Allison-the movie we watch at the time of death

The Near Death Experience (NDE) has been the subject of many popular books. Usually the books claim that these experiences give us knowledge about what awaits after death. There are counter claims that these experiences are totally subjective.

In Night Comes Dale Allison makes a different kind of claim about the NDE. He is agnostic about whether these experiences are subjective or God-given. But he notes a very interesting and common feature of people’s reports. They report the “life review”, their lives passing before their eyes in a rapid visual replay. These reports come from many people over many centuries (even millennia) and many cultures. They report that in the face of probable death people call up the memories of their lives and that these memories include events that they had repressed or not remembered before the NDE.

In other words, the nearness of death seems to trigger a remarkable talent that we have to access the brain’s total store of memories. Allison documents several such reports. Just one example is this:

“I saw everything happen from birth until then in fast motion. Also, while this was happening, I could feel the feelings of those events. I could also feel any pain I gave out to others. I also felt the goodness I’d given out (p. 55}.

Allison connects such conscious end-of-life events to the biblical idea of judgment. “It is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment” {Hebrews 9:27).

It would be easy to misinterpret Allison here. He is not claiming that NDE life reviews are equivalent to the Last Judgment. But he is arguing that they are suggestive of some truths about death and judgment. He believes the idea that we will have to understand our lives backwards and fully grasp the unvarnished truth about ourselves makes sense. It is a positive analogy.

The idea of judgment after death is certainly there in scripture and Christian culture. But it has been misused and has caused much harm in making people feel terror at the idea of facing God after death. We instinctively know that we will have to face the truth and that we will somehow need to be fixed. But people have recoiled from horrific descriptions of eternal torment. They have skipped over the whole idea of judgment.

Allison thinks the analogy of the NDE life review might give us a way forward.

He puts on his New Testament scholar hat. He points out that John’s gospel presents judgment as something that has already happened in Christ. Then he argues that this idea is implicit in the other gospels as well.

The gospels mean for us to apply Jesus’ apocalyptic prophecies to way his life ended.  He predicted that in the last days the sun would be darkened.  When he died, it happened.  Jesus made apocalyptic prophecies that the saints will be persecuted, beaten, stand before governors, and get handed over to death by brothers. All these things and more happened to Jesus. The gospels present the passion of Jesus as “the beginning of the end, or the end of the world in miniature, or the proleptic realization of the last times” (p. 63).

This makes a strong argument against the idea that, while Jesus came the first time in gentleness and mercy, he will come again in violence and fury. Rather, the behavior of Jesus in his passion, where he submitted to abuse; forgave his enemies; and reinstated the disciples who fled and denied him, will be his behavior in the final apocalypse as well.

So the gospel of John is right when it moves the judgement from the future to the present (John 12:31).  The judgment or final verdict is disclosed already in the sacrifice and victory of Jesus.

So Allison expects that, although we will have to face some unwelcome truths and the need to deal with remorse as suggested by NDE life reviews, the Christian idea that Jesus is the judge means that we will not face blind justice. Rather, we will face a merciful friend.

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About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
This entry was posted in Bible, Theology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Allison-the movie we watch at the time of death

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

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