No one thinks that an all-powerful God would be unable to use processes or unable to control huge numbers of complicated, seemingly unrelated events. Early Christians without modern science understood as much as today’s people that a baby’s birth often gives every appearance of resulting from chance and blind, selfish, pleasure seeking. This has never embarrassed Christians, as if the events involved in forming a baby destroy the fact that the resulting life is a work of God. They know that God is so much stronger than evil that he can bring good (a valuable human being, for example) even out of evil, anti-God behavior such as rape.
With an act of God there are two levels of explanation, one of which science can help. Consider, for instance, when Jesus told a man to stretch out his crippled hand and the hand instantly healed. (Luke 6:6,10) Scientists might describe what took place within that man’s hand in terms of cell growth, suddenly improved blood flow, and so on. Such an explanation, though accurate, would miss an entire side to this event: the hand was cured at Jesus’ word.
It is as if science lets us study a work of art with a powerful microscope (and such a view can be useful), whereas the Bible lets us to see the big picture, allowing us to understand the divine meaning and purpose of that wonderful work of art we call life.
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One has only to consider modern weapons of war, computer crime, and electronic spying to realize that scientific advance has only highlighted our age-old problem: human nature. For our most basic problem, Jesus is the only answer.
And technology has not changed the fact of death. Not only did Jesus make the bold claim to have brought to the world the secret of eternal life, the proof that he actually defeated death in his own body is so convincing that it has stunned modern doubters. After his terrible death, Jesus appeared alive; eating, cooking, being handled, showing to doubters the wounds that killed him, talking with friends while walking long distances. Hundreds saw him. (1 Corinthians 15:3-7; Acts 1:3-4; Luke 24:13-43; John 20:24-21:14) More recently, highly skilled enemies of Christianity who studied the evidence trying to prove that Jesus’ coming back to life was some sort of trick or a misunderstanding, have been so amazed by what they found as to publicly say that Jesus rose from the dead. Since the evidence is far more powerful than one would expect, I recommend you study it yourself. A good place to start is The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, edited by Josh McDowell, published by Nelson Thomas, Nashville, 1999.
Most reports of pleasant near-death experiences mention meeting a supernatural being from whom love flowed. No impersonal God could love. That God is a person who loves even his enemies is a uniquely Christian concept.
These reports also seem to disprove such non-Christian beliefs as karma, reincarnation, and that the final destination of humans is to lose their individuality in nirvana.
The Bible does not remove the possibility that on the other side of the grave non-Christians might have a few moments in pleasant surrounds before being sent to a very different place. It says that before being thrown into the lake of fire, non-Christians will be brought before God’s throne. Presumably, this throne is in a beautiful, heavenly place. (Revelation 20:11-12)
The Bible says the Evil One pretends to be an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 4:4; 11:14-15; John 8:44) Since non-Christians do not enjoy the spiritual remaking and protection that only Jesus can give, they are particularly open to spiritual deception. This makes their near-death experiences highly unreliable as a guide to spiritual reality.
You cannot fool all the people: Dr. Maurice Rawlings was desperately trying to save a postman’s life. The patient, in between times of medical death, kept screaming that he had been in hell and pleading with the reluctant doctor to help him pray. The postman’s visit to hell was so convincing that even the doctor’s doubts disappeared. The man survived and became a Christian. He could remember the prayer and viewing his body from a distance, and yet he could remember nothing of his hellish experience. Apparently, it was so awful that his mind blocked out the memory.
Researchers find that about 80% of patients brought back from medical death report nothing. (Who would boast about being sent to a place of shame and torment?) Researchers are therefore forced to study a sample that is far from average, and, human nature being what it is, an unknown number of even these would be lying. Before Dr. Rawlings’ work, researchers had not personally brought patients back to life. They were content to question people who had more time to block unpleasant experiences from their minds. Rawlings found that questioning people as soon as they were revived produced as many reports of bad experiences as good ones. In the case of suicide attempts, 85% of those brought back from medical death reported being glad to be alive. This is amazing, considering their attitude to life just a little while before. Every account Rawlings has collected from such people has been ‘hellish’.
The doctor records another man’s experience after his heart stopped beating. It ended up being so awful that the patient was certain he had been to hell. It brought about his conversion to Christianity. Yet the first part of his experience was nice – floating above his body, feeling happy, at peace and free from pain. Had he come back to life at that point, his ideas about life after death would have been very different. A number of people have reported seeing what began as a non-threatening light at the tunnel’s end turn into hellfire.
Many people want so much to hide from the existence of hellish experiences that Dr. Rawlings himself has been misquoted in a way that suggested he believes all after-death experiences are pleasant. Before appearing on TV talk shows he is often told not to mention hell.
‘Life is a great surprise,’ observed Vladimir Nobokov, ‘I do not see why death should not be an even greater one.’
Hell is God reluctantly granting non-Christians their wish.
Ultimately, life and every desirable thing comes from the God who made every atom that we see, feel, enjoy and misuse. Even wrongdoing’s short-lived pleasure (that slippery shadow of the real thing stolen while, as it were, slapping his face) is possible only because the Son of God lovingly made his haters with the ability to experience pleasure.
Non-Christians push Jesus aside, yet in his extreme love Jesus keeps giving and giving. They do not want him interfering in their lives, but he keeps forcing himself upon them, showering them with his gifts of life and pleasure. In hell they finally get their way. To be separated from the Source of every good and beautiful thing, however, is a frightening thought.
A different view: In the western world the concept of a God of love comes up so often that we forget the source of this belief. The only way of truly knowing that God is love is through the teaching of Jesus and the Bible, both of which lovingly and strongly warn of hell’s grim reality.