Scientific Investigation of the “Dark Side”
It would seem from modern NDE accounts like some of those mentioned above; Jesus is still rescuing people from hell (Vincent, 2003). There is also an interesting 18th Century autobiographical NDE account by Dr. George deBenneville who died of a “consumption-like” illness and revived at his wake 42 hours later Vincent & Morgan, 2006). He told of seeing angels rescuing people from hell, after they had repented.
As in the Buddhist DBV above, the Amida Buddha stands ready to save any human who finds him or herself in hell if they call out to him as few as ten times (Nigosian, 2000, p.89). It should be noted that in all of the Eastern religions, hell is not permanent but is a method for instruction. In the West, this was the view of the Christian church for its first 500 years but has become a minority view since that time (Hanson, 1899/2007, p. 139-141). In Islam, there are a few references in the Hadith to the view that hell is not permanent, but this view is held by only a few of the Sufis (Vincent, 2005, p. 12).
Only 150 years ago, scientific research into STEs began. The scientific methods used to do this research are the same as those used to research any other social or biomedical phenomena. We now know that, like positive STEs, negative STEs are widespread, that they occur in people who are normal and not mentally ill, and that they change people’s lives for the better. While it may be too early to reach any final theological conclusions from this data, it would appear that there is a universal underpinning to the religions of the world, that humans are accountable for their actions, and that nothing good is ever lost.
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Dr. Ken R. Vincent is the author of The Golden Thread: God’s Promise of Universal Salvation.