Eleven Million Near-Death Experiences: Do Some Indicate it May Not Be Safe to Die? – Program 6

By: Howard Storms, Nancy Evans Bush, June Langley, Dr. Maurice Rawlings, Dr. John Weldon, Dave Hunt; ©1994
Are we going beyond the data and making assumptions based on near-death experiences that are not really valid?

Analyzing 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 to our program. We’re talking about near-death experiences. Do you know how many people are having them? According to the Gallup poll we’ve got over 13 million Americans that have had a near-death experience where they’ve come close to dying but in the process, they’ve either left their body, gone out, seen the tunnel, the great white light, come on back. Lot of other things that are involved in that. Some of those experiences have been positive; changed people’s lives. Some of them have been negative and really changed their life. We have a case in point right here.
What I’d like to talk about is the theological, philosophical implications. What can we learn from these? Do they tell us that there’s life after death? What kind of experience will death be? I think you ought to be interested. You and I are going to experience death along the way, right? So what’s going to happen? Well, this is what this program is all about.
What I’ve also found, and I’ll come to you, Dr. Rawlings, is that a lot of the folks that are making statements. They’ve got a lot of material that’s coming in, okay? If you’ve got 13 million people and you’re starting to catalogue it, the fact is, in CPR technique you are getting better and better in medicine at saving people’s lives that are having heart attacks; that are in accidents, etc., etc. And so you’re getting more stories of people that are clinically dying. While you’re working on them they come back, you resuscitate them and so on and they tell you where they’ve been and so on. The fact is that out, of that data, you have drawn certain conclusions. Dr. Ring, Dr. Moody, Kubler-Ross has also done that. The question is, and we’ll get to what some of these others have said. Let’s stick with yours. You’re saying what about the data that you’re collecting? What has it told you?
Rawlings: All these millions of people had near-death experiences are reported by those authors as good experiences. How can they all be good when it’s the fat middle, don’t have any experience, and good equals bad no matter what you’re studying in a population. The thing that’s important, the negative cases are there if you want to look for them. Nancy’s starting to look for them. She’s got authors that are collecting cases too now. They’re coming out of the woodwork, because they’re very frequent. They’re not rare at all. This fellow that dropped dead on a treadmill I told you about, “Is it safe to die?” He found out it wasn’t. He was feeling good until he died, then he found he was in hell. That’s a hard way to find out you’re not right.
Ankerberg: Let’s back track on it. If I was to say to you, “Okay, when you were working on this guy on the floor and he’s clinically dying and you’re trying to put a wire in to get his heart started and you’re pumping on his heart and you’re trying to get him back and resuscitate him, and he says, “I’m in hell, doctor. You’ve got to save my life.”
Rawlings: Yes.
Ankerberg: Okay? If you had stopped right there. Hadn’t helped him. Hadn’t resuscitated him, do you believe he would have gone to hell?
Rawlings: Yes.
Ankerberg: Alright, next question. Do you believe then that there is a place, a real place, called “hell” that people that are watching our program right now, like this man who… Was he an exceptional sinner? Was he a big-time sinner?
Rawlings: No.
Ankerberg: Okay. The fact is what you’re saying is normal people, then, might have a destiny called hell. Is that what you’re saying?
Rawlings: People that are unprepared, yes. It’s not an allegory or metaphor. It’s a place. Just like Christ said it was and He talked more about it than He did about heaven. Talked more about hell. He thought it was something important.
Ankerberg: Okay, step back once more. Is it objective for you, as a person collecting this data, to draw that conclusion?
Rawlings: Yes. I believe that’s exactly where he would have gone.
Langley: See this? What religion are they? You can’t tell their family. No matter what religion they are, when they die, just because they don’t believe in Jesus Christ, as you say, they’re going to hell?
Rawlings: How do you know where they go?
Langley: I don’t know…
Rawlings: Well, we’re collecting them…
Langley: …but you don’t know either.
Rawlings: Yes, we do.
Langley: Can’t you accept that there is one God and that these people have love there? Look at it.
Rawlings: No. There is one God, but He’s not “God is all and all is God.” Because in reincarnation I’d come back as a rock or a stone or….
Langley: How do you know what religion these other people are? You don’t know. But you can see the love between a mother and the child.
Ankerberg: Hold on. Let me slow it down here. This brings up the question of the fact of, it’s a very emotional question to say that this religion is correct over this one, okay. Let’s say that there are multitudes of religions out there, and a lot of people that are watching belong to each one of these or different ones of these and so on. So the question is, maybe their ire is getting up at you as well. What I’m trying to get to, is there any criteria that you would bring to the religions of the world, or are religions out of bounds in terms of analysis? Is it right or wrong to even say that one religion may be right and others may be wrong? If there is criteria, what’s the criteria that you would apply? Want to take a crack at that?
Hunt: I would like to say that she is forcing her religion on us. She says we’re forcing ours on her. See, people say, “Oh, we’re all taking different roads to get to the same place.” That is more narrow-minded and dogmatic than anything Jesus ever said. They’re saying there’s only one destination. No matter what you believe, no matter what you call it, no matter what you call God, no matter what you call whoever, you’re all going to end up in the same place. I say that’s very narrow-minded. Jesus wasn’t that narrow-minded. He said there are two places: heaven and hell, and you take your choice. You’re going to decide whether you go there. Now, what you’re saying is, this man that had this hell experience, it really wasn’t real….
Langley: I didn’t say that. I say, “What about a seven-year-old that dies without Jesus Christ?” How can you say they’re going to hell?
Hunt: You’re not listening. We don’t…we didn’t say that. We don’t with seven-year-olds. We didn’t say that. We dealt with seven-year-olds.
Langley: We’re talking about dying people.
Hunt: We distinguish between children and adults.
Langley: How do you break that? Because if they’re raised one way and they die, you’re going to say they’re not going to heaven?
Hunt: Of course.
Langley: They’re not going to see God, because they’ve been maybe Jewish?
Weldon: I think you have to look at this from a perspective of a central figure of a religion and the teachings of that religion. No other figure on earth has ever been like Jesus Christ, done what He did, or risen from the dead.
Ankerberg: Are you setting a criteria now for analysis of religions?
Weldon: I’m setting a criteria, yes.
Ankerberg: Alright, your Ph.D. was in comparative religions. If a guy says to you, he says, “Weldon, the fact is, hey, I grew up in this religion over here. That’s what my mother and father believed. And the fact is, I think it’s great. So why are you saying it’s wrong?”
Weldon: For two reasons: Number one, Jesus Christ is the greatest authority on the area of religion, life after death, the nature of God, that ever existed because of what He did.
Ankerberg: But they say, “But wait a minute. The fact is, our religious leader’s a big guy too.”
Weldon: I’m not discounting the fact that people are good and can do good things.
Ankerberg: So how do you make a differentiation?
Weldon: Because Jesus Christ, as an authority. Number one, one person in human history has risen from the dead. That makes Him an infallible authority. It proves the truth of what He taught: that He was actually God Incarnate. Many people can claim to be a way-shower to God or a revelation from God. Jesus Christ claimed He was God Incarnate.
Number two, you look at a religion’s teachings. It’s like Luther said: there are only two religions in the world when you boil everything down to the bottom: the religions of “works” and the religion of “grace.” All other religions in the world teach a religion of works. Only Christianity, biblical Christianity, teaches a religion of grace. You’re saved by the love and mercy and grace of God, not as a result of anything good you can do. I know in my own heart there’s no way I can be good enough to meet God’s standards. If I’m not saved by grace, I’m not going to get saved.
Hunt: John, you can’t just make a bookkeeping entry in heaven. Because we have violated His justice. The debt had to be paid. That’s what Jesus did that nobody else could do. He died on the cross.
Ankerberg: Okay. We’ll pick this up after our break. Stick with us.

Ankerberg: Alright, welcome back. We’re talking about clinical death experiences, near-death experiences and what are the implications that we can draw? What do they tell us? Is there life after death? If so, what kind of life can we expect when we die? Should we fear death?
And maybe, Howard, you wanted to jump in right at this spot, so let’s do it. In terms of, you know, we’ve talked about you’ve had an experience and the question is, is your experience, should it be taken over by researchers like these folks over here and applied to the rest of the people? Or are you just a simple individual that’s had an extraordinary deal. It’s only true for you, not for anybody else?
Storm: I think one of the things that the researchers have done is they’ve tried to simplify it, make square pegs fit in round holes and vice versa to fit their own world view.
Ankerberg: Explain.
Storm: In other words, they have, different researchers like Moody and Ring and other people who are all respectable people, all had come to this with their own philosophy, their own world view, and they’ve tried to make the near-death experience research has affected them but they’ve also greatly shaped what that looks like to other people. The fact of the matter is, the people that I have dealt with that have had near-death experiences, almost all found them to be life-changing experiences that should have moved them towards God. Some of them were able to process the experience because of the people that helped them use that experience in a disciplined way to understand “the way, the truth and the life” ultimately. Other people got caught up in, to put it kindly, “La-La Land,” a lot of like New Age hocus pocus and ended up really messed up people. So my point is that the near-death experience, it blows people’s minds. It changes them, it opens up their minds…
Ankerberg: Okay. But let me bring it right there: the fact is, you had a hell experience. The majority had good experiences. The fact is,. . .
Bush: Doesn’t matter.
Ankerberg: So the fact is that can you draw ultimate conclusions from your hell experience? Does that mean that other people are going to hell?
Storm: I am 100 percent certain that my experience was given to me so that I could warn other people. Warn them of the consequences of their evil; warn them of their consequences of their unbelief or their rejection of the faith and to tell them about the good news of a loving God.
Rawlings: There’s another side to that story. He’s got the bad. The good can be bad. Ronald Reagan, Governor, before he became President, pardoned John Brown from the gas chamber for shooting a 14-year-old boy, killing him, which he didn’t do. And when Reagan found out he pardoned him and he found the real story was the man wanted to, because he had read all these “good” experiences, go through the gas chamber so he could be reincarnated into a better life than this jail experience. So, the good can be bad. All good is bad and bad is obviously bad and that bell curve is completely forgotten.
Storm: My hellish experience was the best thing that ever happened to me in my life, because it finally woke me up. It was my great wake-up call to the truth.
Ankerberg: Let me ask the President of IANS here and that is that you’re collecting all these experiences. If now that some of these bad experiences that are coming out, the hellish experiences, if they even out and they come more and more and more, what conclusions as a researcher do you think it’s proper to make? Let’s say it gets to be half and half here, okay? Would you put out a warning?
Bush: My position is, yes, there is data that doesn’t quite fit into any of the boxes we’ve got available. You’re not wrong in your conclusions about the need for salvation, the fact that desperately, difficult, painful hell-like things can happen at death. But I think it’s more complicated than simply saying, “Okay, here is a proof text and if you don’t meet these criteria, you’re out of the ball game.”
Weldon: I would have to disagree with you in one sense….
Bush: Oh, I’m sure.
Weldon: …and that is, I really do think that in many cases it is a lot clearer.
Bush: See, what you’re missing, you all say, “Well, but they come back and they say, ‘There’s no judgment. Salvation for everybody. Cupcakes all around.’” I don’t know an experiencer who is as glib and sugar-coated as you are making them sound.
Weldon: Oh, gosh. So many of them no longer fear death at all. And yet they’re not saved and so there’s a reason to fear death.
Bush: But the fact that they….
Hunt: In your own document here, Nancy, it says, “I’m not afraid of dying anymore, but it’s real important to me to be alive.” That’s what you say. You’re not afraid of dying. That was the primary lie of the serpent to Eve. “There is no death. Don’t worry about it.”
Bush: You’re giving me proof text right? And what I’m asking is, what does it mean to the experiencers when they say this? Can these in some way cast more understanding on our understanding of what it means to be Christian than simply to throw proof text…
Weldon: It’s more than proof text. It’s a matter of what is your authority of religious faith?
Hunt: See, that’s a derogatory for you: a proof text. Do you despise the Bible? Is it not legitimate to use the Word of God?
Bush: Oh! John!
Langley: She’s not saying anything….
Weldon: Well, if the Bible is the Word of God and it can be interpreted in a normal sense and has certain conclusions in terms of doctrine….
Bush: I am not using proof text in a derogatory term. I’m saying….
Hunt: Sounds like it.
Langley: No she’s not.
Hunt: What do you mean?
Bush: What I am hearing is that it gets these arguments, these experiences, get reduced to a very simplistic level. What I am saying is, I cannot pretend to read the mind of God. My function as a researcher is to collect the data…
Rawlings: But your authors didn’t do that. Your authors…
Bush: Your function as representing….
Rawlings: …each one has come to a conclusion way out….
Bush: They’re not my authors. They speak for themselves. They speak for themselves.
Rawlings: The President of IANS has foreworded New Religion of Omega where everyone goes to heaven.
Bush: Oh, Maurice.
Rawlings: Sure he has. It’s in his book.
Bush: That’s not an IANS religion.
Rawlings: He is the representative at that time.
Hunt: Nancy, let me interject something…
Bush: Oh, good gracious!
Hunt: Nancy, must I wait to know what the Bible says, whether there’s a heaven or hell or where we’re going, must I wait until the researchers come to some conclusion?
Bush: Of course not.
Langley: Of course not. You’re all being so silly.
Hunt: Well, is it not legitimate to come to a conclusion based upon God’s Word or based upon Jesus Christ?
Bush: God’s Word says what we need to do, in whatever terms you put it. Howard, help me, because I’m not going to use the “right” words…
Ankerberg: Okay,…
Bush: We need to do our inner work….
Ankerberg: …the one guy that’s really had the experience here. let’s leave him with the last word. And I think everybody that’s listened to this program, I think our mind boggles. I mean, you stand out here in terms of, here’s a university professor that doesn’t believe in God, doesn’t believe anything, and has this shocking experience. The question is, what should this experience mean to all of us that are listening?
Langley: Can we each say a sentence?
Ankerberg: Sure. Let’s start with Howard here.
Storm: I’d like to say that, based on my experience, I found God to be tremendously good and loving and forgiving and that God has tried to know us in an intimate and personal way and has revealed God’s self to us in that way—in a specific, historical event that has been carried through the generations in spite of persecutions to this present day through the Church. And that is God’s greatest gift to us, an enormous gift of God’s heart was His Son given to us and that truth and knowledge carried through us, despite all kinds of persecution, through the Church today. And God is speaking to you because God wants you to be in heaven. That’s God’s gift and I pray that you all might find it in your hearts the ability to trust the gift.
Ankerberg: Okay. June, quickly. One sentence here.
Langley: Whatever gets you through the night, accept. Be a good person to yourself and to others. And God bless you all.
Ankerberg: Maurice? One sentence.
Rawlings: Yes. Is it safe for me to die? Which religion am I going to take? Or am I going to research the Bible more—does it need more research before I believe it?
Ankerberg: Okay. Nancy?
Bush: I’ll echo Howard.
Ankerberg: Okay. Dave?
Hunt: I’ve come to know Jesus Christ personally. It’s the passion of my heart to tell everyone the good news that they can know Him. That He died for their sins and they can receive eternal life as a free gift. But I believe those who reject Him, however, they reject Him—whether it’s through creation; their conscience—whatever it is, they’re lost.
Ankerberg: John?
Weldon: I think our culture needs to have more of an understanding of the category of “spiritual warfare.” But to close on a positive note, I’d like to quote Jesus Himself. He said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever should believe in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Ankerberg: Thank you for joining us.

Read Part 7

Leave a Comment