experience of thousands of people.
For this reason, NDE’s give us yet another reason to think that Christianity is true.