Evidence Considered: Near-death Experiences

This is an excerpt from Evidence Considered: A Response to Evidence for God. Evidence for God is a book edited by William Dembski and Michael Licona that presents fifty arguments for faith from the Bible, history, philosophy, and science. This chapter responds to an essay by Gary Habermas entitled: “Near-Death Experiences: Evidence for an Afterlife?”

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Introduction to Evidence Considered

This is an excerpt from the Introduction of Evidence Considered: A Response to Evidence for God. I expect that most Christians will agree with most of what I have said, that some Christians will agree with all of it, and that nearly all Christians will agree with some of it. Christians should welcome a close and critical examination of apologetic arguments as part of their search for the truth. As Peter exhorted (1 Peter 3:15), they should be ready “to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

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Personal experience

Speaking with Christians often yields the idea of a personal experience as the basis of faith. It is very hard to argue against this kind of thing, and it is often presented as an alternative “proof” for Christianity. After all, so many Christians claim this type of experience, and so where there is smoke there must be fire. But it is very easy to have smoke without fire, and many poor proofs do not add up to one good one. I would contend that these experiences just constitute another piece of evidence, and that, like other evidence we have looked at in this book, we should consider this evidence objectively before being persuaded by it.

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Why is Christianity so big?

I used to have other reasons (meta arguments, in the sense that they do not use the text of the Bible directly) for accepting the validity of the claims of the Bible. Ultimately they do not matter—for me, the whole thing falls apart with the lack of credibility of the Bible, taken on its own terms, rather than based on some meta-argument. In other words, the biblical text is itself not credible where it matters (discussed in Section 3). But people use these meta-arguments to establish the credibility of the Bible, regardless of how incredible the text is, so I wanted to look at a few of them, and one in particular, which is the continued existence of the Christian church. I do not intend to look at this rigorously, but rather to point out a way that might be helpful to understand this and to explore where this kind of thinking might get us.

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