Man, that was fun! I’ve never done anything like that before, and it was very strange. I’m used to thinking slowly (some might say veeeeeeeeery slowly) but being “live” makes you think on your feet, parallel-process concepts and what have you. I especially enjoyed the fellow who called in at the end, even though there was not enough time to really explore his area of interest. I think he said his name was John, but it was hard to hear him. I had some thoughts on how I would approach a conversation with him regarding near death experiences which was obviously an important subject to him.
First, he seemed to be suggesting (though he never came out and said it) that because the near death experiences are roughly the same across cultures and ideologies that all religions really lead to the same path. I would have to confirm with him that his conclusion is some form of syncretism. If so, that would lead me to want to ask a whole series of questions.
- What are his thoughts on the law of non-contradiction? This is kind of an important concept to any investigation of truth, so it’s important to know where he stands on it. Most people (if they didn’t know the concept beforehand) understand and accept the law of non-contradiction when it is explained to them. I would assume he does to, but I would want to clarify.
- His idea seemed to be that we are unjustified in claiming that there is only one right religion, given the apparent consistency in near death experiences. This thinking seems, to me, perfectly backwards. Given the immense similarly in near death experiences would it not make more sense to conclude there is, in fact, only one right answer with respect to what happens after death? Rather than leading me to conclude that it is impossible that only one religion is right, that should lead me to conclude that it must be the case that only one religion is right. Of course it is possible that all present religions are wrong and we have yet to discover the true religion, but it certainly seems counter-intuitive to conclude that all religions are right. I would certainly like to hear his thoughts on how he arrived at his conclusion, and of course, whether or not I have properly understood his conclusion in the first place.
- I would also really like to have heard more of the data he referenced. Which studies did he read? Who were the authors? What was their methodology? So many questions need to be asked to better understand the basis of his convictions. Mark mentioned the research of Gary Habermas in this area – some audio files of his are here (just search for “near death” on the page).
- He also seemed to imply (it was a brief comment so I may have misunderstood) that religious texts are merely man-made and that near death experiences were the real deal. I think it would be interesting to explore that. Records of near death experiences are documentation of what a person experiences, but religious texts – I will focus on the Bible, obviously – are pretty much exactly the same thing. God did things, said things, inspired thoughts and people wrote them down. I would have loved to explore his basis for taking the written records of near death experiences seriously, but seemingly brushing aside the written records of interactions with God himself.
Anyway, he was a fascinating caller with some very interesting ideas and it is a shame we only had a few minutes to chat. The conversation did shed some light on a few points I raise in Arguing with Friends.
- Talk in person, whenever possible. It’s radio, so it was obviously not possible this time, but I hope God brings some thoughtful Christians into his life that he can dialogue with in person.
- These kinds of conversations take time. Clearly we hardly scratched the surface. John didn’t get all his thought in, Mark didn’t get all his thoughts in, and clearly I certainly had a number of questions that I would have liked to ask. I imagine if the three of us were sitting down over coffee we would have chatted on nothing but that one conversation for easily a couple of hours.
- Do your homework. If I were a friend of his and we had the opportunity to talk in person I would take the time to read up on near death experiences. Those experiences are obviously very important to him so that’s a great place to start the conversation.
- Ask questions. Like I said already, there are so many questions that could have been asked, and points that needed clarification. Take the time to understand his perspective.
All said, though, what a great experience. I’m not sure I want to make a habit of radio interviews, but it sure was an invigorating once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.