Why evangelicals are divided by afterlife testimonials (COMMENTARY)

Print More
Aaron Griffith is a doctoral student in American Christianity at Duke Divinity School. Photo courtesy of Aaron Griffith

Aaron Griffith is a doctoral student in American Christianity at Duke Divinity School. Photo courtesy of Aaron Griffith

Active RNS subscribers and members can view this content by logging-in here.

(RNS) If nothing else, the persistence of a divided evangelical mind in regards to afterlife testimonials should remind us that there is no such thing as a monolithic evangelicalism in America.

  • Pingback: Why evangelicals are divided by afterlife testimonials (COMMENTARY) - by Rev. Ron Gronowski - Rev Ron Gronowski - The Reverend()

  • Larry

    Lets make this easy, if you weren’t declared clinically dead for more than 24 hours and people were in the process of putting you in the ground, you weren’t really dead. You were hallucinating based on your brain slowly deteriorating.

    Its telling that experiences vary wildly depending on the religious inclinations and faiths of the person telling the story. Hindus and Buddhists see the Bardo, Christians see heaven…

    Virtually every story on people’s experiences are embellished for effect. “Proof of Heaven” is loaded with fabrications

    “many people who have not been near death have had experiences that seem identical to NDEs, e.g., fighter pilots experiencing rapid acceleration. Other mimicking experiences may be the result of psychosis (due to severe neurochemical imbalance) or drug usage, such as hashish, LSD, or DMT. ”

  • Sam

    There are two people whose “afterlife” experiences are worth reading. They are,


    All other stories are questionable as most go onto write books to make profit.

    Read your Bible, people!

  • Larry

    “why on earth has God or “Nature” made dying not scary?”

    Because you aren’t dying.

    Next question.

  • Larry

    You missed my point. They DON’T share the basic hallucinations of heaven. Your assumptions here are false.

    They share the person’s culturally conceived notions of heaven. People see very different types depending on the person and their background. In fact every account you have probably read has been grossly embellished to give the impression that it is like the version of heaven most likely to sell books.

    Hmm which is more likely, a supernatural event of a soul temporarily going to the afterlife where no souls are supposed to return or someone made something up to get attention?

  • James Carr

    What ?

  • Fran


    Yes, both Talitha (Mark 5:38-42) and Lazarus (John 11:11-44) were both resurrected by Jesus back to life from sleeping in death in the grave; and it should be noted that there is no indication that any of them “saw heaven” at any time.

  • Pingback: Heaven and Near Death Experiences. SBC | church history review()

  • “Eye has not seen nor ear heard that things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” This verse is often quoted about heaven. But that is really out of context. What the Holy Spirit is really saying here is that those who have been born again are able to see and hear the spiritual side of life that those who are unregenerate are not able to see or hear. Jesus spoke of heaven often and for the believer, we get it. It will be just as described by Him and in other books such as in revelation. Jesus also said” ” Those who are of God hear God’s Words.” And again in Corinthians Paul wrote: “The natural man cannot receive the things of God because they are spiritually discerned” One needs to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. He who died to pay for our sins. We need to turn away from evil and follow the Lord as He leads us. Then we will be forgiven for our sins, at peace with God, and able to discern and receive spiritual truth which is the Word of God. God bless

  • Be Brave

    Larry March 26, 2015 at 4:08 pm:

    “You were hallucinating

    based on your brain slowly deteriorating.”

    And another atheist is made. Always by the same method.

    Thanks Lar

  • Larry

    Be Brave, the best method of making atheists is simply recording what loudmouth Christians say in public.

    Its really funny how you fundies are so threatened by the very existence of atheists. You guys are so afraid you have to make crap up about them and demonize them. But the reality is even without their presence, Christians always find new and interesting ways to attack each other. They are so anti-social.

  • Tom Downs

    For those whose ultimate authority is the Bible, God gave his last revelation when the last book was added to the Canon. The testimony of those with a near death experience seems too much like a new revelation for their comfort. If you allow new revelations, new prophecies, you allow possible conflicts with old traditional teachings. Some feel that weakens their sence of certainty. Others wonder if this isn’t God trying to break out of the box we’ve put him in.

  • opheliart
  • opheliart


    one of gnosis engages in PROPHESY, which is understanding God and Man as evolving. Prophesy, unlike Prophecy, is active—ongoing—which is how Spirit operates … so, yes, man of religious dogma put God in a box through his engagement with partiality (limited understanding).


  • Henry Crum

    There was a reason Christ remained in the grave three days. These episodes have nothing to do with life after death. They are interesting science though.

  • Matthew Kilburn

    Since both were dead and undead before Christ’s death, would we even have expected them to see Heaven?

  • Matthew Kilburn

    It is a mistake for Christians to scorn these reports. The only real parpath to restoring Christian Supremecy at this point is to prove God. Until the unbelievers are left without a single excuse for their position, we will not be able to restore a terrestrial Christian society.

    First-hand accounts seem like a good place to start.

  • Debbie

    Henry Crum- Conscience/conscience which means with knowledge. God gave
    us our conscience to know what is right or wrong plus Jesus dying was just as
    Bible prophecy predicted so it does have to do with life after death and also in
    Romans 1:18-32 it says God made it known to us that He is real through the
    miracle of creation because the earth didn’t just create itself so do some more
    research cause God is very real and Jesus is the Messiah/who He says He is!
    Bible prophecy accuracy such as Psalm 22:16-18 and also in Isaiah 53:3-7
    show that Jesus is the Messiah/all prophecy came true just as Bible predicted.

  • Meuje

    Excuse me isn’t this what you Larry are doing right now?
    (Christians always find new and interesting ways to attack each other.)

  • cken

    What if you were brain dead but your heart was still working and you had a NDE.
    What if you just had a self induced out of body experience and could have one whenever you wanted..
    Face it no matter how much science tries to rationalize NDEs or OBEs science just doesn’t know what happens.
    Should we ignore the plethora of anecdotal evidence just because many scientists don’t want to believe or admit there is a soul.
    No matter what you believe it won’t change the reality; we just have no empirical evidence to support either position. Some scientists even think the universe was created from nothing and the big bang had no cause. Again there is no empirical evidence for either position.
    So what heaven is or whether you have a soul or not boils down to what you want to believe because no proof is available either way.

  • Mike Williams

    How do you know? You sound so sure of yourself.

  • Fran


    Yes, Jesus was in the grave for 3 days and nights, as opposed to a place of fiery torment, which many claim to be a doctrinal fact. That alleged place of torment simply does not exist.

  • Fran

    We should keep in mind that the meek shall inherit the earth (Psalm
    37:10,11; Matthew 5:5), and that only a select few from earth (144,000 born-again Christians, according to Revelation) who have been chosen by God have a heavenly hope, that of ruling with Jesus’ from God’s kingdom or heavenly government over man on earth.

    The majority of mankind have an earthly hope (Revelation 21:3,4) to look forward to.

  • cken

    Simple you look at the empirical facts or in this case the lack thereof, and the only logical conclusion you can draw is nobody knows for sure. Ergo it boils down to what you believe. Neither science nor religion knows for sure. Since we are trying to analyze the metaphysical with physical empiricism, which can’t be done; I believe what you believe will be determinative. After all since to a large extent we create our physical reality why wouldn’t we be able to create our metaphysical reality.

  • cken

    Is Jesus the only way to heaven? Did heaven not exist before Jesus? Why did the Egyptians and the Hindus believe in heaven 5000 years before Jesus and even before Judaism existed? Perhaps the theological philosophy of the way the truth and the life, life after death, and heaven, predates all known organized religions of the current era.

  • cken

    I sometimes envy those of you with such simple faith. You never question anything. I could just never figure out how that helped you grow spiritually.
    I could never simply pick out the parts of the Bible I wanted to believe and ignore the rest like you all do.

  • cken

    We don’t actually know how long Jesus was in the grave. We only know it was discovered after three days He wasn’t there. What happened for those three days is speculation.

  • cken

    We don’t actually know how long Jesus was in the grave. We only know it was discovered after three days He wasn’t there. What happened for those three days is speculation.

  • cken

    To prove God is to prove Allah and Brahma also. Nobody will ever be able to prove what God, by any other name, is made of. The whole discussion has nothing to do with religious supremacy. Therefore it is hard to say with certitude any one of the major religions is better than another.

  • Larry

    No I am responding to an attack. BB felt the need to let out a nasty comment about atheists. He asked for a response in kind.

    Compare that with how many conservative Christians accuse liberal Christians as not being “authentic”, “biblically correct”, “apostates”, “not real christians”. There is some real animosity and bile directed at fellows of the same faith right there. Shall I go into the people constantly trolling Jana Reiss’s blog decrying the LDS church as not being Christian? Or how about the usual JW/SDA/Catholic backbiting?

    Christians seem to reserve their worst towards each other.

  • Larry

    Claiming to look at empirical facts is not the same as actually doing so. You are simply making a declaration, not a valid argument here.

    What facts here?

    Accounts of people which have been known in virtually all cases to be embellished.

    A distinct benefit from making such claims such as book deals and media attention.

    Research which have shown similar effects having nothing to do with being “near death”.

    The obvious cultural nature of the accounts themselves and how they vary depending on belief system.

    There is nothing to indicate anything beyond what is known in the physical realm. No need to invoke the metaphysical.

  • Lilly

    Well, for what it’s worth people I’ve been to Heaven and Hell. Met both Jesus Christ and Daniel ( yes the one from the Bible). I’ve seen Angels and Demons. For a time Jesus allowed me to come to Heaven during my prayer times with Him. I used to be a Satanist. No Satan is not just ‘an icon’. He is a real, living evil genius in spirit. He can morph into human form at will an does when meeting us humans and/or holding a meeting. He presents himself in glorious human form but because of my high position within the brotherhood I’ve seen what he really looks like. Death, he looks like a dead person. Jesus saved me and Heaven is a hard place to come back from. Through Jesus is the only acceptable way to God the Father. And lately I was thinking of writing a book…..

  • You are either a false teacher or ignorant of scripture. The rich man and Lazarus is No parable. Jesus never said it was a parable. Jesus described this man as being tormented in flames. Read it! Jesus warned of hell more than He spoke of heaven. Hell itself will eventually be thrown into The Lake of Fire where they will be tormented forever and ever. Jesus is our deliverer. He is our Savior. He can save us from God’s eternal wrath. This is accomplished by receiving Him by faith as Lord and Savior, and repenting of sin and false teachings that are conjured up by man. I suggest you do so.

  • Pingback: US: Why evangelicals are divided by afterlife testimonials | Just a Blog to Collect Christian News and Articles()

  • Larry

    “Well, for what it’s worth people I’ve been to Heaven and Hell. Met both Jesus Christ and Daniel ( yes the one from the Bible)”

    And my book will be available through LifeWay publishing next month.

    “I used to be a Satanist”

    Someone has been watching horror films from the late 70’s/Early 80’s (or at least reviews of them).

  • At death, St. Peter judges each soul for heaven or hell. The Roman Christian judgment scenario was unquestioned for 1700 years. That was… until 1975 when Raymond Moody’s contemporary revelation “Life After Life” eclipsed judgment. It’s been an unspoken crisis for the church because it’s stolen a lot of the church’s fire that keeps people in church. It’s contributed to the decline of church membership.

    It’s a great thing, because Christ never mentioned judgment and it had no place in original Christianity for 300 years. If you remember, Christ’s message was only that God was a god of love. Judgment, Satan, hell, Easter and Yuletide were all pagan rites added to the religion in the 4th century when the Romans commandeered Christianity. None of these were the teaching of Christ.

    Now, when virtually all people are resuscitated, they tell of bliss beyond description…no more fear of judgment. It’s a good thing.

    People consistently describe rising out of their…

  • their bodies, viewing the resuscitation attempt, feeling serenity, being drawn down a dark tunnel to a brilliant loving light, while friends and relatives help them along the way … and they don’t want to return to this life from that state. Especially from different cultures, the sequence and combination of these variables is too specific to be explained by biochemical hallucination. It’s statistically significant.

    This is the church’s worst nightmare. Bishop John Spong of Newark says, “The church has always dangled us between their imaginary heaven and hell.” “Heaven is for Real” and “Proof of Heaven” are pathetic attempts to reconcile the “Life After Life” phenomenon with the church’s traditional judgment theology.

    Brad O’Donnell, Richmond, Va. odonbrad@gmail.com
    Author: “Where to Now Saint Paul”
    Video: youtube.com/watch?v=PQVyZ74HmiA

  • Larry


    If you are brain dead you can’t tell the world of your fantabulous journey through the afterlife. Being brain dead is not an NDE, its DE. You are dead. Nothing near about it.

    Nobody comes back from brain death. Unless you are Mr. Spock, ypu need a functioning brain to live

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Here’s a fairly simple question,Larry: Since YOU,yourself,have never been dead (presumably),how do YOU know what’s beyond this life? I await your reply with bated breath. [ I would assume that even you don’t claim to know everything.Do you? ]—PEACE IN CHRIST!

  • Pingback: 福音派信徒對瀕死人士有關天堂的講述有兩個截然不同的看法 - 信仰百川()

  • Larry

    Since nobody has really come back from death to tell the tale, and these people giving their stories, were never actually dead, one can dismiss their claims of an afterlife out of hand.

    I will worry about what happens after death, beyond what is commonly observed, when I have my first conversation with the undead. Until then I am not compelled to consider anything of the sort.

  • Fran

    Yes, hell and death will be thrown into the lake of fire. Can a “condition” of man, death, be thrown into a “literal” lake of fire? Absolutely not! That is why Revelation 21:3-4 brings out that death will be no more for mankind! Death and the grave will be done away with forever! The lake of Fire is not literal but is symbol of eternal death or destruction and not torment. That is why it means the “second death” (Revelation 20:14) with no hope of being revived.

  • Baptists say No to Heaven is for Real…

    The nation’s been inspired by a 5 year old boy’s description of heaven after his Near Death Experience and also by Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife.

    “Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network dedicated multiple segments to heavenly visitation stories. Liberty University and other evangelical schools have hosted their own “Heaven Is for Real” events.

    But after many Baptist organizations have joined in with public’s “heavenly” fascination, the Southern Baptist Convention has ordered all groups to cease and desist their involvement with the phenomenon. They have their reasons.

    According to the Religious News Service, ‘Near-death experiences are phenomena that fascinate Americans of all religious stripes and often use vague language of spirituality rather than distinctive Christian doctrines.”
    It’s not lost on the SBC that this phenomenon “occupies the No.1 Amazon

  • sales slot in Christian eschatology, but also in “Reincarnation,” under the New Age category.”
    According to the SBC, near death phenomena describes heaven “from a subjective, experiential source, and they contain details that are antithetical (in opposition) to Scripture. Other evangelicals have condemned the genre along similar lines.”
    So the Southern Baptist Convention is justified when it orders all Baptists to reject this popular phenomenon. It is in opposition to Roman Christian dogma. It’s a clear and present danger to the SBC that most Christians believe the Burpo boy and the Harvard neurosurgeon because this is a major factor that attracts Americans to Christian Spirituality. Parade Magazine says 24% have left church for spirituality.

    Many church organizations have described spirituality as related to wiccan and demonic communication with the dead… perhaps the dark ages, but not today.

    Since Dr. Raymond Moody discovered the contemporary revelation of “Life After…

  • Life in 1975, there have been overwhelming cases confirming the positive, blissful experience…enough so that it has eclipsed the traditional judgment scenario. Spiritualists believe that the more we learn about it, the more it improves our outlook on life and the world to come.

    Brad O’Donnell Author: Where to Now Saint Paul http://www.wheretonowstpaul.com