Monday’s Musings: Selective Hearing

Two or three weeks ago (or possibly more), author J. Stephen Miller asked if I’d be interested in reading and reviewing his nonfiction book, Near-Death Experiences as Evidence for the Existence of God and Heaven: A Brief Introduction in Plain Language. I suggested a trade: I’d review his book if he’d review The Story in the Stars. That is, provided he wasn’t in a big hurry, as I couldn’t say how long it would take me to read his. He said there was no time limit and agreed to the plan, so we exchanged Kindle versions, and I put his book in the third slot on my to-be-read list.

Last week, the day after I started reading it, he sent me an email with a link to his wife’s review of Stars.  Apparently he’d asked her to do his dirty work for him; but I guess she didn’t mind, because she gave it five stars, and he assured me she doesn’t give five stars lightly.

But that’s another subject. Back to my point:

Though I’m not getting through Mr. Miller’s book as quickly as I’d like, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I’ll put a review on Amazon after I’ve finally finished reading it, but this isn’t a review; just a rumination.

Throughout my musings, a line from the old Paul Simon song, “The Boxer,” has gone through my mind: Still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.

In his book, Mr. Miller does a good job of looking at the phenomenon from every conceivable angle and gives due consideration to the many objections. He points out that the scientists who have delved into the subject the most extensively began their research as skeptics, fully expecting to find natural, scientific causes for these people’s experiences. However, they were all forced to conclude that, whatever it was that happened to these people, it can’t be explained by anything in the physical realm.

The people who have had these experiences described sensations that were separate and distinct from any dream experience. What happened to them doesn’t match up with the symptoms of lack of oxygen or any other known brain-related phenomenon. Many of them returned knowing things they couldn’t have possibly known (relating conversations that took place after they were dead, describing in detail events that occurred while they were unconscious, talking about meeting a dead relatives whom they hadn’t known about, etc.) Each person reported that even as they went through the experience, they were amazed, because it was nothing any of them had expected. The things they saw were extremely vivid, even in the cases of people who had been born blind and had never before seen anything.

Every experience was a little different, and it was intensely personal for each; however, researchers have listed fifteen commonalities reported by all, no matter what continent they lived on, what language they spoke, or what their culture or religious background.

The subject is fascinating, and I think the author does an excellent job laying out the facts in a logical, unemotional fashion. He does not resort to sensationalism. The facts speak for themselves, however, and it doesn’t seem likely that any reasonable person could read this book (nor any other that deals with this subject in such a practical manner) and remain convinced there is no God.

Still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.

Even without this book, we have no excuse. Creation gives more than sufficient evidence of God’s existence. The Bible gives us that too, as well as reliable information–sufficient to stand up in a court of law if the jury were truly impartial–concerning not only His existence, but His character and attributes, what He expects of us His creation, how He has worked throughout history, and how He’ll wrap it all up at the end. This is all really important stuff, highly relevant to everyone alive.

Still, a man hears what he wants to hear…

As Jesus Himself said in Luke 16:31, long before anyone studied Near Death Experiences, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

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2 thoughts on “Monday’s Musings: Selective Hearing

  1. Thanks for your thoughts! I think your Paul Simon quote is very insightful. One of the most impactful books I read in graduate school was The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. His well-documented thesis was that scientists are often greatly influenced by their paradigms, to the point of explaining away data that disagrees with their theories.

    Some of the books I read by naturalists on near-death experiences contained passages that showed them to be very prejudiced against any other view than their own, which strongly influenced their interpretation of the data. Of course, the same can be said for some studies presented by the other side as well. But we can’t ignore the power of our paradigms to influence our interpretation of the data.

  2. Thanks, Steve! You’re right; it seems some scientists are out to prove something rather than to discover the truth. Oddly, they’re often the ones who accuse Bible believers of being narrow-minded. True, sometimes we are; but it goes both ways. Kuhn’s book sounds like it pursues a worthwhile topic.

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