When Skeptics Ask . . .
Vol: 167 Issue: 13 Thursday, August 13, 2015
I read somewhere that one of the distinguishing characteristics of mankind is that man is the only animal that knows he is going to die. Although everything dies, only man knows that includes him.
My dog is a nervous little thing; when your legs are only eight inches long, everything looks like a threat. But she is avoiding pain, which she does understand, not death, which she does not.
Why is it that man fears death? In the main, most people believe that death is the end of our existence. They believe that the death of our body means the end of our identity, the end of our thoughts and memories, the end of our consciousness.
If you’ve ever been to the funeral of a loved one, you can understand why people believe that. Your loved one, when alive, was warm, animated and engaged with life.
Now they are cold and still and totally disconnected from life. All that you knew them to be is gone, seemingly never to see or be seen again.
In a manner of speaking, you ‘die’ every year. At any given second during your lifetime, a half-million of your cells die and are replaced. At the end of a year, your old body has died and been almost completely replaced with a new one.
During our life our body changes continuously, each day, each minute, each second. Each year about 98% of our molecules and atoms in our body have been replaced. Each living being is in an unstable balance of two opposing processes of continual disintegration and integration.
When somebody dies, only the mortal remains are left behind. What happens to our consciousness? Is your body ‘you’? Or is your body your possession? Do you have a body? Or are you a body?
An atheist would argue that the body and the consciousness are one and the same. When the body dies, the consciousness dies as well. You are your body.
There is no ‘ghost in the machine’ despite the growing mountain of evidence to the contrary. The atheist credits ‘reason’ for his reaching this ‘enlightened’ perspective.
But this all-or-nothing view demands that the atheist be more closed-minded about his worldview than any Christian he might accuse of close-mindedness. Christians aren’t certain of the exact details of the death process, either.
But for atheists, its all-or-nothing. If they acknowledge the existence NDE’s then they can’t be atheists anymore. Now they are agnostics. (For a worldview that claims ‘reason’ as its father, it really isn’t very reasonable.)
In 1943, a 20 year old soldier named George Ritchie was resuscitated after being clinically dead for six minutes. He later wrote of his experience in a book entitled, “Return from Tomorrow.”
Ritchie is among the first to chronicle the experience of ‘near death’.
George leaves his body and sees it lying in his bed. He is not aware the dead body in his bed is his. Wanting eagerly to travel to Richmond, Virginia to start college, he finds himself flying in the air toward a city.
He is not sure how he acquired these strange powers of flight and transparency. He arrives at a city and discovers he has lost his solidness. He flies back to the hospital and sees his lifeless body in the morgue and realizes he has died.
Suddenly, Jesus appears emitting a tremendous light and love. George’s entire life appears before him. Jesus asks, “What have you done with your life?” He realizes Jesus is not judging him, but he is judging himself.
As medical technology advanced through the 20th century, more and more near death experiences, or NDE’s have been reported. They are almost universal in certain aspects, but not all.
Most people who undergo NDE’s say that they are not “dream-like” events, but instead, very real and structured “visits”.
There seem to be two kinds of NDE’s. One is described as warm, peaceful place where one is floating near a bright light. The other is a place of torment and punishment and misery.
In either case, they are almost always life-changing events for those that have experienced them.
The purpose of the Omega Letter is to equip you with answers to some of the tough questions posed by skeptics and questions about NDE’s are about as tough as they get.
There is such a thing as Near Death Experiences — there is no denying them. Whether they are the result of a chemical reaction that takes place as the brain dies or an actual spiritual experience is irrelevant to the fact that they exist.
People report them, and there are medical studies that examine them. So, whether chemical reactions or actual experiences, they are real enough to those who experienced them.
The Apostle Paul reported that, having been stoned to the point of death outside the city of Lystra, he then found himself in the ‘third heaven’ where he received Divine revelation. (2nd Corinthians 12:2-7)
There is, therefore at least peripheral Scriptural precedent for the concept.
NDE’s are NOT evidence a person is saved; many of those who reported NDE’s report not only seeing hell, but report encounters with demons and hellfire.
If Near Death Experiences are evidence of anything, they are evidence that there is something that exists beyond this life. But that’s about as far as anybody can reasonably take what we learn from NDE’s.
Near Death Experiences are not doctrinal. Neither are they necessarily anti-doctrinal. At best, they are doctrinally neutral. They play no role in a person’s salvation or condemnation. Nobody can experience it except the person involved.
Very few details of what they report back about their experiences line up with advanced Bible doctrine, but that’s irrelevant. Mature Christians aren’t looking to someone’s recollection of what happened when they were in a coma for doctrinal truths — that’s what Scripture is for.
‘Coming back’ from a Near Death Experience is not the same as being raised from the dead — they are Near Death Experiences. “Resuscitated” is not the same as “resurrected” — it’s not even close.
Neither are NDE’s an evangelical tool one could use to lead somebody to Christ. Most NDE’s provide just as much ‘evidence’ of Buddha as they do of Jesus.
NDE’s only indicate that there is something beyond this life.
When a lost person asks about NDE’s, there are two possible ways to address the question. The first is to categorically reject them despite the reams of documentary evidence to the contrary.
The second is to know something about the phenomenon, the research that is ongoing, and whether there are Scriptures that either support or oppose the existence of the phenomenon on doctrinal grounds.
Here is what we know about the research itself. It is medical and scientific, not spiritual or doctrinal. It is peer-reviewed every step of the way to ensure proper scientific procedures are being followed.
Without any particular faith or any particular religious tradition, based entirely on medical records and anecdotal evidence, here is what they found:
At some point in the dying process, the scientific evidence points to a physical separation of one’s spirit from one’s body. The brain shuts down but the mind — that part that makes you you continues on.
Death, like birth, is a process rather than a permanent state of existence. Death is the de-linking of the soul from the body. That is the physical and scientific findings regarding death.
The Bible teaches that death is a shift from receiving physical input via the body to the consciousness, (the soul) receiving input via the spirit. If one’s spirit has not been ‘quickened’ by the presence of the Holy Spirit, however, then one’s soul is forever chained to a dead and unresponsive spirit.
The Bible says that at the Great White Throne, the body is resurrected and reunited with the soul before being cast alive into the Lake of Fire. But that takes place long after the death process is completed, which is one reason the Bible refers to this as the ‘second death’.
We are living in the last days. As a consequence of that fact, knowledge has been increased and increased until we’ve learned so much so fast it becomes a kind of blur, like so much babble. We can even look beyond the threshold of death. Science can only go so far — at best, it can hypothesize that death is not the end of existence.
That is why we have been entrusted with the Scriptures. When skeptics ask, it is our job to fill in the rest of the blanks.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. . . ” (1st Peter 3:15)
Originally Published: September 2, 2009
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