What Near Death Experiences Prove, and What They Do Not Prove

What if reality consists of more than the natural, physical world?


I am interested in peoples’ stories. I can trace my interest in personal stories to my own experience of becoming a Christian and my own spiritual journey. I have found much common ground with other people who have had similar experiences. The story of spiritual journey (a “testimony”) is part of the fabric of the evangelical Christian tradition. The testimony is a test of sorts of the authenticity of the journey, of a real encounter with God that we call being “born again”.

A testimony is the most personal evidence for the existence of God for the person who claims to be a Christian, but it isn’t evidence in a scientific sense. It’s evidence that is easily discounted by the naturalist who relies only on science and empirical, measurable and falsifiable evidence.

It can also be problematic for the Christian community. There is a certain social, group pressure – unintended, or not – for every Christian to have “a testimony”. The more dramatic the better. The person who was “always a Christian” may feel a tinge of self doubt. The person whose story does not line up with more “typical” testimonies may feel out of step.

Personal stories are subjective, and the subjective nature of them engenders some natural and warranted skepticism.

Don’t get me wrong. The intimate and private nature of a personal experience with God is exactly the most compelling thing about it. Like the woman at the well who told everyone of her encounter with Jesus – “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did!” (John 4:4-30) – the intimate and highly personal nature of the experience is what makes it so meaningful and convincing.

But personal encounter, ultimately, is meaningful and convincing mainly to the one who experiences it. It can’t be empirically verified, and it doesn’t carry the same weight with other people who don’t have the same intimate connection to the personal details.

Personal experiences are not bound by logical, rational or empirical factors. If we rely on personal experiences, especially to the exclusion of more “scientific” analyses, the highly subjective and personal nature of personal experiences can led a person down some questionable rabbit holes. We probably all know people who have been so influenced by their own personal experiences which, unchecked by some objective analysis, have led them onto some strange and questionable paths.

For the Christian, that objective analysis is Scripture, doctrine and tradition. For each religion, that objective analysis is some combination of that religion’s scripture, doctrinal corpus and tradition, and for the naturalist, that objective analysis is empirical evidence, proven theory and scientific analysis.

This is where NDEs get interesting. Continue reading “What Near Death Experiences Prove, and What They Do Not Prove”

Gary Habermas on Near-Death Experiences

Many accounts of near-death experiences can’t be explained by the involvement of the central nervous system.


I have recently watched a number of recollections of near-death experiences (NDEs). I also recently listened to a lecture by Gary Habermas, who has studied NDEs for more than a couple of decades. He notes that NDEs have been known for millennia. Some scholars speculate that Plato ‘s Myth of Ur is about a real NDE. There are even near-death experiences recorded in Scripture.

I had no idea NDEs were so common. Habermas says Americans, alone, have reported about 8,000,000 NDE experiences, and they occur around the world in all cultures.

Many NDEs could be made up, though there are many similarities among the reported NDEs. Just listening to a dozen or so of them I could identify the similarities. NDE accounts often don’t fit with worldviews, including the Christian worldview.

Naturalists, however, have the most difficult position in respect to NDEs. Naturalism is the premise that the universe is comprised of nothing but material things: matter, motion, time and space. They hold to a position that no transcendent or supernatural reality exists.

How do we deal with NDEs? How do we account for them?

Continue reading “Gary Habermas on Near-Death Experiences”

Previewing the Minimal Facts Critique of the Resurrection

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If Jesus Christ was not raised from the dead, Christians are to be pitied above all people. These are not my words, or even the words of a famous pastor or teacher. These are the words of Paul right out of his first letter to the Corinthians:

“[I]f Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified [concerning] God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise…. and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Cor. 15:14-15, 17-19)

Christianity, far from being closed to reason, invites investigation. The importance of reason is built into the greatest commandment: love God with all your heart, soul and mind.

The earliest adherents to Christianity did not hide the fact that the resurrection of Christ is the central tenet of Christianity. They put it out there, front and center, and they were not shy to state the importance of the resurrection.

If the resurrection really happened, it is the single most important event in human history. If it is false, it is the single most influential hoax of all time. Christianity is built on the foundation of the resurrection, and without it, the entire structure of Christianity crumbles.

Dr Gary Habermas knew this when he was struggling with his faith, doubting the veracity of the Bible and Christianity. He knew that the resurrection was the central and crucial component of Christianity. If the resurrection did not happen, not only is the tomb not empty, Christianity is a complete and utter sham.

That was over 30 years ago when Dr. Habermas began exploring the claim that Jesus rose from the dead to confirm or deny his own doubts. That personal exploration led to a career of scholarship on the subject of the resurrection.

Continue reading “Previewing the Minimal Facts Critique of the Resurrection”