Interesting view linking universalism with near death epxs


I found this really intrteresting link relating near death experiences and universal salvation. I know some people are wary of experiences and some can be deceptive or subjective and yes, this guy is a unitarian etc but dont disregard his views just because of that. One wrong view does not negate the other views held by an individual. I havent explored the site yet or read any of his books because Ive only just discovered it so I dont know what its like. I just thought it looked interesting.


I have the book ‘The Golden Thread’ by that guy but found it a bit lightweight compared to the 2 authors featured on this site. That’s not to say there aren’t some good things in there.


It’s certainly an interesting article, though a bit sloppy in some regards.

As (an admittedly minor) first example: I am not aware of any scholar, no matter how conservative, who considers 1 Cor 15: 5-8 to be a “first-hand” account of the Resurrection of Jesus in any sense. Even William Lane Craig, who, bless his heart, went so far in a recent debate as to claim that the kerygma is independent testimony to both Joseph of Arimethea and the women at the tomb! On the other hand, while I’m not sure how conservative Harpur and Hick are, Funk and the JesSem are radically off base on a number of regards anyway, so just about anything claimed of or by them wouldn’t surprise me. :wink:

1 Cor 15:8 is a claim of first-hand experience; but it isn’t a first-hand account. (One of Paul’s narrative testimonies in Acts would be a first-hand account, if Paul had written Acts. And then not to the Res per se but to the already-resurrected Jesus.) The other (actually kerygmatic) elements in verses 5-7, important though they are in other regards, are neither first-hand nor accounts; and are about appearances of the resurrected Jesus, not eyewitness claims about the Resurrection itself.

Also, I think it’s unfortunate that Dr. Vincent can enumerate scads of verses from the NT alone tending toward universal reconciliation; but thinks there are only two verses in the whole Bible from which (tenuously!) trinitarianism might be inferred. While it’s true that one wrong view doesn’t necessarily negate other views held by the same person, the statement tends to demonstrate a strong ideological unfamiliarity with the content of the scriptures (including the NT), so to speak. Not the best thing to be contrasting to a putative knowledge about the content of the scriptures in other regards.

Admittedly, there are people who are aware of hundreds of pieces of OT and NT data from which to infer trinitarianism (including quite a few more places in the NT where all three Persons are mentioned at once than Dr. Vincent is aware of), but who know little to nothing about the vast evidence toward hope of salvation of all souls from sin. But those people will read his statement and instantly evaluate his competency at scriptural analysis and/or overwhelming ideological commitment from it; and then go into the rest of the article sure that the pieces he mentions are being taken out of context or whatever. The fact that he barely touches the verses that seem to indicate hopeless continuing punishment (much less verses seeming to indicate annihilation of sinners) won’t help with this impression, either.

Plus, there seems to be an odd conflation of mystical incidents in the Bible as though they are supposed to be Near-Death Experiences themselves. St. Paul on the road to Damascus, for example, is stated in the article as having had an NDE; but there is rarely (if anything) in the OT or the NT about NDEs per se: there are some pretty important details lacking!

This shouldn’t obscure the interesting similarities between mystical experiences and NDEs. But it almost seems as though the author wants so much to legitimize the NDE experiences that he’s willing to paint the non-NDE experiences in scripture (and other ancient texts?) as NDEs.

Relatedly, while I haven’t researched NDEs as much as he has, I do hear things–and ECT proponents have quite a few NDE reports where the person understood hell to be a threat of hopeless punishment being really inflicted on those souls over there (if not on him-or-herself). The extreme subjectivity of NDEs is kind of glossed over in this article, which leaves the impression of conveniently cherry-picking cases.

Aside from those things, it was a pretty good article. :slight_smile: (And interesting anyway!–thanks for sharing it! {bow!})


I had a look at it after I posted this and while it isnt perfect, I was more interested in the NDE accounts. It does seem that they can be very subjective but then you do get some which help you understand the bible. For example, the bible seems to say that it isnt beliefs that matter but our hearts. I.e. the verse in Romans about pagans being justified because they followed their conscience. When you get an account where an athiest is saved from the clutches of hell by Jesus and then meets angels who tell him that the bible is true, Im more inclined to believe it since it cannot be a mere reflection if his beliefs.


A few years ago I had a helpful email dialogue with Ken Vincent, and he got me interested in NDEs, which I am convinced are usually (though not always) “real” (as opposed to hallucinations). (And there is also the consideration that, even in a “real NDE”, a person may still encounter products of his/her own imagination because consciousness is said to have a powerful creative effect in that “realm”)

I recommend P.M.H. Atwater’s work, especially her “Complete Idiot’s Guide to NDEs”. She summarizes information from literally thousands of NDEs. The vast majority of “hellish” NDEs are actually remedial - i.e. for the benefit of the person experiencing them, and a person’s beliefs have nothing to do with whether one experiences hell. Atheists and Christians alike experience a warm and embracing God, while atheists and christians alike also experience hell.

  • Pat


wow thanks Pat! I was trying to figure out how people can have experiences which do not fit with the bible without assuming that nearly all of them are demonic deceptions (which some christians believe). I like to think that God is in charge of the universe-not the dark ones!I know how creative the mind can be when people have out of body experiences but I wasnt so sure that it could affect near death ones. It also helps to explain why some prophetic visions are a bit off sometimes!
That is a very encouraging reply! To that I will add this:

*Rommer (2000) speculated a fourth type (of negative NDE), the rarest of all, in which the NDEr feels negatively judged by a Higher Power during their NDE life review in which, typically, the experiencer re-views and re-experiences every moment of their life. This latter type of distressing NDE contrasts sharply with the life review that sometimes occurs in a pleasurable NDE. In the predominantly pleasurable experience, the NDEr feels absolutely loved even as they re-view and re-experience the most unloving actions they committed during their lives. During this process, the NDEr typically is simultaneously themself and each person with whom they interacted. Thus, in the pleasurable NDE, the NDEr experiences what it was to have been on the receiving end of their actions and, typically, experiences profound regret and/or guilt, but within a larger context of being unconditionally loved. In the distressing NDE, by contrast, the NDEr only feels negatively judged. *

Now, which one sounds more like the Jesus you know and love? God never makes me feel guilty, he only makes me feel true remorse from which I can move one. As we all know, guilt is from the dark side and the devil, not God.


If the atheist did so after growing up in a strong Hindu culture with no exposure to Christian influence, that would be even more impressive. (Which I seem to recall a couple of cases of happening. Missionaries sometimes come back with stories of that sort; I mean from areas where there has been no known Christian influence, but somehow they’re alerted ahead of time to be on the watch for arrival of missionaries.)

I’m quite a believer in the idea that God works with people according to concepts they’re already familiar with; and I have no problem believing it happens with NDEs, in principle. But in practice there just seems to be a lot of… looseness.

For example:

Yes, and I mentioned that myself previously. “quite a few NDE reports where the person understood hell to be a threat of hopeless punishment being really inflicted on those souls over there (if not on him-or-herself).” Obviously the experience is remedial, practically by definition, for the one who comes back. (Whether they accept the remediation is another thing. :wink: ) But from experience I hear of people being told, or getting the idea, while they’re having their experience, that hell is not a remedial experience for those poor guys over there who are being tortured.

My question then would be: does Atwater’s study (for example) classify hell experiences in regard to what is felt (or is told) is happening about those other souls over there?–not the one who comes back. And if so, what are the results?

(I’m not presupposing an answer either way; I just am curious about the answer and I figure you have access to the books you recommended. :slight_smile: Obviously in my tradition one wouldn’t hear about NDEs featuring other souls in hell that left an impression of remediation for other souls in hell. My curiosity is whether this is typical, or is a slanted report, and if so by what degree?)


Well Im no expert but it is important to distinguish a persons interpretation of an experience and that which is actually told them by a being while they are having the experience. A lot of them feel like it is hopeless but I havent come across one where they are actually told that this is the case. Andy why would God show more mercy to the NDEr that the others who are there already? i.e. why would he only show it to some (who were equally deserving) but not give others this chance.
The idea of people being rescued does seem to fit with the idea of Jesus preaching to the spirits of the dead. They never repented while they were alive but Jesus never gave up on them!


I read a review of it and it said something about the light not always being God. What was this all about? I know someone once said that they thought that NDE’s where non chrstians saw light were just a deception of the devil so that they would be complacent about hell.
I SO do not want this t be true! I want the loving being of light that so many people see to really be the real Jesus, not a fake one. But then if the NDEs are fake then you cant say that the hellish ones are real either.


Hey Jason, I will give you a more detailed answer later on when I have a chance to go through Atwater’s work again (and when I’m finished being exhausted from work), but here are some comments in the meantime.

The vast majority of “hell” experiences do not involve “threats of hopeless punishment”, and I’m a bit suspicious of reports to the contrary. For one, they are much less likely than reports of a rehabilitative hell. But I also question the actual “death” part of NDE cases where people report hopeless punishment. I’ve seen many cases where people who were not clinically dead had “NDEs” where they received threats of endless punishment. But I am talking about actual clinical brain death. The majority of those NDEs are highly positive, and the majority of the negative experiences (the “hell” experiences) in those NDEs are remedial** for the person in hell. **

The majority of “hellish” NDEs indicate that hell is good* for the person experiencing it.*

I’m not aware of credible research showing that kind of hell experience in people that experienced clinical brain death. I also suspect that many of the “endless torture” reports are hoaxes. I suspect that many people lie “for the greater good” - in the hope of “saving” other people. But either way, the “endless torture chamber” view of hell is not supported by the bulk of actual NDE reports (by “actual” I mean people whose brains have clinically died).

Both. I don’t have her work in front me right now, and I’m super exhausted from work, but I will go through her work for you later on. **Many (though not all) of the “hell” experiences involve people experiencing the pain that they caused others, which then teaches them valuable lessons. **

gotta run because I’m sleepy

  • Pat


I was thinking it over and I think that experiences that scare people into ‘trying to be good’ arent genuinely from God. It is clear from the bible that the christian ife s all about being in love with God. If someone comes back from the brink in love with God then I think its genuine. Ive tried it and being scared of hell does not make me act any differently no matter how hard I try. Being connected to God by regular drinking of the Holy Spirit makes me a better person.


That’s a very interesting qualifier!–although I’ll be curious about the actual statistical spread, too, when you can report it.

To recap: the stat I’m looking for (among people whose brains have clinically died I guess), is: when their experience involves a perception of other souls in hell, what mystical impression or outright information do they have about them? No impression / hopeless impression / hopeful impression? (I suppose those would be the three basic options for classification.)