Monday, August 3, 2015

My summary of Near Death Experiences

I debated this on Puritanboard.  The only good thing that came out of it is I got to sharpen my own thoughts.  I don't really see any future in Reformed apologetics.

You say you weren't impressed with my arguments, but my premises were all drawn from the Christian tradition, the negation of which would be heresy.  I'll restate it.

P1: Body and Soul are not the same thing (correspondingly, neither are brain and mind, which is why I didn't put immediate stock in "physical" explanations.  Physical explanations can only explain the brain, not the mind, otherwise the truth would lie with Dawkins).

P2: The soul outlives the body.  Otherwise, Jesus's parable about Lazarus and the Rich Man would be incoherent.

P3: The Christian tradition holds to immaterial entities that do not exist spatially. We call them angels or demons (and we have a natural revelation analogue: Plato's Forms, Jung's Archetypes)

P4: These entities primary mode of existence is outside the time-space continuum.  Otherwise Belinda Carlisle would be right and heaven would be a place on earth.

P5: (4) helps us understand the soul's mode of existence after death.  Either it doesn't exist, and we have heresy.  Or it exists on earth and we just committed ourselves to the next season of Ghost Hunters, or it exists "on the other side" (call it heaven or hell or hades).

P6: The key problem is that some think I have argued for a realm of existence between Death and Life called "near death experiences."  I have argued for no such thing.  I'm fine with mystery.  But I am not going to be like the Eastern Orthodox apologists I debate and start chanting "Mystery" whenever I come across facts that don't fit my paradigm.

P7: The best explanation--and I am not arguing this as dogma--is that in those "near-death" moments the veil is pulled back or the boundary is weakened.

P8: What about the "Happy Hindus?"  Or more precisely, say there is a dissolute person who sees the proverbial "bright light."  Does that mean the wicked see "heaven?"  Not necessarily.  One of the key points I argued for--and this is Van Til 101--is that facts and interpretation of facts are not the same thing.  The person is probably seeing new phenomena for which he or she has no previous way of evaluating and opts for the next closest analogue.


  1. This isn't something I have given a great deal of thought before, but I appreciate your remarks. I especially like your comment on how weak apologetics labels anything that doesn't fit with its explanation as "mystery."

    What true mysteries would you say there are in the Christian faith--i.e. not a crutch for a weak argument? I think of the trinity first off; possibly the tension between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility as well. Curious to get your thoughts.

    1. Hi Jack.
      Mystery is a tough term. There is a tendency for all sides to use "mystery" as an excuse for not answering the question.

      Biblically speaking, mystery usually means something that was concealed in the Old Covenant and disclosed in the New Covenant (Ephesians 2-3).

      On the other hand, there are aspects of Christian Faith that we don't have a lot of revealed "data" on. Philosophically (and this is a problem for pagans, too) the relationship between Time and Eternity (and how creation relates to both) is a tough one.

      Another one, as in the post above, is life after death. Sure, there is heaven, hell, and resurrection, but beyond that the Bible doesn't say all that much.

    2. I would agree; the difficulty for me is discerning between a true lack of data and intellectual laziness--not a hard distinction with regard to heaven, time, eternity, etc., but perhaps in other cases.

  2. Yeah. That's the main difficulty. Take life-after death and near death experiences. The Bible just doesn't say a whole lot. However, the bible does give details about angels, the soul, etc. from which we can use other tools God gave us (reason, etc) to work towards a solution.