Yesterday, I reviewed a new book about paranormal phenomena. In that book, the author cites research to the effect that about half the population of individuals who have experienced bereavement think they've had some sort of contact with the dead. Only a somewhat small percentage, but in the double digits, have had an experience involving something like seeing a deceased individual or hearing his voice. More cases involve a sensed presence, such as an impression that the deceased person is nearby or has touched your body. Whatever form the experience takes, many people think it's happened to them. Of the people listening to a sermon in your church next Sunday, probably at least a large minority of them have had that sort of experience. And people frequently encounter information on near-death experiences and other paranormal phenomena while watching television, in movies, in books, on web sites, in classrooms, and in a lot of other contexts. Even in conservative Evangelical churches, the Bible isn't all that's shaping people's views about the afterlife and related issues.
Christians need to be more careful in thinking through what the Bible teaches about these subjects, and they need to become more informed about paranormal phenomena. Many of your relatives, friends, and co-workers, as well as individuals in your church, have had such experiences or have heard about them. That's part of the reason why so many people believe in reincarnation or reject Christian exclusivism, for example. It's not just a matter of people believing what they want to believe. Often, they think paranormal experiences offer evidence for such beliefs. The Christian response needs to involve more than citing the Bible in support of your conclusions, especially if the Bible doesn't actually teach what you claim it does. A lot of people ought to be spending less time on things like watching trivial television programs, following sports, and doing unnecessary housework and more time reading books and doing other research.