Testimonies claiming firsthand experience of Life after Death have been circulating in many cultures since antiquity. Among these experiences are those occurring at, near, or beyond the point of death or apparent death. Testimonies of this kind of experience, now widely referred to as a Near-death Experience (NDE), were popularized by Raymond Moody's publication of Life after Life in 1975. In the last 10 years, it seems there has been a growing American public interest in these experiences, resulting in a slew of New York Times best-sellers. With such provocative titles as Proof of Heaven and Heaven is for Real, these accounts are championed by their authors as powerful evidence for the existence of life after death. Authors come from a variety of religious and philosophical persuasions. In the Christian community, the reception of these accounts has been mixed. For those who take these testimonies to be true and reliable, the information contained in them provides not just evidence for the afterlife but new insight into the truth about salvation, morality, theology, and the very nature of the universe. Perhaps for this reason, conservative Christians have raised objections, often arguing that these testimonies are unreliable because they either contradict scripture or attempt to add to its already complete message. Depending on how Christians view NDEs, then, they might represent either a revival of true christian beliefs and values or a perversion of the truth through false testimony. This paper examines how NDEs and their current popularity are viewed by both Christian clergy and laypersons, as well as the implications those views hold for Christian soteriology and ethics. For some who put significant stock in NDE testimonies, they contain important lessons about who will be saved and why. Attitudes about issues such as homosexuality, abortion, and pluralism have changed through the consideration of NDE accounts. Given the current popularity of these testimonies, these changes may well have widespread impact on the Christian community in the United States.
"Proof of Heaven?: Controversy Over Near-Death Experiences in American Christianity,"
The Hilltop Review: Vol. 8
, Article 18.
Available at: http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/hilltopreview/vol8/iss1/18