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To Heaven & Back

Author: Mary C Neal MD
Published By: Waterbrook Press (Colorado Springs)
Pages: 222
Price: £9.99
ISBN: 978 1 78078 051 1

Reviewed by Philip Joy.

Mary C Neal is an orthopaedic surgeon who had a near-death experience. In 1999 in Chile, she was drowned in her Kayak, was resuscitated by her family and helped through the impenetrable jungle to medical treatment assisted by some unknown Chileans who ‘materialized’ and then miraculously disappeared when they reached the roadside – angels! This outward series of events was accompanied by her inner experience of peace when dying, being met by those she identifies as saints welcoming her to glory, journeying to the brink of a radiant hall filled with light, and her intense disappointment at being told she had to return to her body.

The fact that this author is a doctor seems to lend her story credibility, and to doubt it seems like being a spiritual party-pooper! Nevertheless, does this story pass the test? Is her tale a ‘christianized’ version of the familiar tunnel experience or is it an uplifting and true account of what awaits us all? I feel I can only really be sure of the witnessed outward bits. Though I’d like to believe the rest, the theology doesn’t quite match up and she didn’t really die for very long, compared with, say, Lazarus. Besides, of those who did – Lazarus, Dorcas, Jesus himself: they don’t return with stories about what it’s like for them: as if that were not the chief point.

And so a spiritual health-warning is necessary and far more important than whether this tale is true or not. Faith in life after death is not meant to be built on near-death experiences, even of the saints: but on the real death and resurrection of Jesus. Read wisely, and by all means be uplifted by this one – but reserve your full trust for the resurrection accounts.

Philip Joy

Specialist in Old Testament narrative and typology

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You are reading Issue 58 of Ministry Today, published in August 2013.

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