The Descent Of Christ Into Hades (Seven)

It is written:

Test all things; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

So far in our study of the Descent, we have learned that there is an immortal part of mankind that survives death.

We will now turn our attention to study some of the ways that science has confirmed these facts of the Word of God.

Over the last several decades, several scientists (including a growing number of neurologists) have come forward with evidence that man has a ‘spiritual’ component that is separate and distinct from the physical body.

“There is far more to what Eccles has called The Wonder of Being Human: Our Brain & Our Mind than neural activity in the brain. During most of the last century, materialism was the dominant belief among physical scientists and even neurologists, a prejudice clearly expressed by Lord Adrian: “The final aim of brain research must be to bring behavior within the framework of the physical sciences.” 28 It is not honest science to insist that one’s experiments reach a predetermined result. Adrian was echoing the Manifesto already issued by Carl Ludwig, Emil du-Bois-Reymand, and Hermann von Halmholtz: “All the activities of living material, including consciousness, are ultimately to be explained in terms of physics and chemistry.” 29 Why this prejudiced and unscientific demand? Materialism is the atheist’s last fortress. If that must finally be surrendered, the materialist’s final hope is gone. That surrender to truth and reality could precipitate a burst of discovery and advancement. True science has far too long been hog-tied by the determination not to allow that “Divine Foot in the door.” 30 Atheism and materialism go hand-in-hand, supporting one another in their denial of God. Increasingly, however, toward the end of the last century, even leading physical scientists such as physicists, chemists, physiologists—and especially neurologists—began to see that materialism did not explain the data that was coming in. Inescapably, it all pointed to a nonphysical source of thought. Mind had to be distinct from brain. Chemical and electrical reactions in the brain could not explain the whole person. Eccles pointedly observed, “It is not at all clear how ‘natural selection’ has somehow selected for Bach’s ‘Partitas’ . . . or for a system of justice that will let a thousand guilty men go free lest one innocent man be constrained of his liberties.” After extensive interviews in Europe and America, philosophy-of-science professor John Gliedman wrote: Several leading theorists have arrived at the same startling conclusions: their work suggests a hidden spiritual world, within all of us. . . . From Berkeley to Paris and from London to Princeton, prominent scientists from fields as diverse as neurophysiology and quantum physics are coming out of the closet and admitting they believe in the possibility, at least, of such unscientific entities as the immortal human spirit and divine creation. 31 Materialistic science has nothing to say about the mind (except to deny its existence), which famed neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield described as “outside [and] independent of the brain.” 32 Penfield, during his lifetime known as “the greatest living Canadian,” taught for years at Montreal’s McGill University and the Royal Victoria hospital. Obviously, anything governing human behavior that is outside and independent of the brain must be nonphysical—a scientific conclusion confirmed by many experiments that rankles materialists. Sir John Eccles confirms, with his own research, Penfield’s conclusions. He describes the brain as a machine that a ghost can operate, by which he ordinarily means the human spirit.” (Dave Hunt, Cosmos, Creator and Human Destiny: Answering Darwin, Dawkins, and the New Atheists, 4345-4373 (Kindle Edition); Bend, Oregon; The Berean Call)

Writing of some of the discoveries of Penfield and others, Carter has noticed:

““Wilder Penfield started his career as a neurosurgeon trying to explain the mind in terms of physical processes in the brain. In the course of surgical treatment of patients who have temporal lobe seizures, Penfield stumbled upon the fact that electrical stimulation of certain areas of the cortex could activate a stream of memories that had been laid down years or even decades earlier. In fact, the patient would “relive” the earlier episode, recalling incidents in far greater detail than would be possible by voluntary recall, but during the flashback, the patient would remain completely aware of what was happening in the operating room….“On the basis of his experiments and examinations of patients with various forms of epilepsy, Penfield concluded that the mind interacts with the brain in the upper brain stem, an ancient structure that humans share with reptiles. Penfield, who won the Nobel Prize for his work, considers the rest of the brain to be a magnificent biological computer, programmed by the mind. He found that electrical stimulation of most parts of the brain resulted either in memories relived in vivid detail, involuntary movement of a part of the body, or paralysis of some function, such as speech. By contrast, injury to or epileptic discharge in the higher brain stem always simply resulted in loss of consciousness, leading Penfield to conclude, “Here is the meeting of mind and brain. The psychico-physical frontier is here.” Penfield thought that the brain as a computer could accomplish a great deal by automatic mechanisms, but that “what the mind does is different. It is not to be accounted for by any neuronal mechanism that I can discover….“In other words, Penfield argues that if the brain produced or generated consciousness, then we would expect that consciousness itself could be influenced by epilepsy or electrical stimulation in some way other than simply being switched off; that is, we would expect beliefs or decisions to be produced. The complete absence of any such effect in Penfield’s experience led him to reject the production hypothesis in favor of dualistic interaction….“A second prominent neuroscientist to endorse a dualistic model of mind-brain interaction was John Eccles, who found the conscious integration of visual experience impossible to account for in terms of known neurological processes because nerve impulses related to visual experience appear to be fragmented and sent to divergent areas of the brain. This difficulty led Eccles to postulate the existence of a conscious mind existing separate from and in addition to the physical brain, with the raison d’etre of the former being the integration of neural activity. In addition to noting that there is a unitary character about the experiences of the self-conscious mind despite the fragmentary nature of brain activity, Eccles also held that there can be a temporal discrepancy between neural events and conscious experiences* 10 and that there is a continual experience that the mind can act on brain events, which is most apparent in voluntary action or the attempt to recall a word or a memory. These considerations, combined with his lifelong study of the brain and its neurons, form the basis of his opinions on the mind-body relationship. Eccles hypothesizes that the mind may influence the brain by exerting spatio-temporal patterns of influence on the brain, which operates as a detector of these fields of influence….“Like Penfield and Eccles before him, Schwartz has also come to the conclusion that the mind is a separate entity from the brain, and that mental processes cannot be reduced to neurochemical brain processes but on the contrary direct them. Like Penfield and Eccles, he also thinks that a mind may conceivably exist without a brain. Since Edwards has not succeeded in showing that the possibility of survival is inconsistent with the facts of neurology, and since we have seen that three prominent neuroscientists do not share Edwards’ opinion that the transmission theory is “absurd,” we can now clearly see Edwards dismissal as what it is: dogmatic prejudice against an empirical possibility that does not coincide with his materialistic faith.*. (Chris Carter, Science And The Near-Death Experience: How Consciousness Survives Death, 668-776 (Kindle Edition); Rochester, Vermont; Inner Traditions)

One growing body of evidence that further corroborates these facts of Scripture and science comes from the phenomenon of near-death-experiences, in which many individuals who have clinically died have experienced incredible visions outside of their bodies (some of which have been confirmed in numerous ways).

“To understand how remarkable it is to have a conscious experience at a time of clinical death, it is helpful to understand that when the heart stops beating, blood immediately stops flowing to the brain. Approximately ten to twenty seconds after blood stops flowing to the brain, brain activity necessary for consciousness stops. Brain activity can be measured by an electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures brain electrical activity. When brain activity stops, the EEG readings go flat, indicating no measurable brain electrical activity. Medically, I can’t conceive of any meaningful experience that could occur near death. Aren’t people near death generally unconscious? Doesn’t the very term unconscious mean that there is no possibility of an organized conscious experience? Yet despite what should be a blank slate for NDErs, they describe highly lucid, organized, and real experiences. In fact, NDErs say they are usually experiencing a more heightened state of awareness than in everyday earthly life. This is medically inexplicable given that NDEs generally occur during unconsciousness. 2. NDErs may see and hear in the out-of-body (OBE) state, and what they perceive is nearly always real. An out-of-body experience (OBE) is the first element of the experience for many NDErs. During the OBE, many NDErs describe events that they shouldn’t be able to see, mainly because they are unconscious or because the events are taking place somewhere else, far away from their body. Events often include seeing their own unconscious body as well as frantic resuscitation efforts to revive them. These observations have been verified as realistic in hundreds of reports. 3. NDEs occur during general anesthesia when no form of consciousness should be taking place. While under general anesthesia, it should be impossible to have a lucid experience, let alone one of greater consciousness than everyday life. The NDERF survey has yielded dozens of NDEs that took place under general anesthesia….4. NDEs take place among those who are blind, and these NDEs often include visual experiences. Individuals totally blind from birth are completely unable to perceive the visual world that the rest of us do in everyday life. To those born blind, the ability to see is an abstract concept. They understand the world only from their senses of hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Their dreams do not include vision, although they may include other senses such as sound and touch. Vision cannot be adequately explained to a person blind from birth by drawing analogies to the four remaining senses they possess. Yet when a blind person has an NDE, the experience usually includes vision. 5. A life review during the NDE accurately reflects real events in the NDEr’s life, even if those events have been forgotten. A life review involves a review of prior events in the NDEr’s life….Any one of these lines of evidence on its own strongly suggests an afterlife. However, I consider the combination of these nine lines of evidence to be proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the existence of an afterlife. That is certainly a bold statement but one I am compelled to make after years of painstaking research.” (Jeffry Long, MD with Paul Perry, Evidence Of The Afterlife: The Science Of Near-Death Experiences, 46-51 (Kindle Edition); HarperCollins E-Books)

Famous author Dinesh D’Souza has written:

“Moreover, several people reported seeing things when they were clinically dead that seem impossible for them to have been aware of. One 11-year-old boy who suffered cardiac arrest and had no heartbeat told of an out-of-body experience in which he could see the doctors and nurses working on his body. After his recovery he accurately summarized the resuscitation procedures used on him, the colors and whereabouts of the instruments in the room, and even what the medical staff said to each other.13. Another remarkable case involved a Seattle woman who reported a near death experience following a heart attack. She told social worker Kimberly Clark that she had separated from her body and not only risen to the ceiling but floated outside the hospital altogether. Clark did not believe her, but a small detail the woman mentioned caught her attention. The woman said that she had been distracted by the presence of a shoe on the third floor ledge at the north end of the emergency room building. It was a tennis shoe with a worn patch and a lace stuck under the heel. The woman asked Clark to go find the shoe. Clark found this ridiculous because she knew the woman had been brought into the emergency room at night, when she could not possibly see what was outside the building, let alone on a third-floor ledge. Somewhat reluctantly, Clark agreed to check, and it was only after trying several different rooms, looking out several windows, and finally climbing out onto the ledge that she was able to find and retrieve the shoe.14. Some of the most sensational claims in NDE research involve blind people reporting out of body experiences in which they were able to see. These were first mentioned by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a pioneer in research on the stages of death. In her book On Death and Dying, Kubler-Ross told of patients who had been blind for at least ten years recounting near death experiences in which they could give detailed descriptions of their medical procedures and even identify the jewelry and colors of the clothing of people around them. Unfortunately Kubler-Ross offered no case studies, but in their book Mindsight, Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper cite more than twenty cases of blind patients who reported detailed near death perceptions “indistinguishable from those of sighted persons. 1115 In 1982 the Gallup organization published Adventures in Immortality, revealing that more than 15 percent of Americans reported having an “unusual experience” when they were on the “verge of death” or had a “close call” with death. Since these terms were somewhat ill-defined in the survey, this may be an exaggerated figure as it pertains to near death experiences. Even so, replies to Gallup’s specific questions show that millions of Americans report having undergone at least some aspects of the classic NDE. One might expect that as resuscitation technology and procedures continue to improve, more people will revive from the edge of death and report near death experiences. NDEs have now been studied in Europe and Asia and are acknowledged to be a global phenomenon. On the face of it, they provide strong support for life after death. Indeed, a 2005 survey of American doctors showed that 59 percent now believe in some form of afterlife, a much higher percentage than is found in other scientific professions. Possibly their encounter with patients who have had near death experiences is partly responsible for this. I doubt they learned it in medical school.16.” (Dinesh D’Souza, Life After Death: The Evidence, 63-65 (Kindle Edition); Washington, D.C.; Regnery Publishing)

It would do us well to consider the testimony of a world-renowned expert on these subjects, Eben Alexander III. Being a world-renowned neurosurgeon, he was intrigued by the mystery of consciousness. However, because he had been throughly school in materialism (i.e., the belief that “matter”is all that exists), Alexander had a difficult time believing in the existence of God.

In his own words:

“As much as I’d grown up wanting to believe in God and Heaven and an afterlife, my decades in the rigorous scientific world of academic neurosurgery had profoundly called into question how such things could exist….In fact, I would have loved to have enjoyed some of it myself. The older I got, however, the less likely that seemed. Like an ocean wearing away a beach, over the years my scientific worldview gently but steadily undermined my ability to believe in something larger. Science seemed to be providing a steady onslaught of evidence that pushed our significance in the universe ever closer to zero. Belief would have been nice. But science is not concerned with what would be nice. It’s concerned with what is.” (Eben Alexander III M.D., Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, 34-35 (Kindle Edition); New York, NY; Simon & Schuster)

Like many in our world, the good doctor had bought into the lie of materialism.

However, something changed his “mind.”

“On November 10, 2008, however, at age fifty-four, my luck seemed to run out. I was struck by a rare illness and thrown into a coma for seven days. During that time, my entire neocortex—the outer surface of the brain, the part that makes us human—was shut down. Inoperative. In essence, absent. When your brain is absent, you are absent, too. As a neurosurgeon, I’d heard many stories over the years of people who had strange experiences, usually after suffering cardiac arrest: stories of traveling to mysterious, wonderful landscapes; of talking to dead relatives—even of meeting God Himself. Wonderful stuff, no question. But all of it, in my opinion, was pure fantasy. What caused the otherworldly types of experiences that such people so often report? I didn’t claim to know, but I did know that they were brain-based. All of consciousness is. If you don’t have a working brain, you can’t be conscious. This is because the brain is the machine that produces consciousness in the first place. When the machine breaks down, consciousness stops. As vastly complicated and mysterious as the actual mechanics of brain processes are, in essence the matter is as simple as that. Pull the plug and the TV goes dead. The show is over, no matter how much you might have been enjoying it. Or so I would have told you before my own brain crashed. During my coma my brain wasn’t working improperly—it wasn’t working at all. I now believe that this might have been what was responsible for the depth and intensity of the near-death experience (NDE) that I myself underwent during it. Many of the NDEs reported happen when a person’s heart has shut down for a while. In those cases, the neocortex is temporarily inactivated, but generally not too damaged, provided that the flow of oxygenated blood is restored through cardiopulmonary resuscitation or reactivation of cardiac function within four minutes or so. But in my case, the neocortex was out of the picture. I was encountering the reality of a world of consciousness that existed completely free of the limitations of my physical brain. Mine was in some ways a perfect storm of near-death experiences. As a practicing neurosurgeon with decades of research and hands-on work in the operating room behind me, I was in a better-than-average position to judge not only the reality but also the implications of what happened to me. Those implications are tremendous beyond description. My experience showed me that the death of the body and the brain are not the end of consciousness, that human experience continues beyond the grave. More important, it continues under the gaze of a God who loves and cares about each one of us and about where the universe itself and all the beings within it are ultimately going.” (Eben Alexander III M.D., Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, 8-9 (Kindle Edition); New York, NY; Simon & Schuster)

These evidences could easily be multiplied.

However, this is sufficient to demonstrate that science has confirmed the teachings of the Bible regarding the existence of the human soul.

In our next studies, we will turn our attention to the teaching of God’s Word regarding the existence of Sheol-the world of departed spirits.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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