Sunday, June 10, 2012
Book Review - To Heaven and Back
An Angel of Light Book review of To Heaven and Back, by Mary Neal, MD I remember several years ago when my family and I took a summer trip to the Grand Canyon. The mountains were the tallest I’d ever seen, and the remoteness of the area made us feel like pioneers blazing a trail where no one had ever gone before. And then there was the time we went to see Niagara Falls. There was an abundance of cactus covering the landscape, and the scorpions and coyotes were things to be feared. How much more would I need to write before you, the reader, would question my experiences, and eventually discard what I’ve written as worthless? There are no mountains at the Grand Canyon, nor cacti, nor desert creatures that live near Niagara Falls. You would know that my narrative doesn’t match up with the reality of those places. You’ve probably seen pictures, read about, or possibly even seen them firsthand. My statements are easily disputable by anyone who knows the truth. The same is true regarding Dr. Neal’s description of her death experience. We have Scripture to teach us about Heaven, including the eyewitness experience of John, who was given an extensive glimpse into Heaven and wrote about it in the book of the Revelation. The apostle Paul also wrote about his experience when he was “caught up to the third heaven” in 2 Corinthians chapter twelve. Interestingly, after Paul’s experience, he did not feel compelled to write a best seller, but rather realized that his experience could cause him to become boastful, so God gave him a thorn in his flesh to keep him humble. In this day of religion and spirituality, there are many who claim to have had near death experiences. They describe seeing their loved ones, angels, gardens, etc. The thing I find to be most curious, is that the focus of those experiences is never on Jesus. Paul says that to be “absent from the body” is to be “present with the Lord’. Based on his statements about Heaven, combined with the totality of Scripture, I believe that Heaven is Heaven because Jesus is there. We’ve become so focused on our “Mansion just over the hilltop” that we’ve lost the real treasure of Heaven – Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who left His throne in glory to take on the form of man, humble Himself in obedience to His Father and die on a cross to ransom His people from the certainty of spending eternity apart from God. These are the statements that are sorely lacking in a book about Heaven. I have no doubt that Dr. Neal nearly lost her life during her kayaking trip in Chile. I have no doubt that it took a miracle for her to survive oxygen deprivation, shock and injury during the arduous trek back to civilization, and ultimately back to her home. Those circumstances were real, verifiable and overwhelming. My knowledge of Scripture, however, has taught me that our minds and our hearts are easily deceived. To quote the apostle Paul once again, “…even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Cor 11:14). Why would Satan give a woman an experience that she attributes to God and Heaven? Maybe you should chew on that question yourself for a bit! Other statements made throughout the book made me question the “god” of Dr. Neal’s experience. For example: “Thankfully, God is patient and God is faithful. He sits in the back seat just waiting for our invitation to move up to the front so that He can steer and press the pedals. If we give Him the car keys, He will take us on an unbelievable ride.” (p 25) That is not the God of the Bible. The true God “changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; He reveals deep and hidden things;” (Dan 2:21). He “shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb…’ He “commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place…” (Job 38). He “knows when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from afar…Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay Your hand upon me.” (Ps 139) Ours is not some wimpy God hoping that we’ll give Him the keys and let Him drive a while! “’It was a good example of how easily things come together when one is moving in the direction of God’s will. It has taken many years to truly learn that when everything seems difficult and feels as though you are swimming upstream, it is usually because you are not following the direction of God’s will. When you are doing God’s will, everything seems to happen without much effort or many obstacles.” (p 12) Perhaps you can think of a few Biblical folks who might disagree with that idea. A few that jump into my mind are Moses, Joseph, Paul, and Jesus. They were right smack in the middle of doing God’s will, and they were pursued by an army, sold into slavery and unjustly imprisoned, stoned and crucified respectively. It’s a good thing they didn’t use her qualifications for reassuring themselves that they were doing God’s will! Speaking of her son, Dr. Neal wrote, “Given his very young age, I believe he still remembered God’s world, which seemed to give him an understanding of the spiritual aspect of my experience and what I was going through.” (p 114). Dr. Neal mentions this idea a few other times in her book. In other words, all of us are eternal beings whose lives began in Heaven, until we were to be born as fleshly beings. This is an unbiblical teaching that is embraced by Mormons, and other cults. My review of this book is lengthy. I could go on, but I am hopeful that what I have written will serve as a warning to those considering reading this book. I do not believe it has any basis in truth, apart from the description of her accident. Perhaps her visions were dreams, or notions sent to her from Satan to deceive the masses. I take comfort in the knowledge that Jesus “is able to keep you from stumbling…” (Jude 24). Don’t be deceived. If you want to know about Heaven, read about it in the Book written by the One who made the Heavens and the earth, because “Every word of God proves true.” (Proverbs 30:5) I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah for the purpose of this review. Obviously, I was not required to write a positive recommendation of this book.