J. Steve Miller has taught audiences from Atlanta to Moscow. He’s known for drawing practical wisdom from serious research and communicating it in accessible, unforgettable ways. He's happily married to his wife, Cherie, and they have seven sons.
"For some time we've needed a well-researched, compelling introduction to this exciting field that focuses on the evidence. Miller delivers!” - Jeffrey Long, MD, best-selling author of Evidence of the Afterlife.
Welcome back to my blog, Steve! We have talked about your books called Publish a Book, Sell More Books, and Enjoy Your Money. Now we have a very interesting subject to talk about today. Please tell us about your new book, Near-Death Experiences as Evidence for the Existence of God and Heaven.
With the publication of Heaven is for Real and Harvard Neurologist Eben Alexander's Proof of Heaven (both best sellers), near-death experiences (NDEs) have become a hot topic. But readers like myself, with a skeptical bent, look at those personal experience books and ask, "But how can I know for sure they're telling the truth? Don't I just have to trust their stories?" In that sense, their out-of-body experiences were proof of heaven for them, but perhaps not for skeptical readers.
So I wanted to get beyond the personal stories that people write about in their books, since atheists might suspect that they were just making things up to make money. I needed something more substantial to believe that these people were really going to the other side and back.
So I decided to study the professional research that's been done on near-death experiences over the past 35 years. Most people don't know that over 900 articles on NDEs have been published in professional journals such as Psychiatry, The Lancet, and Neurology. Over the past 35 years, over 55 researchers or teams have published at least 65 studies of over 3500 NDEs.
Rather than bore readers with academic details, I wrote in a popular fashion and relegated the more technical stuff to appendixes and endnotes, so that people might actually read it. It must have worked, because it's selling great!
Where did you get your inspiration?
I've always been a questioner, a doubter - sort of a doubting Thomas who required evidence to believe. So I've always been interested in evidence for the Christian faith. My course selections in college and graduate school read like a God search. But I never took NDE's seriously as evidence for heaven, since I assumed it consisted of personal stories with no corroborating evidence. But a relative sent me a copy of Heaven is for Real and wanted my input. I reluctantly read it, decided that the evidence presented wasn't very strong, but discovered that academics and medical professionals had been studying NDEs in clinical settings for decades. I just had to find out what they'd discovered.
What kind of research did you do for this book and can you tell us about one “Near Death” experience from your book?
I started by reading Raymond Moody's seminal study from 1975, Life After Life. Before this book, hardly anyone knew of the experiences, so you couldn't attribute the experiences to their prior expectations. In fact, their experiences were typically not what they were expecting at all of the afterlife.
After Moody, I began to read more recent studies, especially those that included reviews of all the other literature since Moody. I kept thinking as I read, "Surely somebody will come up with a natural explanation that's compelling!" But they never did. In fact, many facts of the experience don't seem compatible with naturalism at all. People report viewing their surgeries while they're brains are unconscious. Those born blind report seeing. Those who were born deaf report hearing. It's the wildest thing I've ever studied!
I also began to ask relatives and trusted friends if they knew of trustworthy people who'd experienced NDEs, so that I could interview them. After all, surveys found four percent of both Germans and Americans reporting that they'd experienced one. I was amazed to find plenty of people to interview within my own circles of trust.
I interviewed a staff member at my church - a bright, successful man in his 60's. He hardly ever talked to people about his experience, since he considered it quite private. But he sat across from a table telling me, at first with tears, about this powerful, life-altering experience that he described as "more real than sitting across from you talking to you right now. Nobody could ever convince me that it wasn't real." He was extremely ill in the hospital during his experience, which consisted of talking to three heavenly creatures about whether or not it was his time to die.
In my lifetime, I've studied many arguments for the existence of God, but this one is especially convincing and life changing. It's certainly helped my faith and shaped my priorities!
Thank you, Steve, for being a guest on my blog once again. It’s always a pleasure talking with you.