“Work of the devil” say some Christians about the near-death experiences. This page is for those who live in a Christian tradition and have problems with near-death experiences, who believe to see fundamental contradictions between reports of near-death experiences and their own doctrine of faith.
Some Christian beliefs welcome the near-death experiences and use them even for their own purposes for example for evangelizing and proselytizing, examples can easily be found on YouTube.
Other Christian beliefs strictly reject near-death experiences. They call them “Hallucinations caused by the devil to divert people from faith”.
That’s surprising, because people who have undergone a near-death experience live usually more intensely, more positively, believe more likely in God and an immortal soul, and are consistently more religious. This is shown by numerous statistics, described for example by Pim van Lommel in chapter 4 “Change through near-death experiences” of his book “Consciousness Beyond Life, The Science of the Near-Death Experience” and by Kenneth Ring in his book “Lessons from the Light“. So what did the devil, if it exists, want to achieve with this so-called “hallucination”? When beliefs persuade their followers, who have had a near-death experience, that this is a work of the devil, and one must refrain from it, they at least trigger deep feelings of guilt among these people and force them to repression and silence.
Possible Reasons for the Demonization
Unfortunately, the religiosity of near-death experiencers is rather a deep personal religiosity, they engage less in organized communities and in some cases leave the church affiliation. Of course this annoys. In addition, most near-death experiences are positive, those of other beliefs and even atheists get a “glimpse into the heaven”. It is as if everyone is finally going to heaven and so people loose their fear of death and especially the fear of the last judgment and of the eternal hell punishment. This annoys much more.
I wonder now: does a true religion really need the principle of threatening hellish torments, that is, education by carrot and whip? Would not a religion be much more meaningful if it come from the heart, a religion out of love for God and out of love for people?
The religions that condemn NDEs are mostly evangelical beliefs, that is, beliefs that interpret the Bible narrowly and literally. They invoke 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God”. Of course, this is a classic circular statement: the Bible is right because the Bible says that the Bible is right. Personally, I think such an interpretation is wrong, but I would like to try to answer it at this level:
How do these beliefs justify their interpretation? In the Old Testament divination and necromancy is condemned. I recently read in an evangelical leaflet that Jesus himself forbade anyone to speak to the dead. This is a lie. I’ve been reading the Bible, the Old and New Testaments, and the New Testament says nothing about it. In addition, someone who encounters deceased relatives in a near-death experience did not conjure them.
The Near-Death Experience of the Apostle Paul
Rather, in the 2nd Corinthians letter, Paul describes a near-death experience most likely of his own which he calls “a revelation of the LORD” (verse 1 !!). 2 Cor 12,2-4 (English Standard Version) : (2) I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. (3) And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— (4) and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.
In verses 5-7, Paul explains that he does not want to brag about this revelation. So is this man, about whom he reported, he himself, and it is a rhetorical means that he first distinguished describes this as the experience of other people, not to come straight out with it. Paul was apparently uncertain how the Corinthians would take that, that he was outside his body, and he therefore skillfully withdrew from the affair “whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows”, to describe his out-of-body experience.
So when Paul, the most important Apostle in the spread of Christianity, had himmself a such experience and describes this as a revelation from the Lord, then it may have been hardly a “Devil’s work”.
And in Matthew 17: 2-3, Jesus himself speaks with Moses and Elijah, who are undoubtedly both in the realm of the dead or in the beyond.
Most Christian skeptics of NDE quote the old testament, namely 3. Moses 19.31: ““Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them.” According to Jewish tradition, one is contaminated only by touching a dead body, which is similar to the “impure days” of women. This is none of the ten commandments, but a law spoken by Moses.
One chapter further, namely, 3. Moses 20:27 is the phrase that one should stone people who are a medium or a necromancer. This has led to the numerous witch hunts and the pyres in the Middle Ages. How much longer do you want to take the Bible literally? I think we should definitely leave this story in the past and not stir it up anew. This is NOT the message of Christianity.
In addition, “mediums or necromancers” are different from people who had a near-death experience.
It’s true: not everything that supposedly comes from the beyond, must be taken at face value. Wherever people report, there are also self-serving motivations and errors. It makes sense to compare reports of esoteric media with each other and with NDE reports to form an opinion. However, this can not go so far as to completely close oneself to this part of our experienceable world and thus to restrict ourselves, our range of knowledge and our development potential.
The religions have a divine cause. But their books were written by humans, their interpretations, dogmas and ideologies were created by humans and therefore have their errors and mistakes. And even if an evangelical Christian is referring to the fact that Jesus or God himself has revealed to him, and even if a Pentecostal refers to be able to speak with the Holy Spirit’s tongue, this does not imply that his ideology or ideology of his denomination must be true or must be the only true ideology therefore in all regards, including views on the beyond and survival after death or on judgment between heaven and hell.
Preexistence of the Soul
For the abovementioned faiths, however, there is now a high motivation to dismiss near-death experiences, which do not agree with their ideology, as a “devil’s work”. In doing so, they protect their cohesion and the continued existence of their ideology and doctrine, and they also avoid any occasion to question them.
Often Near Death Experiencers report about the experienced feeling that a certain place in the beyond was very well-known and familiar to them or that this was their real home. If this is true, then these people would have been there before, and that is only possible before their birth. This supports the hypothesis of the “preexistence” of the soul, ie of a prenatal existence (not necessarily synonymous with “reincarnation”). The doctrine of the pre-existence of mind and soul was represented in early Christianity by the church father Origines (185-254 AC), but rejected in 553 in the Second Council of Constantinople, that is declared invalid by voting bishops, so humans.
The Indescriptable and the Parable of the Elephant
What the near-death experiences teach us: The human mind, as long as it is bound to the body, is too small to grasp the knowledge of the beyond. Many near-death-experienced wrestle with words and say that they can hardly put into words what they have experienced because there are no words for it. So all of our religious philosophies, written in human language, can never reflect the whole truth about God, our destiny and the beyond.
Here the parable of the elephant is appropriate, which comes from South Asia and is told in different versions in Buddhism, but also in Islam:
A king ordered his servant to show an elephant to six blind men. Afterwards he asked the blind people what an elephant was. One had touched the elephant’s leg and said an elephant was a pillar, another had probed the trunk and said it was similar to a branch, another had felt the ear and said that it was a fan, another had touched the belly and said it was like a granary, someone had felt the tusk and said it was like a ploughshare, the last had felt the tip of his tail and said an elephant was a brush. None of these blind people could recognize what an elephant really is. So long as we can not look into the beyond and as long as huge parts of our own soul are hidden from us (“subconsciousness”), we have to be careful about condemning deviant ideological and religious views.
So let us keep not only our eyes and ears open, but also our minds, and let’s be open to new and different, it must be not automatically wrong!