To Heaven and Back: A Doctor's Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story byMary C. Neal is a new book in the newly popular genre of "Christian" near death experience autobiographies. The market is becoming saturated with near death experience based stories that describe heaven and the afterlife in great detail. It is no wonder- mankind has always had an interest in the spiritual world and afterlife. People are made to experience eternity and we have questions of course, about heaven, and God. The thing is, that the answers are to be found in the bible, and I am very cautious of any private revelation that pruports to have visions or answers of the afterlife.
The author, Dr. Mary C. Neal, an orthopedic surgeon, experiences a traumatic kayak accident during a South American trip. Allegedly she drowns- and dies and finds herself experiencing heaven and actually communicates with angels. The story chronicles her life as well as her spiritual journey and her detailed and vivid account of heaven. There is an extraordinary amount of detail of the author's life prior to the accident. I believe that the detail of her life and medical practice is an attempt to increase her credibility. At times, the extent of personal background seems to be similar to a resume or dissertation as i feel the inclusion of the material is to add confidence in the sanity of the author so as to make the story more legitimate. Needless to say, her personal experience impacts her awareness and her spiritual understanding. Yet, this book may simply leave the reader with an unfulfilled desire to have a similar experience as if that is needed to validate a Christian faith.
This book reminds me of the recently published Heaven is for Real account by pastor Todd Burpo which also claims to be an account of a true story. A pastor, writes the account of his son's trip to heaven, that happened during the emergency surgery of his 4 year old son near death experience. While alleged near death experiences are somewhat common, based on the media attention in documentaries, articles and even books, what makes these stories unique is the fact that they come from credible members of society: medical doctors, or pastors- who are generally respected.
Even though this story is easy to read and easy to follow, it raises spiritually complex issues such as the issue of the legitimacy of private visions apart from revealed scripture. While it is true that some NDE can be ruled out as the side effects of a dying or injured brain, not all can be scientifically ruled out. Some perhaps might be supernatural in nature. Nevertheless that does not mean they should automatically be accepted as biblical in nature or truth. I must admit I am skeptical when it comes to believing modern day visions and NDE. For example, there are so many alleged apparitions of Mary in the Catholic church, that I believe most to be hoaxes, and in other cases, demonic in nature. Once the reader decides to accept the author's word that this story is legit, it is up to the reader to discern the source or supernatural power behind the NDE. This is where most readers will most likely accept with blind faith that this is a true account and that it is based on biblical truth. This is because most people want to believe this heartwarming and comforting message is true.
Any responsible reader familiar with the bible will be aware that he or she is faced with the task of determining if the experience of the author is spiritually based on truth, or if it perhaps is an indirect attempt of Satan to mislead believers into accepting false information. Paul warned in the letters of the new testement, especially in the book of Galations, that even Satan, and evil spirits can appear as angels of light, deceiving many. That possibility must be acknowledged by anyone who reads this book. While Paul acknowledged the possibility of personal visions in the ancient church, he himself did not place on any believer the burden of accepting any other private vision other than the message containe din the gospel. As far as the details- knowledge could be obtained from evil sources for the purpose of adding "authenticity" and misleading believers into believeing the other aspects of the visions shared. The evil spirits are known for mixing truth with falsehood. We are in a spiritual battle, and nothing is off limits as far as the evil spirits of this world are concerned. they will try all sorts oftricky and decieving deceptions. They will try any underhanded tactic even going so far as using a respected medical doctor, and beloved mother as tools to mislead others. It isn't always obvious to everyone to sort truth from untruth unless they are firmly grounded in the Holy Spirit. Even those involved in the occult such as palm readers and fortune tellers, can sometimes fortell the future or the past with amazing accuracy with supernatural information supplied by the evil spirit realm. The details of the throne of God, the angels and other aspects are questionable, as to their spiritual authenticity.
As a blogger for Water Brook I received this book for the purpose of writing this review. It is with caution I would suggest this book to anyone to read. unless of course that reader is willing to take the time to discern, in light of scripture, the validity of the message presented by the author's NDE.