Format: Trade Paperback
Religion - Christian Life
To Heaven and Back by Mary C. Neal, MD is the account of the author’s near death experience. While on a kayaking trip in South America, the author, an orthopedic surgeon, became pinned underwater in her kayak under a waterfall. She was pinned underwater for more than 15 minutes and during this time experienced an out of body experience where she was ushered to heaven and then back again. The book details this experience and how it has affected her life since that time.
I was very excited to read this book. I have read several other books on this subject and was anxious to see how this book might compare. Being a physician myself, I was interested to hear how a physician would interpret these events. I was ultimately disappointed. The title implies that the book is about Heaven but there is actually very little on this subject in the book. The author did have an out of body experience but did not actually enter Heaven. The Fox News interview with this author had prompted me to be interested in reading this book. Unfortunately, the author shared all she had to share on the subject of Heaven in the interview. The book is not so much a book on Heaven as it is the biography of the author’s life and a detailing of how this supernatural experience of God affected her.
As a biography, I found her story compelling. The book engages quickly and it can be read in a short time. While the story of her life did engage me I found myself more and more unsettled by it. I do not question the experience that she had but we are called to be discerning and our main tool for discernment is the Bible. There are many conclusions which the author states which I do not feel are Biblical. During her out of body experience, she approached a bright hall which she states is the place where we are given one final chance to choose for or against God. While I believe God is sovereign and we may not have all the answers, the Bible is pretty clear that we will be judged based on what we believe and how we live our life here on earth and there is nothing to suggest that we will be given a chance to change our mind once we die. This belief that we will be given this last chance is seen in her deep desire to encourage people who are dying with her knowledge of Heaven without mention of the path to salvation: belief in the atoning work of Jesus Christ. In fact, in one place she recounts the experiences of the wife of a former patient. This woman and her husband were devout members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints. The woman had “conversed” with her dead husband who recounted to her the details of the author’s accident and indicated that he had been one of the spiritual beings who had helped the day of the accident. While only God knows the heart, this recounting suggests that there is more than one way to Heaven.
The author actually shares several encounters that she has had with God, relating experiences both before and after this drowning incident. She describes how she feels that each of these encounters helped to prepare for what came later. She describes several incidents which occurred immediately after the accident where she found herself in a different place conversing with a spiritual being. During these times she feels that she was given answers to some of the big questions of life. Many of the conclusions that she made from these encounters were not Biblical. For example, in several places in the book she states that each individual’s soul pre-exists its time on earth and even suggests that we “plan out” our time on earth prior to our being born. She also states that children retain a “memory” of this time in Heaven which makes them more open to Heavenly things. I do not find any Biblical support for this line of thinking. These are just a few of the things that made me uncomfortable with this book.
I cannot recommend this book. I think that much of what is presented is miss-leading and confusing at best and non-biblical at worst. There are better books available which recount experiences individuals have had in near death situations where they have gone to Heaven before returning to earth.
I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review.
Juvenile Fiction - Religious - Christian - Fantasy
Fiction - Christian - General