A friend recently lent me a book about the near death experience of a Dr. Eben Alexander, an American neurosurgeon. It is titled "Proof of Heaven". While it isn't my sort of reading material as a rule and I am tremendously skeptical about the actual reality of most NDE's, I admit it is a somewhat interesting read.....and my skepticism of NDE's remains intact.
Dr. Alexander had his vision while extremely ill with a rare disease and in a deep coma lasting several days. At the end of his book is a list of his own hypotheses as to how his supposed fantastic experience in the supernatural world could have come about for strictly neurological reasons. I am thinking that perhaps he needs to review that list as a reminder of what may have actually happened in reality.
The reason for my skepticism is that his descriptions of what he claimed to see and experience while in the coma are not related to the heaven of the bible.....how do I know this? It is because Jesus was not a part of his vision in any way. From what I have been able to research about the man since he wrote his book he still has no belief in Jesus Christ. In the "other world" of his experience all are saved according to the voiceless inner communication bonding with a god who tells him that there is nothing he could ever do that is wrong. He is loved and nothing will ever change that.
Well, I believe that last statement, but according to the Bible he, and all of us, can indeed do a number of things that are wrong in the eyes of God. That is why Jesus Christ, a part of the triune God, appeared on earth in human form in order to show us the way to a holy God. If there was nothing any of us could ever do that was wrong then Jesus and his sacrifice would never have been necessary in the first place. The God of Love that the Bible tells us about would not subject a part of his very self to unnecessary human suffering on a cruel cross for our sake if there had been no reason to do so, or at the very least would not have told the human population that their belief in Jesus and his resurrection was necessary to obtain an everlasting life in the presence of the Creator God. The Bible talks of the Holy Spirit creating a transformation of character for disciples of Christ. If we can do no wrong then transformation would not be necessary.
There is a bit of a paradox in the book in regard to this very issue: we can apparently do no wrong in the eyes of this god, and yet somehow we are saved by our good works. If we can do no wrong then how do our works affect our ultimate salvation? This is somewhat opposite of the biblical teachings where our good works often grow out of the transformation of our redeemed characters, rather than being the vehicles of our salvation.
I am not denigrating Dr. Alexander's experience. If he truly experienced this "vision" and is not crafting a science fiction novel that he is passing off as reality in order to test the gullibility of those of us who read it....and I am going to assume he is writing of a true personal experience...then my hope and my prayer is that his exploration of spiritual things did not grind to a complete halt after his vision occurred.
If Dr. Alexander did indeed have this experience then I do not doubt his sincerity in the sharing of his story. There may indeed be a degree of positive transformation in his attitude about spiritual life and supernatural places and beings. For me, as a disciple of Christ, the absence of Jesus in his vision tells me personally that there is an excellent chance his vision was not a heavenly one.
Some of the visions of Julian of Norwich and Teresa of Avila, some of them also occurring during times of illness, seem a bit odd to me as well, but the difference is that both of them experienced a transformation of their lives in obedience to Jesus Christ whose presence was manifest to them during their visions. This was not the case for Dr. Alexander.
So whatever happened to Dr. Alexander I hope that he will at some point meet the biblical Christ and sort out the realities and/or fantasies that happened to him while he was in the coma.
For myself his book has been a good reminder to check out my own transformation experience. Is it continuing to happen or have I become complacent about how I live my life in relation to the love and forgiveness of God through Christ? Am I behaving as if God has told me I can do nothing wrong?
Food for thought indeed.........