2/27/20 Quinn (link to video HERE)
When asked for his beliefs about life after death in a sidewalk conversation, a young man named Quinn immediately began bringing to mind the latest studies of people who’d had “near-death experiences”. He seemed to truly believe that if it could be scientifically determined that our souls exist independent of our bodies, then that would be the determining factor for life after death.
Quinn told me that science is basically the driving force behind his investigation of truth claims. The scientific method relies on gathering empirical evidence – which is defined as that which can be observed or experimented on. Science-oriented people like Quinn would look to near-death experiences for evidence, because as an observable spiritual event it would seem most likely to offer some empirical evidence for someone who limits acceptable evidence to natural phenomenon.
However, I have to wonder about the logic of this line of thinking, because, by definition, a spiritual realm of existence wouldn’t have any dependence on the physical realm. Surely God would know when someone is truly dead and that it’s time for their soul to move on, as opposed to someone who is only “nearly dead” and able to be resuscitated. God, at least the omniscient God as described in the Bible, would recognize a false alarm when He sees one.
Additionally, most spiritual events such as those recorded in the Bible are presented as historical events which can no longer be observed, or are based on supernatural phenomenon not subject to natural laws so they wouldn’t necessarily yield consistent results in experiments. So I think it is a mistake to depend on science, useful as it is for the study of the natural order, as the primary way to determine truth about the supernatural, which isn’t subject to natural laws.
But there are many other types of evidence one needs to consider when investigating truth claims. In the biblical account of Jesus’ resurrection, for example, there are four main types of evidence presented: real evidence (tangible things, such as the empty tomb or Jesus appearance to Thomas); demonstrative evidence (a model of what likely happened at a given time and place such as the account of the resurrection repeated throughout the New Testament); documentary evidence (letters or other documents, such as the Gospel accounts or the letters to the churches); and testimonial evidence (witness testimony, such as we find written by or about the eyewitnesses to the resurrection in the Bible).
Skeptics often dismiss the Bible as valid evidence in their search for truth about religion. First, they might say that because it contains references to God and miracles, it must be biased and therefore untrustworthy. But isn’t such a skeptic the one who is really biased for refusing to even consider all the available evidence, especially pertaining to the question that just this sort of spiritual realm might be possible?
Second, they might say referencing the Bible is just circular reasoning, because they see the Bible as just one source of information about religion when in fact it is a whole dossier, a collection of literary works from dozens of authors from different geographic locations over a time period of several thousand years. It would, in fact, be a treasure trove of evidence and should be taken very seriously by anyone who would claim to take an intellectual approach toward considering its claims.
Luke, the historian, explained why he wrote his Gospel in the first paragraphs of the first chapter: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
Historically researched evidence is available to us in Luke’s gospel and the Book of Acts, also written by Luke, as well as the dozens of other primary-source documents of the Old and New Testaments. We can do better than just checking out the latest account of a near-death experience in our search for truth about God, spirituality, and eternal life.
Thanks, Quinn, for allowing me to record our conversation. It can be seen at https://youtu.be/7In0jr3UruY