Eleven Million Near-Death Experiences: Do Some Indicate it May Not Be Safe to Die? – Program 5

By: Howard Storms, Nancy Evans Bush, June Langley, Dr. Maurice Rawlings, Dr. John Weldon, Dave Hunt; ©1994
If people of different faiths have different near-death experiences, what does that tell us about death and life after death?


The Theology of Near-Death Experiences


The popular movies Ghost and Flatliners describe what more than eleven million Americans have now reported, namely that they have had a near-death experience in which they left their body, traveled through a dark tunnel, recognized friends and loved ones who had died, and encountered a supreme being of light. Are their near-death experiences real evidence for life after death? Some people have reported they found themselves in hell, not heaven, during their near-death death experience. Do their frightening hell experiences indicate it may not be safe for us to die?

My guests who will be answering these questions include : Dr. Maurice Rawlings, a specialist in cardiovascular diseases; Nancy Evans Bush, president of the International Association of Near-Death Studies, one of the most prestigious organizations in America collecting information on near-death experiences; June Langley, a nurse who has cared for over 500 children who have died of terminal diseases; Dave Hunt, internationally known Christian researcher and author of the best-selling book The New Spirituality; Howard Storm, an atheistic professor who, as a result of having a hell experience, believed on Christ and has become a Christian pastor; and Dr. John Weldon, author of more than 40 books on comparative religions. We invite you to join us.

Ankerberg: Welcome. We’re talking about the experiences that approximately 13 million Americans, maybe more, have had called near-death experiences, where they, in a moment, are taken out of their body; or they are going through a tunnel, they see a great white light. Most of them are positive experiences. And then they come back into their body and it affects them. What’s taking place? What’s going on? Is this good? Is it bad? What can we draw from this? Does that tell us there’s life after death?
Around this circle, we have talked about the fact that some of the people that are having near-death experiences, such as Howard here, had “bad” ones—hell experiences. They went to hell. And they didn’t believe it. He was an atheistic professor at a university, chairman of the department, and knocked religion; knocked belief in God. Yet finds himself in a hell experiences and comes back. It changes his life. He becomes a Christian and goes into the ministry. What’s going on? What’s taking place?
And we’re getting to the thorniest areas, the theological philosophical implications. And June, I want to take your point and I would like to push it on them, and then I want you to back me up on this, okay? You deal with a lot of people, children.
Langley: Right.
Ankerberg: And what you were saying is that if you put a theological interpretation on this experience that they’re having, and you would like to change it from what other people are thinking theologically, because into the hospital can walk people that are skeptics; people that are Jewish; people that are Protestant; people that are Catholic; people that are Muslims; people from all over the world. And what you’re saying is that when you share about this great light, you do it basically in a universal way, or a way that you think will not offend those folks. Is that correct?
Langley: That’s correct.
Ankerberg: Alright. Now, what you are upset at is you’re wondering how they can have you say something else about that. Is that correct?
Langley: And more.
Ankerberg: Okay. Well, you pick it up right there and let’s go from there.
Langley: I feel that the other religions are not being represented here. I can agree with all my colleagues in how they feel. You do feel what you feel. But also there are others out here of other religions and other nationalities, and they also feel. And why can’t that be right? You’re dealing with the Bible; they have the Qur’an and the books that they hold dear. And it’s okay. I am dealing with children. I am dealing with parents who are losing a loved one. I embrace every religion no matter what it is, because you cannot change a person’s religion and say, “Jesus Christ says to do this” when a mother is of Hebrew faith or, as she said, Burmese faith. You embrace it, because there is one. The children have shown us this.
These innocent children have not been put out into the world where they can lie and connive. They’re pure. And they have come back and told me this, the nine. The one, okay, I accept that. And the child probably did see, because that was of her faith and she accepts and I accept. And the bottom line is, when I help these people, these children, cross over, you must accept all the faiths. That’s the only way. God is wisdom, no matter what name you give him. You can’t say anything other to a mother that has this dying child. You accept it and she accepts it. That’s my part that I’m trying…
Ankerberg: So ask them a question. What do you want them to explain?
Langley: Well, I can understand your feelings in what you’re talking about, the Bible and Jesus Christ; but can you understand their feelings?
Weldon: Of course, I can clearly understand their feelings. And maybe to address some of the things that you have brought up, you know, ideas are neither broad or narrow; they’re true or they’re false. And if you look at comparative religion, and my dissertation was in comparative religion with an emphasis on Eastern religion, there’s a vast difference between one religion and another. They do not all teach the same concepts of God or the same views about Jesus Christ or salvation or the nature of man or the afterlife. They teach different views that are contradictory. So amidst these competing claims that we find in comparative religion, how do we determine what truth is? Well, I have to see if anything really stands out in the field. What does stand out is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, which would stand up in a court of law today. I’ve talked to a number of lawyers who have told me that. If the evidence is presented fairly, the fact that Christ rose from the dead would stand up in a court of law. So I have to look at…
Langley: You’re going to say this to a Hebrew mother?
Weldon: I have to look at what He said…
Langley: Or a Buddhist mother?
Weldon: Yes. I have to look at what He…
Langley: At the time the child is dying? You’re going to say “Jesus,” right?
Weldon: I’m not talking about children dying at this point. I’m talking about what’s true. If Jesus Christ…
Langley: That’s what you believe and what they believe is true also.
Weldon: No. Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes unto the Father but by me.” That’s true or false.
Langley: And it’s wonderful that you’re quoting these, but say this to a mother of another religion.
Weldon: If it’s true…if it’s true…
Langley: And you accept this. Allow them to accept…
Ankerberg: Go ahead, Dave.
Hunt: What would you say to a mother of a dying Hebrew child or a Buddhist child or a Muslim child and you want to give them an injection, for example. No. Maybe this is the only thing that will save their life.
Langley: This is the scenario you’re giving me.
Hunt: And they say, “But we don’t believe in that.” What would you do? They…
Langley: When I reach the child, there are no injections that we have to worry about.
Hunt: Yes, but I’m asking you, you see, you’re saying that it doesn’t matter; anything is truth. But it doesn’t work in medicine. It doesn’t work in anything else.
Langley: That’s why they call it the healing art, they don’t say it’s a science.
Hunt: Okay, but…
Ankerberg: Change your metaphor around, David, and change the illustration. If a doctor said this is a good pain killer and this will keep the pain down, etc., etc., and over here you have another syringe that has poison. It has something in it, but the fact is, for this patient it would be poison. If a mother came into the room and said, “I want you to give her that one.”
Langley: The poison?
Ankerberg: Would you do it?
Langley: No.
Hunt: But she believes in this.
Langley: She may believe in it and you know what would happen? Probably when I left the room the mother would give the syringe to the child if she really believed it.
Hunt: No. You’re going to take the syringe out of there.
Langley: And there’s nothing I could do.
Rawlings: Pediatric cases, to me, are completely different than adult cases. They’re innocent.
Langley: That’s right.
Rawlings: Adults, like you saw when you went into adult medicine, suddenly, three suicides, all bad cases all at once. You didn’t see that in children.
Langley: No. Not in the 500.
Rawlings: In adults that go through the near-death experience, this 11-13 million, whatever, that see the light, they don’t say, “I saw Buddha; I saw Matrieya.” They don’t name the god of their faith usually. They’ll see the angel or the messenger of death. But in the United States and in Christian areas, it’s “I saw Christ.” They name it specifically. This is of some importance, because in the emergency room we don’t see… here, the Hindu—and I’ve had a Hindu patient—they call on “Shiva or Vishnu, Brahma, help me.” It’s “God, help me,” or “Jesus, help me.” And I think that Madalyn O’Hair, when we get here there, she’ll say, “God, help me.” She’s the atheist.
Ankerberg: Okay. We’ve got to take a break and when we come back we’ll pick it up right here. But I also think we need to make one thing clear, that no Christian would say that they’re going to force their belief on anybody else. I think we need to take that away. The thing is, we’re not saying you’re going to mandate this by law. You’re not going to force somebody to do it. What you’re saying is, you’re debating this on the basis of what is true. And when you’re put into a situation, you might not have any control over that situation. So that’s one thing you have to do.
When we come back, if I could start this with the fact of, June, if you had had the experience of Howard, in other words, sometimes life is not the way we stack it up to be. I keep learning new things every day and that man had one of the biggest surprises anybody’s ever had. I’d like to ask you that question in terms of her question over here. You were an atheistic professor who has a hell experience; wasn’t expecting it, and what did that tell you and how did that change your world view? Let’s pick this up when we come right back. Stick with us.

Ankerberg: We’re back and we’re talking about, “What happens when you die?” And do the experiences of, say, 13 million Americans who have had near-death experiences, gone through the tunnel, seen the great light and so on, and come back, not all of them have had that experience. Two-thirds have not seen anything, so we’re talking about a third of those that are having them see something. But the fact is, what kind of conclusions do we draw from these people that have had these experiences? And, Howard, in terms of the “truth” question, okay, you didn’t believe in God, you hated God; you were against this. You find yourself in hell. You had a hell experience. You didn’t have one of these positive experiences, you had a hell experience. Okay? What did that do to your view of reality? That went against your view of reality.
Storm: Totally destroyed it and I had to rethink everything. But I was so eager after the experience to save my wife and my children and my friends from that hellish experience, that I literally tried to hammer the Bible into them. It finally got to the point where I realized nobody could stand to be around me because I would literally yell and scream Bible verses all day long, thinking that if I were loud enough and long enough, I would persuade them. I did much more harm I did irrevocable harm. It’s taken them years to get over that and find Jesus Christ as their Savior in their lives because the harm…
Hunt: But you did it out of sincere concern because you didn’t want them to go where you’d been.
Storm: Absolutely.
Ankerberg: The question is this. Your methodology might have been wrong, but were you right even to bring it up?
Storm: Absolutely. Because I think this is shocking: In my adult life, for as long as I can remember, I was never evangelized. No one ever mentioned anything about Jesus Christ or invited me to church or anything like that. I don’t know what I would have done if they had. I mean, I can’t predict that. But nobody ever did. The Christian witness out there, from my experience, doesn’t exist. Okay? I think we have an obligation. That’s what I’m trying to convince my congregation of in my church, that we have an obligation to go out there and to witness. And it’s not to forcibly do anything to anybody because that’s counterproductive. It’s to witness out of love and caring.
Ankerberg: Okay. Hold that thought. You didn’t believe it either.
Rawlings: Right.
Ankerberg: Okay. You saw a guy on the floor that you’re working on in a clinical death situation where he’s dying and you’re trying to save his life and he’s going back and forth between hell. And you say a prayer and he gets saved. And the fact is, all of a sudden you’re saying, “Wow! What happened?”
Rawlings: Yes.
Ankerberg: Okay? It changed your whole world view. Are you wrong now to write books and tell people about that?
Rawlings: No. It’s my calling. I told him to keep his hell to himself; didn’t want any part of religion or anything else. Now I’m collecting cases.
Ankerberg: Yes. Hold onto that. Now, June, you’re like these two guys right now where you don’t believe their world view. And I certainly understand that. If you had, surprise, surprise, surprise: an experience like him…
Langley: I did.
Ankerberg: Okay. But if you had a hell experience like him, the fact is, would you then warn people about that experience in any way?
Langley: Well, what happened to me, my platelet count dropped to 5,000.
Rawlings: If you had a hell experience, what would you do?
Langley: Would I warn them?
Rawlings: Yes.
Langley: I would say it’s an individual thing. I can’t say.
Bush: Many people in my experience feel that they can’t tell the people they love, because if they love them, it’s too terrible to tell people about. And they may then spend years trying. And maybe this ties into your question about evangelizing if one is looking solely from the Christian perspective. But people spend decades trying to find the ways, to find the words, in which to give some not comfort, meaning—and I don’t know what the word is that you guys aren’t going to take exception to. I would say “sacred.” I would say “holy.” I would say profound, but I want God in there.
Ankerberg: Nancy, you’re so nice, and I want you to push harder. If I was you saying to Howard, I might say something like this. “Would you expect me, Howard, if I had a hell experience and I didn’t say anything, would I be wrong?”
Storm: Absolutely. See, I believe that part of the reason why I left the faith was, people were so nice. I’m sorry to do this to my past, but they’re probably not watching this anyway. I grew up in a nice, liberal, rational New England religion where people didn’t want to talk about hell or Satan or anything else. And it was like an ethics of “be good,” “be nice.” You know?
Hunt: Everybody makes it.
Storm: Yes. It’s sort of a vague, general kind of a thing. It did me no good, because I was easily seduced. I didn’t know that the name of Jesus Christ was powerful. I didn’t know that when you prayed in the name of Jesus, there was a power there. I didn’t know that Jesus died on the cross for me. I didn’t know. I was ignorant of all those things because everybody had made it all so nebulous. So, what I do with my witness, and what I feel compelled to do is, like, I believe that there is a probability that if you don’t know God in an intimate and personal way—and God has shown us that intimate and personal way through the man from Nazareth who was the Christ—if you don’t know that, there’s a good probability that I’m not willing to bet anybody’s life on it. I’m not willing to take the responsibility that they may have that hellish experience.
Langley: I had a near-death experience. My platelet count dropped to 5,000. I was pronounced dead. They resuscitated me in the emergency room. I didn’t see God; I didn’t see Jesus Christ; I saw this black thing. Looked like a robe. I wasn’t afraid and I’m not afraid now. I can feel that there’s only one answer now. And that everybody has their own religion and their own feelings.
Rawlings: Not everybody has a black robe awaiting them.
Langley: No. Everybody sees things differently. And you have to accept that. Look how narrow you will be if you’re not.
Hunt: Can I interject here. See, here’s what troubles me, June; however you want to look at it, this is God’s universe. I do not find this criteria in any other area of His universe. You go to, even a baker, “I just throw in some ground glass and it doesn’t matter.” You come to me as a doctor, and I know that you’ve got a ruptured appendix, and unless you’re on the operating table within 30 minutes, you’re dead. But I wouldn’t want to “upset” you, because you don’t believe in ruptured appendices. And so I say, “Well, June, if you’ve got a little pai,n take an aspirin.” That is not love. You can’t get on a United Airlines jet with a ticket to Disneyland, you see?
Langley: You’re taking this out of context.
Hunt: No. I’m not taking it out of context.
Langley: No, no, no, no. You’re saying “apples and oranges.” I’m not saying that.
Hunt: It’s not “apples and oranges.”
Langley: I’m not saying, “You have a religion. He has a religion. We all have. Just accept it.”
Hunt: But, June, just let me finish. Religion has got to be the most important. Okay…
Langley: Okay, but you’re putting a name on it. I’m not putting a name on it, because I’m dealing with other people that have other faiths. But it’s one bottom line: It’s a deity, whatever name you want to put on it.
Hunt: Let me give you the bottom line…
Langley: You just said love is the thing that makes the world go ‘round, right, and I agree with you.
Hunt: If I love you, June, I want to tell you right now…
Langley: What you believe.
Hunt: Not what I believe, what Jesus Christ….
Langley: See, but you’re saying “Jesus Christ.” What about these other people…
Hunt: Let me finish. Let me finish.
Langley: You’re not being fair to them. They don’t have a chance here.
Hunt: Let me finish. You’re not arguing with me, you’re arguing with Jesus Christ.
Langley: I’m not arguing with anybody. I embrace all of the religions.
Hunt: Just let me finish.
Langley: And you’re not. You’re being very narrow.
Hunt: Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth.” You can’t change what Jesus said. “I am the way.”
Langley: I’m not changing…
Hunt: June, please let me finish. “I am the way, the truth, the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” He said that we have violated God’s laws. There is God’s eternal justice and that He paid the debt for our sins.
Langley: Okay.
Hunt: Nobody else paid it. And He said, “Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins and where I go, you cannot come.” Now, you’re not arguing with me; you’re not contradicting me, you’re saying, “Jesus Christ, you are a liar.”
Langley: I am not saying that. Don’t say that. No. No.
Hunt: Yes. You are.
Langley: I embrace all religions and all beliefs.
Hunt: But you can’t embrace all beliefs that contradict one another.
Langley: That is your belief.
Bush: You are both having at things that you genuinely might as well shut up, because neither of you is going to convince the other one of anything. And frankly, I think you’re both being simplistic.
Ankerberg: Let’s bring this up next week and the question is, are we going beyond the data? Are we drawing conclusions we shouldn’t draw? Okay? And I’ll be interested to hear what all of you have to say. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this discussion. We’re going to pick it up right here next week. Please come on back.

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