A few days ago I came across this article and was intrigued by the title.
Heaven Is Real: A Doctor’s Experience With the Afterlife
I fully intended to read it that day at work, but didn’t get around to it and so I put it off until another day. Today was that day.
Here we have a doctor who teaches at Harvard Medical School (which is pretty close to the place where that janitor used to solve math problems on randomly placed chalk boards in hallways). He is a neurosurgeon. Those are the guys who can slice your head open while you are still awake and make you forget your name by touching a certain part of your brain, and then make you say the hebrew alphabet backwards by touching another spot, and then make you pee your pants and suck your thumb. OK, I am getting carried away. The point is, this guy is smart.
What he describes occured while he was clinically brain dead. I won’t even try to describe the science behind what happened to him. Basically, he got a rare form on meningitis that made its way into his brain and began eating away at it causing his brain to shut down. He was out, in a coma, on his way to death. And, during that time, he experienced something so amazing that words can barely describe, although he does a pretty good job at portraying this week long expereince he had before his brain function was restored and he woke up from his coma.
There are a few passages from the story that stuck out to me:
A sound, huge and booming like a glorious chant, came down from above, and I wondered if the winged beings were producing it. Again, thinking about it later, it occurred to me that the joy of these creatures, as they soared along, was such that they had to make this noise—that if the joy didn’t come out of them this way then they would simply not otherwise be able to contain it. The sound was palpable and almost material, like a rain that you can feel on your skin but doesn’t get you wet.
What a feeling this must be, to have so much joy that you cannot even contain yourself.
That’s quite a mission. Convincing the scientific world of things that cannot be proven, or have not been proven yet, is a difficult task, and would be a good plot for the Mission Impossible 10 movie.
While I was reading Dr. Eben Alexander’s description of his experience, I got all kinds of excited. My brain began making a list of people I could send the article to; non-believers who are hard headed and skeptical of my faith. I could point to this and say, “See, I told it was real.” They would crumble, and fall, and ask for my forgiveness and then we would pray together and they would be saved. Rob saves the day again. That’s how awesome I am.
I do not doubt that people will use this story to do just that; to prove the unproveable.
But then I started thinking about it more.
This is an amazing testimony from Dr. Alexander. He obviously experienced something pretty amazing. I believe that he had an experience that has changed the way he fundamentally views life, the Earth, and the universe. And, I believe that he believes that it was a God-created, heavenly experience. He has every right to share his story with whomever he can.
If I were a non-believer and this story was the thing that ‘saved’ me, then my first experience, my first lesson, as a new believer is about the proof of faith. But faith is something that cannot be proven. I have faith that Dr. Alexander had this experience, but there is no possible way that he can prove that he did. If I take his word as fact, then my faith is based on an experience that I did not have. I did not meet God. My faith and my testimony are my own.
We all have to experience our own relationship with God. Dr. Alexander had an experience that caused him to seek a relationship with God. I cannot seek a relationship with God through his experience, rather, I must seek God. In seeking God, I find my own experience. In finding my own experience, I write my own testimony. And in writing my own testimony, I might give someone else the chance to seek God.
So while I am in awe of his experience, and I find inspiration in his story, I cannot take Dr. Alexander’s experience as proof that heaven is real, despite his education or his intelligence, he is just a man; a man who had an amazing experience while brain dead, but still just a man. My proof of heaven comes from my personal experience in seeking God.
How do you know heaven is real?