Do reports from people that have had a Near Death Experience (NDE) point to Universalism?

There doesn't appear to be any difference in the quality of the experience between adherents to different religions (atheists have also reported 'positive' NDEs).

The NDE is defined as, “the reported memory of all impressions during the special state of consciousness, including specific elements such as out-of-body experience, pleasant feelings, and seeing a tunnel, a light, deceased relatives, or a life review”. Although there is no clear consensus of what constitutes a NDE, there are specific patterns of events that a person lucidly recalls that happened at or near the time of clinical death.

Common characteristics of an NDE include:

A. Out of Body Experience: Subject experiences himself departing or becoming detached from his physical body.

B. Sense of Being Dead. Subject reports vividly seeing his body on the operating table or laying unconscious at an accident scene. Subject realizes that he or she is dead or dying.

C. Meeting other people: Many individuals claim to encounter beings of light. Sometimes these are described as deceased relatives. In some cases, these beings have religious significance (e.g., angels, Jesus).

D. Life Review: Individuals are given a quick review of their entire lives, typically being confronted with the (good and bad) effects of their actions on other people.

E. Reluctance to Return: While some NDEs are negative in nature, most are positive and individuals are reluctant to return to their bodies.

http://mscourses.homestead.com/files/NearDeathExperiences.htm

On the internet / YouTube you can find many personal testimonies from people that have had NDEs that come back with the same message: one of the importance of loving one another and not adhering to a specific religion - the religion does not matter, what matters is how we treat one another. It's quite obvious these people are sincere and I see no reason to doubt the objective reality of their experience given the similarities of NDEs across different cultures / religions and time.

Does anyone think this supports some kind of Universalism?

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Charles Sander

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There are some hell cases too (though I guess you could argue that these are corrective).  Also, people in other religions go to their respective religious heaven and I don[t think we would say this is evidence for some form of religious pluralism, right?

"The only thing I know is that I know nothing at all."
-Socrates

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Yes, of course, I meant religious pluralism.

   

   Many paths to God, not one true religion, etc.

   

   Regarding hellish NDEs, these are relatively rare so I think we can put these aside if Buddhists and Muslims, for example, are having NDEs in which they experience "heaven".

   

   To be honest, as a Christian I find this challenging. Of curse I'd be happy for it to be true, but it is inconsistent with conventional Christian teaching.

   

   Gary Habermas discusses it here:

   

   http://www.skeptiko.com/112-gary-habermas-skeptical-of-near-death-experience-spirituality/

   

   
The evidence that we already have-now at the near-death experience conference here in San Diego just a couple weeks ago and had just a delightful chat with several folks. But one is the guy who’s probably collected and analyzed more of these cases than anyone else, Dr. Jeffrey Long, who is a medically trained doctor and was able to add a medical perspective to these cases and say, “Hey, is this really an accurate, believable account of someone who experienced near death and then, too, able to analyze some of the other factors in the story and in the account?”

   

   So with all that, I think we can approach this data with more than just saying we’ve crossed the chasm from materialism to what lies beyond, you know? And I think we can start saying in broad strokes what is the data telling us? And I’m going to come back to this point. The data is telling us that there are many paths to whatever is this higher consciousness as near-death experiencers talk about it and as most of us would talk about it in terms of God. This all-engulfing, indescribable love.

   

   We’d all probably feel pretty comfortable with the term “God” but what the experiencers are telling us is that there is no one path to that. They seem to be pretty clear about that. So even though I agree with you, we can’t at this point say, “Gee, this is the religion of choice,” or “this is the religion of choice.” I would assert that we can say that there is no exclusive path to God. And I think that flies in the face of Christian doctrine.

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Charles Sander

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Regarding hellish NDEs, these are relatively rare so I think we can put these aside if Buddhists and Muslims, for example, are having NDEs in which they experience "heaven".


Well, they are rare but they do occur. They also happen to occur in India more than the US. So, would you want to say that these are somehow corrective or something?

To be honest, as a Christian I find this challenging. Of curse I'd be happy for it to be true, but it is inconsistent with conventional Christian teaching.


I definitely think that the way in which Habermas and Moreland try to explain this away while retaining exclusivism is enourmously ad hoc and contrived.  One must have very strong reasons to reject pluralism and to accept exclusivism to stomach the ad hoc explanations they offer.  Perhaps the variety of religious experiences support this conclusion too?  Objectively speaking, it doesn't make sense to reject or accept a religious experience prima facie without some reason to prefer one over the other--and I don't see any reason to prefer the Christian religious experience over the Muslim's.

Though, the only tenable view of religious pluralism out there is the one described by John Hick but his view implies that Jesus et al are not literal, personal beings.
"The only thing I know is that I know nothing at all."
-Socrates

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Thomas Larsen

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"And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14).

To be honest, I'm rather sceptical of near-death experiences. I'm not sure how genuine they are, or how accurate people's recollections of them are. In any case, we should be concerned with finding out what is true.
Thomas Larsen
tomlarsen.org

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squirrelman wrote: Well, they are rare but they do occur. They also happen to occur in India more than the US. So, would you want to say that these are somehow corrective or something?

I'm not sure what they are, interesting though. I guess I'm just focussing on the point that non-Christians have 'positive' NDEs full of love and feeling of bliss, etc. There's an issue here as to whether this indicates that religious pluralism is true.

I definitely think that the way in which Habermas and Moreland try to explain this away while retaining exclusivism is enourmously ad hoc and contrived.


Agree. In the interview I posted I was frustrated by Habermas' answers to the questions about NDEs pointing to pluralism. He basically says that the evidence for the Resurrection points to Christianity being the one true path.

One must have very strong reasons to reject pluralism and to accept exclusivism to stomach the ad hoc explanations they offer.  Perhaps the variety of religious experiences support this conclusion too?  Objectively speaking, it doesn't make sense to reject or accept a religious experience prima facie without some reason to prefer one over the other--and I don't see any reason to prefer the Christian religious experience over the Muslim's.


If pluralism is wrong, I'd say Islam does not stack up well against Christianity. The Koran is full of problems, perhaps the biggest denying the rock solid historical fact that Jesus was crucified and died. From a book that is supposed to be the direct word of God, dictated directly to Mohammed, that seems to me to be pretty clear that Islam is false.

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tlarsen wrote: "And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14).

To be honest, I'm rather sceptical of near-death experiences. I'm not sure how genuine they are, or how accurate people's recollections of them are. In any case, we should be concerned with finding out what is true.

Recommend taking a look at some of the books and studies published on NDEs. Also Dinesh D'Souza's book 'Life After Death' discusses them at length.

I'm convinced that they show that the conciousness survives the death of the body.


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On the internet / YouTube you can find many personal testimonies from people that have had NDEs that come back with the same message: one of the importance of loving one another and not adhering to a specific religion - the religion does not matter, what matters is how we treat one another. It's quite obvious these people are sincere and I see no reason to doubt the objective reality of their experience given the similarities of NDEs across different cultures / religions and time.

Does anyone think this supports some kind of Universalism?

NDEs do not translate by the fact of being a NDE as true or factual. If Christ (Who really came back from the dead) is left out of their message or religious NDE then it may have been because they have blocked Christ out of their life as well as in death and God has obliged them the courtesy of continuing ignorance and blindness. There are none so blind as those who will not see, whether dead or alive. The truth or falseness of their experience or vision is born out in how they deal with Jesus.

Peace Love and universalism without Christ is a doctrine of demons…. who can put on a pretty good show if they have a mind to.

Thor


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Waytruthlight

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I am a psychiatrist who has read avidly about ndes since medical school and dr raymond moody's book in the mid 1970s. I have spoken to patients who've had ndes.  Ndes do seem to support universal reconciliation and that hellish realms and many learning and healing realms exist at levels below "heaven". They are all for ultimate growth to be  in the fullness of time at peace with God.  Christ is the best representation of the great being of light and nde's suggest that the parables of Jesus about the Kingdom are closest to the real truth. It seems that the Word made flesh was not so interested in dogmatic theology or in the inerrancy of the books that later became the bible. His message was simply the golden rule, the law of love. It is not professing the name of Jesus but as Jesus himself said "doing the will of my father" which is to love others, be peacemakers etc etc that leads us on to be fully in God's presence. Thus the heart is what counts, not what religious affiliation the head believes in. As the book by Rob Bell says "love wins" in the fullness of time. halleluia to good news like that!

   

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Waytruthlight

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Since my post last year, I have read a number of books recently on the subject of NDE's.  Also the growth of information on the internet about NDE's is staggering. There are websites that study and collate material and numerous youtube clips where NDEer's report on their own experiences.

Given surveys suggesting perhaps 16 million Americans have had an NDE, and presumably other societies with similar medical capacities for resuscitation have similar rates  - -  it is not surprising that there is this explosion in information.

The number of "veridical NDEs" (experiences that can be independently verified - e.g. NDEer in spirit form floats through hospital walls and hears thoughts and hears and sees conversations of medical staff and relatives etc and reports accurately after resuscitation) continues to expand.

The materialist/atheistic explanations increasingly fail in explanatory power and several books and discussions on websites (e.g. on www.skeptiko.com ) elaborate further upon this.

However - the growing perspective on what the meaning of all existence is - that arises from this burgeoning amount of data - conflicts with some cherished beliefs particularly of evangelical reformed Christian theology.

I am quick to add however that the view of greater reality of all that is arising from the NDE data - is in line with a more mystical stream of Christian theology through the ages, and particularly with anything that stresses, as the Gospel of John does, that GOD IS LOVE.

Overall the similarities in NDE experiences greatly outweigh the differences.  And the deeper and more profound the NDE the more the similarities.  Much of the differences accord with prior religious and cultural views that are it seems part of the way afterlife realms reflect back the beliefs/heart/mindset of the NDEer - at least initially, and aren't too challenged in brief NDE's.

On the topic of Universalism - as I posted last time - my readings says NDE's are supportive of Universalism.  But possibly only of "Hopeful Universalism".  What seems abundantly clear from almost all NDE accounts that involve experiences of the Divine/God/Jesus - is that God loves unconditionally and abundantly and condemns no being in all of creation. 

But free-will is powerful and is a cosmic birthright of many beings including us humans in both our earthly incarnations and spiritual forms.  Thus a soul's focus may be so negative that it goes to lower vibrational realm of existence.

NB: 100s of NDE's all talk about "vibrational levels" - the higher the vibration the greater the spiritual development, God and God's divine love is the highest of all and the frequency so fast it is infinitely still and beyond time/space and suffuses the whole multiverse of natural and supernatural realms - lower vibrational realms are less in tune with God and more negative and "evil" or at least "lost".

Howard Storm's book - "My descent into death" - along with an old book by George Ritchie "Return from Tomorrow" - both give good accounts of hellish realms.  Storm was rescued from a hellish realm by Jesus and angels; Ritchie was given a tour as it were by Jesus of hellish realms and seeing earth bound ghosts. But what seems clear is that lost earthbound souls and even souls in hell are infinitely divinely loved and any movement/thought away from self-centred negativity - allows them to escape/be rescued from such realms.

NDE's give much support for reincarnation.  But not in a legalistic karmic sense like traditional Hinduism.  Rather this physical plane of existence that is a mid-range vibrational state of high free-will, limited knowledge and capacities - is like a cosmic "school" for learning how to love deeper.  The meaning of this incarnational life is for us to have to use our free will courageously to love despite or in fact because of suffering - and thus to become more Christ-like and thus more in tune with God to ultimately commune in higher realms of heaven and also because God wants a co-operative intelligent free-will partnership with us in co-creating a vast and more interesting/exciting universe/multiverse. 

We choose our lives before birth for various purposes that hopefully will help with our learning to grow in love, our eternal road of sanctification.  Somewhat different is that salvation is always a given in the total forgiveness and unconditional love of God - where-ever or whenever in eternity we accept it.  Numerous NDE's say the same thing on this.  Also that we have soul friends and angels that watch over us in our incarnations. 

What is not so clear from my reading thus far is how things can seem to go so wrong in some lives, but that does seem bound up with the perils of free will and the metaphor of having eaten of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.

This all has discomforting implications for some Christian theological perspectives.  Which is why the NDE research of the past 40 years seems to be so inexplicably off the radar of most Bible colleges.

But the problem for Bible colleges and Christian denominations is - the data coming out of the NDE's is only going to become more massive.  It is the increasingly large elephant in the room of doctrinal discussions, and will have to be faced and incorporated into new wineskins of doctrine and theology sooner or later.

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Steven Shea

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Waytruthlight,

Basing your understanding of life on NDE's is a weak foundation for life. While I agree that there are many problems in the whole of evangelical Christianity that has been very Americanized the general nature of your comment is WAY too broad.

I think NDE's are cool but they need to be filtered based on the bible not the bible interpreted through the NDE's. But this is true of all experiences is it not? The devil roams around as an angel of light and people do have encounters and testimonies with angels of light that lead away from Jesus.

Here is a rule that my pastor says of experiences: If the experience draws you closer to Jesus then accept it but if it does not then reject it.