Thinking About ‘Near Death Experiences’

heavenDavid Jones, professor of Christian Ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has provided an excellent resource on how to think about “Near Death Experiences” (NDE). In four pages, he gives thoughtful Christians a historical, cultural, biblical, and practical look into a discussion prompted by the recent movie Heaven is for Real.

Here’s a brief outline:

  • He begins with the way that all religions have NDE tales, and he chronicles the rise in recent Christian interest in the subject.
  • He points to the ten NDE in the Bible (e.g., the widows son, 1 Kgs 17:17–24; the Shunammite’s child, 2 Kgs 4:32–37;  the dead man who touched Elisha’s bones, 2 Kgs 13:21; Jairus’s daughter, Matt 9:18–26 [par. Mark 5:21–43; Luke 8:40–56]; the widow’s son, Luke 7:11–16; unnamed saints, Matt 27:52–53; Jesus, Matt 28 [par. Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20–21]; Lazarus, John 11:1–4; Dorcas, Acts 9:36–41; and Eutychus Acts 20:9–12) and observes that no one (including Jesus) returned to earth touting the glories of heaven.
  • He considers a number of other heavenly experiences in Scripture and concludes with cautionary counsel from Scripture about the recent book/movie Heaven is for Real and its predecessor 90 Minutes in Heaven—the book which Tim Challies notes as creating a new genre of Christian non/fiction (namely, Heaven Tourism).

If you have read the book, seen the movie, or are in conversation with those who have, let me encourage you to read Dr. Jones four-page outline. It will give you more than a few things to think about and help you formulate a better understanding of what Scripture says about heaven, seeing God, and near death experiences.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

That’s the Prosperity Gospel

One of the reasons I’ve been preaching on “blessing” and considering the prosperity gospel this month has to do with the fact that I see its falsehoods in the Christians I meet, and I see its deceptions in my own heart. SEBTS ethics professor, David Jones hits this point  in his short article, “The Prosperity Gospel in My Own Heart.” He writes,

Imagine you’re driving to church on a cold, rainy Sunday morning, and to your dismay you get a flat tire. What is your immediate thought? “God, really? I’m going to church. Isn’t there some drug dealer or abusive husband you could have afflicted with a flat tire?” That’s the prosperity gospel.

Or maybe you don’t get that promotion at work, your child gets sick, or you’re unfairly criticized at church. The result? You get mad at God because you were overlooked, troubled, or disparaged. That’s the prosperity gospel.

The very thought that God owes us a relatively trouble-free life, and the anger we feel when God doesn’t act the way we believe he is supposed to act, betray a heart that expects God to prosper us because of our good works. That’s the prosperity gospel.

I don’t know an American Christian who hasn’t struggled with this sort of thinking—questioning God’s providential goodness when, in our attempts to serve him, he has permitted (or better: ordained) our trial. It is part and parcel of the evangelical experience in America that the message of salvation is accompanied by a promise of God’s good plan: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” which includes eternal life and the absence of flat tires, right?

Not really. This is an American gospel of our own making. Therefore, we need to consider afresh just how much upward mobility we have imported into our own Christian faith. In my own case, I see far more than I would like to admit, and as I think on the prosperity gospel, I am beckoned to repent and return to the true gospel. Maybe God would have you do the same? And maybe, he would use David Jones’ article to help you see the tentacles of prosperity latching to your own heart.

For more reflections on the prosperity gospel, see this month’s 9Marks Journal on that subject.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss