Embraced by the Light. By Betty J. Eadie. Placerville, CA: Gold Leaf Press, 1992. 147 pp. Cloth, $16.95.
This book, subtitled on the dust cover “The Most Profound and Complete Near-Death Experience Ever,” has been widely read and was for several weeks the number-one best seller on the New York Times Bestseller List. The book details the story of Mrs. Eadie’s near-death experience after a hysterectomy in November 1973.
According to Mrs. Eadie she “died” and left her body behind in the hospital, traveled to her home and observed her family, journeyed with certain spiritual companions through a mystical tunnel, met and spoke with the Lord Jesus Christ, and visited among other places, a beatific garden, a heavenly workroom (filled with spirit beings and looms busily manufacturing clothing for new arrivals), and a library of the mind in which her “understanding was complete” (p. 76). Alas, just as she was settling in, a council of twelve men notified her that her death had been premature and that she must return to earth. Her first reaction to this surprise news was to throw a small temper tantrum, and she then “appealed” the decision to the Lord Jesus Himself, but after a brief negotiation, He was able to convince her return to her body in the hospital.
As exciting as the story might be to certain people, biblical thinkers will be concerned not only by the broad narrative itself, but also by the multitude of theological errors and heresies that the author relates as she tells her story. For example, Mrs. Eadie informs us that all humans preexist as “spirit beings” who choose for themselves when and where they will be born on planet earth! “Coming to earth is much like selecting a college and choosing a course of study” (p.98).
Further “insights” include the fact that Jesus is only “a God” (p.44) and while His love and kindness are discussed at length, there is absolutely no reference in the entire book to His atonement for sin on the cross. It is not surprising then that Mrs. Eadie affirms salvation by good works, or a better title in her case might be “salvation by niceness.”
The author does warn that some people “who die as atheists, or those who have bonded to the world through greed, bodily appetites, or other earthly commitments…become earth-bound. These spirits stay on the earth until they learn to accept the greater power around them and to let go of the world” (p.84). In another place she sums up a key lesson that she learned from her near-death experience, “We have no right to criticize any church or religion in any way. They are all precious and important in his sight” (p.46). Interestingly, she feels free to disregard this injunction, herself sharply criticizing her own religious experiences as a child in a Catholic boarding school (pp. 7-9).
This reviewer does believe that some near-death experiences are valid interactions with a spiritual interface ultimately leading to either heaven (for believers) or hell (for unbelievers). However near-death experiences, like all subjective human experiences in all spheres, must be evaluated and interpreted through the objective lens of biblical truth. Mrs. Eadie’s musings are certain to tickle the ears of many modern folk exhausted by the dogmatic materialistic pronouncements of the Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan crowd. Sad to say, this popular little book, while affirming a spiritual aspect to reality, including life after death, will only serve to mislead those who are searching for answers, but who do not look to Scripture as their ultimate standard.
For those interested in reading about the topic of near-death experiences from a valid biblical and scientific perspective, I highly recommend the book, Immortality by Drs. Gary Habermas and J.P. Moreland.
Tanglewood Bible Fellowship