Wednesday, May 02, 2012

What should we make of "near death" and other experiences?

A long tunnel

A bright light

A relative waving at you

Jesus smiling

There are many stories that people have that center around near-death experiences.  Some include some of these types of items.  These stories are amazing to read and often turn into best-selling books.  So what are we to make of these kinds of experiences as well as so many other experiences that people have?  Are they true?  Did they really happen?

The truth is that I can’t explain these types of experiences.  I don’t really know if they actually happened and are true in nature or if they were the result of eating a bad burrito the night prior.  Could they be true?  Sure they could be.  After all, experiences are not bad in and of themselves.  My problem really isn’t with the experiences themselves.  My problem is when people elevate these experiences to the same level as Biblical truth and base their theology on their experiences rather than basing their beliefs on the Bible.

For example, many years ago I went to meet with a woman whose husband had died the day before.  The day he died was actually the day before their 25th wedding anniversary so I was meeting with her to talk about her husband’s funeral on what would have been their milestone anniversary.  When I arrived that afternoon she was overly excited (which I found strange for someone who had just lost her husband unexpectedly).  Her excitement was due to an experience that her sister-in-law had that morning at the produce section of the grocery store.  According to her sister-in-law, this woman’s dead husband appeared to her while she was getting oranges and asked her to go get flowers and take them to his wife for their 25th anniversary and tell her that everything was fine – he was in heaven.

This widow’s response to this experience of her sister-in-law was, “Now I know that my husband is in heaven!”  I’m not real sure exactly what happened in that grocery store.  I really can’t explain it (though I have some theories).  But I would much rather put my assurance on where someone is spending their eternity on the truth of the Word of God over an experience at the orange counter of the grocery store.

Again, my problem is not with people’s experiences per se.  My problem is when people base their theology on their experiences.  I am not going to believe what heaven is like based on someone’s experience.  I am not going to base my hope on who is in heaven on someone’s experience.  I can’t know for sure – 100% - that my experiences or your experiences or someone else’s experiences come from God.  After all, Satan is called in Scripture an “angel of light” who makes things look like they are from God when they really aren’t.  But I can be sure that the Bible comes from God.  So instead of basing my theology on experiences I would rather base my experiences on the Bible.

At the end of the day, it is the Bible is God’s final authority!

1 comment:

Craig Ford said...

Couldn't agree more!