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Mortal claptrap

Docuseries Surviving Death solicits evidence for the afterlife from shady sources


Mortal claptrap
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Is there more to life than we perceive? When brain function ceases, does an individual continue to exist? The new Netflix docuseries Surviving Death searches for answers in testimony provided by survivors of near-death experiences along with mediums, paranormal investigators, purportedly reincarnated folks, and sympathetic academics. Nice bunch! The world’s best-selling book has a thing or two to say about death and the afterlife, but Surviving Death (rated TV-MA for language) dumbs down Christianity in the two brief moments it comes up.

Should Christian believers tune in? Caution is warranted: Two episodes exploring spiritism could entice a curious mind to dabble. A mature Christian, however, might gain insight into resurgent New Age trends. According to the Pew Research Center, belief in reincarnation among Americans jumped from 24 percent in 2009 to 33 percent in 2017. The New York Times reported the “psychic services industry” (credit card readers?) does more than $2 billion in business annually.

The first episode of Surviving Death contains the least amount of doctrinally unsound material. Several near-death experience (NDE) survivors share memories that occurred while they were clinically dead. Mary Neal, a spinal surgeon, drowned in a kayak accident but was revived after 30 minutes. She says “beings” told her she had more work to do. A woman who flatlined during a cesarean section claims she watched the procedure from above and saw the spirit of her deceased grandmother. A University of Cambridge neuropsychiatrist claims “millions” of people globally have had NDEs and reported a remarkably consistent set of phenomena.

Sadly, these survivors and researchers seem content with spurious and vacuous assurances. One man says his NDE “truly healed my spirit.” A physician says, “My medical mind turns more to a spiritual place.” None mention turning to Scripture.

Episodes 2 and 3 focus on prominent mediums and a medium training retreat in the Netherlands. The Bible doesn’t deny mediums have a degree of power, but it warns that consulting them “defiles” a person.

An episode on reincarnation begins in Indiana, not India. A 5-year-old boy uses a murdered toddler’s name for himself and identifies the victim’s mother as his own. A young Oklahoma boy knows personal details about a Hollywood agent who died in 1964. Parents and investigators conclude the children lived past lives.

Many of the claims cannot be verified. But even if the interviewees are sincere, they and viewers should heed the Apostle Paul’s admonition: “In later times some will … [devote] themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). Anyone who wants to survive death for good will find the answer only in the Bible.

Bob Brown

Bob is a movie reviewer for WORLD. He is a World Journalism Institute graduate and works as a math professor. Bob resides with his wife, Lisa, and five kids in Bel Air, Md.



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