Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Revealing Heaven by John W. Price

I enjoy reading things that I know I probably won't agree with. It is an important exercise, helping me to either strengthen, refine, or substantially rethink my opinions. So when I read the brief synopsis of Revealing Heaven, I thought to myself, "Well, this will be different and interesting."

I gave myself an extra day after finishing this book to collect my thoughts, and I'm still of two minds about it. On one hand, I appreciate and applaud what I see as one of Rev. Price's major arguments: God wants people to love one another. The main argument, the purpose even, of the book is that near-death experiences are real and should be embraced by Christians. In making this argument, Price continually claims that the primary object of a Christian should be to love his fellow man. This I like.

Ah, but on the other hand. Too often Price's main argument, regarding the veracity of near-death experiences, relies on conjecture, leaps of logic, and sometimes poor reasoning. Many of his conclusions feel unsubstantiated, or at least under-substantiated. The most common example of this is Price drawing conclusions from low amounts of data. One such instance comes from the chapter titled "Hellish Experiences". As you might imagine, this relatively small chapter was about those who have had near-death experiences that were unpleasant in some way. In the last page and half of this chapter, Price concludes that there are two types of negative experiences. However, Price began this chapter by stating, "Twelve people have related to me near-death experiences ranging from distressing to utterly hellish." Twelve people is a small group, and two sentences later, he shrinks that number even more, saying, "Nine of them were mean-spirited, cruel people. Drawing broad conclusions based on the experiences of such a small group people strikes me as ill-advised. A few chapters later, Price makes an argument based on the experiences of only two people.

On this same objecting hand lies critique of another of Price's arguments. He spends the better part of chapter talking about what he calls fear-based Christianity. Price is referring to "fire and brimstone" preachers, and even mentions Jonathan Edwards' sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God". His general argument is that people should not be scared into Christianity. But isn't this what Price is doing, at least in part, with this book. If not, then why spend a chapter talking about "Hellish Experiences"? Why make such thinly substantiated statements about these experiences. Granted, this chapter is just a small portion of the book, and Price could hardly be accused of anything worse than try to scare people into being more loving, hardly insidious.

So, I am essentially right where I was before I started this book. "Well, that was interesting." Persuasive? Not really. Thought-provoking? Yes.


Brent Waggoner said...

I really dislike this subgenre of "afterlife experiences" books. Good on you for taking the bullet on this one.

Carlton Farmer said...

The author's take on John 11:35 ("Jesus Wept.") was really interesting. He thinks that Jesus was crying because he knew he was about to bring his friend Lazarus back from a beautiful place to the real world, where he would feel pain once again.

Brent Waggoner said...

That does sound interesting. Is a lot of the book in that vein, or is it more a "this guy saw bright lights" thing?

Carlton Farmer said...

It's a mix of both. I with it were more of the former.
The book is short. You could get through it in an afternoon.

Anonymous said...

I too enjoy reading about topics from a perspective different than my own.

Thanks for giving this one a try as part of the tour!