Deceived by the Light. By Doug Groothuis. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1995. 203 pp. Paper $8.99.
This excellent book is both a detailed biblical response to the popular (but sadly heretical) bestsellerEmbraced by the Light by Betty Eadie, and a synthetic analysis of “Near-Death Experiences” (NDEs) generally. In a review published in the Autumn 1994 issue of JOTGES, I briefly evaluated Mrs. Eadie’s manifesto. In Deceived by the Light, Dr. Doug Groothuis, Assistant Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Denver Seminary, interacts in detail with Mrs. Eadie’s widely read description of her NDE. Groothuis demonstrates that not only does her story contradict itself, but more importantly it contradicts many key biblical truths.
However, don’t be misled by the title. Although this book begins with and thoroughly interacts with Mrs. Eadie’s book, Deceived by the Light is much more than just a response to her Embraced by the Light. Dr. Groothuis displays an impressive amount of research and reflection on much of the standard literature on Near-Death Experiences in a readable form that will benefit anyone interested in this fascinating subject. Groothuis synthesizes the writings of NDE pioneers such as Raymond Moody, Kenneth Ring, Michael Saboom, Melvin Morse, and Susan Blackmore, among others. The reader is thus exposed to a huge amount of primary material, and herein lies a large part of the value of this worthwhile book.
The book consists of ten chapters (including “Betty and the Light,” “What Happens in a Near-Death Experience?”, and “The Bible and the Near-Death Experience”). The Appendix, “Is It All in the Brain?” refutes the major arguments that seek to explain away the transcendental reality of all NDEs by means of physiological or pharmacological mechanisms.
Dr. Groothuis’s final conclusion is that it would be unwise to build a theology of life after death based exclusively on the subjective and sometimes contradictory data of NDEs. However he does believe that some NDEs are in fact valid experiences of a spiritual interface between life and death. But his basic premise, that all members of the Grace Evangelical Society will strongly appreciate, is that NDEs, like all subjective experiences, must be evaluated by the objective, ultimate lens of the Scriptures.
Although the book lacks a Scripture index, its value is enhanced by an excellent annotated bibliography and endnotes.
Tanglewood Bible Fellowship