Aug 14, 2013

'Proof of Heaven' and the Dangerous Downward Spiral of My-Visit-to-Heaven Books

Randy AlcornBy Dr. Randy Alcorn
Eternal Perspective Ministries

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Dr. Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven has now been on the New York Times Bestseller List for 41 weeks and is estimated to have sold over two million copies. With a lot of discussion going on about the book, and after being asked several times what I thought of it, it seemed time to blog about it.

Eben Alexander and Oprah Winfrey

"people have now been set up to believe books with utterly bad theology"

My first thought is that it appears Christians have become increasingly gullible and accepting of these personal accounts of near death experiences. First came books by believing evangelicals with mostly good theology (Don Piper’s 90 Minutes in Heaven and Todd Burpo’s To Heaven and Back), then came books by evangelicals with some good theology but some very bad as well (Mary Neal’s To Heaven and Back). In my opinion, people have now been set up to believe books with utterly bad theology (such as Dr. Alexander’s Proof of Heaven).

Not only is the theology bad, but others are now coming forward contradicting Alexander’s account of what happened in the hospital. It’s mostly small things, like what the weather was that week and that it’d be impossible for Alexander to cry out “God help me” since there was a tube down his throat. But, significantly, Dr. Alexander didn't slip into a coma void of brain activity due to meningitis, but was in a medically induced coma where his brain retained consciousness. So, there is no compelling reason to believe it was anything more than a powerful and vivid dream.

In Alexander’s account, he describes being given the “universal wisdom”:

  • “You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.”
  • “You have nothing to fear.”
  • “There is nothing you can do wrong.”

Contrary to this, in Scripture we are told:

  • Though God loves the world (John 3:16) he also hates the wicked: “The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence” (Psalm 11:5).
  • We are to fear God: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
  • Sin is a wrong that separates us from God: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

As I shared in previous blogs, I've read many accounts of such experiences in which people who do not know Christ claim to have gone to Heaven, or its outskirts, and were reassured by a “being of light” that all is well with them.

Obviously, Satan has great vested interests in deceiving unbelievers into thinking that what awaits them after death is a place of serenity rather than of eternal punishment. Scripture says, “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:15).

While I am not the judge of who has really been to Heaven or Hell, I emphatically believe every near-death (or supposed “after-death”) experience must be evaluated in light of God’s Word. Where the experience contradicts the revealed Word of God, the Word must be accepted over the experience. For the Christian, there simply is no other option. We dare not ground our beliefs about God and Heaven on people’s memories of their personal experiences.