How well do you think [the current "Heaven Is For Real" movie] addresses communicating out-of-body spiritual experiences?
AND ART ASKS:
[Regarding the "countless books" on near-death experiences such as "Heaven Is For Real"]: Is there any legitimate connection between these and Christian views of the next life?
THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:
Since maybe a few folks out there haven’t bought this bestselling book, or seen the movie, or read about the book or the movie, here’s a summary:
In 2003 Colton Burpo, not yet age 4, underwent emergency surgery for a burst appendix and had a close brush with death. At various times afterward he told parents Todd and Sonja about experiencing his soul taken to heaven while his body was on the operating table. He reported information the family said he couldn’t have known otherwise, most notably meeting a second sister in the afterlife though he’d never been told about Sonja’s miscarriage.
Years later father Todd, the pastor of Crossroads Wesleyan Church in rural Imperial, Nebraska, wrote this hugely popular book. Eventually Hollywood came calling.
Now, for some background information on this phenomenon. Burpo’s book sales pale compared with the various books written by the secular Raymond Moody, an M.D. and Ph.D. who coined the term “near death experience.”
In “Life After Life” (1975) he compiled more than 100 accounts of people who suffered “clinical death” and revived. Many shared such perceptions as moving through a tunnel, glorious light and feelings of great peace. Such matters had received little public notice till then, but subsequent polls indicated millions of Americans have reported “out of body” experiences.
Moody later explored reincarnation, including awareness of his own past lives while under hypnosis. That belief breaks from Judaism and Christianity and fits Eastern religions (though minus beliefs, less popular in the West, about the law of karma and reincarnation into sub-human species). Moody helped establish one of several centers that collect and analyze near-death accounts.
While the Burpo book typifies the theme’s common-folks appeal, elite near-deathers help counter assumptions that people telling such stories are unusually imaginative or suggestible and maybe a bit off.